Saturday, June 4, 2022

Travelogue – Jaipur

It has been a long time since a travelogue featured on this blog. So it will feel different today! Earlier this year, when the first month was about to end, a wedding had been scheduled and postponed (no points for guessing the reason). But since our tickets were booked and we had plans after that wedding for our own wedding anniversary, we filled the void in our scheduling due to the wedding ‘cancellation’ with other things whose details don’t need to come out here. Our time for sightseeing Jaipur post the ‘now-non-extant’ wedding remained more or less the same.

We started with a simple lunch near the sight-seeing center of Jaipur, whose yellow bill (see below) was interesting to say the least. We had ordered two plates: 1 Ordinary Thali (plate) and 1 Rajasthani Thali. The difference being that the latter has an extra “Gatte ki Sabji”. (I think it also had an extra raita.)

Our First Lunch at Jaipur

Of course, we didn’t pay the extra ₹1. That’s just so that the bill doesn’t carry the inauspicious/fraudulent number 420. [This blog can carry such a number without any consequences, obviously!]

Then we visited the City Palace Museum, whose entrance fee was exorbitant. But since we were already there, what else were we supposed to do? We forked out the fee and got a A4 sized B&W ticket. They couldn’t even afford a colour printer with all that money they’re raking in! What the hell? Anyway, disappointed at this first interaction, we entered the place where the royals still live. Yes, this palace is ‘real’, as in, the royalties still live here. Though, those premises are not open for the tourists. There are other 6-8 places inside the palace, which have been converted to mini-museums, where one can roam around and admire ancient artefacts and learn some history. These mini-museums have different themes: clothing, weapons, art, furniture, etc. One room where the king held meetings with his ministers and public was also ‘on display’. Overall, it was a nice walk around this pristine palace.

City Palace - Where Pigeons Roost

Inside City Palace

After exiting, we planned to visit the nearby tourist attraction and an astronomical observatory of olden times: Jantar Mantar. The name Jantar Mantar is akin to saying Hocus Pocus I guess, because in ‘those times’ astronomy, astrology, magic & mystery were more or less the same! The entrance fees were not exorbitant here but they had another trick up their sleeve. They promoted a bundled-up scheme such that with a single ticket one could visit 8 tourist attractions in two days. We had only one day to spare and had time to visit 5 places at most. We thought to take up this jumbo ticket (believing there was some discount involved; but there was none as we realized the next day) as this would save us some time queueing up at the ticket counters.

Jaipur Tourism Ticket

Back to Jantar Mantar for now. First thing we did after entering its premises was to go to a projector room to learn about the history of this place and the science behind the huge observatory. It was very interesting but Sakura fell asleep and that ruined our plans to roam around the place! It was also nearing the closing time so we couldn’t have roamed around as much as I’d have liked. Anyway, she woke up after a few monkeys including baby monkeys showed up and started rummaging around water cooler and garbage. So that was the end of our scientific excursion.

On to the second day. Our plan was to go farthest from our hotel to the Am(b)er Fort and then weave our way back to the city center and finally to our hotel in the evening. Something like this (click for a large map!):

Touristy Route in Jaipur

Sadly, our driver had other thoughts and we ended up at Hawa Mahal instead of the Amber Fort! Anyway, we roamed around this place for a while and took some photos as well. City view is quite splendid from the high-rise tower at this place (click for a large panorama)!

Panoramic View from Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

After that, we made sure the driver understood our planned route and we landed up at “Panna Meena ka Kund”. Quite a marvelous architecture as far as stairs go. The moss-covered pond not so much.

Panna Meena ka Kund

Then we made our way through narrow streets to the entrance of Amber Fort. Quite a crowd greeted us. But we were unfazed and roamed around the place as if no one was looking. Some interiors of this palace have too many entry and exit points so it can feel like a maze. We made enough loops to not get bored or frustrated, admired the architecture including a mirror hall, and exited via a Café Coffee Day. The shortcut cave to Jaigarh Fort was closed for renovation so we thought of skipping it altogether. I mean, if you can’t take a hidden shortcut in plain view from one fort to another, what’s the point!

Amber Fort

Garden inside Amber Fort

So, we skipped on to Nahargarh Fort (skipping Jal Mahal altogether), which used to be a residential fort of the royals, still feels like a maze with repeating patterns of architecture. Also, this palace is quite cool, literally! Airy rooms, corridors, cool breeze blowing everywhere. Very interesting construction, which reminded both of us of places our grand²-relatives lived. Not the grandiosity, of course, but the feel of the structure & organization of the central quadrangle, rooms, windows, doors, in-wall closets, etc.

