Friday, May 13, 2011

The curious case of improved catching.

The folowing article has been written by my dear friend Kaipa Kartik.

Usual Suspects:
Chintoo == Afro == Me
Chacha == Himanshu Govil
Ikka == Piyush Srivastava

This one is about cricket which will henceforth be referred to as phatta henceforth(for the uneducated this is the game in which Chintoo hurls a round object at Chacha who is holding a stick some way off), friendship and ultimately so much more. Its tough to know where to start this piece so I suppose it would be best to start at the very beginning.
It began in the summer of second year. I was just walking back to my room when Chintoo shouts or rather comes up to me(I think it was one of the above. Can't be too sure. and asks if I want to play phatta. Now those were the days that I wasn't much of a cricket fantatic. Chacha and Chintoo have changed that quite drastically though. Theek hai I said. Little did Afro know what he had bought upon himself in the near and far future.
So we begin playing. I face the first ball and to my, everyone else's and especially Afroz's utter surprise I get my left foot to the pitch of the ball and play a cover drive that would have made Rahul Dravid proud. As Andy Zaltzman said it was as if Wally Hammond's red kerchief was hanging out of my pocket and Viv Richard had taken over my soul. Of course normal service was resumed next ball when I played all around a full toss only to see the stumps displaced.
So once that perfect cover drive was played, a lifelong fascination for the game of cricket was sealed. I would play phatta with loads of enthusiasm(which means making an effort to move) though without the ability to match. Usually I would fail but the days that it came of were glorious. (You tend to value things more when they happen infrequently, a hard learned lesson from phatta).
Having been a middling player for around two years, my game happened to take a most unexpected jump in the fifth year.(Everything seemed to happen in fifth year for some reason, the best meals, loads of reading and movies, the best of times, the worst of times, placements and of course sleeping). In fifth year for some strange reason I was actually able to hit sixes(Although admittedly the boundaries were short but a six is a six nevertheless(especially when you have been struggling your entire life hoping that the ball finds the middle of the bloody bat))
Another very strange thing happened. My fielding improved almost to the point where I couldn't recognize myself and truthfully speaking my fielding became absolutely spectacular when Afroz was wielding the bat. I don't know why this happened but it happened nonetheless.
Now Afro is an angel off the cricket field but an absolute devil on it. With the ball in hand I think he would bowl beamers at Mahatma Gandhi if angry and only God can save you if you get him run out. (People have tried and have just about managed to escape within an inch of their lives.)
It started off innocuosly enough. I don't recall who the bowler was but it was a heavy ball and Afro absolutely knocked the cover of it. So the ball is coming straight at my throat. I think of moving but no, my hands move before my feet, Before I know it the ball is nestled safely in my fingers as if its found its home and there is no where else that it would rather be. Clean as a whistle, of course there is no way I would drop the catch, the ball seems to be saying.
Sometime later, Afro hits a ball in the air. Everyone thinks its a six, everyone but me of course. I run across, probably jump higher than I ever have and take it one handed. Of course its clean. The poor ball doesn't have a chance. Afroz is livid, but he controls himself. Perhaps he reminds himself that a friend is a friend he reminds himself no matter what he does on the cricket field.
Around five days later I move to a different position on the field. The one where Afroz doesn't usually hit the ball to give the poor fellow a break. I have tormented him enough. The very next ball the ball is hit towards me. I need to run forwards for this though so I run. Someone else is backing up but I still run forward. He's blocked my view now, the ball just escapes his grasp but of course yet again the ball has absolutely no chance. Its home. Unfailingly the ball follows a path from the bat of Afroz to my hands(which are all but butterfingers where other batsmen are concerned). He drops the bat, there is a murderous glint in his eyes. He runs after me. I run to save myself. Thankfully he cools down during the chase and leaves me alive to write this.
Besides the catches there were fours stopped, all balls coming to hand without as much as bobble as long as it was hit from the blade held in Afroz's hands and as you might be able to guess I was never able to field half as well when someone else was batting.
The scariest times for me were those in which Afroz was bowling and I was fielding. I was quite literally holding on for dear life.
On another related note Afroz for some reason tends to bring out the inner sporting hero in everyone. When Afro plays badminton, Ikka plays much better and Afro is probably the only guy on campus who has been beaten by Ikka.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tomorrows that never come.

