Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Search

The process of searching is one of the most fascinating things I’ve experienced, though you might not infer the same, nay more, you’d infer quite the contrary, if you were beside me while I was in the midst of some such process.

I’ve been suffering from an idenity crisis for about a week now. I’ve lost my ID card. Circumstances necessitated that I search for it. I ransacked my room; but failed to find the card. Then I decided to put things in order again; and still no luck. I repeated the whole cycle in vain. And I’m sure I can do it a million more times and I would not find it. Its certain the day I pay the fine and bring my new card home, I’ll find the old one. That’s where I like the idea of stores in the U.S. One can return most products within a certain period of time after the purchase if one is not satisified. I think this particularly helpful because if I were to buy, say, a pair of socks, and lose them, the easiest way for me to find them would be to go the store and buy myself another such pair. When I get home I’m sure to find the old pair, folded and sitting neatly on the clothes shelf. Then I can go back and return the new pair.

What amazes me about the search is the wealth of memories it brings back. This present search throwed up stuff that reminded me of my intial anxieties when I came here, my pleasant outings, my horrible score-sheets, my passionate collection of library fines, mile-long grocery bills and such like. And this search in turn reminded me off past searches. Almost every vacation I’d find I can’t find something or the other of tremendous value, and often most things of such exalted status, and I’d search my treasure chests. This search brings back many memories; Old class photographs to remind me of the days of innocence; Mickey mouse and Bata(back to school) book labels which remind me of the start of school. It used to feel horrible to return from vacations and have to go to school again, and as a form of protest I never bound my books. This greatly annoyed my mom, and she would remind me everyday to bind them, but I’d persist in my stubbornness, until a fair compromise would be reached in which I’d bring her the brown paper and the scissors, and she would do all the binding. Then I’ve found some old birthday cards which remind me of the people who gave them, and some other connected instances. Almost every birthday since my 6th standard remind me of that one particular birthday when I made a dent in my skull by smashing my head against the wash-basin while bathing and had to get several stitches on my forehead. It was also special because, at our home, we don’t have birthday parties, and that was my first party, when we bought a large cake to be cut, and had the house all lit-up in fancy lighting, and invited several of our(my brother and I have our birthday just three days apart and so we decided to have a combined party) friends from the neighbourhood. Then there’s my old, and fairly large coin collection. I also collected a few stamps. I was introduced to the terms philately and numismatics in my 4th standard, and I was so fascinated by the high-sounding nature of these two words that I decided I must be able to use them in my own life, and hence began collecting coins and stamps. Its sad that they are in such a disarray now. Its actually very interesting how I got most of my coins. When I was in the U.S. for a year in my 7th, I used to keep an eye out for foreign looking people in the neighbourhood, and unabashedly approach them and ask them if I they would give me some coins from their own country! I’ve even gone to the extent of knocking on doors at random and asking for coins. As a friend rightly said, I had a cute face then, and nobody would’ve hesitated to take the effort to pull out coins from their native country to see my darling smile. Things would be different if I did the same now. Also, I’ve been a clever kid, and stored only those exam papers in which I’ve scored well, so that it would seem as if I was this bright kid who raced through all of school with the greatest ease. If it were not for the fact that my parents have cruelly saved my final report cards, which keep reminding me of the bitter truth, I would’ve safely assumed myself a born genius, and gone about declaring the same to the world of relatives and friends. There are also some forgettable memories, like a letter to some ashram or sabha, which my grandmother asked me to post some years back, and I promptly forgot. Or some toy, which I stubbornly demanded that I have, and is still lying in its original box, untouched by mankind.

Aside: Are my threads so alarming? I just got a call from the Tempe police as I was typing this post. And a sweet sounding lady asked, “Is everything alright?” I’m quite fine I assured her wondering when my posts started proving such a grave threat to society. Apparently, my phone dialed 911 of its own accord while in my pocket, and so they were calling to make sure nothing was the matter. Talk about next generation smart phones!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Some thoughts.

After today's walk i'm convinced that the political doctrine of anarchism combined with the ethical doctrine of utilitarianism would work best to reduce the suffering of mankind.

Also, i do not think imprisonment in a cell(and eventually hanging etc; depending on the nature of the crime) should be the form of punishment awarded to those deemed criminals by the existing law. I think it should rather be that they are all sent to reformation centres, the functioning of which i haven't yet figured out completely. However, depending on the practical urgency for fresh intake of criminals, older ones in the reformation centre who seem not have undergone any change(or at any rate, change insufficient to let them roam free in society) may then be relegated to suffering the rest of their punishment as they would've faced it under the present judicial system.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Since i'm presently fascinated by the implications of this:


If two names or descriptions apply to the same object, whatever is true of the one is true of the other. Now George the Fourth wished to know whether Scott was the author of Waverley; and Scott was as a matter of fact the same person as the author of Waverley. Hence, putting "Scott" in the place of "the author or Waverley," we find that George the Fourth wished to know whether Scott was Scott.

