Thursday, November 26, 2009

Evil Google


If you thought the worst disease was AIDS or Cancer, I'd probably grant you that to avoid a whack on the head. The next on that list though, is this disease called random reading. Google is the most potent carrier of this disease. You have the urge to random read, and all you need is to type some word that pops in your head into the search toolbar, and about five million links come flowing out to keep you busy for hours. You click on the first link, and you find something else interesting, and that topic has half a million links more.

Why is it so bad? Because you waste hours, days and weeks reading about everything aside from work. I have been infected with a nasty bout of the random reading disease. You know what else it does? Gets you to daydream about trips you want to take; makes your mind write cheques, you can't possibly cash. The following destinations have been added to my plans (by means of random-reading-induced daydreaming) :

  • Karakoram Pass
  • Karakoram Highway
  • Antarctica

How did I land up here? I randomly thought of the Siachen Glacier in the shower. Join the dots from there.

Now I'd better start looking for a suitable lottery to finance all of them because I sure am getting fired soon if I continue down this road. Then the only Karakoram I'll be visiting is the hostel in IIT Delhi.

Others win the lottery and buy property, I look to win the lottery to find novel ways of killing myself.

Days in the life of Siddharth Krishnamoorthy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scared To Death

I had intended to write this post soon after I had seen the last episode of How I Met Your Mother (Season 3). Instead, I write this post bored; halfway through my session of (this is where I begin to term-drop) numerical stability analysis. In the episode, Ted and Barney meet with accidents and figure out what happens to you when you think you're going to die. Both of them report seeing only the most important people in their lives when faced with death.

I intend this post to be more than anything else, an interaction with my readers and co-bloggers with interesting experiences. After having narrated mine, I want you, the reader, to tell me if you have had an experience where you thought you were a goner (going to die, wham, kapoot and the like). I don't mean the "Oh my God, it's so hot I could die" moments, but those that really made you think that this was it. I want to know what these incidents were and what went through your head.

Now there's two ways we could do this. The first is to regard this post as a blogger tag. Those of my readers who write blogs of their own can perhaps put up a post in the same vein as this one and leave me a comment with their blog address. If that's too fancy for you (or you're not one for writing blogs), you could perhaps leave a long-ish comment with your story.

On to my stories then. I can distinctly recall three times in my life of twenty two odd years when I was of the opinion that this was the premature end. I divide these three incidents in two categories. The first category, is when the whole incident is a matter of a few seconds. The second, is when it is a more prolonged process of doubt and uncertainty and needless to say, more unpleasant than anything else. On with the first incident then.

The first incident took place one summer evening around south-central Delhi. My father, my sister and I had to cross the road right at the end of a flyover. There was no subway, so we had to risk crossing a fairly busy road at rush hour. At my father's insistence we began to cross the road, but soon found ourselves in a precarious position in the middle of the road where the traffic from the flyover merged with the rest of the road. We knew we had got ourselves into a tangle. No sooner than we had this realization, a truck decided to overtake a vehicle which would soon whiz past our backs. Do the math and you'll realize that as soon as the truck driver overtook the car from the right, he'd have noticed that he was heading right at us at full speed. The truck driver wasn't the only one who was enlightened thus. We saw the truck and realized there was nothing we could do. My father had already thrown his hands in the air, my sister had already let out half a scream and my brain had already got stunned into inaction by the time the truck flew past us, missing us quite literally by a couple of inches. All of this, in a matter of three seconds. Truth be told, that was too little time to even know what was happening, let alone have my life flash in front of me. After all was done, I knew I had drawn a blank and my only concern was to get across to safety.

The second incident took place when I was on a family trip, headed to Arunachal Pradesh. We had to cross a mountain pass at 14000 feet to get to Tawang. The weather had been fine all along, but as soon as we reached the pass, we got stranded in a blizzard that nearly blew a couple of cars off the cliff. The blizzard intensified and brought down so much snow that our car could no longer grip the road to carry out the final fifty metre climb to the zero point after which the rest of the journey would have been downhill. We were forced to turn back and make our way back down to the valley floor. Everything had turned white by now. There was no way one could make out where the road ended. On our way down, in an attempt to cross a stationary army truck, our car slipped and slid on the road and there we were, caught in a blizzard with a tyre buried in the snow on the side of the mountain. We surely couldn't spend the night at that altitude inside the car, and the tyre refused to budge. By now every one began to panic. My father and I tried to push and shove the car out of the ditch but the biting cold and the heavy car made it impossible to move it. Thankfully though, after about an hour's pushing and shoving, we managed to intercept an army vehicle that had come to recover the stationary army truck that had got us into all this trouble. Another half an hour of shoving by about ten of us finally got the car out of the hole and we headed back down, thankful for our lives.