Inside Nahargarh

Outside Nahargarh

With all this roaming around, lunch time was passing us by. So we made a beeline to a restaurant / hotel named “Laxmi Misthan Bhandar” that my father had suggested. It was a crowded affair but we got a table, though there was no parking available outside this place, so the driver went away someplace suitable for parking and for his own lunch I guess. We indulged ourselves as much our stomachs would let us, despite the prices being exorbitant once again!

Our Second Lunch at Jaipur

Then we headed on to our final destination, the Albert Hall Museum, the highlight of our trip. It is relatively small (compared to others we saw in this trip) but it is well-maintained and has well-captioned inventory. We saw our first ‘live’ Egyptian mummy up close in this museum (with its X-ray too). We can definitely recommend this place if you are visiting Jaipur for more than a day and suggest you spend at least 2 hours here. We barely spent an hour before Sakura started demanding we head back to the hotel because she couldn’t walk any more as her (and her imaginary animal friends’) legs had started aching. So we did the sensible thing and headed back to hotel because of my aching legs.

Albert Hall Museum

And so this worthwhile trip of 2022 came to an end. I leave you with the website of the hotel where we stayed.

Radisson Hotel

Saturday, May 21, 2022


…is the number of posts on this blog this year. But I hope to rectify that in the half or so remaining year. That is, in the rest of the year, this blog will see the required number of minimum posts published in more or less regular intervals. Let’s hope for that statement to turn out to be true. Otherwise, this year’s December will turn out to be quite hectic for me. Anyway, who all were disappointed with the “storyline” of the movie: Dr. Strange 2: Multiverse of Madness? With all those colourful visuals and masterful stunts and fun action scenes, who forgot to focus on the actual thread connecting those? That loss of focus led to an ending that seemed like a copout on the writers’ part. Which further led to seemingly insufficient enjoyment on my part. On the other hand, a recent Ghazal that I heard makes ‘insufficient’ the heart of its content, which somehow led to sufficient enjoyment and smiles all around my household. So we will read that Ghazal in the rest of this post. As usual, read the relevant tab above, before reading my translations below.

गुलशन में उसके हसने से गिणती कम पड़ जाती है
इतनी कलियाँ खिल जाती हैं, टहनी कम पड़ जाती है

Gulshan mein uske hasne se ginti kam pad jaati hai
Itni kaliyaan khil jaati hain, tahni kam pad jaati hai

As she laughs in the garden, the count seems insufficient
So many flower-buds bloom, the branch seems insufficient

कुजागर और किस्मत दोनों बनने ही कब देते हैं
जब मेरी बारी आती है, मिट्टी कम पड़ जाती है

Kujaagar aur kismat donon banane hi kab dete hain
Jab meri baari aati hai, mitti kam pad jaati hai

Both the potter and fate obstruct the creations
When my turn comes, the clay seems insufficient

कितने कड़वे लोग हैं, इनका लहज़ा कितना कड़वा है
चाहे जितनी चीनी फाँकें, चीनी कम पड़ जाती है

Kitne kadwe log hain, inka lahza kitna kadwa hai
Chaahe jitni cheeni faanken, cheeni kam pad jaati hai

Such bitter people, their temperament being so bitter
For all that sugar they gulp, the sugar seems insufficient

रूखी सूखी खाकर बच्चे खुश होकर सो जाते हैं
जिस दिन चटनी मिल जाती है, रोटी कम पड़ जाती है

Rookhi sookhi khaakar bachche khush hokar so jaate hain
Jis din chatni mil jaati hai, roti kam pad jaati hai

Stale and dry food is enough for kids to go to bed happily
Whenever they get chutney, the roti seems insufficient

मरना भी आसान नहीं है हम जैसे मज़दूरों का
फंदा छोटा पड़ जाता है, रस्सी कम पड़ जाती है

Marna bhi aasaan nahin ham jaise mazdooron ka
Fanda chhota pad jaata hai, rassi kam pad jaati hai

Death does not come so easily to labourers like us
The noose seems small, the rope seems insufficient

माँ के पाँव दबाकर जब मज़दूरी करने जाता हूँ
इतने पैसे मिल जाते हैं, मुट्ठी कम पड़ जाती है

Maa ke paanv dabaakar jab mazdoori karne jaata hun
Itne paise mil jaate hain, mutthi kam pad jaati hai

After caressing mother’s feet, when I go for work
I get so much money, the fist seems insufficient

छोटे मोटे पीर फ़कीरों के घुटनों तक आने में
अच्छे खासे लोगों को भी सीढ़ी कम पड़ जाती है

Chote mote peer fakeeron ke ghutnon tak aane mein
Achchhe khaase logon ko bhi seedhi kam pad jaati hai

Reaching the knee-level of ordinary hermits and paupers
Even for many good people, the ladder seems insufficient

डॉ नवाज़ देवबंदी (Dr. Nawaaz Deobandi)

What a Ghazal! Waah!! Waaah!!! It is such a pity that even the existence of seven Shers in this Ghazal seems insufficient.

