9:26 PM | Author: kaushik
What a huge difference, a tiny error can make. Not only in the theorem that I had to prove in an exam, but in a making me realize that I should trust my instincts more.

Hmm, I ran away from a challenge. I just dropped out of a course that I wanted to do badly, because of a bad mid-term. I chickened.

But, to be frank (and also because, I am always right on my blog), I should have seen this coming. My instinct told me to drop the class, the first day I attended it, because the professor was not that great.

And that instinctive feel of something bad happening in the course, kept following me to class. And the classes became more and more boring, for what is an really interesting subject.

And halfway into the semester, I was getting nothing out of the classes, and was studying all by myself.

I guess I should have followed my instincts. Nevertheless,
1. Feel really low to have chickened out.
2. Lesson learnt: Trust your instincts. Somewhere deep inside, I had lost hope with finishing the course on the first day itself.

I firmly believe, everything happens for something good. I did not feel quite right learning with the professor teaching the course. I will take it again sometime, and learn it the right way.

And, if I had understood the theorem the properly, I would have been sitting happily with a good grade. But at the same time knowing that I haven't learned much and learned correctly.

Well. Lets hope that this does not complicate my prelims.
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4:52 AM | Author: kaushik
As kids growing up in Calcutta, Diwali was of-course loads of fun, but it presented a strange dichotomy.
Any 2nd,3rd,4th standard kid would write "Diwali is the festival of lights. It is the celebration of good versus evil. It is celebrated by wearing new clothes and exchanging sweets with relatives and bursting crackers".

And for us, Diwali was just the new clothes and crackers. In Calcutta, till '92, when we lived in Bhaktiarshah road, we would wake up early morning, for the Ganga Snanam. Amma would then call out to Radhika Aunty across the road, and ask that question : "Ganga Snanam aacha". At 6, we will go to Vichcha Thatha's house (he was thatha's cousin) and wish them Diwali and have breakfast there. Later, when we moved to Vishal, it would be the ganga-snanam, followed by watching Kannukudi Vyadinathan play the violin on Sun TV, and then hot idlis for breakfast, and then spending time chatting up before going to Vichcha Thatha's house.

The highlight was, quite unsurprisingly, the evening, the cracker time.

Growing up, as kids, we never understood the charm of visiting relatives and exchanging sweets line that we never failed to forget to write in the exams.

That was to change with '98 Diwali.

As with everything appa, it would be a surprise. He comes back from office in the evening one day, and proposes a visit to Madras for Diwali ( something, that surprisingly, we had never done, the whole time we had been in Calcutta, around 15 years then). Vids and I, obviously supported the idea. Amma, was being practical, and thought about the expenses and the tickets and all such things, that never bothers us kids.

But as with everything appa, he had made his mind. The next day, he got the tickets (both ways) on the Diwali Special Train to Madras.

And, there it was, out of the blue, a Diwali with relatives.

But the excitement began a whole long time earlier. There was Tatha, Patti, Seetha patti, Ambi Thahta, Chitti, Chittappa, Periappa, Perima, Bharath, Lakshmi, Vivek, Athai Patti, Ramu mama, Visalam Mami, Delhi Patta aka Thathi, and Vinitha in Madras. And, we were getting new dress for each one of them. All this means, huge doses of Shopping. And, it was ultimate fun.

Train journey in October is loads of fun. And, that time, I always liked spending time in the train, and secretly wished that the train got late, so that I could enjoy more time in the train. As a sign of the perfectness of the visit, the train got 6 hours late, and pulled into Madras Central at 1 AM in the morning. Periappa was waiting for us, and I got to see a cell-phone for the first time.

We had reached, probably a couple of days before Diwali, and the next day, was spent planning for the day. Mama came one of those days, and took us to TNagar, to get us new dresses. The day before, we went to Koyambedu market to get vegetables and stuff for the Diwali feast. Later in the evening, Appa took us to the Cracker shop for buying the crackers.

Appa generally has a budget for crackers. Every year the prices increase, but the budget does not increase proportionally. In '98 however, it seemed he had infinite pockets. I would have never imagined that he would get us that many crackers. That, he was definitely in a different mood altogether was when he got us Rockets, something that he steadfastly refused to get us for the past so many years.

In the evening, we presented the new clothes to everyone. Kept it before GOD, and amma and chitti and patti, put small dots of haldi and kumkum on the clothes. And we went to sleep excited beyond words can describe.

Next morning, after the bath, Thatha and Patti gave their blessings and the new clothes, which we wore and promptly went to the terrace for the cracker session. This was the first time we were bursting crackers at the crack of dawn.

