Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This blog has moved to A new post is up on it. It's on Kashmir issue. is the RSS feed.

Friday, August 24, 2007

New site ... yet again

Hey people,

I have moved to a new site. Please leave a message with your email address to know the URL

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Hey people ... i am moving from blogger to wordpress ... the new site can be accessed at or URL for RSS feed for posts is and for comments is Regular updates will happen on the new site.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I am with Famous

I am not a voracious reader or anything, but I do read book once in a while. Off late I have been visiting a few book stores in Bangalore, now that I have a lot of time at my hand. While I don't read much, I do want to score brownie points in my friends' good books. It works this way. Every time anyone asks me about having read any book, I casually reply, "it's by this guy right, Vikram Seth? I haven't read it, but I want to." It's like saying, "I know about it." It is important to show off at occasions. All of us at some point of time do like to associate ourselves with someone famous or learned, and be in sync with their conversation.

We all want to be famous, some of us do get that fifteen minutes of fame. At other times, we strive to move with famous people. For instance, at any wedding in South India, people crowd around the bride and the groom to be at the helm of the proceeding. It is not that they are needed or something, it is just the hurried running and gulping of headache relief pills that some folks seem to enjoy. And listless old men, who what don't want to miss out on the action, too chip in with advise on performing rituals.

Ever wondered why once in every 6 months, a while after she died, new characters kept emerging from nowhere saying they slept with Princess Diana? It's the 'I-want-to-be-with-famous' syndrome. No one can confirm or deny it, they might as well make something out of it. It could have happened. Diana's sure gone. She can't speak.

Do you remember high school cricket? Good old days where only one of us got to be "the best" player, and rest of us cling to him in all games and always wanna be in his team. Yup, its the same syndrome at play. It should be noted that such a system promotes the hero-sidekick relationship among the students. I have observed such relationships on couple of occasions outside the television. Its fun to 'watch' such things in life actually :). With new rules (link) in schools operating, with boys and girls no being allowed touch the people of opposite sex, I see no reason why the hero-sidekick culture won't present itself as a norm. After all, it is the duty of the hero to show the right way. This reality also mimics television. Among dozen others, Batman and Robin stand out clearly as a leading Hero-Sidekick example. As it turns out, both are ... well ... gay. Arguably at least. Hence, the likelihood of fears among conservatives that it promotes homosexuality is not that unfounded (link).

Also, I believe, there is a difference in you being someone's sidekick and you idolizing someone. In the former case, you blindly follow what the other person does. In the latter, though you agree with the principle at a bigger scale, you change the rules to your needs. If you are thinking about most common example for hero-sidekick relation, you need not look further. The most famous entity is God himself. He (Capital H) is the Hero, fundamentalists are sidekicks. Associations with 'famous' God is the "thing" in claim to fame! Like George Carlin says, "up on the mountain, when no one was around, God gave us Ten Commandments." (link), every religion sets out rules formulated thousands of years ago. The sidekicks follow them blindly. Brilliant, isn't it? In fact, people said to be closest to God, that is priests, are in the highest strata of the society. This hero-sidekick relationship is not exclusive in most of the cases. In a certain case, there are hundreds of Gods and equal number of sidekicks, there is no problem of 'promiscuity' there.

God is famous. We all know that. Lets come down to earth. Did you know that Scientology boasts of 10 million memberships by the end of 2006. It surprising that a religion (?) arising out of a science fiction novel can attract so many people? With its foundations lying in alien invasions, volcanic eruption, hydrogen bombs and soul clusterization (link), how the hell did people even find it acceptable? With John Travolta and Tom Cruise following it, isn't it hardly surprising?

Comments on blasphemy, religion and related issues won't be answered. The questions, if need be, can be directed to Richard Dawkins. Yes, he is very famous, and I am with famous.

My previous attempts at Humour
But, not so seriously
What your status today
Peg's law

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nostaligia or Making the most out of your Undergraduation

Four years of hostel life changes a lot of things. Though I see myself as the same person as I was when entered IIT Madras, I kind of know that I have changes a lot in these four years. This post will reflect what I have learned from the four years of my undergraduate life. It is unfortunate that many us miss out on so many opportunities, while some of us explore a part of it. And there are very few, if any, who make the best use; I so envy them. I wanted to write this while at IIT Madras, but laziness got the better of me.

Statuary Warning : Long post

The Tech. Part

It was only in my final year that I indulged myself in the robotics, robotics-like activities because the courses I took demanded them. My college has a fairly active "hobby club" which caters to people with such interests. In fact, the robotics club started in my first year. It now provides a reasonably good platform for the students to start their work. What many of us fail to realize is that when you get your hands down and dirty, science and technology can be fun too. In the final semester, I was involved with a project where a miniature model of a lift had to be made. To be frank, it was the first time that I actually learned about handling micro processors, assembling mechanical components and electrical components together and actually put some of the workshop skills to use. The best part of the whole deal is the fact the you get to know people better, you interact with lot more and make more acquaintances. I can only wonder why I chose to distance myself from such activities in the past.