This one isn't an original composition, this is from my favorite Manga, Kozure Ōkami (子連れ狼) or Lone Wolf and Cub, it appears in a Chapter of the same name. It's an incredible read, maybe the greatest epic ever written.

Kill One ... We kill for today
Kill Two ... We kill for tomorrow
Kill three souls ... The blood flows thick
Hatred is heavy
And blood is dark.

Though tears can be hidden
All hearts break.

Starlight seeps into the bone
Blood runs dry in frozen hearts
And night descends
On tangled fields.

A homeless journey
Beyond dark fate.

Lament of Wildflowers
Moan of Wind
Blooming in shadow
Hell's sweet blossoms.

Eyes fixed on fleeting phantoms
We look to tomorrows
That never come.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lyrics Lag ja gale, Woh kaun thi (1964)

Lyrics Lag ja gale, Woh kaun thi (1964)

Music By Madan Mohan
Lyrics By Raja Mehndi Ali Khan
Performed by Lata Mangeshkar

Lag Ja Gale Ki Phir
Ye Hasin Raat Ho Na Ho
Shayad Phir Is Janam Mein
Mulakat Ho Na Ho
Lag Jaa Gale Se ...

Hum Ko Mili Hai Aaj
Ye Ghadiya Naseeb Se
Je Bhar Ke Dekh Leejiye
Hamako Kareeb Se
Phir Apke Naseeb Mein
Ye Raat Ho Na Ho
Phir Is Janaam Mein
Mulakaat Ho Na Ho

Lag Ja Gale Ki Phir
Ye Hasin Raat Ho Na Ho……

Pas Aiye Ki Ham Nahin
Ayenge Baar Baar
Bahen Gale Mein Daal Ke
Ham Ro Le Zaar-zaar
Ankhoon Se Phir Ye
Pyaar Ki Barsaat Ho Na Ho
Shayad Phir Is Janam Mein
Mulakat Ho Na Ho

Lag Ja Gale Ki Phir
Ye Hasin Raat Ho Na Ho
Shayad Phir Is Janam Mein
Mulakat Ho Na Ho
Lag Jaa Gale Se

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emperor, empowerer

The original article has been taken from here. It appeared at Cricinfo on 28th March 2008.

Reproduced here:

Viv Richards

Emperor, empowerer

The King had the extraordinary ability of lifting the teams he played for

Scyld Berry

March 28, 2008

No one has proclaimed such a message as Viv Richards did when he hit the ball © Getty Images

Before anyone thought of the phrase, Viv Richards walked the walk. After a suitable pause, following the applause for Gordon Greenidge or Desmond Haynes, Richards took the field like an emperor returning to his domains. Head held high, nose aquiline, jaw working his gum; the maroon cap - never, never, a helmet, for that would have been an admission of fear; and brandishing his choice of weapon, normally a Slazenger, in his right hand. Nobody has walked to the crease as Richards did. No choreographer, equipped with spotlights and sound effects, could have improved upon his natural entrance.

Nobody has batted like Viv Richards either. Sure, a few batsmen since his day have hit the ball as hard or harder, like Matthew Hayden or Adam Gilchrist. But nobody has proclaimed such a message as Richards did when he hit the ball. His batting was all power and dominance - his mental power, and the power of an awesomely muscular yet athletic 5' 10" body; and his dominance of the opposition, if not from the moment he made his grand entrance, then from the first ball, when he planted his front foot down the pitch and outside off stump and whipped it through midwicket for four. By the second ball of a Viv Richards innings, if not before, there were few teams who did not recognise that in their midst was a Master.

Richards has to rank among the half-dozen greatest cricketers of all time. It is not a matter of statistics, although his Test average of 50 was fine enough. It is a matter of what he did with his power and dominance. He not only led West Indies' domination of Test and one-day cricket in the eighties, as invincible captain in the second half of the decade or as the vice-captain, No. 3 batsman and figurehead of Clive Lloyd's side, he also empowered the teams he played for to an extent which has not been sufficiently appreciated. Ask this question about every cricketer you admire: did he leave the teams he represented stronger than when he started? Richards did so, which is why he won my vote ahead of Sir Garfield Sobers as one of the Five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. Sobers was the finer cricketer, no doubt the finest all-round cricketer ever. But Richards had the greater impact, greater even than Lloyd or Sir Frank Worrell, who were his forerunners.

