October 25, 2008

Jackdaws

The day was gone
The night came on
The monks and the friars, they searched till dawn
When the sacristan saw
On crumpled claw
Come limping a poor little lame jackdaw
No longer gay
As on yesterday
His feathers all seemed to be turned the wrong way
His pinions dropped, he could hardly stand
His head was as bald as the palm of your hand
His eye so dim
So wasted each limb
That, heedless of grammar, they all cried : :That's Him!"

- Ken Follet

October 22, 2008

And back from the N.India trip

I am back; after 17 days as i had run out of my budget. I had planned around 3000 INR for a period of 30 days*, but i ended up spending a little too much on street food in Varanasi and Ayodhya and had to cut short the number of days and be back home. It was a good trip covering many aspects of life and meeting different kinds of people and talking to them and exchanging experiences; not to mention the 3000+ pictures that i clicked (have to upload em somewhere!!).

Trail :

Chennai -> Mumbai -> Delhi -> Agra -> FatehpurSikri -> Jaipur -> Pushkar -> Varanasi -> Allahabad -> Chitrakoot-> Varanasi -> Ayodhya -> Jhansi -> Orcha -> Gwalior -> Chennai.

Itinerary:
Day - 1 (30 Sep) Tue : Chennai to Mumbai (Flight- Spicejet) ; eve walk in Churchgate-Colaba. Around Gateway of India and Taj Hotel.

Bombay Marine Drive

Day - 2 (01 Oct) Wed : Mumbai to Delhi(Flight- Spicejet) ; Spend the eve in Delhi
Delhi Metro

Day - 3 (02 Oct) Thu : (its Id!)Around Delhi - Red Fort, India Gate; Leave for Agra(5 hour bus ride); Reach Agra in the Eve.

Day - 4 (03 Oct) Fri : (Its a Friday - Taj is Closed!)To Fatehpur-Sikri. On the way back, view Taj from Agra Fort. Roam around Agra.
Fatehpur Sikri - Salim Chisti Durgah

Day - 5 (04 Oct) Sat : Leave for Jaipur (5 hr bus ride); Eve around Jaipur(Amber Fort).

Day - 6 (05 Oct) Sun : In and Around Jaipur
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day - 7 (06 Oct) Mon : To Pushar(uneventful ride to Puskar). In the eve to Gultaji-ka-Mandir(also called Monkey Temple).

Pushar Lake


Day - 8 (07 Oct) Tue : In and Around Jaipur(City Palace, Amber Fort and Gultaji-ka-Mandir)
Monkeys at Monkey Temple

Day - 9 (08 Oct) Wed : Leave for Varanasi/Benaras(reach Delhi by Jet and then to Varanasi via Spicejet). Took a beautiful drive from the Varanasi Airport to city bus stand via the local bus - nice ride - heard some good nice Avadhi Hindi and Bhojpuri. Stayed at Kanchi Sankaracharya Mutt, Hanuman Ghat. Went for a walk along the streets of Varanasi. Its Navami!! and the streets are filled with the most beautiful women and salivating street food.Roamed around the streets and the durga pooja pandals.
Durga Pooja Pandal at Varanasi


Day - 10 (09 Oct) Thu : Start for Chitrakoot(along with another family who were in the Mutt). Reach Allahabad. Bathe in Prayag/Sangam - confluence of Ganges, Yahuna and Saraswati.Visit some small temples around.Anand Bhavan closed.
View from the boat in Prayag. Australian Sea gulls there.


Dusty and bumby ride to Chitrakoot. Reach in the evening. Stay in a Ved-Pathshala - in the middle of agri fields and loads of greenery all around.

Day - 11 (10 Oct) Fri : Bathe in the Mandakini river(RamGhat). Visit Banarasi Ram, Bharat temple, trek-up to HanumanDhara(mysterious perennial stream appears from nowhere and disappears into nowhere), KanchMandir(temple made of mirrors and glasses), Janaki Kund(Sita used to bathe here), Ram Darshan and Ayush Dham. Ram Darshan was the best of this entire trip - the paintings and the PoP sculptures were amazing; the statue of Ram and Sita in the final room was like a 'durbar' and was pleasing to the eye,mind and the soul. Stroll along the Ayush Dham was beautiful, see different varieties of Cows and how they were nurtured; there is a Cow-research institute here. Came back to the pathshala to see a small snake in the room!