Last Day @ Kolkata

Listen to it once more,

with this Link!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Two Many Ends…

2022 starts… 2022 has started… And what a start!

One of my weekly staple manga “Dr. Stone” has ended after 232 chapters on 6th March this year. It was a great run for the last 5 years or so. I tried to summarize the manga in this post years ago. It was that and more, touching geoscience, food science, computer science, and even, rocket science towards the end. The last few chapters tied up the loose ends with an incredible twist. What a reveal! What an ending! What a sci-fi story at the very heart of it! Incredible.


One of the blogs that I follow is ending this month. More precisely, Loren Shure (author of the blog) is retiring from MathWorks at the end of this month. I feel like I have been following her MATLAB blog since my undergraduate days. Though, that might not be possible on grounds of reality. But it must definitely be somewhere between 10-15 years that I have been regularly following her blog. Her posts were fun to read, easy to follow and overall, taught something new, always! The same style showed in her YouTube Live Stream videos that she hosted a few times in the last year. Apparently a dozen, according to this playlist!

Given the imminent end-of-the-world, let us end this post with a great Sher from Dr. Nawaaz Deobandi.

दिए की लौ ने ऐसी बद्दुआ की
हवा बिखरी पड़ी है रास्तों में

Diye ki lau ne aisi baddua ki
Hawa bikhri padi hai raaston mein

The lamp’s flame has put such a curse
That the air lies scattered on the roads

–नवाज़ देवबंदी (Nawaaz Deobandi)

What a collection of words! What a Sher! Waah!! WAAH!!!

Nawaz Deobandi - All India Mushaira 2015

Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 as it Was…

Hmm… Where to start?! A dilemma you have when you have written nothing on the Blog for the past one year. While people are busy summarizing 2021/reviewing it/summing it up/adding it up/rounding it up, etc. around this time, let me do the same. What else can one do if one is active on the Blog only once during the year? I would like to share what I was up to in 2021, what inspired me and made me happy and the best place to start would be ‘movies’.

I first request you to read this post which talks about the movies we watched and were looking forward to watch in Q3-Q4 2021 (that too in theatres) and yes, we made it work. I make that sound like I’m part of the team whose telescope is going to touch the sun. C’mon, with the Virus still around and with a ~4 year old daughter, we went to the theatres and watched some movies (sometimes alone and sometimes together). That’s a big feat, isn’t it? Let me start with my most favorite – ‘Spiderman: No Way Home’. I watched it alone surrounded by a bunch of teenagers. It reminded me how old I have become. At every scene where (SPOILER Alert!) the three Spidermen (if you haven’t watched the movie, then stop reading this post right away because there would be a few more spoilers) appeared together, the people weren’t on their seats. They jumped, shouted, and hooted. After a while, I too joined them and laughed my heart out. It was nostalgia at its very best and if you like (I mean, even if it is ‘only a little bit’) superhero movies, you should watch it.

The second favorite being ‘No Time to Die’. Were all the rumours true about this one? Yes, each of them and every bit. The legend finally falls in love, he fights nanobots, saves millions of lives before himself succumbing to death. It’s surprising (in a nice way) to see how the James Bond movies have evolved over the last six decades. From a cold, dark, playboy character to a warm, empathetic, loving man it was amazing to see the evolution of a Spy – from 20th century to 21st century! The third favorite is ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. The story was good, the action scenes brilliant. I was happy to see the Asian representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and O man, it didn’t disappoint at all. It made me feel we are finally overcoming racism, discrimination, etc. But are we really is the question and the statistics suggests otherwise. There were so many scenes that reminded me of my stay in Guangzhou and Taipei. The cultural references reminded of the various conversations but at times they also felt a bit of a stretch. Such movies always provide me a hope that we can together build a sustainable world, a hope that we are moving in the right direction. A few other movies that I watched were – ‘Free Guy’, ‘The Matrix Resurrections’, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’, ‘Eternals’ and ‘The Green Knight’ in the descending order of my enjoyment.

Work and house chores went as usual. Both happened from home!😉 I did some exciting things like making a couple of professional videos and they have turned out to be nice. We got both the doses of the Covishield vaccine – two of those few times I physically went to the office.

