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College Park, Maryland, United States
Elusive by choice.

9/23/10

The Reason

Imagine a black male in his early twenties being cheered by a horde of white folk. Not too tough eh? Now imagine the scene half a century ago in pre civil rights America and conservative UK! Jimi Hendrix brought to the music world a new genre, the age of rock. His inimitable style was inspired by a combination of artists like Bob Dylan, The Who, and Cream, and yet gave a Jimi Hendrix experience that was unique. The left handed eccentric playing a right handed guitar will be inspiration for ages to come. He was the pivotal cog in transforming blues to rock; half a century down the line, we are yet to see an artist who has done as much. What set him apart?

Dead Poets Society, a Robin Williams classic has been my favorite movie for ages. Many movie makers, western, Indian or otherwise have sought inspiration from DPS to portray teacher-student relationships and influence the education system. Young men, slaves of a competitive society; we just need an ignition to fire to our true potentials. Limited by porous walls of viability and success, it is easy to sneak through to what our hearts crave; we need some direction or even a simple nudge. There are many great words by many great men in this movie. Carpe Diem, seize the moment, not because you are in a hurry, but for the moment is defined by how you make it your own. Brilliant lines, most of them by Walt Whitman show the purpose of life beyond the trivialities. My favorite would be the poem which Mr. John Keating explains as “poetry, art, music, romance and love, these are things that makes us human. Medicine, Law, Banking and engineering are noble pursuits required for sustenance of life. But these are not the reason to live!” So raise your barbaric yawps and be free to do what you think is right.

I have been influenced by many teachers in my life. In high school, Mrs. Geetha Sheshadri, the terror, initiated our young minds to the concept of free thinking. She taught us English and history. We were never asked to memorize what the author would like us to understand. We were required to pen our understanding of poetry and stories. Later, Mr. Arul Mani, another fine English teacher in my 11th and 12th continued the trend by quoting from material outside the syllabus, through lively discussion of literature and current affairs; things apart from career pursuits and things that justified our lives. Through Engineering, I met another luminary, Dr J P Pichamuthu, a man of science, whose theories in avionics and field theory enable our flights, commercial and military, to soar the skies freely. I vaguely remember his sessions on field theory and communication systems; however, I’ll forever cherish our talks. He was a person that would make me say “Oh Captain, My Captain.”; an inspiration to look beyond my pursuits in finding a reason to live.

The Government of India, after years of deliberation, is at the cusp of introducing the Right to Education Act. The motives are clear and fair, but the approach as ever seems chaotic and disturbing. We are a society yearning to untangle education as a domain of the elite. Why are we then trying to degrade the elitist education system to the non-progressive public schooling system? Why are we not making an effort to alleviate the public schools to the standards set by Private institutes? The RTE should provide a system to educate the masses; not to make them mere literates. What is the point of a billion people who can read, but never understand the complete meaning of it? What is the point of a billion people that are provided a life sustenance mean, but never a reason to live?

Hendrix is not the best example we can give our kids. The man who OD’d on sleeping pills was also the man who composed “Stars Spangled Banner”; just to tell the world what he thought of his government’s military policies. What set him apart? His source of sustenance was his reason to live. The man knew what he was doing, why he was doing it and enjoyed every part of it. We lack such men in the current age. We rather complain and not figure a reason for our happiness. We believe in sustenance and sustenance only. Why do we lack a reason?

9/16/10

Economic Sunshine

“Make hay while the sun shines”, said an old proverb. And like most proverbs, it has been clich├ęd severely and the actual meaning never given the importance. India has emerged as a driving economy; well, at least in the current day scenario. Economists attribute this to the population, education, the flat world and a lot of other factors. True, in some sense. But these are driving only the urban development and catering largely to the markets outside. The sunshine factor rarely figured in our planning 21st century economy.

As Mr. Nandan Nilekani puts in his book, Imagining India, India is enjoying the first dividend of a double hump population boom. The population is young compared to the graying American and European populace. The south, with a slightly lower and more urban centric population is providing the first population dividend by utilizing the knowledge boom. Surveys indicate, the median age in northern India is much lower or younger than the current south Indian median age. This implies that the next economic surge would be driven by the folks to the north of the Vindyas.

The focus of our economics should now shift from creating a corpus, which we have successfully managed over the last two decades, to sustainability. The population of northern India is a challenge to figuring the demographic dividend. The current model of knowledge and service industry that has driven the southern rise as economic behemoths is not necessarily suitable for paving the northern economic plans. With a focus on self sustenance, a single vertical will not suffice. It may seem as a case of devolution, but shifting the focus from IT and technology to Agrarian and infrastructure will provide the sustainability needed.

The economic sunshine is rather the concept of utilizing sunshine to drive economics. Our tendency to ‘move west’ to find metaphorical gold mines is a slight misnomer. We have, through history, moved towards the poles in search of these gold mines. The people of the tropics never had to worry about optimizing the utilization of Sunlight as we receive nearly 12 hours of it throughout the year. When we move towards the poles, sunlight is evidently a major economic factor. An early understanding of this helped the people to develop concepts such as Daylight Savings and higher utilization during late spring, summer and early fall. Receiving up to 18 hours of sunshine during these periods has helped them to work harder towards tasks that require the sunlight factor- infrastructure, agriculture, etc. During the winters, efforts are made to utilize the maximum of short sunlight hours and discover alternate tasks and jobs for the dark early afternoons. Whereas we, in the tropics, have considered the sunlight as a luxury and wasted it over the years.