What was West Indies before 1976? "Easygoing Calypso cricketers" was the stock description. In that year, mostly in Australia and England, Richards scored more runs in Tests (1710 at an average of 90) than anybody had done in a calendar year before. Andy Roberts was already knocking batsmen over, one way or another, but soon a whole platoon of fast bowlers gathered around the West Indian banner that was - though it was Lloyd's side in name and fact - held aloft by Richards. Thus were the world champions born.

He did the same for his other teams. When Richards made his first-class debut in 1971-72, the Combined Islands had just been allowed to participate in the West Indian first-class domestic tournament, the Shell Shield. Until then, any cricketer from outside Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana was powerless. Richards' own father was a decent player who represented Antigua but never got the opportunity to play a first-class match. When his son got going, the Combined Islands became too powerful, winning the tournament in 1980-81, and were split into the Leewards and Windwards: the outer islands became the dominant force in the Caribbean, as Worrell had predicted.

Ask this question about every cricketer you admire: did he leave the teams he represented stronger than when he started? Richards did so, which is why he won my vote ahead of Sir Garfield Sobers as one of the Five Wisden Cricketers of the Century

The same applied in Antigua. Richards and Roberts put their native island on the map as nobody else could have done. What was a backwater after 1950, when the brutal sugarcane plantations were finally abolished, was transformed into a highly desirable tourist destination and Test venue by 1981. Quite an advance for an island of 80,000 people.

Richards empowered Somerset and Glamorgan too, the two counties he represented. Somerset was the Antigua of English cricket until the 1970s: a backwater. They had never won anything in their history. Led by Richards (though Brian Rose was the actual captain), they became the one-day team of their era in English cricket, the Liverpool or Manchester United, winning five trophies in five seasons. Almost single-handedly Richards won Cup finals at Lord's, striding out and making a hundred, instilling self-belief into small-town players who had never possessed it before.

Glamorgan were the same, or even worse, by the time Richards joined them in 1990 - famous only for internal bickerings and bad signings. Richards propelled them to the Sunday League title in 1993, in his final competitive season. In an innings of power and self-belief, if fading dominance, he had to ward off a young tearaway called Duncan Spencer to see Glamorgan home in their final match "after 23 seasons of often abject failure" as Wisden put it. Nobody has called the county a joke since.

It would be hyperbole to assert that Richards empowered Afro-Caribbeans everywhere. But by means of his cricket he gave those of them interested in cricket a pride and sense of responsibility - to themselves, to destiny - which they had never known before. "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery" sang Bob Marley at the same time as Richards walked down pavilion steps and on to the field. "None but ourselves can free our minds." And Richards was the man who did exactly that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thesis Updates

I don't even know why I am putting this up on the web, I have been putting up various articles up on my blog, old, new, very old ones, but this one I am not even sure why I am writing this.

It so happened that my algorithm that I had thought of for my Masters' Thesis, works and works perfectly, or rather I should say worke"D" perfectly only because there was a bug in the code, now after flushing out the bugs, the thing doesn't seem to work at all!!

I've thought of everything, ranging from further bugs in the code, to simple coding mistakes, and also about floating point inaccuracies, and what all and what not. But I increasingly think that the algorithm itself is a bit flawed, it initially appread so simple to put down, almost unbelievably simple! But as lots of other solutions in computer science, it turned out to be the "elegant, beautiful and wrong" solution.... (OR IS IT ?)...that is still to be decided, I mean it still has to be decided about the goodness or the badness of results it is throwing up, but methinks it is flawed.

Means atleast I now know/concede that it may be the wrong algorithm altogether, atleast it works perfectly for clique intersections, let us give it that much credit. Two perfect cliques intersecting, it catches them pretty well.

Well the intriguing part is that why does it work so perfectly with the bug, for all those who've read this all the way so far, the bug was simply writing '0' inplace of 0 and '1' in place for 1..which translates to writing 48&49 in place of 0&1 (in ASCII codes)...well 48 and 49 worked as pure charms, when it came to that particular graph size (I was using 200 nodes I guess, to test my algo)...the strange thing is, or maybe not that strange - those numbers 48.49 worked perfectly well for that size 200, but bombed for other sizes, like say 70...(for which I used 15&16, and they worked like a charm !!)

