Saturday, July 30, 2005

Acham illai

"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself," the alchemist replies.

"And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."

- The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

think. wait. fast.

"I can think. I can wait. I can fast."

"That's everything?"

"I believe, that's everything!"

- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Interesting philosophy. When I first read Siddhartha, I had no idea where this conversation was going. This is a snippet of the first conversation between an ascetic (Siddhartha) goes to meet Kamaswami, the merchant, to see if he can work for him. This is like a job interview, where Kamaswami tries to find out what skills Siddhartha would bring to the job. The above is Siddhartha's anwer to the question, "What is it that you've learned, what you're able to do?"

Now as I go through life, I keep coming back to this concept. Would thinking, waiting or fasting help me deal with something better. Well, guess what? Yes; 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed, these skills would have helped me deal with things better.

To think - to be able to just stop and think through things, without getting emotional and stressed.

To wait - there is not one skill I would want more than to be able to wait, when the heavens seem to be falling down. To be patient, take some time, breathe and then move.

To fast - I have personally not experinced this much. So will add a quote from the book again.

"And what's the use of that? For example, the fasting-- what is it
good for?"

"It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the
smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn't
learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this
day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would
force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows
no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow
hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what
fasting is good for."

"You're right, Samana. Wait for a moment."

For those of you who have not read the book. But I am sure, this has piqued your interest. You now wonder -

Did he get the job?
(no worries, , this is not a spoiler)
Well, yes, he did.

But I would not suggest you try this at your next job interview. What follows in this conversation, is very mundane. Kamaswami returns with a scroll and asks Siddhartha to read it. It is his ability to read and write, that lands him the job. So, yes, you will have to work on your other skills too =)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Accidental Revolutionary

"I was an ugly child.

What can I say? I hope some day Hollywood makes a film about Linux, and they’ll be sure to cast somebody who looks like Tom Cruise in the lead role – but in the non-Hollywood version, things don’t work out that way."

How can one resist a book that starts that candidly (and that hopefully)! =)

One of my favourite heros - amazing guy, with a great vision. Though, I don't think, he thought about it that way, when he started working on Linux.

A wonderful read for both geeks and nongeeks. David Diamond has made the life of a young nerd seem interesting to the second kind of people. (I am sure all the first kind know, that, there are only 10 kinds of people in the world...) This book is, so, not filled with geek jokes like this.

Describes how he created Linux, very lovingly and yet very interestingly. I would leave the reviewing to people who are good at it. You can go to a nice review, by clicking on the title of this blog entry.

(4/4 in 'people who inspire me')

Monday, July 25, 2005

I, me and we

"The Talmud says, If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wedding vows - EULA or GPL?

Was trying to convince the bride to have an Arya Samaj Wedding ceremony (A similar ceremony can be seen in Gandhi (script snippet)). Having failed to make any headway with the bride, who has this general love for the grand and chaotic scene - that is an indian wedding. Check out what she had to say after reading about the ceremony here.

I brought up the same topic with the groom (aka Bill). Bill is generally more receptive to random ideas like this :) (I think). Anyway, after a couple of minutes we realized, that most indians go through their wedding, with most of the ceremony being held in Sanskrit or Classical Tamizh etc. And, they have no clue what they are signing up for.

It is almost as meaningless to them, as the EULA you always click 'I Agree' to, before installing another piece of buggy software to your overloaded machine.

So why not a GPL or BSD style wedding vows? What would you include in such vows? Would you even like to say something like

Bride: I take your hand in mine in pursuit of righteousness for the benefit of both our families. I will stand by you. May we be provided with prosperity and offspring and may I keep you splendidly radiant as the rays of the sun. - part of the arya samaj wedding ceremony (

Wedding Recreated in Gandhi


Simple. Austere. Filtered light. Featuring Gandhi – close. He is looking straight ahead.
Reverse angle. Across the emptiness of the temple, Ba faces him.

BA (a step forward): "In every worthy wish of yours, I shall be your helpmate."

Another angle featuring Walker and Collins, who are sitting alone, in the cool shadows of the temple, watching with fascination as Gandhi and Ba repeat their marriage ceremony for them, Walker jotting notes occasionally, but his eyes always glued to Gandhi and Ba, who are in part lost in memories and echoes of a significance only they can know.

GANDHI (a step): "Take a fourth step, that we may be ever full of joy."