View from HanumanDhara, Chitrakoot


Day - 12 (11 Oct) Sat : Start the day at 4am. Bathe in the Vedpathshala's pumpset(in the open) in darkness. Did a 5km parikrama(on foot) of the Kamadhgiri). The pathshala's teacher('master') was the guide for the day.Visited Gupt-Godavari, Sati-Anusuya temple and Bharat-coop(this is the well in which Bharat(Ram's brother) poured the waters of the all the oceans and the rivers in the world - the well never dries and is the only well in the region that had water during my visit here).

Monkeys with the statue of Tulsidas, during Parikrama of Kamadhgiri, Chitrakoot


Beautiful non-stop and full throttle ride from Chitrakoot to Sitamarhi via Allahabad.Sitamarhi is the place where Sita is supposed to be gone into the Mother Earth.Reach Varanasi at 10pm. Have a good pot of thick 'malai' curd in the local malaiwala and sleep.

Model of Sita going into Mother Earth, SitaMarhi


Day - 13 (12 Oct) Sun : Nice walk around Varanasi to visit the temples of Lord Vishwanatha, goddess Vishalakshi , goddess Annapurni and Kala-Bhairava. The security in the Vishwanath temple was amazing; there were a hundred gates to it, all of which merged into 2-3 final ones.Nothing is permitted inside the temple except for the dress that one wears and probably watch and a non-leather purse. Visited the ruins and the monasteries of Sarnath in the noon. Evening was a visit again to Vishwanath temple for the Saptha-Maharishi pooja;Got place bang opposite the lingam, near the garbha-griha and watched this mind numbing ceremony -- This was also one of the spotlights of this trip. The 1 hour long pooja with the priests chanting some mysterious mantras was amazing. The floral lingam decorations and the final arati of the lingam was something of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Came back after this and roamed around the streets and ate some good street food.

Sarnath ruins

Day - 14 (13 Oct) Mon : Woke up early in the morning and took a dip in the Ganges in Kedar Ghat. Came back took my camera and walked along the ghats. Went from Harishchandra Ghat(famous for crmating bodies) all the way to the right. And then came back and went all the left till Manikarnika Ghat(again, a very famous ghat for cremating). Met some interesting people from different walks of life along the ghats - a boatman, dhobi(cloth-washer),kids selling postcards, saints, naga-sadhus, drug-dealer, few foreign tourists, etc etc. Boarded the train at midnight to Ayodhya.

Ghats of Varanasi

Day - 15 (14 Oct) Tue : Reached Ayodhya at 4:30 a.m. Took a small cheap room near the station and slept for sometime (the previous 2 days have been hectic). Start the day at 7:30 am. Bathe in Sarayu river. Roamed around the streets of Ayodhya. Visited the famous Rama-Janma-Bhoomi(RJB).Security at RJB is impregnable - the entire region was like military stronghold - army and police at every nook and corner to take care of the delicate situation. Saw the statue of Lord Rama in the tent in the site - heard some 'interesting' comments from the visiting die-hard-Ram-devotees.Ate some amazing sweets and good food along the streets of Ayodhya. Boarded the train at 6pm for Jhansi and slept immediately :)

Streets of Ayodhya

Proposed temple at the Ram Janma Bhoomi Site


Day - 16 (15 Oct) Thu : Reached Jhansi at 7:30am. Dumped my luggage in the cloak room and started for Orcha.Roamed in the ruined palaces and the temples in Orcha. Orcha is a must-visit place in this region. The noon sun was too harsh and in the meantime i had also covered all places there(just didnt take a plunge in the river betwa - but the view from the palaces of the turquiose green waters was beautiful).

Palace at Orcha


Came back to Jhansi and visited the famous Jhansi Fort.

Place from where Queen Lakshmi Bai jumped out of the fort on her horse


Jhansi Fort


Took a train ticket in the UnReserved category to Gwalior and went into the Sleeper compartment - was caught by the ticket checkers, but managed to convince them and got out without a fine(actually i didnt know that i am not supposed to travel, as a Police constable told me that i could).Moved to the General(Unreserved category) and sat on the stairs. It was a nice ride in here. Midway i slept, and i think something hit on my knee, and there i was , with excruciating pain. For a minute, i thought that i had lost my leg, and tried to standup and i did, but could not feel my leg. I let the blood flow for sometime , but the pain was amazing - but there was no blood around! I just let it pass and controlled the pain till i reached Gwalior. I decided to play it safe a little, as the knee joint hurt a little when i tried to climb the stairs - spent sometime in the station's intenet cafe and then got bored and atleast thought of checking out the local lores.I chose not to visit the Gwalior Fort and the other temples as they needed some walking and i did not want to excert any pain on my knees. I asked around and went to the Baaada Bazzaaar and roamed around here. Some of the most beautiful(read 'not sexy') women are in Gwalior. It was great to see all of them wearing Indian dresses(i.e, Salwars/saris) - hardly could spot any wearing western wears. Spent some talking to the Fine Art students who were sketching in the bazaar junction. Also, ate some more luscious street food. It was a time well spent.