We went to Kalimpong for 3 days and that was the only proper vacation I had this year. And no matter how many times I requested this Guy to go to a beach, he would never agree. Kalimpong is running in my mind like a happy dream where we went to different cafés, a cacti nursery (yes, you read that right – Cacti), a Science museum, few temples, enjoyed the view of Kanchenjunga from different places and ate the best Momos ever. I did go to Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore to see families but I wouldn’t call them vacations.

Kalimpong Viewpoint 1

Kalimpong Viewpoint 2


For the first time in my life, I gave a guest lecture at Ashoka University – basically I tried summarizing for myself and the students what I have done over the last 12 years. Seemed like a not too bad journey. Could have been better but not bad. I wish there was a recording but unfortunately there isn’t one. If any of you readers are interested to know what I said, I have the script with me and don’t mind sharing the same.

I did a course on Scrum – the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and although haven’t been able to apply the concept at work, I wish I can do so one day. In one sentence I learnt – ‘preventing mistakes before they become blunders’. The whole concept of Scrum helps in assigning the right roles and responsibilities to different people within a team and creates necessary feedback loop between the users and the developers. Don’t ask me to apply this to Indian weddings, though.

Of late, I have developed an interest in ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) and planning to start a course on SCR – Sustainability & Climate Risk from January. I have done a lot of study in this field – calculated my own carbon footprint to start with, have become mindful of the things I do and how it is having an impact on our planet and its species. I have realized that I can cut down my carbon footprint by >40% by just doing a couple of train trips instead of taking the plane. Yes, for someone who is thinking about climate change and their carbon footprints, this is the best place to start. And then there are finer things like paying for the carbon emissions which can’t be helped (these fees then go towards investments in sustainable options), planting trees, growing fruits and vegetables in your verandah/garden, eating local produce (which is good for the body as well), avoiding plastics and if can’t be avoided - reusing them, reducing milk/eggs/meat/sea-food intake as much as possible while not compromising on your health.

I think I was always very much interested in human psychology and more so now because human behaviours are evolving in this new normal. Studies are suggesting that we would not have universities and colleges conducting 100% physical classes anymore. An employer asking its employees to turn up to work all 5 days of the week will not be true anymore. People are even questioning the number 5 there. A lot of medical care will be provided by robots. In short, our life is going to be very different. I feel, bringing Data Science and Behavioural Economics can do wonders in the future. From developing ethical models to nudging the customers towards doing the right thing to preventing fraud, the use cases are just infinite.

I also read (am reading) some nice books.

  1. Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life by Marcus du Sautoy
  2. Third Thoughts by Steven Weinberg
  3. Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd. by Jonas Jonasson
  4. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  6. Re-read/Heard the Neapolitan Series ‘My Brilliant Friend’ by Elena Ferrante
  7. Screen Free Fun
  8. Parenting in the Age of Anxiety
  9. Meditation Manual

I get to hear a lot of good Shayari from my Superpartner anyways – good dose of it keeps me going / keeps me grounded. The Sher below was apt 1.5 years ago when we shared it with a cousin and it is still relevant and will be, always.

कोई हाथ भी न मिलाएगा जो गले मिलोगे तपाक से
ये नए मिज़ाज का शहर है ज़रा फ़ासले से मिला करो

Koi haath bhi na milaaega jo gale miloge tapaak se
Ye naye mizaaj ka shahar hai zara faasle se mila karo

No one will even shake hands if you embrace zealously
This city has a new air about it, meet but a bit remotely

–बशीर बद्र (Bashir Badr)

And more or less this is how I have spent my 365 days or so this year. I wish all of us have a very joyous, healthy and happy 2022. Cheers!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

On Siegel’s Day!

Sending all the best well-wishes to him⋯

Last year I reminisced about the past. This year, let us just be present in the present. Inspired by his question about why this paper’s citation does not output both authors & editors and title & booktitle, I updated my bibliography style “hephys” to handle such a case. (Of course, the quick fix was to replace ‘inbook’ by ‘incollection’ in the BibTeX data entry.) You can get the updated hephys.bst file from the relevant tab above. More details can be found here.

I don’t feel like writing anything more for now. So I will leave you with

W. C. Gall

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Character Traits…

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about myself. Specifically, my character. As I was rummaging past documents of mine, I came across my report card of class X. I don’t mean the final board exam results but the results of my school’s various internal unit tests and term exams (incl. pre-board exam) for class X. The results are not that surprising as in I was among the top 2 students in my class (not in the board exam, though… I think I was in the top 4 there!) with percentages hovering around 85%. See for example the marksheet of the first unit test.