Wide shot. Showing the two of them before the altar of the temple, moving closer to each other.

BA (a step): "I will ever live devoted to you, speaking words of love and praying for your happiness."

Close shot – Gandhi.

GANDHI: "Take a fifth step, that we may serve the people."
BA: "I will follow close behind you and help to serve the people."

Featuring Walker, now too entranced by the ceremony, by the depth of layered emotions in Gandhi and Ba's voices and eyes to take any notes . . .

GANDHI: "Take a sixth step, that we may follow our vows in life."
BA: "I will follow you in all our vows and duties."

Ba and Gandhi. Near to meeting now.

GANDHI (a last step): "Take the seventh step, that we may ever live as friends."

Ba takes the last step, so that they are face to face. A beat.

BA: "You are my best friend . . . my highest guru, and my sovereign lord."

For a moment their eyes hold – the many dreams, and hopes and pain – the love of many years.
Walker watches, his own face taut with emotion.
Resume Gandhi and Ba. And Gandhi slowly lifts his hand.

GANDHI: Then I put a sweetened wheat cake in her mouth.

He touches Ba's lips with his extended fingers and she kisses them gently.

BA: And I put a sweetened wheat cake in his mouth.

She has lifted her fingers to his mouth and he kisses them gently.
Featuring Walker and Collins both touched, the overtly cynical American obviously even more than the likeable Englishman.
Gandhi turns to them.

GANDHI: And with that we were pronounced man and wife. (Solemnly) We were both thirteen . . .

(acknowledgement :

Monday, July 18, 2005

Laptop mighter than razor?

News bite from the inquirer, a laptop generates enough heat to burn the user's pants and set off the smoke detector in a plane, which almost brought the plane down. you can find it here

This is about the same time everyone keeps talking about how low power design is as important as speed ... The amount of heat a computer can generate is impressive (not very impressive from an engineering point of view, though...)

Does this mean a bunch of geeks armed with laptops (esp. with the right overclocking etc) can be as dangerous as any trained armed insurgent?

Does it mean people will have to check-in their laptops too? So, now you can neither shave nor play games or look busy with emails on a plane? Laptops go up in the list of evil things you cannot carry into an airplane? Razors and forks are not the only tools of the devil, enter a new cousin.... the laptop =)


Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Interesting audio-visual piece by Fred Conrad of the NYT. He catalogs the different tribes in New York City. LDS missionaries, Goths, Sand Hogs, Messengers, and I hope there is more to come.

Wonder what the tribes of Silicon Valley would look like, geeks, hackers, artists, venture capitalists, ...

Tribe (from the Merriam-Webster online )

Pronunciation: 'trIb
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin tribus, a division of the Roman people, tribe
1 a : a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers b : a political division of the Roman people orig. representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome c : PHYLE
2 : a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest
3 : a category of taxonomic classification ranking below a subfamily; also : a natural group irrespective of taxonomic rank

Monday, July 11, 2005

Wislawa Szymborska

Ready for another poet(ess) yet? Well, let me add another one of my favourites - Wislawa Szymborska. Another poet whose translated works I love. She is a polish poetess who gained much deserved recognition in the English speaking world, in the mid 90s, after winning the Nobel prize (for case anyone was confused =) ).

I was particularly impressed by the fact that she caught the Nobel committee's attention without using any 'major' cause or high drama, as a crutch. Her poems tend to deal with the 'mundane' and 'simple' things. If I were to look for an analogy in Bollywood, her poems are more like the Farooque Sheikh films, as opposed to the Amitabh Bachan blockbusters. There is no high drama and larger than life images, but simple, elegant and touching potrayal of real life and issues people deal with.

Here is a wonderful poem called Funeral (find the poem at the very end of this link). Of course, it is copyrighted yada yada, so here are a small snippets.

From Funeral,

"so suddenly, who would've expected it"

"stress and cigarettes, I told him"


"unwrap these flowers"

"his brother's heart did him in too, must run in the family"


"good-bye Ma'am"

"let's go grab a beer somewhere"

"I'm going this way"

"we're not"

If you enjoyed that, you must try her first poem that caught my attention, True Love. Addicted yet?! =) Then here, a link to a large collection of her poems.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Falling in love ... with Rilke

Falling in love with a poem is a very exciting and equally inexplicable thing. It happens time and again. But everytime, its a whole new pain and pleasure!