So here I am, blogging about this failure of mine, well, not exactly a failure, now that I know there is an approach that won't work, I'm wiser that way...And wiser still, I know a bug that can actually make it work :P

Maybe it's time to ask my guide to allow me to investigate the bug a little, or for him to do so, anyways time is running out fast, I need to have an algorithm, tests on benchmarks, and get everything done by 29th Novemeber, which happens to be a very good day, in order to meet the submission deadline of 30th Novemeber.

PS: The dreaded placements approach :(, they start the next day infact :( and I guess I'll be in Bombay giving the Morgan Stanley interview (hopefully) on the 29th Nov (although the dates haven't arrived yet, but it will be during that time)...

PPS: In the meanwhile, you hope and pray that I get through, I'll do the dirty work of preparing for those interviews !

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Those Bloodshot Eyes

Those bloodshot eyes
Those icy stares
Caught in the war, for no fault of theirs.
Losing a mother, losing a brother.
Sad stories and a lot of despair.
Those bloodshot eyes, that icy stare.

Homes blown away, nowhere to return to
Misplaced, displaced
Refugees in their own land.
Their eyes spoke of agony, grief and shattered dreams.
Their eyes told a thousand tales, all of sorrow, cruelty and dashed hopes.
Those bloodshot eyes, that icy stare.

I was happy once, I had a life,
A love, a family and a place I could call mine.
I had brothers to call to help me.
I had a home, a daughter to go back to.
I never hurt a fly.
I saw yesterday my mangled son and
Those bloodshot eyes, and his frigid stare.

O ye who fight in the name of God,
O those who fight for an idea
Spare me my life.
The fight will always be for bloody money, power and gold.
You know not what the idea stands for, nor have you ever feared the Lord.

I have endured suffering and hardship,
Now mistrust runs deep in my psyche,
You may not know what feeling it is to be homeless
I pray that you understand my plight, without suffering it.
O those who fight, stand and see the state of my land
The state of man.
Fight if you think it is a game, fight if it gives you a thrill.
For those our suffering you shall not comprehend.

Going back home is a distant dream.
The one I dare to dream.
Only the hope keeps me alive.
The hope of things that will never return.
The hope of things that will never be the same.

I am the Kashmiri Pundit, the Sri Lankan Tamil,
I was the German Jew, I am the Palestinian Arab.
My story you see in my bloodshot eyes.
I am man, the son of Adam.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Film Review : Taare Zameen Par

Taare Zameen Par is a heart wrenching story, gracefully told. It signifies the struggle of a troubled, although gifted individual against a society for which genius and beauty have become mere stereotypes, a society that wants kids no less in capability and genius than an Einstein or a Sachin. This is one such story.

Ishaan Nand Kishore Awasthi is a dyslexic 8-9 year old, academically struggling in the third grade. He is blessed with an artistic brain, painting is his forte. Glimpses of his artistic flair are strewn across the movie, Youhan (Ishaan's elder brother, a topper in each class, very focused and determined, but nevertheless caring) is actually surprised that Ishaan could put together that jigsaw puzzle and gasps in amazement "..arre yeh to ban raha hai !" (this is coming together); his flip book is another great example, not only signifies his capability but beautifully portrays the stigma of his separation from his family, the mini ordeal that he is going through; the working boat that he makes is just another manifestation of his undisputed brilliance as an artist. He also correctly deciphers the meaning of the Hindi poem, as Rajan admits later, but the system was such that only rote answers were acceptable to the teacher. It just shows that he does have the grasping power but is a victim of unforgiving society that expects nothing but "rankers and toppers".

Being a dyslexic does not make anything easier for him, he tries to hide his shortcomings as Ram (Aamir Khan) points out later, and instead gives them the guise of pure inobedience and rebellion, "gadar machata hoga, gadar !!" (he revolts, rebellion!!), an instance of which can be seen when his mother (Tisca) tries to correct his spellings but he runs away shouting "NO..NO", his mother is a very understanding lady and we come to know later that she has left her job and her career for Ishaan and now she personally teaches her, she bears everything with a great deal of fortitude, waking up early at 5am for her husband and elder son, making them breakfast, then the hard part of taking care of Ishaan's dressing and readying him up for his school, exemplifies the struggle that a mother puts in and the sacrifices involved on her part.