The highlight of the cracker bursting session was Appa and Chittappa, fighting like kids on the best way to send a rocket skywards. After procuring, a bottle from downstairs, there was a heated discussion, on the exact angle at which the rocket has to be placed inside the bottle, to attain maximum elevation. That fight, is a standing joke even now, and we never fail to laugh out loud, whenever the Diwali of '98 and that fight is discussed.

Later, we went to Justice Sundaram road, to Periappa's house for breakfast and lunch. Some more crackers were burst then. The Diwali bhakshanam was devoured. Appa, Thatha and Chittappa and Periappa got to watching TV, reading papers and discussing stuff. Amma, and the ladies got working on preparing the feast, and us cousins, got to playing cricket and other games.

Later, after the sumptuous meal, we had a photo session and then we went to greet Athai patti.

The whole day was magical, and special. Although, the sequence of events were the same as every other Diwali, we had discovered the "magical ingredient", the essence of the festival. Of being together with the family. Of sharing jokes sitting together eating. . Of Thatha's stories and Appa and Chittappas effort to better each others joke. Of sharing Calcutta school stories in exchange of Madras school stories.

Of the whole three generations in the family, being at the same place.

And the other thing magical thing was forgetting life, suspending reality for day. Things were not real happy in Madras. There were some family troubles brewing and tensions raising all year in Madras. But for that one day, everything was forgotten, happiness was summoned and Good times were ordered.

And, that, to me is the magic of festivals. Family. Food. Happiness (even if for just a day).

The answer that we wrote in 4th standard was now complete.

Later, in the evening, we went to Nanganallur to Ramu Mama's home. Mami had prepared pulav and other such delicacies. Mama, had gotten an amazing array of fancy crackers, that light up the sky, and the 10000 wallah, that continues and continues for half an hour.

It was the perfect evening to finish of the perfect day.

As it everything perfect, it stays, for a long time as an ideal. Something, that gets increasingly hard to achieve. Thatha passed away in '99, and patti was bed-ridden since then. Seetha Patti and Ambi Thatha moved to Mysore. I was stuck in Engineering College in Bangalore, and then when Appa, Amma were in Bombay, Vidya was stuck in Chennai, and now I am stuck in a place that does not even celebrate Diwali. And, the perfect Diwali has never been repeated.

But the memory serves the festival's purpose, as I sit here in Madison, after spending a fun evening with friends, and the great food that Janani's mom made.

The memories, bring back the happiness and the promise of hope of future special Diwali's to come.

Wish you all a Fantabulous and happy and safe DIWALI.


With Thatha and Patti as Tiny-tots!

With Thatha, Patti and Cousins on the Perfect Diwali

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3:48 PM | Author: kaushik
He parked his Mercedes and walked into the office in an impeccable suit. His employees all stood up, and wished him a good morning and he walked briskly into his office, nodding his head all along.

He buzzed for his secretary, and she read out the days schedule to him. He had a meeting with the Minister for Urban development today and a meeting with his biggest competitor to discuss about some market standards. Later, he had to address the media about his latest project. He also had a board meeting sandwiched between these events. Finally, she reminded him about his reservation at The Park hotel in the evening with his wife and kids.

The vision of his secretary began to shake, as his mother shook his body, urging him to wake up. He opens his eyes, sits, and rubs his eyes hard, as he adjusts to reality.

He sees, his baby sister sleeping peacefully, his elder brother brushing his teeth, and amma shouting at him, about getting ready for school. The cooker lets out a shrill whistle in the background. He asks, where is appa. Amma says that he has gone to work. I hardly see Appa these days, he is always working. Amma, says that the times are hard, and appa has to work two jobs to make ends meet.

He brushes his teeth, takes his shower, and gets dressed up. The brothers leave for school. As soon as they are out of Amma's vision, his brother, runs into the nearby mechanic shop, to play with his friends there. He looks for a second into the shop, thinks about bunking school to play with his friends. He stops, confused for a minute. And, then he walks towards his school.

He has dreams to chase.
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12:47 AM | Author: kaushik
So, it is Parry's wedding today. Swami and I were just chatting in the evening.

Me: Swami, It is my friends wedding today. He would be sitting on the horse right now.

Swami: Wow! and look at you...your friend is getting married, and what are you doing! You disappoint me

(BTW, this is Swami's stock dialog)

Me: What am I doing! I am simulating myself sitting on a horse

Swami: (in a deeep philosophical tone)..Ya! I know, Our life has become a simulation!

Both of us: ROTFL-ing !!

Congrats Parry-boy!!!!
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10:21 PM | Author: kaushik
He looked at diary and sighed. There was no need to read what was written. Memories are strange, he thought, as clear visions in sepia flooded in, transporting him back to Kolkata, then Calcutta.