For those who are still wondering what's so puzzling:

If you were crashing in your room in the afti, and someone knocked on the door then, and you wish to find out who it was later(raghu/shamu/geeta etc) then you cannot find out because your questions will be of the nature:

Is Raghu Raghu?
Is Raghu Shamu?
Who is Raghu?


Which seems to suggest that an answer to the question who knocked on my door in the afti can never be determined! :-/

That is, everytime such questions are asked, the answer that we are looking for is only obtained because of a common error in understanding :-/

I haven't found a way around it. :-?
Can anyone throw some light?
P.S: Russell mentioned that the solution he found to this puzzle has implications on the foundations of mathematics and the relation of thought to things. He mentions to the addressee that the "answer" would be published in an article in a forthcoming journal, but he never mentioned which one in the letter! :(

Friday, December 22, 2006

To all my friends:

It was a great pleasure to hear from you again. I think letters are more important than one is apt to realize. If one doesn't write, one's doings and one's general state of mind cease to be known, and when a time comes for explaining, there are so many preliminaries that the task seems impossible in writing. So I do hope you will not be deterred by the fear of many words - it really doesn't do to wait till you are in extremis.

*Borrowed from one of Russell's letters to Lucy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Memorable night.

It was last Wednesday. At first i had decided not to record it for my own future recollection for fear that the girl with whom i spent the night would read it and be upset about it. But i think the better of her now, and i am sure she'll just dimiss it with gentle laughter. Hence i wish to record for posterity, almost one week down the line, what was certainly the most memorable evening i've spent since my arrival at ASU.

It was purely by chance that i happened to meet this girl, probably a few days prior to the day in concern, as she was lying on the couch, snug under a blanket, when i entered that apartment to see her room mate, a friend of mine. My initial response was one of slight disapproval. She was happily ensconced and staring at some program on television, and as i generally look with contempt at most of what is shown on TV, i took little notice of her, and went on with what i was doing on my laptop. She left for a movie with her friend, and a discussion had ensued between me and my friend, on various things, one of which was tackling the population problem in our country. At this time, the girl returned from the movie, and she sat down and listened to us. I paid no attention to her prescence having formed a bad impression of her intially. But when she was asked to comment by my friend, i found she spoke with remarkable insight, and complete objectivity. Taking some interest in her now, i probed further and found she shared much of the views i had, and this naturally delighted me. The conversation then flowed for the better part of two hours before we all retired for the day at around 3 a.m. A couple of days after that, i had another occassion to talk to her and we spent a few hours meandering through various subjects, happily chattering away like idle old persons without a worry in the world, and under the assumption that our thoughts were of utmost significance to the world! It was on this day that i noticed how expressive her eyes were, and how she had a way of capturing ones attention with the subtle nuances in facial expression.