Not that his father does not care for him, but his father's attitude is representative of the cut-throat soceity that prevails in today's world, his concern translates into strict measures, and to a certain extent Ishaan is afraid of him "jab bhi papa mujhe zor se jhula jhulaate hai, main saham jaata hun ma" (whenever father swings me hard on the swing, i get afraid mother). His father's attitude can be best summed up when Youhan loses the tennis final, his father reacts as if it was his utter disgrace, contrasting sharply with his mother's reaction who is much more supportive.

The parents unmindful of Ishaan's dyslexic condition send him off to a boarding school, where as Ram points out later that "..aur to aur, wahan par uska gadar bhi kuchaldiya gaya hai (on top of that, even his rebellion has been crushed over there), resulting in a glum 9 year old that hardly talks to anyone except Rajan, remains perpetually punished, is almost a social recluse, so much so that he even stops talking to his mother on the phone when she explains to him that they can't come over due to Youhan's tennis final, not only that he stops painting altogether, shelving the 24 colour watercolour set that Youhan gifts him! His self esteem is shattered to the point that his plea comes out beautifully in the song "kya itna bura hoon main maa" (am I so bad mother ?).

Here is an individual battered and bruised by the unforgiving society, a misfit rather as termed by his father. His talent goes away unnoticed and unappreciated, he probably can't understand why the letters don't stop dancing and why people seem to be having a problem with his dreaming. Pride shattered, separated from his family, with no one to understand him, Ishaan lives a life of a loner, often bursting into tears and crying irrevocably.

It finally takes another dyslexic in Ram to gauge his problem and take corrective measures. Might be Ram sees himself in Ishaan, as he points out to Jabeen "aaj apne aap se pala pada, apne aap ko aaine mein dekh liya" (I had a tryst with myself, today I saw myself in the mirror), he concedes to her that Ishaan desperately needs help, otherwise "woh doob jaayega" (he will sink).

Ram himself was a victim of those circumstances as he points out to Ishaan :dyslexic, turned away by his father (whom he still has in his heart, as shown by the photo he keeps of his mother and father on a table in his home, besides which he keeps the little boat Ishaan made), likes drawing and painting himself, in short he just sees himself in Ishaan. Ram encourages lateral thinking, breaking away from the rigid system, he encourages the kids to open the doors of their imagination, and see things in a different light "dekho dekho, kya woh pedh hai ?, ya chaadar oodhe khada hai koi ?, baarish hai ya nul khule rakhe hai kahin" (Look, is that a tree? Or a man covered with a shawl. Is it raining ? Or has someone left open the taps ?).

The minds have been bent so much that when Ram asks the kids to "draw whatever they want to ...." a kid questions him what to draw, as the table is empty !!, the redundancy of the question signifies that they are just so used to the system and that, the system has killed their creative thought process.

With the care given by Ram, and his arrangement with the Principal that Ishaan's exams be conducted orally, Ram gives him special care and works on the kid to telling effects. He awakens his artistic spirit once again, the genius is reborn, a life is saved, Ishaan surpasses Ram in the painting competition, shows marked improvement in his lexical abilities, and in other subjects as well and is now just as able as any other fellow in his age group. Infact the principal says "I am proud to have him in my school !"

The bond between Ram and Ishaan goes deeper than just a student/teacher relationship. Ram's portrait of Ishaan says it all. He literally breathes life into Ishaan giving him his childhood back.

Dealing with dyslexia can be tricky, it needs patience above all. I speak from personal experience being mildly dyslexic myself ( I still confuse between "b" and "d" sometimes !).

It is yet another story of the triumph of an individual's spirit, in the face of resistance from the soceity, the will to perform ( as seen by the girl's Hockey team in "Chak De", and their coach Kabir Khan, who comes with a vengeance against those who disgraced him), Taare Zameen Par is a similar story, with a subtle difference, that Ram has no such alterior motives, and his sole aim is to help the kid. Both succeed in their respective aims.

In the words of Hemingway “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”