Sunday, 30th September 2012

All of us go through phases of total noise in our brain -- hundreds of thoughts pulling your mind in hundreds of directions... incoherent emotions making your stomach feel ten times heavier that usual... a black hole in your very core, pulling everything tangible and intangible, threatening to implode your existence.

In a moment like this, it makes no sense to do anything. Your mind is unable to allocate resources towards any constructive activity. So... you look at something destructive. How about something that takes very little effort?

A flame.

Have you ever observed something burn? Not looked with careless disregard, but watched carefully as it ate away reality. Things that existed just moments ago vanish into nothingness, right in front of your eyes. Maybe those things meant something to you, maybe they didn't. Subtly however, that small yellow flame reminds you of how fickle, how momentary and how fleeting everything is. The same flame that grows to become a merry bonfire, also burns through things, memories, people. In that clouded state of mind, it acts like a disconnection tool; a final act of release. Stop thinking about it, burn it away. Stop remembering all that, burn it away.

It is well behaved too, that flame. It will not keep on burning, it will not live a purposeless life. The matter will finish and with it, so will the flame. Gracefully so, if I may add. Not in a sudden flash, but gently subsiding, slowly diminshing and then fading away. Bad might have happened to you, but Bad will not stay forever, will not continue happening. A flame will come and erase Bad. Just like someday, a flame will erase you too. And me.

But until that happens, savor the merry bonfire instead.

Sunday, 4th September 2011

(Short story, based on a true incident)

I stepped out of the Metro train and watched, with much boredom, as a sea of people ran towards the exit gates. The imaginary race to get out of the station is something that most people on the Delhi Metro participate in. I usually loiter around the station for two minutes after getting off, sometimes watching the race with amusement. The exit queues are full of interesting people — nervous young girls, nonchalant men, aged chatty couples, a few kids, the occasional mother with a baby — a perfect slice of the city’s varied population.

I glanced at the clock as I got out of the station. 2201 hours. It was late by mom-standards, but I wasn’t worried. Mum wasn’t home, she’d gone on a holiday for ten days. I would’ve headed home on any other day, but I was hungry and I did not have dinner waiting for me at home. The Sector 50 market is just two kilometers from the station. I decided to have dinner there, instead of fixing something myself.

Ten minutes of brisk walking later, I was standing in the market. I surveyed my choices. I didn’t want to eat street food, otherwise I would’ve gone to my favorite place that makes excellent egg rolls. It was then I realized it was a Saturday. Saturdays mean one other thing — cheap Sub of The Day offers at Subway.

I walked into the restaurant, headed straight for the vegetarian counter and said, “Bhaiyya ek Veg Shammi band dijiye”. After not getting an acknowledgment for two full seconds, I looked up. I was taken aback to see this girl staring back at me with big, black eyes. I’m a regular at this Subway; I had never seen a female employee here before. “I’m sorry, I was expecting one of the regular people”, I said. She gaped at me, then broke out of her stare and said, “Sorry sir. One Veg Shammi? Which bread?”. “Parmesan oregano, with cheese, heated”, I answered. She smiled and gave me a nod. After carefully placing two cheese slices on the bread, she put the bread in the oven and set it to heat for a while.

I noticed the badge on her t-shirt said, “TRAINEE”. Oh, so that’s why she was acting odd. I continued observing her. Jet black hair, tied in a bun. Long, thin fingers that she kept tapping on the granite platform, while glancing at the oven… and arrestingly beautiful eyes. Even in her boring black Subway uniform and at 10 in the night, she looked graceful. She would have fit better as a concierge in an upscale hotel.

The oven beeped and she took out the bread.

“All vegetables?”, she asked, as she placed the bread on the platform.
“Yes please, with extra lettuce and tomatoes.”
“With or without onions?”
“With onions.”

She paused for a moment, and then proceeded to make the most beautiful Subway sandwich I have ever seen.