Day - 17 (16 Oct) Fri : Boarded the train at 3:30 a.m from Gwalior to Chennai. Train was late by an hour. Day spent in the train and chatting with the fellow travellers. There were teens(in their 19-20) from Kashmir who were undergoing AirForce training in Avadi and were returning back(to Avadi) after a vacation back home (in Kashmir); and also jawans(soldiers) who were returning home(to TamilNadu) from Kashmir border for Diwali vacation. Brain numbing chats with the guys and their experiences. Spellbound. The teen soldiers were showing me the pictures of their girl-friends back home in Kashmir and how one of them got engaged to his GF recently. I could see a couple of wet-eyes here and there. The guys also offered me Golden Apples(the best variety) and dry fruits. Had a wonderful chat with the guys on Kuran and the Kashmir-issue. I must say that this was one of the best days in my life. Train was running 3 hours late.

Day - 18 (17 Oct) Sat : Train 15 min ahead of schedule. Bid adios to mates in the train - exchanged addresses and ph nums. Reached Chennai(Home) at 8:30 a.m.

There i was .. bearded+stinking..back home.

* Update : I was sponsored from Mumbai to Varanasi. After that, it was on me.

October 07, 2008

Travel Update

The project has come to a close and we have had some very interesting times. We had some real great fun and explorations over the past one week and things have come to an 'official' end. We were kind of unlucky w.r.t the project as we had not clicked even a single picture till today. And today turned out to be the 'lucky' day with some really-great-fabulous(and yes, i can use more adjectives here!) frames being clicked.

ok..ok.. Curious Q is : What is the project about? i understand the curiosity , but am afraid that i have to keep my mouth shut for some more time, till we get the entire series shot over the next couple of months(or years ??). Please do cooperate and and do understand that this project is something that will be great to watch after a few years or after a decade. (now i totally understand that your curiosity levels are at an all-time high and i have completely got your attention :P .. but yes, things will be 'revealed' once things fall into place.)

Brief of what has happened till now :
(30 Sep) Tue :Chennai to Mumbai (Flight- Spicejet) ; eve walk in Churchgate-Colaba
(01 Oct) Wed : Mumbai to Delhi(Flight- Spicejet) ; Spend the eve in Delhi
(02 Oct) Thu : Around Delhi; Leave for Agra(5 hour bus ride); Reach Agra in the Eve
(03 Oct) Fri : Around Agra
(04 Oct) Sat : Leave for Jaipur (5 hr bus ride); Eve around Jaipur
(05 Oct) Sun : In and Around Jaipur
(06 Oct) Mon : In and Around Jaipur
(07 Oct) Tue : In and Around Jaipur

So that completes the Golden Triangle!!

I am going to Delhi tomorrow and am planning to spend some time in Benaras(Varanasi) , by the Ganges. Then i plan to visit Lumbini and Kathmandu(both in Nepal) and return back home. Also, i need to crunch in Gaya,Sarnath and Allahabad - dont know how i am going to manage all those!

Hope things go on fine and hoping to stumble on right minded people & continue the journey.

October 01, 2008

Day-1 Mumbai

Took the Spicejet flight from Chennai to Mumbai and reached Mumbai on time, but wait...all my hopes of taking the pictures from the flight got wasted, as i had a really bad window glass. I guess Spicejet has to change all its window-glasses ..mind it - it is not dirty - i guess it looked like small broken glasses were fixed with fevicol - i could hardly see anything - it was like some really thick cloud stuck to my window glass. Hence, my camera for the most part of it was sleeping and i was sleeping, as it was futile 'peeping-out'.

Then came the most interesting part -- i had to go from the domestic airport to NewMarine Lines(near Churchgate). I could either take an auto to Andheri or SantaCruz and take the train and reach Churchgate in less than 1 hour and end up spending 20Rs(at the max) or take a taxi and reach directly. I chose the latter, and ended up paying 300rs and almost spent 2.5 hours in the taxi -- the traffic jams near Dadar and KablaDevi were bad!!! I did not have a choice but to take the taxi, as i was carrying my camera and wanted it to safe.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was nice. I could see many facets of Mumbai and it was fun watching all of it. I did not realize 2.5 hours just flew by. There are couple of things that Mumbai has impressed me with, till now:
- The city when seen from the plane is different from other cities - the skyline is gorgeous.
- I did not see any group of people standing anywhere in the city and chit-chatting -- everyone was on the move and everyone carried an air as if they had some business meeting in sometime.
- Everyone is equal here - people here are what they are for - i saw some really good dressed women and men standing by the road and having tea('chai') , which one cannot see in other cities.