After the first year, it was only a matter of time before many more clubs like Physics clubs, Astronomy club popped up. I am sure that those involved in their functioning would have had loads of fun. Mostly, I was part of the Programming team in IIT Madras in four years. It was amazing being part of that. Met awesome team mates and that even took me to Tokyo. As part of the technical festival called 'Shaastra', projects such as building a hovercraft, tensegrity tower, remote controlled aircraft etc would have been an immense learning experience. Yet again I stress the fact that it is the people who you meet during the period that you value the most.

The Management Part

Many people miss out on being volunteers and coordinators for different events and facilities that help massive cultural and technical festivals (Saarang and Shaastra respectively) run smoothly. It is a common misconception among students that by being a part of mangement, the "fun" of Saarang and Shaastra is gone. That is true only to an limited extent. Given the ample number of events that take place, and given that fact that there are only a handful of event which really confined to your interests, you are not missing out much. Work on Saarang and Shaastra begins months before the actual event. During the run-up when you are loaded with tonnes of work other than acads, it is very satisfying targets falling one by one during the entire course. It is a pity that many of us take academics so seriously that it is considered a 'waste-of-time' to find yourself doing "other" things.

I have been a 'volunteer' three times and a 'coordinator' five times. Each time, I have had great fun being a part of both technical and cultural festivals. More than half the people I know in IITM can be traced back to acquaintances I made as part of the organizing team. In 2006 Saarang, I was part of the Production team which ended up being a great group to hang out with. After that, I was part of the event "how things work" for Mechanical Engineering Department's technical festival 'mechanica'. I was forced into it, but I have to thank all those who forced me into it because the people I got to know were the most enthusiastic bunch I had ever seen. Also because, I managed to win "how things work" in the following shaastra. In other occasions too, I have always loved being responsible for whatever I was in-charge of. Any youngster today, I would advice him to be both technically inclined as well as be ready to work on cultural activities to earn a wholesome experience. Plus, a coordinator in Shaastra would mean 400 bucks worth of freebies and 900 bucks in Saarang :)

It is often complained that students more time of computer these day and less on social interations. I think more such activities undertaken by the institute will help in building Social interation skills among students. Instead, today we find the Dean reducing the number of days of Saarang as it not in academic interest. Earlier, a real show-case of Indian Culture was observed in the name of "Bharath Utsav" in IIT Madras. Again, as it was not a part of academics, the entire fest was canceled six years ago.

The Acad. Part

In the final semester I took a course named "technology and development" taught by Prof. D Veeraraghavan one of the most eminent profs in Humanities Department in IIT Madras. In one of the classes, an old student of his, an alumnus of my college's electrical department, gave a small talk. He had done is Ph.D. in social sciences unlike his peers who stayed on in core engineering. That talk was an eye-opener for me on research in Social Sciences. He explained about indigenous cotton seeds, imported cotton seeds and how it affected the rural textile industry as the looms were designed for indigenous harder cotton seeds. Frankly, until then, though I had often wondered, I had no clue as to research in subjects other than science and technology. It is true that IITs (and all engineering colleges for that matter) provide a one dimensional view of education, ie technology. A "full-fledged" engineer from my college will have completed just 12 of 180 credits in non-engineering subjects. This is a dismally low number. It is sad that people don't realize this.

Apart from numerous (a lot more than even MIT actually) core engineering courses, we are given a free choice for two courses (free electives) from any department. Also, we several have a minor streams which are designed to different from our engineering Major. In my opinion, these options aren't enough. But, many fail to consolidate even on this limited choice. For instance, almost three-fourth of computer science students opt for operation research as minor as it complements some of their courses. Though I appreciate their enthusiasm, I have to remind them that the whole point of minor stream is to do something different from the regular routine. A lot of students end up taking courses from their own department in the 'free-elective' slot. They are simply not making the most of what the institution has to offer.

I should refer to Steve Jobs speech in Stanford convocation where he talks about "connecting the dots" on his calligraphy course which he later used in Apple mac OS(youtube link, text link). I would advise any fresher to explore his options completely before resorting to "safe" choice of following the herd.

The get-together, treks part

This is one part, where, I don't think many would have missed out. I have been to places in last two years of stay. Traveling, photography are cherished by all. It is inevitable that people end up in a clique of 5-6 people who constantly hangout together. It is in treks and traveling that people with common friends get together and have the time of their lives. The network of friends grows very fast on such occasions. Hopefully, I will go to one more Himalayan trek that is being planned now :) When you travel, invariably, you have stories to bring back and envy a lot of people.