I say beautiful because there is no better way to put it. She carefully put on a fresh pair of gloves, picked a generous helping of lettuce and spread it evenly on the bread. Like other Subway chefs, she did not throw the toppings in quick, repetitive fashion. Instead, she mentally measured everything before using it. Tomatoes and cucumber slices were placed at equal distances from one another. Jalapeño and black olives were given due respect and placed in a straight line, surrounded by capsicum shreds. She was slow, but I did not care. I could not stop myself from staring at the sandwich and her hands which moved across the platform with careful precision.

“Which sauces would you like, sir?”

It was my turn to feel lost, but I quickly answered “Mayo, southwest and a bit of red chilli and mint mayo”. Then, as an afterthought, I added “Extra mayo, actually”. She gave me another smile and picked up the mayo bottle. I wondered if the sauces would get the same attention and respect as the vegetables. I was not disappointed. She spread the mayo evenly on top of the vegetables. Hints of chilli and southwest were dropped between the mayo. Mint mayo was added last, and unlike with every other chef, I did not have to tell her to go easy with the mint. Too much mint destroyed the rest of the flavors and she obviously knew that.

I wished I had my camera with me. I would have shot the entire preparation and her too. I cursed my luck.

She wrapped the sandwich carefully and asked “Take away or have it here?”.
“I’ll have it here”.

She put the sandwich on a tray, generated a bill and said, “That will be 99 Rupees”. I paid, picked up my tray and walked to the table. I slowly opened my sandwich and there it was. It looked perfect. Barely any sauce dripping at the sides, no mess, just simple culinary perfection. I took a bite and it tasted as good. I could have jumped with joy. I looked up and she was looking at me from behind the counter. I smiled at her.

Then, with sudden inspiration, I called out to her, pointed to the empty chair across me and said, “Have a seat?”. She looked taken aback but said, “Sorry sir, we aren’t allowed to sit when the restaurant is in operation.”
“Oh come on, it’s almost closing time and it’s a weekday. Sanjeev, do you mind?”
Sanjeev was the other chef standing at the non-vegetarian counter. I knew him well. He gave me a look that said, “Yeah, right, go ahead, flirt with the trainee”, but the word that came out was just, “No.”

“This is by far, the nicest Subway sandwich I have ever had. You are awesome.”
She laughed and said, “Thank you. Par maine abhi last week hi join kiya hai.”
“Maybe that is the reason. The experienced chefs have speed and don’t really pay attention to, uh, shall I say, beauty?”
She gave me a sharp look. “Beauty?”
“Yeah, you know, careful preparation and not just throwing everything in. I would have clicked a photo of my sandwich, had I got my camera with me.”
She laughed again.
“Where are you from?”
“From Delhi only. Ghar ke pass kaam dhoond rahi hu, but abhi ke liye, this is the only option I have.”
“Ahh. Yeah, happens.”

She kept touching her hair nervously. I tried not to stare at her, but she was strikingly pretty and it was tough not to. I quickly finished my sandwich.
As I was picking up my tray, she said, “I’ll take that”. I politely refused and said, “Thanks”. I threw the tray paper in the bin and kept the tray on the stack. She was still standing next to me.

“Nice sandwich and nice talking. Good night!”, I said.
“Good night, sir”, she replied with a smile.
I opened the door and stepped out but I did not walk.
I turned around, looked at her and said, “You’re very pretty.”

She blushed to the color of a tomato and I walked away.

Saturday, 25th December 2010

You meet so many people through life. It's like a constant cycle -- meet, forget, meet, remember, forget, half-remember. Not everyone leaves a mark on you, but not everyone is forgotten either. Some people, some very special people have a sudden impact on you...

No, I don't mean the gentle, over-time-get-to-know-better people, I mean the instant omg-wow people. These very very few people in life, are a rare gift out of the sea of mundane humanity that you continue to ignore each day. You loved the way they talk, how they listened to you, the time you spent with them. You're so happy to have met them! "Gosh, I wish I met more such people every day!". Happened to you, hasn't it?

However, suddenly they aren't around anymore.