Having said that, we did not do much clicking today. we just went on a long walk from Churchgate to Colaba and back - saw the Gateway of India(which is under restoration) and also went inside the Taj(hotel). Taj here is lavish , extravagant and grand - the best hotel in India i have ever seen. I wanted to click inside the hotel, but i was kind of shabbily dressed and was already attracting attention - and hence we quickly moved out. Had dinner at Kamat and moved back to the hotel and am penning this down from my bed with all lights off, eyes semi0closed and ...i ...slepttttttttttttttt................

September 30, 2008

Moving On

Had my last day at work yesterday(Monday) and am all set for my next adventure.

I am planning to backpack for sometime across India before i decide on what to do next. I am joining an American Photojournalist as an assistant for the next 10 days and am gonna travel+click with him for sometime.

After that i plan to travel for some more weeks on my own and travel all the way up till Leh/Ladakh. I have been hearing a news that the road to Leh is blocked due to landslides/snow. I am really disappointed by this. But whatever, my spirits are high and looking for some good fun and learning.

Chennai -> Mumbai -> Around Mumbai -> Gujarat -> Rajasthan -> Punjab -> Chandigarh -> Leh is what i have in mind. Am not sure whether i would be able to finish the entire itinerary, but would try my best. I want to cover the major tourist destinations and then the ruins and the local art/craftsmanship. Would be more of an explorer than a 'tourist' ...as always. (Do drop me an email/comment, if you want to jam up)

I am not sure when i would return back - if i am tired/bored/run-out-of-cash/lightning-strikes-me , then i might as well return back earlier than planned.

PS : I dont mind sponsors and can give you good pictures in return :)

September 27, 2008

Twittered!

Finally am into the Twitter arena after having a prolonged self-imposed exile(or whatever) from it.

Random thoughts henceforth @ http://twitter.com/venkat83

PS: I dont really understand how they(twitter guys) are going to make money!!

Update: It is http://twitter.com/venkasub

September 02, 2008

Long days!

Nah...Nah...this blog hasn't died away in the blogosphere , but is just preparing for a new begining.

Myself and Balaji a.k.a labsji are working on something interesting and hence it has been really hectic. For the past 2 weeks we sleep at 4-5am and have pulled a couple of all-nighters ... hence , life is being really nice to me and is teaching me loads of good stuff(as always).

Keep tuned....this blog might as well get a new face and some *really* interesting stuff coming all your way.
[Guess, i need to put some ads here and there and start monetizing ;) ]

August 05, 2008

A blind eye to the right cause

There is a famous story of the Vanilla icecream and General Motors that used to circulate the web few years back(am sure it is still going around in forwards)....This story is a marvelous one which teaches lots of management principles and way of looking at things. Most often it happens that we look at things with a wrong perspective or due to the inherent bias we dont even look at things that matter the most - it is these simple things/details that take mammoth proportions going down the lane and bring us down. For the benefit of my readers, am reproducing the story here ..

A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors: 'This is the second time I have written to you, and I don't blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of Ice-Cream for dessert after dinner each night, but the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we've eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It's also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem.....

You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice-cream, when I start back from the store my car won't start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I'm serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds "What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?"


The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn't start. The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.


Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man's car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: He jotted down all sorts of data: time of day, type of gas uses, time to drive back and forth etc.


In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavor.


Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn't start when it took less time. Eureka - Time was now the problem - not the vanilla ice cream!!!! The engineer quickly came up with the answer: "vapor lock". It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to dissipate.


As always, am not going to draw an inference out of this. Let your mind see , what it chooses to see.

June 09, 2008

Cribbing = Negativism

The problem with 'people who crib' or 'the problem with cribbing' is that they are AN INTENSE SOURCE OF NEGATIVE ENERGY....

the epidemic source of negativism not inhibited by any counter-cribs but a gradual delinquishment of the available observing nodes.



Raise... Search ... Obtain... Relish... Move on... :)

May 24, 2008

Powerset ( Mathematical Pun )

Lot has been said about Powerset since its inception and blogosphere has not spared it either after its release in the recent past. Search is one of the toughest problems - given the magnitude and the sheer plethora of the information around. Though most of the blogs concerning the Powerset launch deal with how the management ended up having all the NLP grads(from Stan etc) and paid them 100k+ to develop this platform in SF; i will try to share some personal experience with this engine and how my expectations hasn't been satiated still.