Class X: Mark sheet of UT I

What was surprising (after all these years, having forgotten all about it) were the remarks written down by my class teacher after this first test. Here’s the snapshot and the extracted text follows after that.

Class X: Remarks after UT I

His mind is remarkable and is gifted with a natural aptitude for learning. He is brainy and has an excellent memory but is absolutely uncommunicative and lacks expression. He never comes up with right words to express different nuances. His desire for high academic achievement is always paramount in his mind. Dharmesh is committed and relentless in his effort. He follows correct methods of learning, no short cuts and is very methodical and systematic in his work. His attitude towards other students is uncooperative and sometimes selfish. Dharmesh needs to be friendly and not biased. He should sometimes relax and smile also.

I mean, “Wow! Just wow!”. Usually, people stress on giving a compliment sandwich: something good, then something bad and finally something good again. But what my class teacher has done is made an open sandwich: good, bad, good, shockingly bad, topped with sprinkles of well-meaning but ultimately futile advice! Regardless, what an accurate characterization of “Dharmesh Jain”. I He couldn’t have written it better myhimself, even after all these decades, even if I he tried. Even my superpartner says it rings so true after all this time. “I totally agree with these remarks… It seems you haven’t changed at all since class X!”, she says. What the hell is she talking about?

Anyway, let me review these remarks sentence-by-sentence in this post to add some context and/or nuances and discuss what I think about the accuracy of these sentences. “Why do this?”, you ask. “Am I bitter or sad or angry about these?”, you think. The answer to the latter is “Of course, not!”. I read/listen to all the “characterization” remarks about myself with great amusement because they do not mean much. They are a cross-section of that person’s view of me at a particular spacetime. Yes, I say a particular spacetime because such remarks rarely encompass a respectable interval. If they did apply to an interval, they’d have more “nuances” not just a list of adjectives, as will become clear below. The answer to the former question is “what else is there left to do in October of this year” and “did you forget this is my blog, which is a place for me to air out my thoughts about anything and everything” and some such cliché. Let’s begin:

1. His mind is remarkable and is gifted with a natural aptitude for learning. I have reservation about the usage of the word ‘remarkable’ to describe my ‘mind’ but overall the sentence is a good start. Accuracy: 4/5.

2. He is brainy and has an excellent memory but is absolutely uncommunicative and lacks expression. The phrase before ‘but’ is similar to the first sentence so I don’t have much to say about it. The phrase after ‘but’ nails it as those descriptors about me are true in general. Accuracy: 5/5.

3. He never comes up with right words to express different nuances. What? This sentence has a lot of hidden material to unpack. I don’t know where to start! I mean it’s like the right words aren’t coming to my mind. Oh… so that’s what she meant! Still, what does “to express different nuances” mean? I have no idea… Since my superpartner agrees wholeheartedly with these remarks, I asked her to explain. She said, “You can not (or do not) join in conversations in social situations, even when you’ve something concrete to contribute”. Well, whatever! Personally, I interpret it to mean “He’s tactless” and for that I assign Accuracy: 5/5. For my superpartner’s interpretation, let’s assign Accuracy: 4/5. For anything else, since there’s no context to decipher what this sentence really means, I’d assign Accuracy: 3/5.

4. His desire for high academic achievement is always paramount in his mind. Dharmesh is committed and relentless in his effort. He follows correct methods of learning, no short cuts and is very methodical and systematic in his work. I club here 3 sentences as they are thematically similar. The first sentence exaggerates my ‘desire’. The second sentence uses the word ‘relentless’ in a misguided way. The third sentence is quite close to the truth in general. Accuracy: 4/5.

