Thursday, July 28, 2005

Missing the Convocation.

There’s no more tension anymore. I'm just not going, that's it!

After watching torrential rain destroy Mumbai, close down the highway and delay flights indefinitely, the decision to go to Chennai for the convocation was not a decision anymore. There was no way to go to Mumbai from Nasik; there was no way to go from Mumbai to Chennai. I couldn’t sneak into Chennai via Hyderabad either: the Godaviri river flooded, canceling all trains in that direction (from Nasik). I’ve cancelled my tickets of Chennai ….. and Jet Airways was kind enough to give me a complete refund.

So, I shall languish at home. I won’t be able to give Chennai one last look before pushing off to the U.S of A. Lots of people hold that not seeing Chennai again is quite a good thing… I mean, this place is burning hot when the rest of the country is in a deluge; Jayalalithaa begs for water when the rest of the country doesn’t know what to do with it. I can’t say I disagree. The worst part of IIT Madras was the climate of Chennai.

I won’t see most of my friends ever again. I won’t see my guide for quite some time. I won’t be able to go to the library one last time. I won’t be able to see the new hostel and the mega mess (which they should have finished constructing by now). I won’t be staying at the old hostel ever again. No more Gurunath coffee…..

But let that go, shall we? My inconvenience is nothing compared to that of others in this country right now. A look at the rivers in Mumbai shall certainly show you a lot of people who shall deserve sympathy a lot more.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Missing a convocation?

West India wears a particularly wet look now. The clouds are descending to the land - and trains as well as planes refuse to do their job. Conscequently, my degree shall go unaccepted; an embarassed silence shall prevail when my name is announced in the convocation hall. Unless, of course, the clouds behave better.

My television screen is tuned to one of the umpteen news channels that are showcasing the natural disaster in the making - Mumbai - and it is a dreary sight. Intrepid correspondents (who seem to be the order of the day, of late) wade into the water armed with a trusty camera man, and a trustier umbrella and convince me that going to Mumbai will be a challenge akin to going to Iraq or any other battlezone. Therefore, I see an empty seat (two actually, Mum won't be there either!) flying in Jet Airways on the 28th. If it ever does fly.

But not all hope is lost. It could be a sunny day tomorrow; after all the Met Department does predict a lot of rain, and I don't trust them an inch! But jesting apart, there's always a chance that Mumbai could crawl back to normalcy by day-after. Such disturbances are quite commonplace in India's financial capital. Mumbai has this knack of bouncing back. All it needs is a little repreive from the weather Gods. A little slackening of the rain.

It could have been worse: I could have been flying to the U.S today! The lounge in Sahar air port would have to be my home for a very long time. Me and my co-passengers would be a bunch of Tom Hankses stuck in Sahar. And now that it has rained its heart out a fortnight before the aforementioned U.S. trip, it seems additionally unlikely that extremely wet weather shall cause problems then.

Be that as it may, it is quite a disappointing thing - the notion of missing a convocation. It's not as if it's the convocation I'll be missing. I'll be missing all the friends to whom I said "See you at convo.". I'll never see them again, probably. I'll be missing my guide, with whom I'll have to discuss something I have been avoiding for quite some time. And I'll be missing the abundant sunshine of Chennai, especially since I live near the west coast.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Utter Penury Awaits

I'm soon going to be a graduate student in the US of A. I have my Visa ready; and my airline tickets have been blocked. All hope of a financially rewarding next-four-years has thus faded away. I would have to choose to live a spartan life in the US of A, after all the material deprivation I went through at IIT!

All of us are going to be PIGS in the US. That's not something to feed good about; PIGS does not stand for Pretty Indian Girls here. It stands for Poor Indian Graduate Student. How I wish it were the former, for I shall definitely room in with PIGS!

People from all around the world have told me that drastic measures are to be taken if one has to survive in the US. Belts have to be tightened, cornflakes have to be eaten and jewellery has to be pawned. Enligtened by abundant advise, I have come up with some plans. I hope this checklist will help other graduate students.

1. Skip a meal a day. Who says we need lunch? We're all too fat anyway. The loss in nourishment can be made up for by eating biscuits in department stores before they are billed. Some additional money can be made by pointing out to the clerk that the packets are open. This approach saves some water and some detergent powder which is used to wash plates.

