October 30, 2005

Fifty-five word poem

[ English, August has come up with the idea of 55-word poetry .. thought one might give it a try. ]

To-day was just like
days gone before
Can’t even remember
Events quotidian, chores mundane.
For Time, he marches on
And to-morrow, and to-morrow again.

Blurred are the weeks,
fuzzy the year
Day and night merge and
Inchoate, and vaguely inane.
For Time, he just marches on
And to-morrow, and to-morrow again.

[With apologies to the Bard. And to the reader.]


Update: This started off as another attempt.

Moonlit evening, quiet meal,
“Tell me, tell me how you feel!”

He looked at his gin and tonic
“I care”, he said, quite laconic.

“Why must you, sir, be so trite
When passions you may now ignite?
I would expect Shelley, Keats
Or Wordsworth at the very least!
Oh, please do say something clever
And I shall be but yours forever!”

“For terseness, lady, I thought I’d strive
Words I had but fifty-five
Before you hijacked my little ditty
With incorrigible verbosity.”

October 28, 2005


Overheard in Ahmedabad on the 26th of January, 2001.

“The whole building fell down, ma?”
“Yes, beta.”
“Were there people inside, ma?”
“Yes, there were.”

A brief silence.

“People like us?”
“Yes, beta, people like us.”

Please go here for information on how to help the victims of the South Asia quake.

October 23, 2005

Through the looking glass

One has, after much agonizing, decided to reveal one’s visage on this blog. It seemed like a pity to hide a jaw so finely chiselled, cheekbones so gloriously high, eyes so piercingly erudite, dimples so burstingly deep behind this hypertext curtain of blind, impersonal anonymity.


Wotsay, huh? Stud or what?

This is a picture of oneself. God promise. Except it’s been transformed. Instead of the x- and y-coordinates representing vertical and horizontal distance, they represent the bearing and distance of a line from an arbitrarily-chosen origin. Loosely speaking, each point in the transformed image corresponds to a potential line in the original, each sinusoid in the transformed image corresponds to all the lines passing through a point, and places where many sinusoids intersect are distinct lines in the original. Or something like that.

This is the Hough transform applied to the problem of line-finding. The same transform finds application in the reconstruction of slices of the human body from X-ray projections. In case you’ve ever wondered (er .. if you haven’t, you may proceed to wonder now) how they see slices of your insides during a CT scan.

And a transformed image invariably looks pretty good too, in a snapshot-of-the-very-fabric-of-reality kind of way.

Yeah, anyway, so the bright spots represent lines in the original image. There are six of them here (yes, you count eight, but the left of the image is supposed to “wrap round” to the right) so apparently one has a hexagonal face. Funny, actually .. one always thought one was rather square. Maybe it’s the dimples.

*adjusts geek-glasses and shuffles off*

[Note: Transform implemented using image processing toolbox in MATLAB™. Thanks to The MathWorks for developing a useful tool.]

October 20, 2005

Kitty party

The house looked like a battleground. The air was thick with tension. Clothes were scattered everywhere. The phone was ringing off the hook. Mummy was on extended leave. Was someone gravely ill? Was it bankruptcy? Nope. It was more serious than that. Way more serious. Little Sweety was taking part in the school talent show.

She was going to sing. Her dance classes had been suspended for the time being, as had the cookery lessons and the painting lessons and the English-speaking classes. Even the two-month crash course in personality development had been rescheduled, such was the gravity of the situation.

You see, the event held special significance for Mummy. She had stuck her rather formidable neck out at the last kitty party and predicted a huge win for Sweety. Over a substantial lunch it had been established that Sweety was a talent par excellence when it came to surs and taals, and that although she might not be in the habit of securing the first rank every year like Mrs Gupta’s daughter or know as many capitals as Mrs Shukla’s son, she was undoubtedly good enough to be the next Indian Idol. School talent contests were child’s play.

Sweety just had to win. Or else.

Back home, the child in question was rubbing her eyes for want of sleep, her questionable musical talent stretched to the limit. The last few weeks before the show were a blur of dresses-to-be-tried-out and songs-to-be-practised.


The big day finally arrived. The audience for the talent show chiefly consisted of a number of enthusiastic mummies who seemed to have booked the front rows, unfortunately for the chief guests, and resigned-looking papas filming the proceedings from the back. Sweety’s song went well – Mummy was quite satisfied. After the performances there was just enough time for refreshments before the winner was announced. Normally Mummy would have eaten enough to last her a couple of days (and filled her handbag with some more for the weekend) but she just couldn’t eat right now .. it was all too stressful.

Then it was time – for the Announcement. "And the winner is .."

Mummy stood stunned. This struck harder than Sweety hitting a high note. The winner was this Other Kid. This rather geeky-looking and entirely unimpressive boy. Not Sweety.

But Mummy recovered admirably. Shock turned to anger. She went forthwith to express her indignation to Papa, who happened to be fast asleep.

On the drive home, the family car held a funereal atmosphere. Sweety was crying. Finally Mummy spoke up. “I thought she was the best, by far. Anyway, at least she took part, na?” And all was well again. At least until next month’s kitty party.

October 16, 2005

Fifty-five word fiction

[ A particularly long-lived branch of the fifty-five word meme has happened to find its way here. Many thanks to Babelfish for the honour. Here goes .. ]

She wrote something on a piece of paper and slipped it into his hand. He smiled. They were sitting on the last bench, as usual. Nobody saw.


He took the yellowing little note and tore it into bits. A single stubborn teardrop escaped those clenched eyelids. He had his own cubicle, luckily. Nobody saw.

Update : Another one.