Powerset was touted to be a Q&A engine with 'human' intelligence inbuilt into it. I was expecting some practical applications of Discourse theory too here. But neither were 'visible' in the experience that i had.

This blog is by no means a comprehensive review of the entire engine and its product strategy and the market segmentation brought on by Powerset, but sheer reflections of some emotions(read 'rants').

read on...

--> I was confused for a minute when i first saw the page result(search-hits) after doing the search for 'gandhi'. Now you need to understand when i say this that, i am referring to a 'typical' lane man who wants to search for some recipe or some term. There are just too many UI elements which can easily confuse your grand-mom.

--> I did a search for 'gandhi' and the results that i got were nowhere related to Gandhi(noun) but to the movie and the music bands and etc (in the tabbed bar above the Factz). Hence, i am not going to share what happened when i did a Q search (you may check other blogs for guys who did 'ask' question and the answers were a sheer 'mashup' of all the 'associated' keywords)!

--> The Factz were just too simple and i could not much gather anything from it, except for a solo fact which stated 'Quit India Movement'. The Factz look more like Powerset has simply searched on the n-grams gathered from all of the Wikipedia articles which has a 'rough' semantic association with the word 'gandhi'.

--> The widget on the right of the page (with delicious/reddit/et al links) is simply not required here. Atleast this could be made to bookmark the link with the search-word, but it instead bookmarks the powerset.com site. Anyway, I find this as a criminal waste of screen real estate.(But on a different note, this can be accommodated now, as Powerset has just launched and would be just interested in getting themselves bookmarked the max number of times - somehow, i don't subscribe to this PoV).

--> At the bottom of the page, the section on "Exploring the following pages on Powerset" is something that is simple but yet elegant. I would have preferred to see this result than seeing the Factz.(This is something similar to Sponsored Searches found in many other sites and corporate portals).

--> When you click on any of the result-hits, then the link opens in a new page ; which has an Article Outline on the right. Again, i simply would not even look at this - frankly speaking i did not even observe this, probably it was in my blindspot. Also, the way in which it slides when the page is scrolled - nice effect , but does not amaze me.

Concluding remarks:
# It looks like the entire is just an Alpha release , am sure that the Powerset team can collate its entire '(in)organic intelligence' and take this product to the next level; in the current release its a sheer play with ngrams and some named entity recognition (NER). Am sorry to say, but this does not look like the much-anticipated-Google/Live/Ask-Killer; in fact, not even closer to any of the latter. I would prefer Clusty.com to Powerset.

# Indexing all the wikipedia articles using Lucene/Solr, some NER and using the faceted searching would end up having almost similar results. I somehow opine that using simple algorithms and heuristics often ends up in having 'almost-similar' results than spending millions of USD and thousands of man-hours on developing a product that would be a step advanced than the former.

# Some bloggers have stated that Powerset can be a probable fit in the Enterprise Search space - but still solr+some-nlp-lib would be better of there (or use Google CSE ;) )

# Get the footer of the page properly aligned!!! It looks really bad in Firefox - The text "Privacy Policy" and "Except where" overlap badly.

......... And its not necessary that all sites have to be Javscript powered to give it a 'cool' look&feel .. simplicity rocks!

April 26, 2008

The Search

It is interesting to see the plethora of search engines coming up almost every month trying to solve a particular aspect(problem) in searches and claiming them to be potential 'Google-Killers'. I admire Google for its ability to 'create' consumer markets than just following or doing what the consumer needs. This is very important for a product firm which does wish to succeed and has the guts to run the extra mile and implement some bleeding edge technologies. Google took a very simple requirement of enabling better data management on the web to a completely different level and is unarguably the best in its class now. Numerous books/articles/blogs have been written and eulogies sung in praise of Google; but at the same time I would like to raise a concern that I have been noticing for the past couple of months.

Google's relevance of results is decreasing day-by-day. I see loads of spam in Google's BlogSearch. There is no effective 'innovation' in the data-visualization and the way the results are being presented to the user continues to remain the same; and the Ads are also being presented in the same format.