My semester ended on wednesday, and she invited me over for dinner that day. By now i had begun to take some interest in her, because i was impressed by her intellectual capabilities(she likes to call herself a pseudo-intellectual, and going by her defintion, i fit into just that category too.), and i wished to observe her more. As she cooked dinner i watched her, working away with the ease and precision that comes from familiarity, where she could judge the quantity of raw material necessary and the quality of the finished products by the eye alone. I had some fun making jokes, both in general and at her expense, and was pleased to find she had a good sense of humour and took things in the right spirit. (It has always been a particular complaint of mine that there are too many serious people in this world!) During dinner, we idled away time watching some silly tv program, which, to be honest didn't impress me much. However, i endured because i wished to keep her company. As luck would have it, she wanted to go for a walk at about 10 in the night, and walking being one of my favourite hobbies, i asked her if i could accompany her, and she responded in the affirmative. She is really a rather straight-forward girl and speaks her mind almost always, so i never have to worry about what is actually meant by the words spoken(It is usually the case with women, i find, that they always intend something other than what they say, and somehow consider it the responsibility of the man to decipher what they have in mind!). The walk was filled mostly with ordinary conversation about some common friends we shared and their good and bad, but it was nice to see how, at every instance, she proved capable of objectively critical evaluation of things and people. It is also an admirable trait that she does not spare herself even. (I have no very great opinion of myself either, but i somehow don't like to declare it to other people. I would rather they earned that knowledge. ) It is when we returned at around 10:30pm that an almost surreal experience began. We spent hours talking about things like frustrated PhDs, the economic situation in India, the education system, divorce, hypocrisy, corporations, to name some of them, and by now about 2 and a half hours had raced by! Then we moved on to more taxing topics like religion, God, and Infinity(which was a topic which really drained my thinking capacities and made me feel quite small), and relationships(!). At all times, i quoted from news articles i remembered, or facts from books, and she drew illustrations from personal experience, more often than books. However, the fun part was that neither was determined to convince the other of anything, and we merely exchanged views, similar or different, and gained a better understanding of the things we discussed. At any rate, this certainly was the case with me. Also,it was nice to see how she gave thought to everything that i said and was in no hurry to defend her stance(and i should like to think the same was the case with me). Moreover, it was nice to have some serious and thoughtful discussion again, like during my years at IIT. There were times, particularly in the last semester, when i learnt a few things. And here again, after a long time, i found myself thinking hard, and taxing my brain to form structured arguments and building walls of defense. What's more, i found the walls being broken down each time, and it was great fun to play the game. The day ended perfectly. We were tired of serious discussion and of assuming an exaggerated importance of our ideas so i played her one or two of my favourite carnatic songs(she is a trained carnatic singer, and by my standards, a very good one!). Then she played me some of her favourites, and i found her taste much to my liking(though, honestly, at the moment, i find most carnatic songs pleasing to my ears). Then i played a few more songs, and she began to hum, and eventually to sing in her beautiful voice. This gave me no end of delight, because on one of the previous days, when i had learnt of her singing talent, i asked her to sing me something, and she said she mostly sings for herself and is uncomforable singing in the prescence of an audience! I realised her singing then meant that the whole evening had made her so comfortable in my presence that she was blissfully unaware that she'd overcome that inhibition! What's more, she ended up saying, "I hope you don't mind my singing?", and this nearly killed me on the inside! I let her sing to hearts content and it was delightful to hear her match skill with the great carnatic musicians. Then i saw her scribbling away on her laptop and asked her what it was. She told me it was her private blog, and natually, i asker her if she had a public one. I then started off on reading that one while she tapped away on her laptop. With all the objectivity that i'm capable off, i must say, she is a very good writer! Her imagination and attention to detail is splendid, and she has a way with words that holds one's attention. I sat there reading her posts until it was 4 a.m and then we both agreed that we had better part for the night. I thanked her for a wonderful evening and took leave. How those 5 and a half hours flitted by i still can't understand. It all seems like a pleasant dream now, and i'm indeed very grateful to this wonderful and charming woman for such a memorable evening!

And since she spent so much time with me, i only hope she enjoyed it too, though probably not in the same measure as i did.

I also hope i shall be fortunate enough to spend a few more evenings with her before she leaves ASU in a month's time.

Horribly romantic.

I'm feeling horribly romantic right now. I was just reading Bertrand Russell's letters to Alys, when they were yet unmarried, and it drove me mad. It's such a wonderful feeling to be in love(I do not at this point wish to go into the logical differences, if any, between love and limerance, and go by the stereotypical definition of the phenomenon of love). It is really wonderful to have someone who can understand you almost inside out, and who you can take completely for granted. Especially so when one is largely leading a life of isolation. At other times, when life is passing by in a frenzy of academic slavery, and superficial social interaction, I do not feel the need for love, just as i do not feel any pleasureable emotion at all. But when i have all the free time, and life is full is happy emotions, and pleasant pursuits, i become greedy and feel a longing for love! I'm sure this longing for love is not just a sublimation of lust. It is a pure yearning, and i only wish there would be this someone i could talk to and walk with in these surreal climatic conditions, oblivous to all the world! But i distract myself from this longing by immersing myself in some book or the other and am happy again! Like tennyson said,i believe it is better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all.

Anyways, for now, i live, solitary as the moon, aspiring for the love of the stars, but restrained by the gravity of this planet.

Russell's quip and some food for thought.

On one occassion, Bertrand Russell quiped to Sidney Webb that democracy had at least one merit, namely, that a Member of Parliament cannot be stupider than his constituents, for the more stupid he is, the more stupid they were to elect him.

Now, at first it seemed a brilliant quip and i was quite impressed by this observation. However, on some thought, it occurred to me that the truth might be quite the opposite. A person who votes would look for his leader to have the same desires he has for himself, but to a greater degree. Hence, a stupid man, would have stupid desires, and would look for his leader to have stupider desires, only making the leader himself a stupider person. To illustrate, if there were a zamindar demanding that the interest paid by farmers on loans should be doubled, then he would vote for a leader who might say that farmers, once they borrow money, are bonded labourers for life! Considering that the human beings, when averaged over any significant population, are stupid, their leader is only going to be stupider than his constituents in a democracy! And so far as my knowledge goes, this is indeed the case!