Our typical office hours start from 0900 and in the case of government agencies at 1030 and beyond. Essentially, we are losing an average of four precious sunlight hours to sleep and other trivialities. A focused shift of work hours to at least 0730 would help us utilize more sunlight than we currently use. Another advantage of this would be minimizing our energy consumption. The current efforts to reduce global warming and carbon footprints will be supplemented by this theory. The north Indian economic dividend will be enabled through employment in industries where sunlight is a key factor.

Of course, there are industries that do not require sunlight. The flat world has changed the dependencies a lot. This however is only a small vertical that is fueling the India of tomorrow. The other skyscrapers in the graph are yet to rise, and only a uniform growth in all sectors would help in building a sustainable economy. We cannot be satisfied by a two decade boom and live in its shadows for the next century.

9/3/10

Call Of Duty

“Alright, I have mine under my jaw. Let's do it on three.” He said. She was taken back, felt like he was mocking her. She wouldn’t let him talk her out of it; not with his protocol threats at least. “So 1…” he said.

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‘One last call’, he had decided. A career offering advice over the phone was not taking him anywhere. The wretched place had no sense of professionalism. With liquor flowing at ease and smoke filled in every employee’s lungs, it had a semblance of a Vietnamese toddy shop. He couldn’t complain. At times, that was the only way to get through the day.

“Hotline, how may I help you?” His gruff voice had lost emotion. He had stopped faking any after a while. A young nervous lady, with a voice reeking of cheap whiskey on the other end would be his last call. “I have a gun to my temple.” She said, “And I have no reason to live.” The protocol dictated he calm her down. He would activate the tracer and indulge her in discussion till they track her down. It wouldn’t take more than half an hour. But he was in a hurry tonight. “Have you taken the safety off?” He inquired calmly. “I know how to handle a gun, OK!” came the slurred reply.

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He locked his finger on to the trigger. “Two…” he said. She was waiting for the last count. The loud bang that followed deafened her. Her country pistol slid off her hand.

It took them just half an hour to find her, lying in her own vomit, alive. He had never let any of his callers pull the trigger. His last call was no different.

9/2/10

Awakening

He noticed the change. It couldn't be puberty doing this to him. He felt like Spiderman, with a gift, a power. He could see through the adults, their thoughts and everything in their head. For once in his life he didn't feel inconsequential and small. Strangely, the kids were averse to his powers.

"Look at you suckers", he thought. He mocked their trivial travails in thought as he passed an old man. He heard him muttering, "Another one bites the dust" continuously. Curios, he approached him. The antique greeted him, " You've entered the covenant son. Welcome to the adult world."

PS: Flash Fiction is a limited word story which includes all aspects. This one and most of my Flash Fiction stories are limited to 100 words.

9/1/10

Rusty, yet a lot to say

Creating the blog was only a fraction of the effort I was worried about. The three months I required to make my Infy Blog what it was is worrying me. I'd like to start this second act with the same disclaimer I made at Infy Blogs: I'll blog to vent out and write my heart out. And now, through the experience, I know that the rest would follow.

It's been over three weeks that I blogged and a lot has changed since then. For the lack of flash fiction, poetry, satires and stories finding their way into my brain, I need to restrict my writing to my current mood and state. Incidentally, this is my second act as a student as well. After a 2 year break from academic pursuits, I'm back in classrooms jotting notes and acting like a geek. The American classroom did not come as a real shocker. The Infy training provided the same environment. The culture of a different place did not hit me hard either. I can testify that the Infy experience and the kind of life I've known back home eased me into my present state.

However, the disturbing aspects that I've to counter would be making friends and getting back into competitive sports. Making friends should not be a big deal for a guy whose Facebook profile boasts of so many. Facebook's definition of friends is too broad to include everyone. The six degree of seperation brings in even the unknown into your fold. To be frank, there are times I've wondered why a particular person is even on the list. By friends I mean my extensions into the world. Over the years, I've shared amazing bonds with a few people. Sadly, those bonds have broken due to innumerable reasons. The last six years were really the experiences I shared with three people and I know that this age of human networking will not break this bond. But the distance and time zone disorients you a little bit. Besides, it is natural to crave for a few bonds closer to where you are, the traveler's mobile home. I'm optimistic and slow, but the phase will pass.

I see the Terrapins practice American Football all day long for the matches in the pipeline. Throughout my life, I've been part of competitive sports teams and not being part of one now is totally unacceptable to my body. There's not much I can lament about this; I have to find a way to get back into competitive sport, period.

I'm happy I could at least create this blog today and set the die rolling. I look forward to sharing more stories, satires, poems, flash fiction and everything else that comes to my mind here. I hope that somebody at Infy would try and collate my sixty two posts and forward them to me. I'd love to have my work on display here.