2. Live in darkness. If the cave man could do it, why can't we? Any light (for emergencies, such as going to the bathroom) can be generated by procring a bag of light-worms. Alternatively, the roommate can be requested to bang flintstones together.

3. Don't use underclothes. If people can't see them, they'll assume you have them on. (Of course, the attire should be chosen tactfully, especially if the subject is a woman). This approach saves on the washing powder as well as the apparel bill. Stares from sexual predators (both male and female) might count as negatives for the finnicky.

4. Light your house up with the phoneline. You see that LED on the phone? The one that glows when someone tries to call you? Well, you could have someone call you when you're reading - and put your book under the light so that people can read. A method to use the phone-electricity that you don't pay for - to run the A/C eagerly awaits conception.

5. Wear only one shoe: After all shoes are there only to keep your feet warm. If your other foot feels cold, then you can change the foot the shoe is on, until this foot, in turn feels cold. This can halve your footwear bill.

6. Buy baggage that you can fit in: This way, you can Fed-Ex yourself to India for $30, roughly an $670 saving over a ticket to India. The catch, of course, is that good deals are not available on round trips in Fed Ex. And the $30 offer holds only if you weigh less than 1/2 kg. I'm not sure, but I think I overshoot that limit.

7. Drink Black sewage water: Coffee is costly. You just need to show others you're having black coffee, and nothing else. Sewage, when conditioned appropriately can look at taste like some cheap brands of coffee. And surely, you won't sleep after drinking it. Human disgust will see to that.

8. Use Animal Power: We could try using bullock carts to get us to class. In Texas, it would be prudent to replace the bullock with a road runner or something. It even goes beep-beep. If that's too disconcerting, an armadillo cart would be a nice change.

I hope that this list has helped enlighten my fellow students. It is important not to lose heart - a really good time can be had even when in utter penury, if the above tips are followed with sincerity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fight Fire with Fire

Here's an essay I wrote a couple of years ago in the Sars Era. It isn't half bad!

Terrorism is getting quite irksome now a days. Some innocent people face the wrath of the gun in some obscure place. And before you know it, some plane gets hijacked, with the Hijackers demanding the release of some hardened criminal or the other. IC 814 comes to mind immediately.

The Indian government, with some reservations (which many hold were merely cosmetic) released a criminal whose name is just not worth mentioning (and remembering). This act of setting the criminals free, secured the release of the passengers. So, at least the passengers are free. So, there’s very little that a democratically elected government can do with such cases of terrorism. Governments like ours’ (who have the popular opinion to worry about) have to set the miserable terrorists free. As one my friends in a turban would definitely not fail to remark: “The Indians are like sitting ducks”!

The fact that they (the terrorists) hold the people hostage actually means that they think the venture profitable. One way to stop this hostage menace is to ensure that the transaction is not profitable. Surely, when terrorists realize that they cannot secure the safe release of their people, they will stop causing inconvenience to the general public by taking them hostage whenever they are short of activists.

I will go as far as recommend a few methods to ensure that the process does not result in the safe release of terrorist prisoners.

AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) is a disease that people think is threatening the world. People are, of course doing a lot to battle it. There is an entire school of thought (which includes myself) that reckons that more than AIDS, it’s the sex they are against (and consequently overpopulation). That’s a different story altogether.

The release of an imprisoned terrorist presents before the releasers an incredible opportunity of spreading AIDS to the entire terrorist network. The procedure is quite simple – it just involves the administration of a syringe of HIV positive blood into the bloodstream of one of the terrorists to be released while he or she (Lest the reader accuses me of male chauvinism) is not conscious.

If the government reckons that AIDS is too slow, there’s other ways out. The speculative reader would probably have taken the cue and realized that there are as many methods as there are fatal diseases. Diseases such as Small Pox, Ebola and Distemper among others present a vast array of opportunities to do away with the enemy. And with the Sars virus doing rounds today, one begins to wonder.

There are constraints, of course. Just like any real-life problem. Some of the important conditions are

  1. The disease should not ‘kick in’ during the process of release of the hostages
  2. The terrorist who is being released should not know about his (or her) impending fate.
  3. The only people who should know about this should be the people who are releasing the terrorist.

With the advent of nanotechnology and other such modern sciences, one can actually do better than kill just a mere terrorist. One can actually go ahead and wipe out an entire community of terrorists. Demands for the release of terrorist prisoners can actually be viewed as golden opportunities to rid the world of the plague that is terrorism. The following text shall attempt to elaborate the above claim.