About three months after the Arunachal incident had transpired, I found myself at Kangla Jal. Three friends and I were making our way from Manali to Leh on a bus that had snaked through treacherous roads all day long. We came to one of many grinding halts behind a long line of vehicles. There was a river crossing ahead and a bunch of cars had got trapped inside the water, preventing traffic flow from either side. What started off as a short halt, slowly turned into an hour, then two, and as nightfall began to approach, there was talk of spending the night in the bus. It was dangerous to spend the night inside a bus at 16000 feet. Some tried to cross the river on foot but realized that the current was too strong and returned. Then it began to rain, which further raised the water level, and flooded the river with sediment. The end result being that we were trapped inside a bus, having had no food for over 24 hours, no water to drink, little air to breathe and no way of informing anyone of the trouble we were in. We were careful to keep our windows slightly open so as to not choke ourselves, but that too had to be abandoned once it started raining in the middle of the night. My mouth had gone completely dry because of the lack of water and my head was throbbing because I felt like no matter how hard I inhaled, there wasn't enough air getting to my lungs. Throughout that night I constantly thought of what would happen if the road didn't clear up the next day as well. That, thankfully wasn't the case. The water level reduced sharply the next morning and we powered across the river and onward to Leh.

The last two incidents belong to the second category I mentioned above. The long hours of uncertainty were excruciating. None of those times though, did incidents of my life flash past my eyes. The only thing I was obsessed with was getting on the other side of the ordeal. Of course I wondered about things I'd do differently once I got out on the other side; deals I never really respected, come to think of it.

All said and done, being scared to death does leave you with a few stories to tell.

Do you have any?

Friday, November 13, 2009

To Do Before 30...

I recently realized that I work best when I make fairly concrete To-do lists on paper. That somehow seems to crystallize my plans for the day or the week better than trying to keep things in my head. What it probably also does is that it makes me obsessively want to scratch of things off that list, hence rendering me surprisingly more efficient.

I spent all of this morning reading random wikipedia articles which made me realize that there's so much to see and such little time. So while my immediate To-do list read of items such as "Buy Drainex", "Call the electrician to fix the geyser" or even "Write instructional paper for Taylor-Couette experiment", I decided to put down on my blog a list of things to do before I'm thirty. I have just over seven years to complete it, and if I find enough reason to continue writing on this blog till I'm 30, I shall return on the 5th of February 2017 (my 30th birthday) and evaluate how much of it I have been able to accomplish. Most of these plans are travel related, so don't come at me with bamboo sticks for it not being charitable enough.

So here goes- things I wish to do before I'm 30 years old:

  1. Go to Leh by road.
  2. Visit Jerusalem. (Courtesy G's reminder)
  3. Perform a Chadar Trek in Ladakh in winter.
  4. Skydive (preferably start in North Island New Zealand and end up on South Island).
  5. Bungee from the cable car platform near Queenstown.
  6. Go to Lhasa either by Tibetan rail or by road from Nepal.
  7. Do the "Circle Line Pub Crawl" in London and be able to walk in a straight line at the end of it.
  8. Learn a foreign language (preferably Spanish, which I had made a start on years ago).
  9. Pretend like I'm bald on purpose.

Notice how I don't have all the "get married, settle down" nonsense listed there. I'm hoping all that will take care of itself by then. Or else I'll furnish a new list on 5/2/17.

I see that I've already made a head-start, the outlook is good from where I see it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vertical Integration

In one of my recent conversations with a friend, I came up with a theory. The theory has its origins in a dream I had the previous night.

The theory goes as follows :

Your brain thinks on different levels, and in your dreams it tries to integrate all these levels into the same plane.

These were the various levels:

  1. I love Google and for long, have propounded that it can answer life's important questions.
  2. At some subconscious level, I fear getting arrested.
  3. I had met a friend (say M) that night and we had sat together and talked about how I had played poker quite well at a recent card party.

This was the "integrated" dream:

M and I go for a cards party. We leave for a short while in between and when we come back, the host has been shot dead by someone at the party. We get scared and run away and hide from the police. How do we find out that the police is hot on our tail?- We put our names into Google Image Search and the "Wanted" poster shows up as the first result.

Vertical integration- just a concept of economics, no more.