IMHO, i would say the following 3 features to be 'most-essential' for the next search-engine startup to be successful:
- Duplicate Elimination (Chris Manning's group in Stan-NLP is doing some amazing research in this, and i guess a stealth-mode startup would have already started)
- Social searches (Something similar to what the Israeli startup Delver is doing - but of a much greater magnitude and more 'intelligent')
- Data Visualization

Update: Got 2 new books to read:
1) Phantoms in the Mind , By V.S.Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee
2) Indian Unbound , By Gurucharan Das

March 16, 2008

ESSAY- 1 : The Illusion of Choice

I had two interesting conversations with two different people (of opposite genders) last week. One centered on the difference between 'Choice and Decision' and the other being between 'Religion and God'. Apparently, both the guys differed from my point of view and stated some strong arguments in their favour. We did not reach any conclusion per se, but did feel that it was a topic for further exploration.

In this essay, I have tried to reflect on some of the views hovering around these topics. I will not try to 'explain' it, but take it to a state from which i would wish the thought processes to continue.

Choice and Decision
Choice is a 'state of mind' , which sees the presence of one(Hobson's) or more course of actions, given a particular predicament.
Decision is a logical conclusion arrived at by considering all the available choices(course of actions).

According to Hinduism, Maya is a state wherein the mind sees something that is either ephemeral,evanescent or is not-present - this is something similar to illusion. The mind conjectures certain conditions which leads it to 'see' certain things that are not present. The last sentence is indeed interesting. Firstly, how can the mind 'imagine' something that it has never seen - how it can 'make' things without having an experience of the same. For eg. a person knows that a desert is hot and arid because he has experienced it. Now for a person who doesn't even know what a desert is , or even further, hasn't even heard the word - then how can he imagine the 'state of a desert'. It follows that if a person who has already been to a desert (say Bob) explains it verbally to a person who hasn't been there(say Alice), then there are some good chances that Alice can come up with a rough version of a picture of the desert. This is because, Bob was able to relate to the conditions in a desert to a conditions that Alice would have felt when at home or at her present state;but the same scenario becomes difficult for Bob, if Alice was blind since birth.

Experiences do matter.

Religion and God
Religion is a set of rules put forth by our predecessors to bring discipline into our lives. Religion for that matter can be equated to the constitution to be followed in one's life - a way of life. It prescribes some notions that when followed lead to an enhanced status of living with superior intellectual pursuits. The presence of different religions around is a depiction of different schools of thought. Each religion (or school) prescribes certain activities that was felt by a 'single' person to be significant and a mass followed him for the wavelength matched with the Master. The creation of a new school of thought was deeply influenced by the social dynamics and interpersonal relationships. Whenever the society(which constitutes of that 'single' person in the begining) feels that a certain rule needs to be broken or created altogether , and which was totally complementary to the one already existing in the present religion, a new discipline/religion was born.

Now, the creators of the religion(or constitution) did realize that it was difficult for the society to follow some rules when there was no one to supervise and hence 'God' was created. [The concept of 'God' is one of the most beautiful things that fascinates me till date , for it amuses/amazes me - but the thirst still persists and am continuing my hunt to satiate it.] According to humans, God is the one who was supposed to have created the 'new' religion and hence he is the Supreme - the omnipresent - the omniscient. Different rules where ascribed to different Gods.

Symbolism
A perspective that has been missing in both the conversations has been the relevance of symbolism. Symbolism cannot be equated to Experience. The concept of Choice and God is sheer symbolism. We cannot describe either of them, unless we feel them; and describing the experiences is beyond the bounds of the lexicon. These words are the feelings that come closest to the experience, but the feelings cannot be sustituted for a constrained set of grammar rules and words.

As Gary Zukov points out in his book[2], let the masters continue to dance... let the music flow and let us dance along with it. We are least bothered about what had transpired and what is supposed to come. We are just concerened about the present and the dance and the mysticism associated with it.

Finishing Notes....... My knowledge on this subject is very much limited and am trying to understand it more. This essay is not an effort to vandalize the existing customs or rituals , but an effort to share some views that i feel were worthy of consideration in this world. This essay also does not reflect all the rationale behind the topic of contention and many other views that are equally important in understanding the subject. The subject is worthy of exploration and more research, and it carries an enormous philosophical and psychological angle to it. I do not deny the existence of God and neither question the relvance of religion - i do visit temples , pray and prostrate - but i want to understand this 'phenomenon' in its entirety , for it encompasses some of the most delicate and controversial dogmas, principles and thoughts around.

Who am I? Why I am here? What am i supposed to do? What have i done? (Origin > Identity > Destiny)

Humans are causal beings - we ascribe 'causes' to whatever we see happening - this notion is reflected in almost in all the religions - its called 'karma'. I atleast know that Hinduism and Buddhism do lay emphasis on 'karma'. Bible certainly conveys the same essence [1]:

# A person reaps what he sows. (Gal. 6:7)
# All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Karma does not mean that all events are predetermined; what it means is that the it is us who control what has to happen to us.