5. His attitude towards other students is uncooperative and sometimes selfish. Dharmesh needs to be friendly and not biased. Again, I club here 2 sentences as they are of the form: problem & its solution. I don’t understand what ‘uncooperative’ means here as there’s no context provided. It could be that these two sentences have arisen out of the mistaken belief that friendliness equates to cooperation. Any logical person, after just a second’s thought, would realize that ‘friendliness’ is not a necessary condition for ‘cooperation’. Just ask my long-time collaborator P.M. Crichigno. Talking about the second half of both sentences, we again end up in similar turbid waters. That is, without context, it’s not clear what ‘selfish’ and ‘biased’ mean! In general, everyone is selfish to some extent in some of their endeavours. (Not everyone can be or should be the selfless and generous Karna.) So let me provide concrete contexts where all of these words may or may not be applicable to me. I’ve been ‘uncooperative’ with my ‘friends’ regarding eating our tiffins together in the short break as I used to have heavy breakfast in the morning before coming to school. I was not hungry at the time of the short break and ‘selfishly’ always (during the 5 years in this school) had my tiffin in the long break (which was the ‘proper’ lunch break, anyway). I’ve been ‘cooperative’ with my ‘friends’ whenever they asked for any kind of help with their homeworks. Even going so far as handing over my copies to them for ‘copying’ answers. This also shows my ‘unselfish’ nature. Sorry for revealing after all these years that I helped people ‘cheat’ but there you go. That’s the kind of person I was (or am). And I did this with no ‘bias’ as to who was asking me for help, whether it was a high-scoring girl or a low-scoring boy or a girl who has put some effort before asking me or a boy who knows ‘Dharmesh’ is a ‘sucker’ or a girl who I liked or a girl who liked me or a boy who sat beside me or a boy who talked to me only when he needed my homework copy. In short, I support(ed) ‘unbiased’ cheating. After wrecking my brain for more than a day, I have not found any instances of me being ‘biased’ to someone/something (at least) in the academic setting. If anyone can remind me or give me concrete instances, that would be great. In fact, my superpartner once remarked (to someone else that I overheard) that “I’m the most unbiased person she has ever met”. But then, she may be biased! So having said all this, I assign (giving benefit of doubt wherever needed) Accuracy: 2/5.

6. He should sometimes relax and smile also. Ah! the quintessential sentence every teacher who has ever taught me thought at least twice. Once when they first met me and the other whenever they saw me in my natural environment of just existing, which was quite often. But in my defense, I relax sometimes and smile too, and sometimes I even do these two things together. Accuracy: N/A.

Finally, to put a tasty cherry on an already mouth-watering character cake, here’s my character table for class X from my class teacher.

Class X: My Character Table

I can again go in detail about what grade I think is rightly or wrongly assigned to me but I will refrain from doing that as this post has become quite long even for a self-indulgent post. And nobody reads this far anyway so let me just make one comment about my ‘dependability’. I am more dependable than the above table seems to suggest, with the caveat pointed out by my superpartner: I’m dependable, if I’m well-informed in advance about when my dependability is expected. I totally agree with her; you don’t expect me to do you any favours at the 13th or even 11th hour. With that clarification, I will let you appreciate all the U’s appearing above. I leave you with my school where all these shenanigans went down.


Monday, September 27, 2021

September, End of.

Warning: Filler post begins. Well, when one is writing a post per month, one does not have the liberty to tag a post as a filler willy-nilly. But that should not stop one from getting disappointed as the end of this month approaches and only a quarter of the current year remains. Also the time left for Nokia to update (my) Nokia 9 PureView phone to Android 11! So whether or not this post qualifies as a filler, we will talk about a lot of stuff in this post, like Anime, Shers, Movies, TV shows, etc. Wait a minute, that amounts to just two things, once everything is said and read…

Anyway, to the first topic of Shers (I recently learnt that ‘Ashaar’ (अशार) is the plural of ‘Sher’ (शेर) but old habits die hard as old dogs say!). The following two are from poet Mukesh Aalam:

अब तो सारा आलम ही इन रंगों से शर्मिंदा है
मज़हब वालों ने कुछ ऐसे फर्क बताए रंगों के

Ab to saara aalam hi in rangon se sharminda hai
Mazahab waalon ne kuch aise fark bataae rangon ke

Even the whole world is now ashamed of these colours
The sectarians told such differences among the colours

मुझे दुनिया के तानों पर कभी गुस्सा नहीं आता
नदी की तह में जाके सारे पत्थर बैठ जाते हैं

Mujhe duniya ke taanon par kabhi gussa nahin aata
Nadi ki tah mein jaake saare patthar baith jaate hain

I do not ever get angry over the world’s taunts
All the stones sink to lie down on the riverbed

–मुकेश आलम (Mukesh Aalam)

The first sher is a Maqta (of course) where the word ‘aalam’ (आलम) is the poet’s (pen)name but also means the world, as required by the Sher to make sense. The second sher got chosen not just because it was easy to translate but also because it tries to weave an allegory in the two sentences. It also involves the world but with another word ‘duniya’ (दुनिया). I struggle to come up with synonyms for ‘world’ in English. Words like ‘cosmos’, ‘universe’ sound too grand whereas ‘Earth’ sounds too flat (no pun intended; in fact, there is none). The full video, where the above snippets of Ghazals can be heard (in the poet’s own voice), follows:

That leads us smoothly to the second topic of Audio-Visual stimulations. I finished watching an anime series on Netflix a few weeks ago. I had started it sometime last year, no idea why. It was/is titled “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.”. It is a ‘slice of life’ anime about a psychic high-school boy who is an all-powerful being able to use psychokinesis, teleportation, and whatever the author needs him to be able to do to get out of situations where his powers are in the danger of being discovered by people around him. Only his parents (Spoiler alert: and his elder brother {more Spoilers: and a couple of his classmates [Spoilers keep coming: and later his grandparents too!]}) know about his powers. The whole series is then about him trying to hide his powers from the whole ‘world’ and seem as an average high-school guy (literally average, as in class rank, athletic abilities, etc.) but he keeps getting into situations from which he ‘always’ escapes unscathed. Enough with the summary of the series, let me tell you about what it feels like watching Saiki K. It is fast-paced with incessant gags/jokes after jokes/gags, full of parody of other manga/anime, parody of its own source manga, consistent breaking of the fourth wall, hilarious and ridiculous pandemonium. The only other manga/anime (among the ones I know) that surpasses such chaotic pandemonium is ‘Nichijou’ and I’m not even going to try to describe it (because I didn’t dare to describe it here either). But both are highly recommended viewing/reading for this year, or any other time for that matter.

Moving on to the touchy topic of Movies and Movie theaters. The latter are starting to open up again after a long break (who knows why?) and we are starting to cautiously venture out in search of ‘good’ movies to watch and eat bucket loads of popcorn. (The latter is just my superpartner but since the bucket gets loaded, I also dig in more often than I’d like to admit.) The first movie we watched (since the re-opening this year) was “The Green Knight” because we went to watch “Reminiscence”. The second movie we watched was, of course, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” because why not! The third movie we watched was “Free Guy” because we haven’t watched “Deadpool”. The fourth movie we will watch will be “No Time to Die” because it features Nokia phones… WOW! The fifth movie we will watch will be “Eternals” because I haven’t read any Marvel comics. The sixth movie we will watch will be “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” because I have no idea what this movie is about but the name sounds familiar! The seventh movie we will watch will be “Spiderman: No Way Home” because it has Spiderman and Dr. Strange. The eighth movie we will watch will be obviously “The Matrix Resurrections” because what’s the point of life, otherwise!

Showing some restraint, I now move on to the funny topic of (British) TV Shows. The new seasons of “QI”, “The Russell Howard Hour”, etc. have started this year. A new show “The Complaints Department” is also funny enough to be watched weekly. Another ‘new’ show “Late Night Mash” is also watch-worthy. The hardest quiz show “Only Connect” is also running along. VCM is particularly funny this series. But DM has yet to feature, maybe he will in some of the upcoming episodes. “HIGNFY”, “Question Team” and the year-end specials are (of course) the things to look forward to in these stressful times. Especially, Charlie Brooker’s take on 2021. What the hell is he doing these days, anyway? I get that he’s now a father of a few kids but then one 2 hours show at the end of each year along with Barry Shitpeas and Philomena Cunk isn’t asking too much, is it? Sadly, one person who is being/will be missed in the panel shows is Sean Lock. He died recently (16 August) of lung cancer and “tears can’t be written down, Jimmy”.

July was the month when the world lost two great (particle) physicists: T. Maskawa and S. Weinberg. Not to be outdone, September turned itself to be the month which took away two more physicists: Antony Hewish, an astronomer and Thanu Padmanabhan, a cosmologist. To be frank, I did not know about Prof. Hewish due to massive ignorance on my part. He had discovered pulsars and was awarded a Nobel Prize for that. Prof. Padmanabhan’s research contributions include cosmological structure formation, dark energy, and quantum gravity. I have a slightly more close connection with him (though, I never met him personally) as I started learning about path integrals from one of his many books when I was an undergrad at IITKGP. It is a bit strange that my initial exposure to General Relativity was from a particle physicist and to Quantum Field Theory from a cosmologist!

Last Words

Monday, August 9, 2021

What a Weekend That Was!

Sad. It was a sad weekend. The weekend following 23rd July, 2021. When two eminent theoretical high energy physicists, both of them Nobel laureates, Toshihide Maskawa and Steven Weinberg, transitioned from being alive to whatever that other dumb state is. Sir would have probably said, उनीहरू धान रोप्न गए (they went to plant rice). I never inquired about or understood the origin of that phrase. I just like(d) it for the simplicity and obscurity of the reference!

I ‘knew’ Dr. Maskawa because of the CKM (Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa) matrix or quark mixing matrix. In modern theoretical physics, it is quite hard to put a face on an equation. (Remember, E=(γ)mc² reminds one of Einstein. Or, (γ·∂+m)ψ=0 reminds one of Dirac. Well, maybe that’s not a good example. How about Noether’s theorem or Yang-Mills theory or Higgs boson or Feynman diagrams or BRST formalism or BCFW recursion relations? I guess you get the idea that it is hard to associate faces to equations in physics… Forget faces, even names sometimes get lost in the zoo of acronyms!) It is indeed sad that, for me, CKM matrix got a face at this inopportune time.