The treats part

Chennai, though the climate sucks, is blessed with beaches. The treats, get-together, parties happen a lot across the east coast. When it comes to choosing colleges for your under graduation, I would recommend a place on the coast, a big city preferably. A city a lots to offer. Chennai, for instance, has places like Tanjarine (sizzlers), Don Pepe(mexican), Eatalica (Italian-American), Pupil (formerly Veronas, Junk food heaven), Buena Vista (on East coast road, for secluded beach with nice stuff ;) ), New Yorkers, Lil Italy etc. It's no use lamenting about the city not being as "cool" as Bangalore (in every sense), enjoy the place while you are there. Make sure you visit all the eat-out places

The LAN part

Gaming, surfing, movies on comps, sitcoms etc form a integral part of any hostel life when it is connect to LAN and internet. You gotta enjoy all of that while it lasts. When you watch movies in CFD lab meant for academic purposes late in the night because of the AC to beat the summer heat, the experience will remain imprinted in your mind for a long time.

Bottom Line: Be tech savvy, be geeky, be cool, have fun! Believe me! All of them can happen at the same time

On a personal note:

I am headed to Pennsylvania State University (PSU) for Ph.D. in scientific computing in Computer Science and Engineering Department. I am sure I will miss the name 'coolshankin' three months on, though i hate it as of now. Many of my friends have told me that all I have to do to tell them my email address and the name will stick. If that happens, I will surely hate the name all over again. :)

I am sure a lot of people will hate me for saying this, but I will say it anyway. When people have no reason to meet, they don't. Though we all promise that we will keep in touch, it is only once in a while that we actually bother to mail the friends. When there is a reunion, there simply isn't any common topic to talk about. The conversations are mostly formal. Given orkut, facebook and gtalk, I am sure people will make an attempt to keep in touch. After convocation, I got no idea when I will be meeting my friends again. Perhaps in US or perhaps in India itself after one, one and a half or two years. By then, all of us would have moved on and meeting over the net will also be a rare thing.

It is a fact that though we all keep promising that we will keep in touch, in the end we all tend lose touch. To know whats happening with my life, you can always see my status messages and read my blog posts :) :P. After a lot of complaints from friends and family alike, I promise to take more pictures with myself in it and post them at flickr, orkut, picassa or wherever. It was great knowing you all

I am reminded of a song by Amy Grant which goes, "Oh how the years go by, oh how the love brings tears to my eyes ...." It's very apt here. Don't mind the video .. listen to the song.

I remember my first day at the college when my dad was about to leave me and I was missing home already. I was thinking, "I can't believe this is happening". Couple of days back, when I was packing stuff in my room to leave home I was thinking again, "
I can't believe this is happening." Emotions were exactly the same. How good a place can be measured by how happy you are while you were at the place. How good a place can be measured by how sad you felt when you left the place. I think the latter is more appropriate. Lemme know what you think.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur Videos

Here are some of the videos I took in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. We lived in Hilton Tokyo Bay which is on the Disney Resorts. As it can be expected, the whole place is a fantasy come true. This video was taken on the Disney resort line.

Shamisen is one of the Japanese stringed instruments which gives a rather bass sound similar to that of percussion instruments. This video was taken during the opening ceremony of ACM's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC).

This folk dance was also part of the opening ceremony

These acrobats performed some good stunts during the closing ceremony aka the acm world finals celebrations.

This performance by the Scandinavian was easily the highlight of the show making nearly 30 successful pickpocket/watch stealing attempts while on stage. With his excellent presentation skill he was the talk of the party. No one knows if the last part of the performance (not in video) was staged but he managed to take a man's undergarment with just couple of strings (of course, the pants were in place). The victim claimed he had no clue how that was done (obviously he would say so). Observe the host steal the tie and the belt. He couldn't take the tie of one of the volunteer because it was tied with a double knot, he reaveled right after.

This comedy juggler performs mostly in Las Vegas and is supposedly one of the most watched comedians on You Tube. Here he performs a keyboard piece using ping-pong balls and also juggles the ping-pong balls in his mouth.

This video is from Kuala Lumpur Tower where the artists performed for some five minutes. Traditional Malaysian music.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Postcards from Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur

For the whole of last week, I had been to Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur for ACM's International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals. The contest did not go as favorably as we would have hoped. We secured 44th position among 88 teams. Nevertheless, we (me and my teammates with our prof.) had a great time in Tokyo and also in Kuala Lumpur as transit passengers.