He was walking down the street that evening, not far from home, when a car hit him. Hard. They rushed him to the nearest hospital, but it was too late.

He hadn’t told anyone about his anonymous blog. His readers thought he just didn’t feel like posting anymore.

October 14, 2005

Freedom rules

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular"

~ Adlai Stevenson

One had never intended to discuss anything on this blog that could even loosely be described as relevant. But the circumstances are rather unusual.

If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t yet heard of the recent developments in the Indian blogworld, Amit Varma has comprehensive coverage and regular updates.

Much has been said on the subject and one fears one cannot add anything of value. Just a small point – this is not about substandard B-schools or about platitude-spouting management gurus. For mediocre organizations and inflated advertising are well-accepted facts of life, in India and everywhere else. So, regrettably, are management gurus. This, dear readers, is about freedom of thought and speech, about the right to have and voice an opinion.

It rankles when Gaurav has to resign from his job because he stood up for what he thought was right, because he had an opinion. When marginally-coherent pseudobloggers direct obscenities at Rashmi. When dadagiri (strong-arming) becomes a natural way for people to deal with things they don’t like.

And the Indian blogging community deserves kudos for showing such solidarity. One is proud to be part of it.

October 08, 2005

The philosopher and the juvenile

At one’s oak and teakwood table
As one settles down to wonder
A blinding flash, and suddenly one
Does find oneself torn asunder.

One finds oneself torn asunder
Now do Two sit side by side
Two sit where one formerly sat
At the desk one occupied.

Little Boy, in shorts and T-shirt,
Clutching dog-eared Tinkle tight
Other One with golden aura
Rather an imposing sight.

Side by side they sit in silence
At one’s desk of oak and teak.
He’s somewhat scared of Other, but
The Little Boy ventures to speak.

“We started little bloggy-woggy
Several times we writing here
But it’s true, me not so good as
Better ones on blogosphere.”

Looking up from Plato’s works
He looks at Boy with kindly eye.
Taking off those half-moon glasses
Other One deigns to reply.

“Youngling, thou must but remember
Blake spake, I reiterate
Thou shalt not reason or compare
Thy business is but to create.”

“But me cannot help it, Sir,
Teeny-tiny straws me clutch.
Even little compliments still
Mattering so very much.”

“Dear child,” Other rejoined,
“Kipling said, and I repeat
Remain quite the stoic thou must
Both in triumph and defeat.

“Thou must, wee neophyte
Heed immortal Socrates.
Examine thy life, he averred
Have faith in his expertise.”

“Me no wanna think too much, Sir
Messes up me little brain.
Me want to go play outside now
Hide and seek and choo-choo train!”

“Life’s a struggle, O Little Boy,
“Choice, dilemma, forks and twists
No attachments, quoth the Gita
Self-interest, said Objectivists.”

“But me very attached, good Sir!
Me love Mummy-Daddy so
Me like many uncle-aunties
Even little girl next door.

“Me like Narnia, me like Blyton,
Me like my old Targets too
People telling, now me big boy
But me liking, what to do?”

“Thou art fully-grown, my child
Do not partake of puerile fare.
Thy reading habits, first of all
Need some inspection and repair.”

The two alter-egos merge
Blinding flash of light, and then
Emerging from the brightness, blinking
One finds oneself whole again.

Such debates unfold whenever
One thinks over things worthwhile
Dichotomous opinions of
Philosopher and juvenile.

October 01, 2005

Going Dutch

[ Immediately following the illuminatory episode (see previous commentspace) one headed to the nearest supermarket to look for bread. Only after reaching the place did one remember what folks here call it. “Brood”. Yup. Connotations of utter grimness. Or baby birdies. One can’t go around eating stuff called brood on a daily basis, what? Categorically cannot.

In the meantime, one has been assiduously perusing Indian recipes online **continues to chant slow fire, slow fire **. There’s lots crammed into one’s li’l head right now. Just hoping one won’t forget how to make alu-curry. ]

“Een voor Batman Begins ”, one declaims. The lady at the ticket counter smiles and says a couple of things while she taps away at her keyboard. Small talk, one gathers from her tone. Overwhelmingly likely to be about the weather.

One gravely leans forward and nods. She continues, encouraged by one’s close attention. A pause .. evidently one is expected to say something. “Ja”, one remarks, brow suitably furrowed, an infinity of meteorological wisdom distilled into that single syllable.

Further soliloquy. A pause, again. But one is well prepared. “Natuurlijk”, one declares (rather suavely, one fancies).

But she looks alarmed. One switches to damage-control mode – vigorous shake of head, firmly repeated mutters of “Nee, nee .. natuurlijk niet”. She looks rather strangely at one for a moment, then continues her discourse unfazed.

She presently finishes tapping on her keyboard and makes a rather pointed remark. Numbers. Ah, one can do those. Zeven euro vijftig .. five hundred bucks for a darn movie .. remember Roopalee Talkies, only rupees twenty per phillum .. yeah, ma’am .. there you go. “Dank U wel”, one smiles. Now for the popcorn.

So one has learnt to conduct long and variegated conversations in Dutch without really being able to say anything much (that rhymes. Poetry next post.) But then listening was always a prized skill. Doing the same sort of thing in German, one understands, requires no substantial extension to one’s vocabulary. Joy. Now one just needs to brush up the ol’ French, and one’s a pan-European listening expert.


Een voor Batman Begins = one for Batman Begins. Yup, one’s the sort of dude you see walking alone into a movie hall and feel kinda sorry for. Awww and whatnot.


English films here are Dutch-subtitled, not dubbed. So one thankfully doesn’t have to bluff one’s way through them.