It was the first day of the IIT classes. And, he was lost in the bylanes of South Calcutta, looking for the house number 1402, to let himself to be tutored by the best Math teacher in the city. Surprisingly, the address of a man so popular was so obscure. He, then saw, an equally confused her, walking down the other side of the road, and then he noticed the puchka waalah, standing at the corner. He and just moments later, she, reached the puchka waalah, and blurted out the same question at the same moment. The puchka waalah did not know, but now, they were partners in searching.

That's how they met.

When you meet an unknown 11th standard student searching for an IIT-JEE math tutor, you just ask two questions. Which board? How much did you get in the boards. He asked her. She said, CBSE and 411. The coincidence surprised him. Friendship blossoms in the most unlikeliest of situations.

Time flies when you are in 11th. And, with time swirling, the bond grew, in trams and the share autos, at the friendly chowmein store accross the tution centre, at Ekdalia evergreen sarbojonin pujo, at the book fair, and at Vibes and and over the phone.

The IIT fiasco, left them both attending different colleges in Chennai. And for anyone not knowing any Tamil, Chennai is a nightmare. Hostel, was no home away from home either, with sambhar and rasam everyday and 99.99% telegu population. A known friend, in a sea of unkown is a solace, and every saturday, he would make his way through the city to meet her, and return, to his room-mates asking him about his girl-friend, and he would spend the evening, convincing that they are just friends.

As he took his shower, he wondered, how time loses essential details in the story. About, how you remember the event, but you forget, the thread of events and thoughts that lead to it.

That's precisely, how he remembers, the long bus journey to her college. Of, how, suddenly, she felt all different, a touch too special, as the best-est friend. But she was still casual, chatting about labs, about the movies, about the good-ol' calcutta days, about the books that they were reading. In the sepia-tinged flashback playing in his memory, there was a golden hue around her on that saturday. And the next. And the one after that. (Her sepia tinged memory still was sepia tinged)

There are some events that you just remember more. And, the memory time, contrives this by making that memory so slow comparitively, that everything else seem to be the duration of a lightning strike.

The evening on the Coromandel express was that memory for him. Time had come to a standstill.

The semester (which one?) was over, and they were on the train back home. He was in the hot sleeper coach, and she in the relative comfort of the air-conditioned ones.

It was dusk, when he walked into her A-2 coach.

The sun was setting, as the train sped past Ankapalli station. The paddy fields, green till infinity swayed in the light breeze, the setting sun painted a golden hue accross the sky, the hills just beyond, played with your vision, purple images of hills, flirted alternately with your belief and disbelief that they exist. And, through the other window, the long highway that jogs parallely with the tracks, and a lone bus, overflowing to the brim chugging along, falling behind the train continuously, till you lose sight of it, and just beyond that, a temple atop a small hill, with lighting on it, a carnival about to begin. And, all this, seen through the muted doors of the AC coach, with a slow periodic AC hum in the background, and a muffled sound of the train speeding. It almosts disconnects one from the scenery around, until, another train shouts past, and the increasing horn of the other train, and the noises of the other train speeding, revives you.

Over the din of such a train going in the oppositte direction, he proposed to her. The train went past, and once again, the disbelief of the coach set in. The disbelief reflected on her face, as she asked him to leaver her alone.

Later in the night, Vishakapatnam came and went. The train reversed directions there. Suddenly, you feel that it is retracing the route back to Madras, undoing the journey of the day in the night, but then, there is no undoing. It just goes on a new path, and the older one moves farther and farther away.

Late in the night, he was standing by the door of his S-6, smoking his last ciggarette for a month (his parents did not know about it). Inside, people settled in to sleep, trying to forget the heat of the resin berths that they were on, trying first,to be oblivious of the sound of the train speeding, and slowly sleeping to the periodicity of the sound, and then to be rudely awakened, when the train pulls into the station and the sound dies. The night lamps were on, and except for the bright light at the two ends of the coach, everything inside was dark.

Everything outside was dark too. Darkness engulfed the feeble attempts of the moon and the billion stars to brighten the night. Darkness engulfed the paddy fields, and the road, and the hills far away. And the bright lights of the town far away, looked surreal, out of place. Periodically, small stations flashed by, with just a light on the name of the station, indicating the exsistence of a village.

He stared into the darkness, and tried to figure out the fields and the houses. He stared into the darkness and searched for meaning. She came to him, and told him, casually, matter-of-factly, that she does not reciprocate his feelings, the she had never thought him to be anything else but a friend. She walked away, as he continued to gaze into the darkness.

As he dressed up, he wondered, about the feeble attempts at forging the relationship again, till, one day, he (and her) just stopped trying. His life, also, tried to retrace back, but was foreced to go on a different path.