I do not believe in another 'term' that keeps floating around -- LUCK. Luck a term directed at something that is beyond the control of human mind ,and which we prescribe to when things do not happen as we anticipate them - and i find this to be weird and unacceptable. It is the human mind that decides its course of action; though it should be taken into account that the human mind does decide its course based on the current state of things and the things that have been learnt from the past. The symbiosis of Eastern Mysticism with Western Science is a very potent relationship and should be studied very carefully, with interest.

References:
[1] Buddhism Karma [http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/karma.html]
[2] Dancing Wu Li Masters - Gary Zukov
[...] experiences that has been gained in my limited stay on this planet :)

February 24, 2008

Few good reads

I havent read many books after moving down to Chennai ; the last one was The Black Swan - an excellent page turner with loads of gyaan. Taleb is a genius who understands the subject that he is trudging on and explains it with finesse.

Well, i was spending too much time on the Net and on my laptop and was getting into the geekdom(second part) again. My phone bill(broadband) shot up - guess the 2.5 Gb limit wasnt enough. But the 2Mbps line simply rocks. Nwayz, spent some time in the Spencer's(got a good Woodland Shoe) and then went on to Moore Market yesterday. Moore market is the bazaar near the Madras(Chennai) Railway Station wherein one can find everything on Earth (at very cheap rates) - provided on knows the art of negotiation/bargaining. My intentions were simply to go there and get some good reads to fill my shelf(and make my mom yell at me - she argues that i am occupying half the house with my junk).

Got the following :
# Survival of the Sickest - By Dr.Sharon Moalem
Having recently been affected by throat infection, i was searching for something on human anatomy and was happy to find this book. The Doc is a medical maverick who discovers why we need a disease. He talks about our genetic design and asks and answers some provocative questions. I have started reading this book and its going amazing.

# View from the Summit - By Sir Edmund Hillary
Waiting to read this book. An autobiography by the master himself and I being an ardent traveller/trekker this was an excellent find.

# The Dancing Wu Li Masters - By Gary Sukav
An old book - NY Times says that this is the most exciting intellectual adventure after the 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'. Its an absorbing guide to the mind stretching mysteries of the new Physics and points out striking parallels with modern Psychology and Eastern Mysticism.

# The Goal - By Eliyahu M.Goldratt
Have read some good reviews. The story of a person who has to save his plant(business) given lots of extraneous conditions that hamper from its development.

# The Great Game (On a Secret Service in High Asia) - By Peter Hopkirk
Related to adventure and war - yet to get a flavour of it.

# Code Complete - By Steve McConnell
This is a book on software construction - a must for many self-taught programmers :)

Am sure these kill keep me occupied for a month or two :)

February 22, 2008

Streptococcus Viridans

Having survived numerous bacteria and viruses over the past decade and not falling ill even for a single day; inspiteof drinking water from rusty taps, broken bottles, dirty water tanks I was really happy and fortunate. But, 2 weeks back we started getting water in the bubble top containers (mineral water) due to a possible contamination of the well water. And 2 days after that had a heavy fever and then a really bad throat infection. Tried to control from my mind for a week , but that was of no avail - the specie in my throat was more powerful than my mind. Went to the doc finally, his initial dose of medicines weren't of any use , he made the dose even more powerful and I got partial relief. Finally, he advised me of a throat swab and this what the report read :

Organism Isolated : Streptococcus Viridans

Holy cow... my charm for sesquipedalion words ended up in a sesquipedalion bacteria in my throat channel :( My state is not as bad as the 'organism' sounds, but the very thought of an-organism-in-my-body and reciting its name sends mild shivers across my spine.

But the naming convention sounds 'kewl' ... i wish i had a body organ named after me : "Ramanilicous Venkatidans"

February 17, 2008

Insights 2007

2007 was an eventful year for me. Lots of things happened which gave me new courage to face new challenges and grab new opportunities. Met some interesting people and also had a some great conversations. Though each day is a new experience in itself, but 2007 made me think and take some steps that can have some strategic consequences later in my life.

Some of the important and finest moments......

January - The year started off with me buying a new camera on the NY eve - my new kid - Nikon D50. I was overjoyed - i had saved my hard earned money to buy this. I have had some great moments with this camera and am still having it; hope not to part with it - my commitment is sincere :D

February - My first ever Himalayan trek. At sub zeros temperatures and nothing but whiteness around under some really strenuous conditions , it was an excellent experience. Though the trek was called off after the first day but the experience is something to be cherished till my next Himalayan Trek happens.