The first Rilke poem I read was called the Spanish Dancer. Ah! the images it creates in your mind. I cannot see a flamengo dancer now and not think of this poem. Unfortunately, I have to be happy with reading the english translation for now. I can only imagine the how beautiful it must be in german!

If you did like Spanish Dancer, try You.

"For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough), -they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning."

-Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Rainer Maria Rilke)

byslexia... er...dyslexia

Had this interesting conversation over lunch the other day. Dyslexia. One of my friends started talking about the mild form of dyslexia he suffered from. He had issues with letter and number reversal in his childhood. I have never been diagnosed or even tested, but have had a little trouble with letter reversal, as a kid too.

But as we were talking about this, there were some cool observations,

dyslexic people like communicating with other dyslexics!

If that is true, it would not be a disorder, but an alternate way of brain wiring(!) When this guy was in college, he used to enjoy lectures from professors, who were not known for being particularly approachable. But did not exactly love lectures from 'popular' professors. As this pattern kept repeating, he made rounds of the offices of each of these profs and guess what -- the profs whose lectures he liked, turned out to be mildly dyslexic too!

Now that is a interesting theory. need to try my own experiment on this.

Another interesting observation,

"Some studies have concluded that speakers of languages whose orthography has a strong correspondence between letter and sound (e.g. Korean and Italian) have a much lower incidence of dyslexia than speakers of languages where the letter is less closely linked to the sound (e.g. English and French)." (source:

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Life of its Own - 6 deg experiment?

Does it ever amaze you that things have a tendency to have a life of their own. And how information tends to spread like a dead skunk's stink?

Some things get created with a simple, limited purpose and then go on to have a life of their own. A small incident that happened to me recently reminded me of this.

I got back from my vacation and had a ton of pictures (who doesn't). And after a month of procarsination, uploaded them to a free photosharing website. Before sharing the pictures, I created a totally innocent looking username and password, so anyone interested in viewing the pictures would have access to my pictures on this photosharing website.

I sent the 'invite' to see my pictures (and the login information) to some of my friends and colleagues. A week later, I go back to check some of my pictures and guess what? The account I created already has a life of its own! There are pictures of people from the farthest corners of the world?! People I know nothing about.

Is this turning into my own tiny 6-degrees experiment?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Number 27

Check out this dude's website. Jonathan J. Harris. Some very cool visual representations of things that are all around you.

Got there because of the interesting tenbyten.

Ok, these should be in links... it will get there. until then, it will be here :)

Remapping the world

Haven't we all come a long way since the world was mapped just based on the physical distances? Want a new perspective on the world around you? Try these,

Check out the different maps - a different perspective never hurts =)

And, a new system of cartography, based on how long it actually takes to get from point A to point B, in this global village, that we live in today.

Water is something I care about very much. This was the map there drew me to this page.

Dare to Dream

Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, the man behind the Oberoi hotels.

Going down the list of people I admire most.

'Dare to Dream' is a biography, which I read eons back. From what I remember this is an excellent book, which tells the story of a man who pretty much built an empire from scratch.

He was born in a small village in Pakistan. Was brought up by a very enterprising mother. One very interesting episode that I still remember is, how he pawned all his wife's jewellery to get his first hotel in Calcutta.

(3/4 in 'people who inspire me')

Beyond the Last Blue Mountain

JRD Tata. Need I say more?

At 18, he became the chairman of Tata & sons. He went on to create some of the most exciting companies in India. Again a very inspiring story.

Beyond the Last Blue Mountain - I read this book about a decade back, so here is a review.

(2/4 in 'people who inspire me')

The Unfinished Dream

Amul is one of the most recogonized brand names in India. And Dr. Verghese Kurien is the man behind it.

This book goes back almost half a decade in time and talks about how one man changed the way milkmen in a small village called Anand, in Gurajat, could make a successful cooperative.

A very interesting read and very inspiring too.

"We must build on the resources represented by our young professionals and by our nation's farmers. Without their involvement, we cannot succeed. With their involvement, we cannot fail...

Those of us who are of our country's urban elite often fail to recognise the tremendous resource that our nation's farmers represent. It is that resource, linked with the professional manager, that can return India to its position as a surplus producer...

True development involves building the institutional capacity to respond to new and diverse challenges; to adapt, to innovate and to create newer institutional forms ..."

(1/4 in 'people who inspire me')