He put the diary back inside, stuffed the memories back in, put on the smile. And, convinced himself that he had to be happy. Afterall, it was Pentane's wedding. Pentane was marrying his best friend for God knows how long, and as he backed his car out of the driveway, he pondered, once again at the question.

What/ Where is the line between good friends, best friends and that someone special?
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10:49 PM | Author: kaushik
Years ago, I started contemplating. That was the beginning of the end.

It was early February in 2002. I had just broken my hand, and was learning my way around the infinitely many tasks that needed to be done, so that I could salvage a couple of university exams using a scriber (so I would dictate and he would write my exam).

So, that day, I went around Bangalore, talking to people, getting request letters signed et al. Finally, late in the evening, armed with the permission letter and the modified admit card and all the other official papers for writing the exam, I walked into a small restaurant called Chulha in Jaynagar, along with Suku, who had come with me to help me out and give me company.

We ordered the usual stuff, and were generally chatting about stuff. Slowly, the conversation leaned towards girl-friends and relationships. Almost, as if on cue, two couples, entered the restaurant.

On our way back, we came up with the pact, and named it Tandoori roti or Indian Masala pact (or something that sounded like that). The pact was that, by May 1st 2005, Suku, Anshu and I would have found our girl-friends, and that on May 1st 2005, we will go on a triple-date.

There was much enthusiasm and 'lets-do-it' attitude put later in the hostel, and we spent time talking about the innovative concept for a few days after that, mostly on our after dinner walks around the campus.

Then the holidays came, and the next semester came, and other interesting stuff happened, and the pact was totally forgotten. I don't remember mentioning it again till, probably the visit to LA last december.

Life rolled on, picking up interesting stories, discarding some, storing some in the deepest recess of memories, and by 2005, the landscape had changed. Suku had found Bhav's and Anshu, after juggling with so many others, was going around with Shruti.

Later, I found out that, they indeed, kept up the pact, and went to Three-quarter chinese for lunch.

Its October-2008, and Anshu has gone through the breakup that we all wanted, Suku and Bhav's are as fresh as ever, and are going to tie the knot later in November.

It seems, that marriage is in the air. By November, Suku, Bhavs, Parry, Jassi, Shru and Shekar would be married. News drifts in that other hostel acquanitances are contemplating the knot. Munna would be married, so would Tumul. Orkut updates of random school friends shows up marriage photos. Still, more have found love this year (Shriram had be surprised the most). And, more surprises are yet to come. Hardly a phone call goes by without some discussion about impending marraiges in it.

All this makes me happy. The cliched 'Settling-down' is happening. But, it leaves me slightly jealous also (I just hope that it is OK to feel jealous, and that it is not a major psychiatric symptom). My friends are experiencing the relationship of the life-partner, and sometimes, on home-sick nights, I get sucked into imagining mine.

And, I imagine, a lazy evening, sitting in the verandah, and chatting about the crazy bus driver, the over-zealous co-worker, the evil boss, the neighbour we love to hate, her cousins' 'perfect' wife, the home loan, the furnitures etc. And I imagine, late sunday afternoon naps, with music in the background, and the dinner battles and the breakfast wars, the expensive gifts and weekend trips. The kids, and the re-living of childhood as they grow up.

Just sometimes, I imagine.

I hope that this is just another phase of growing up, from the 6th standard boy, who thinks all girls (except his mother) is from another planet, to the naive teenager, who believes that their story would be like ____(substitute your favourite romantic classic), to the 4th year hostelite, who bets about which of the guys will be ruined my marriage first, to perhaps, this one, of thinking about a life-partner, a relationship in which you share everything. (I wonder what the equivalent phase for girls would be, The all boys are obnoxious because they do not understand the monumental games that we play with our dolls and the toy utensils stage to the a Hrithik Roshan is waiting for me stage to college seniors discussing, nah! he ain't in love with me unless he crawls on all fours and begs and gifts me diamonds, to hopefully!, the stage about respecting your partner.)

And yet, most of the times, I feel like fish out of water. I feel lost while I am talking to them. As though, even though, I have known them for so long, I still don't know them. A new facet in their personality, that I am not familiar with, and I don't know about.

And, at times, I still feel like that 4th year hostelite.

Frankly, I have been mulling about this since January, when post the LA trip, all of a sudden, life saw this discontinuous change, and people started calling in about new girl/boy-friends, marriage etc, and went through a phase of confused reaction to the calls, that I can hardly believe myself if those calls would be replayed now.

It has been quite cathartic that I typed this out.

Well, you go through a phase, and come out the better man.

Congratulations to all my friends, and a heart-felt wish that you find all your life's joys.

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