May - The Bangalore Midnight Marathon - what an experience it was!!!! I ended up running though i had gone their for clicking :) Almost 8-10hours of clicking with some superb experiences.

July - Resigned from Oracle :) It was a tough decision for me. Life at Oracle was extremely good - with a good balance between good work and an adventurous personal life. 2 Years with Oracle was really satisfying in terms of both - Job satisfaction and excellent learning. But, life was getting very comfortable at a very young age and i did not want it to be like that.

In the meantime, gave some interviews at Google, cleared some rounds and then stopped the process - Google is not the place for me now ;)

August - Joined Svapas (Serendio)
I had lots of expectations when i joined Svapas - i wanted to be the flag bearer of setting up a pure product company based out of Chennai(India).

December - Left Svapas (Serendio)
Things always do not happen the way you expect them to ; though one can take the bull by its horns but it's sometimes clever to think strategically and take a suitable decision, by taking all the variables into effect. Again - experience @ Svapas was great.

2008 is keeping me busy...did not have much time for travel - except for the Andhra tour over the new year. Work is getting more interesting and enjoyable ...loads to learn..loads to share... hope to stumble on some interesting people and learn more :)

Life is beautiful.....

January 20, 2008

Bland Andhra

[.....this post is under Edit.........WIP]

I did not want to spend the NY at Chennai ...partying and drinking and eating. Hence the traveller in me woke up again from a long slumber(its been 4-5 months since i went anywhere)...

I had 3 choices
a) Kerala
b) The West Coast - from Bekal Fort to Goa
c) Andhra Pradesh (AP)

I did not want to do #a alone , hence chucked it. #b is in my to-do list for almost a year now. And #c was equally interesting as not many people backpack across AP. Culminating at Goa wasnt a good idea, as it was a NY season and it would be crowded (and the skyrocketing prices). Hence, it was #c :) Decided to get the ticket to start off on Friday evening to Vijayawada (VJW). Once in VJW, then i could decide on the future course of action on a daily basis.

Friday evening
Came back from work(it was my last day with my employer) , did some quick packing and started off to the Koyambedu Bus stand - boarded the bus - dreamt - and slept.

Day - 1 ( Saturday , Dec 29th, 2007)
[ KanakaDurga Temple - Undavalli Caves - Mogalarajapuram Caves - Kondapalli Fort ]
Reached Vijayawada in the morning at 5:15am. Brushed my teeth in the bus stand , had a hot tea , dumped my backpack in the cloak room and left for a darshan at KanakaDurga temple.


[.....this post is under Edit.........WIP]

January 19, 2008

New Buy : Acer 4520

Got my laptop couple of weeks back. It is an Acer 4520 with nVidia GeForce 7000m and an AMD Athlon X2 processor. After having used the DELL series of laptops(Lattitude and Inspiron) for couple of years, it was a pleasant experience moving towards Acer (with an AMD processor).

Actually, i am practically in love with my laptop and did not even expect such good performance from it. Though the idea of not buying a Mac was lurking in my mind, but after a conscious comparison between my desires and my wants, decided to stick to the present choice.

The features that led me to this choice were :
1) superb keyboard
2) amazing display (14.1-inch)
3) fantastic sound quality
4) Nice form factor

In fact, the sound quality is quite mind blowing and has really good clarity. I had little difficulty in getting and installing the video drivers, but once installed , the display is almost comparable to than of a Mac. Now I have a dual boot on XP and Ubuntu and it works like a charm.

The laptop doesnt produce much heat(i used to use Acer 5050 and it got really hot after a couple of hours) and has a nice form factor. Though, the display doesnt do a complete 180 degree tilt(as in, along the plane of the keyword), but the tapered edges does it give it a nice look and feel.

But couple of things i did not like about the laptop were
- the keypad and the surrounding bay is in white - i would have preferred a blackish/greyish color, as the pad gets dirty after a few weeks for a heavy user like me who spends 15-18hours a day with my computer.
- the trackpad is a little slow (probably i am not using properly) and the buttons doesn't work smoothly.

Other features include:
160GB hard disk
1GB DDR2 667MHz RAM
8x DVD Burner(Dual Layer)
Weighs just around 2.5 kgs
all the plugs/ports/sockets intact :D
1-year Internation Traveler’s Warranty

Overall, it has been a good buy for 30k INR.

And did i tell you guys that i got a headphone+mike, 2GB SanDisk zip drive, a LCD/Keyboard vaccum cleaner and a mouse(which looks cheap) as part of the deal.
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