I ‘know’ Dr. Weinberg because of… a lot of things. In fact, I decided to become a theoretical physicist because I read his book “Dreams of a Final Theory” in the library of my high school. (Why do I have to be specific about the library? For that, read OMUs 4 in this post.) Then, during my undergraduate days, I got to know more of him by studying the electroweak theory (including Weinberg angle or weak mixing angle), by studying his book on Gravitation & Cosmology (including his paper on cosmological bound on neutrino masses), by reading his book “The First Three Minutes” (though I doubt I finished this one). I got to know much later that the name “Standard Model” in particle physics was coined by him. I had even applied to UT Austin for graduate studies, just for the possibility that I could, maybe, in due course of time, be able to meet him in person. But that application didn’t go as planned and I went to SBU. I was still confident that being in the same country possibly means the probability of meeting him is still nonzero. The day of 23rd July, 2021 has made that probability zero.

I have ‘followed’ Dr. Weinberg’s advice on graduate research since my undergraduate days, i.e., since I read his Nature article Four golden lessons. In fact, I always keep a summary of the 4 lessons in my shirt pocket (along with other quotes from famous people like Einstein, Feynman, Salam, WS, PvN, etc.). As I started thinking about graduating and becoming a postdoc, I came across another article of his with similar flavour: To the postdocs. What a coincidence of timely guidance!

Sadly, as I inch towards finishing my third postdoc and no clear view of a faculty job on the horizon, I wonder if I have missed a third article by him titled, “Are you ready to teach?” or “Research without academia?” or ⋯. Well, I guess 23rd July has made me stop that search.

I will end this post with an article, which on any other day, I would not have. (Read it till the end, though!)

Finding one’s place in physics

Monday, July 19, 2021

Colours and Biases

It has been a while since I talked about photography ‘properly’ on this blog. What with all the pandemics going around, who has the time to photograph anything pleasant. Apparently one of my brothers (cousins) does. He sent me a few photos of roses and a hibiscus with dew drops all over the place. They were nice photos but I felt that the colour profile of every photo could have been tweaked a little to make the colours pop. That would have given them a vivid, vibrant feel. (Some may have even benefitted from soft focus giving them a dreamy feel.) Let me demonstrate what I mean. Here’s the original photo of a hibiscus:

Dull Hibiscus

The colours in this photo feel flat and muted. The pink petals are borderline white and the background elements – dark green leaves and red flowers – appear to take over one’s attention that is intended for the main subject. To remedy some of these aspects, I fiddled with the colour warmth, saturation, highlights & shadows and contrast to get the following photo:

Vivid Hibiscus

I was happy with how the pink and orange hues now attract one’s attention more than the background elements, which somehow don’t stand out too much. As is often said, it takes one flower to know another, so I asked my 3.3 years old daughter Sakura what does she think of the two photos. She at once picked the original photo! I was shocked, to say the least.

After regaining my composure, I asked her why did she pick the original? She said there are green leaves in the original. That is true, but that’s what I felt were the distracting elements. That's why I had ‘turned’ them to ‘black’ so as to be the background and the flower could be the center of attention (which every kid expects to be)! Not convinced by that reason alone, I asked her again for anything else she thinks is better in the original. She said there are red flowers [pointing at the background]. Again that is true and I felt those were distracting too (like bold and gold colours on kids’ garments)! I was really confused now and asked her explicitly about the flower in the center, “Don’t you like the pink and orange colours popping out in the center [pointing at the photo with my edits]?”. She answered, “No, the orange & pink are better here [pointing at the original one]!”. And made a face/gesture/pose that seemed to articulate: “Enough with the dumb questions; I like what I like! Why should there be any reasons for that?” and ran off to play Tic-Tac-Toe with her mother. [She figured out the 2-pronged tactic to win by her 5th game against Her! “Was that a fluke or deliberate?” is a question for another post.]

Let me also share some of the photos I clicked in recent times from the verandah. As you might expect, they have been tweaked a little to make the colours pop as I prefer:


Green Coconuts

Gulmohar petal

Gulmohar flower


Thus, it seems beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. What felt distracting elements to me in a photo were the precise reasons for my daughter to like that photo. Or maybe, to her young eyes, the colours are already vibrant and don’t need help popping out unlike my decades old eyes that do. It sounds weird but that’s how life is: unpredictable at the best of times, and unprecedented pandemonium at the worst of times. With that thought, I leave you with

The Hibiscus Photographer