Just as we landed in Narita Airport, the customs process was smooth. No long queues, no wait for baggages to arrive and only 10 minutes wait for the train to arrive. We boarded the train and after a couple of minutes, our prof. realized he had left his back pack in the station. Couple of people assured us that the bag wont be taken away by anyone. As we got down from he train to go back to the airport station, couple of women called up the station and asked them secure the back pack. I can only wonder if such helpful people can be found outside Japan. We did not even ask them for a favour. They just noticed us talking about it and came forward to help us. Japanese are known for their manners and helpful nature. We had already got a glimpse of that in just 30 minutes of our arrival. This was not just an isolated incident. Through the four days, I never had trouble traveling in Tokyo. Of course, I had the map of railway system there; even otherwise, some people actually walked me to the place I wanted to visit. Many of them know reasonably good English. Those who didn't, try their best to communicate with the limited English they knew.

Train Network:

In Indian cities, we don't have a train network. We just have a line or two running from north to south or east to west. I was impressed by the network they have in Tokyo. Over a hundred stations and many junctions. They have many lines run by different organizations, intersecting at different stations. More efficient than any bus service in India, they provide the best means of public transportation. Electronically controlled trains means no delays. They have arrival times like 7:14 PM and are seldom late, not even by a minute. With a map in hand and aided by annoucements in both English and Japanese, its hard to get lost.

Some trains have zillion ads which are a visual overload. No complains as long as keep the prices low. Strong currency of theirs, Yen, makes a small stay in Japan very expensive for Indians. It will cost an average Rs 300 for two hour commute in the city involving changing the lines at the 'junctions'.

Here an interesting observation. On escalators in subways etc. people with lot of time on their hand move to the left, while people in a hurry climb the stairs of the moving escalators on the right. This norm was followed almost every where.


Close to 10 people asked me about girls in Japan claiming they are drop-dead gorgeous. Well, here's my opinion. It is great to them all working. The ratio to women to men is more than 1 during the work hours. Women look real good in the business attire. When it comes to how hot, sexy or beautiful they look, i am saying the ratio is as mush as it is in India. It is not that apparent in our country because of poverty. If you dress all Indians up in good cloths, we will find as many pretty women as in Japan or any other country for that matter. It is not a magic that, all hot girls spring up in MG-Brigades. It is just that they have money to spend on looking good. Kimonos look awesome by the way.


Given very limited time we had on our hand to spend, I managed to steal some to go to the Buddhist Temple in Asakusa. Never having been to a Buddhist temple before, I have no clue of the customs that are followed there.
If anyone knows what they are, please explain them to me. I got to capture some good pics of the place. Bought some keychains and other Souvenirs for collection.

The Entrance

Shopping Arcade

5-Floor high Pagoda

The Temple

Pagoda Again

Adjacent Structure

They used the ladle to wash their hands

Similar to Mangalaarathi in Indian Temple I guess

The above pic:
I have no idea what it is. They took a brush like stick and looked at the number there and then opened the corresponding box. In there was a manuscript in Japanese. I am guessing it is some sort of astrology or prediction of fate or something

This was outside one of the structures

Ginza, Akihabara:

They were the two other localities we visited in Tokyo. Akihabara is famous for electronic goods shopping while Ginza is top notch locality for premium items like Gucci's etc. In the streets of Tokyo, people follow rules. Pedestrians dont cross the street if the pedestrian light is red and automibe wait for the pedestrians to pass. Given that mass transporation is on trains, there is hardly any pollution traffic on streets.


Got to see some interesting stuff there.

I got myself a caricature from the artist :) Sponsored by IBM

Kuala Lumpur

We had a 24 hour transit in Kuala Lampur. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) hits you as you enter it. It is damn beautiful. Rated as world's best airport in one of the ratings, the architecture of the place makes you rant on the hapless situation of Indian Airports. Chennai Airport is dirty to say the least. Both Narita and KLIA are well maintained, clean and organized. KLIA is way better though.

Awesome Architecture

We visited KL tower and Petronas towers while in Kuala Lumpur. Got a bird's eye view of the city from 84th floor at KL tower. Brought some souvenirs from here for collection. Some pics follow

Bird's eye view

Petronas from KL Tower

Traditional Music being played

KL Tower

Petronas ... just outside

To make some people envy me, I am posting pic of the place we stayed in Japan and Kuala Lumpur and also the desert I had on one of the days there. ;)

Hilton Tokyo Bay

Holiday Inn, Glenmarie Residence, Kuala Lumpur

Next Post:

Unable to upload videos on youtube because of the newly authentication process which isn't working all that well. Will upload some videos of the events organized by IBM after the worldfinals. It includes some Japanese music and a comedy juggler who played key board with ping-pong balls and also juggled the ping-pong balls using only his mouth. Will also upload some traditional Malaysian music as well.

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