It is just a matter of time before the geniuses that inhabit the labs in India start using their ingenuity and develop explosive devices capable of destroying a whole lot of people within small pills. ( They can always buy the technology from US if the geniuses fail). Everything has a price. The US will give it dirt cheap anyway, to ensure the Indian geniuses do not develop a comprehensive understanding of how the damn thing is made.

If ever, we acquire all of the following, we can, once in for all wipe out a large portion of the terrorist fraternity.

  1. A micro explosive that can be triggered by a remote control. This can be housed within a person. The remote control should have a few thousand kilometers as an operating radius.
  2. A method to house the device within the individual (the latter not having any knowledge of the plan) ( Food for thought for the geniuses at the Indian Medical Schools).
  3. A micro position sensor, as well as a video and audio transmitter. Four sensors in all – in different directions.

The method is quite obvious and does not need any further elaboration. But since I have time to spare, I shall elaborate, anyway. The device is exploded when subject is in a crowded area (with the tacit assumption that the crowd shall be that of fellow terrorists). Peace shall thus prevail.This does, as a matter of fact stress the urgent need to pursue research in vital fields such as nanotechnology.

There is of course, an ethical side to the story. Would it be ethical on our side to kill a cruel terrorist who almost caused the death of hundreds of people? Well, let’s put it this way- Would it be ethical on our side not to kill a cruel terrorist who almost caused the death of hundreds of people, when we could?

A distinction must be made with biological warfare. Biological warfare implies the usage of germs to get rid of innocent people. Here we are using our parasite collaborators to get rid of hardened criminals whom we would kill if we had the chance to. It’s time we kept one step ahead of the enemy.

However, one must bear the repercussions in mind. Just think how easy it is to acquire lethal poison and mix it in a city’s water reserve. The result shall be nothing short of a mass genocide. An aggravated terrorist could resort to such cowardly yet effective methods. Terrorists have no honor – if they do not stoop low, who shall?

If we were to anger our enemy to such an extent, then we would stand to lose. In my humble opinion, moderation is the only way out. I might as well have not written this essay.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Applications of Murphy's Laws

People tend to disregard Murphy's laws as mere frivolities, seldom taking them seriously. But the truth is that these laws are as fundamental to modern science as Newton's laws and the laws of thermodynamics.

The laws of thermodynanmics have played a pivotal role in designing everything from power plants to air conditioners and Newton's laws in the development of dynamic equipment. Murphy's laws are not to be scoffed at either. They find extensive application in metereology, economics (both macro and micro), as well as home science. We shall analyze this exciting new field of science.

This article shall hopefully convince governments to introduce Murphology as a subject in universities and colleges - as well as adopt it in five year plans. Corporate India can also use this exciting new science to build fitter, leaner and more profitable corporations.

Perhaps the most significant use of Murphy's law is in Metereology. Some drought relief measures are suggested.

Cricket matches have been used in eternally water starved cities as weapons against drought. Scheduling cricket matches (whose stands are usually full) in rain starved areas seldom fails to attract heavy downpours. This is such a well known fact that the city of Chennai gets its 1200mm of annual rainfall exclusively through the same.

Mathematically, it is proposed that a non dimensional number, M, called the Murphy pressure be defined - a positive value indicates favourable conditions to the outcome. For instance, composite Murphy pressure is the sum of the Rain and extreme heat during a cricket match. Since the sum is positive, rain shall occur.

Climate control is possible using other Murphy methods besides cricket: a mass purchase of umbrellas is indicative of an impending dry spell; large scale construction work of a cyclone, adequate earthquake warning a precursor to a long spell of zero-earth quakes. The Tsunami warning system is being thought of more as a preventative measure than a warning measure.

The easiest method to make money in a stock market is to do extensive market research; select a few companies to invest money in using all the scientific and intuitive techniques possible; and finally invest in everything but these companies. The same logic applies to Horse racing too - as well as Casinos.

If you want an irritating guest to never come to your house, best results can be obtained by inviting them over - and making all arrangements for their comfortable stay. If you want a child, then pop over to your neighbourhood drug store and procure the costliest condom.

If the world were really run like this, cars would fly, birds would swim and fishes would walk into clubs eating human fry. They don't do that.