Maybe you met them on a train journey. Maybe at a restaurant. Maybe at a meeting with clients at work. Sure, you promise to keep in touch. But it isn't the same thing to keep in touch through phone/email/IM, as it is to actually have them around in person. Nuh-uh, doesn't even come close. This continues for a while and then you forget. You forget exactly what it was that made them so awesome in the first place. I don't mean you don't like them anymore, you just forget. Consciously, it's the same. You have fun, you enjoy their company. But you subconsciously forget. Or you think.

Then you meet them again.

And it all comes rushing back to you. It's like clicking the first time all over again. You feel awesome, you feel great! And even though you've (probably) been in touch all along, you realize and say to yourself "Oh so THIS is why I like this person so much!". Did you forget? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it's just our freak nervous system playing tricks again.

Who cares. It sure is totally awesome. And It happened to me.

Saturday, 25th December 2010

Starting my twenty third year of existence on this planet, I'm looking back at the twenty two years that I've spent here as just another life-form. This post has nothing to do with anything. Do not read any further unless you're wearing socks of different colors. I'm just going to rant.

The very start of the year was quite active. Me and GeneralMaximus were still pretty much working full time on Goonj till February. Yes, it was a failed attempt. Yes, it didn't do any good to the world. Yes, we didn't achieve world domination either. But it did do a lot of good to me. I had a chance of trying out something other than Drupal/PHP and I did. It also totally confirmed to me that GeneralMaximus and me are a great team. We have a superior understanding, we think along the same lines and it's fun to work with him. And he's the co-founder I was looking for :-)

Then, came DrupalCon San Francisco. I can't in words properly describe the pure awesomeness that DrupalCon is. In all the events I've visited, nothing, I repeat, nothing comes close to DrupalCon. Paris was great but SF was in a different league. 3000 people, the most famous conference venue on the planet, geek city - everything was great! I had a lot of fun (and a lot of trouble following work on some of the core patches :P). Also, the git migration team finally got it's thing together and Drupal should finish migrating soon!

That's it, most of the good stuff ends here.

My final semester exams went fairly well. At least I thought they went well. MDU thinks otherwise. Or maybe they don't think at all. I think the university has been running on pure randomness for 30 years. Out of one such randomness, it turned out that more than half the CS batch had failed in either Distributed Operating Systems or Advanced Java. Yeah, you read that right. We actually do have a final semester subject called "Advanced" Java. FML. So, after it was clear that half of us were not going to graduate in 4 years after all, people moved on to try and snatch whatever job they could. I moved to IITK for some pretty interesting work with the Agropedia project.

"Personal" life tried very hard to be the saddest aspect of it all. A year of constant swaying this way and that way... eventually, we just got off the swing. Let's find other people to play with. Let's decide our priorities, choose our destiny, build our lives. They say it's bad when you don't get a "yes!" but I will assure you, it is worse to lose a friend. Never again.

My decision to pursue higher studies was one that oscillated between a yes and a no more than anything else. I had never been this confused! I thought I'd charted it all out, I knew where my life was going. Hell, "I'm in control" and all that. How wrong I was... how very wrong. First, I thought I'd do an MS from the US, which morphed into "Nah, let's do an M.Tech. from India" which re-morphed into "Hm, I'm no use at masters level CS, I could study design instead". Just to make it clear, I always had a sincere interest in design, something that comes naturally to me from mom. I've never been told I'm a good programmer, but a lot of people have told me I have an eye for design. Well, that's that I guess. I (still am) preparing for an M.Des. after all. Finally!

Shaastra 2010 was one of the last really nice things to happen. I met the most awesome bunch of people, made some friends I would not part with till the end of the Universe, had a change of thoughts in many things. There's a separate post for Shaastra anyway, no point talking about it again.

That's it. 2010 for me. A lot of indecisiveness. A lot of stupid decisions. Places where I've felt I shouldn't have said/done many things. Decisions I should have taken the other way. If I look at it positively, I say to myself "that's a lot of learning for a year". Maybe it is. Another year awaits, another set of 365 days to mess life up and learn :-)