Sunday, April 26, 2009

I open at the close

The title is obviously not a reference to Dumbledore's clue in the last of the Harry Potter series.

As children, we are open and take to knowledge like a sponge to water or a moth to the light, i.e. with verve and without inhibition. When we grow up, we tend to close in to things around us. We become less receptive to the signals emanating from everywhere.

There was a time when I absorbed everything that lay in front of me. I found out things by happenstance and latched on to them. There was a thirst, a quest for knowledge and understanding. I have savored the best things in life, assimilated an astonishing amount of information, mingled with the best and the worst (that was also the best experience in a way) just because of this openness and a willingness to learn.

I can cite a few examples here. Hearts of Iron is one of the best games that I have ever played, it has consumed a major part of my time in the last three years of college. How did I come across it? I have a vague idea. It was on one of those nerdy history forums. Some guy mentioned somewhere that people who played Age of Empires were the Mussolini's, who played Civilizations were the Stalin's and who played Hearts of Iron were the Churchill's of this world. I, one of the better player of Empires in my cohort never wanted to be a Mussolini and detested him to a certain extent. To those of you not in the know, Mussolini was perhaps the worst military commander in chief of a nation in the Second World War. So I downloaded a game I had never heard of, on my crappy internet and it doesn't end there. This is one of those games that tests your patience. There is no easy way to learn it. It took 2 months to understand its basics and start a game at Easy level. It was another 6 months to defeat the AI in Normal mode. On top of that, you make a small mistake in the game and its repercussions are felt 10 game years down the line just like in the real world and that is 3 weeks of real life time down the drain. But I stuck by it and now know the entire political map of the world. People have been amazed, dumbstruck at times, by my knowledge of the world's cities and regions. Therein lies the answer to that mystery. Now, I haven't played a new game or even Hearts of Iron or any other game for that matter in the past year.

The first time I listened to Metallica was on advice from someone, having hardly heard of the band in almost 17 years of life. I started watching English movies and listening to mainstream music after being chided by a cousin from Bombay on being a simpleton (literal translation - gaonwallah) for not having heard of Barbie Girl a year after it was released. Now, I find it cumbersome to try new music.

I read Making History because my brother in law happened to get extra books that were lying around in his ship's library. He just put them up and said I could go through them if I wanted to but he had no idea of what these books were. I found Guns of August on the roadside bookwallah in Nerul and happened to buy it for an excess of some money and time and for that picture of Winston Churchill and Kaiser Wilhelm on the cover and JFK's accolades on the inside pages. These books have molded my professional ambitions in life beyond measure. Now, it didn't take months of unrelenting publicity by all newspapers and signal boys swarming with pirated copies for me to read The White Tiger. It took a boring day at office and an ebook on my screen to bring me to taste it.

I heard of Harry Potter from a friend, always read the new releases through the night so I could return it back to her in the morning. I read the Godfather in 4th/5th in a week after another cousin advised me to read a lot and suggested that I should complete my schooling abroad. Now, it took me 12 months to finish Hitchhikers guide in my final year.

It is astonishing how these things fell into place at the right time. And how I or in general, people respond to them. If it were not for that childish openness, we would be such different people.

That brings me to the very point of this long post. As adults, it is difficult to remain open and unbiased (better word virginal) to hear out contrary opinions and go through novel experiences. Prejudices and mental blocks have been formed and I can no longer absorb things or randomly read through Wiki entries as I did 4 years ago.

Isn't life supposed to be an ever learning curve? We put our puny hands into a hundred things when we don't have the resources and when we do have them, it grinds to a stand still.

Is it the 27 syndrome? Your brain functions start deteriorating at that age. I hope not. There is so much to learn and so less time.

I quote Sonya here, Life is short and there is too much to read and explore to even think of experimenting with anything but the best.



Friday, April 24, 2009

Breakfast at McD's

Open invitation to anyone and everyone who reads this crap for breakfast every Saturday without fail, anytime between 7:30 and 9:00, mostly around 8:00 AM at McDonalds VT.

Hot cakes with Maple Syrup and extra butter anyone?

*Offer valid only till July 15

RAIT Alumni Reunion 2008

The 4th RAIT Alumni Reunion took place on the 30th of March, 2008. It was important in the sense that 2008 was RAIT’s 25th year of existence. It was perhaps the first time that the RAA moved out from under the shadow of elder overbearing brothers, the SUC and Horizon.

With a complete lack of resources in terms of databases (which were all presumably lost from the administrative office in crashes and from the RAA room in crashes or stolen HDD's in previous years!), we started our work.

Whilst the RAA was tottering around confused with what to do and more importantly how to do it, the RAIT Alumni Network was created by the Dark Lord at the end of 2007. It was the spark actually and truly required, it was the light bulb over our heads, the Eureka in our mouths. It was an online platform to reach out. A symbiotic association was struck and the RAA began its work in earnest.

Despite the fact that the RAA and SUC were now actually differentiated, most of the people who worked in this country were also residents of the other! I slave labored for Horizon with zero appreciation :-(. Sincere work could only begin once Horizon 2008 got over. Hectic calling began on the 3rd of March, the morning Horizon ended and continued up to the end of the month. The dates were precisely chosen so as to keep some time and also, interference of the SUC away from the event.

More than a 1000 people were personally telephoned, more than 2000 emails sent, many to now dysfunctional email addresses. After a month of hectic spamming and bothering, the reunion day saw a participation of 300+ Alums and students.

The reunion:

It kickstarted off in the Pavilion of the DY Patil stadium, can't remember if it was pavilion A or B, the one to the right side :-). 25 odd people turned up on personal invitations at 5:00 PM to hold perhaps the first official RAA meeting in years. One alum embarrassed me immeasurably by stating that he wasn’t invited, but happened to be in Nerul at the time and saw the huge flex outside the gate. Blimey!

It is great to see some of the luminaries who are working with us now were present on that day. Many issues were raised, many topics covered. E-cell, Udaan, formalization of the RAA, more interaction of the Alumni etc etc. All to the applause and satisfaction of the authorities, all of course to our contentment.

Maybe things would get easier from now on, me thinketh at that time. We forget this is RAIT, takes time to set something rolling, but once rolling, woe betide the moss in its way!

It took a second informal reunion completely financed by Porky aka Protik (we are talking thousands of rupees here) and to an iota of a miniscule, dot of a minor extent by me and current RAA GSec Animesh to put things into motion.

The amount of work done in the past 2 months is unparalleled, more than the RAA has ever achieved in its history. It is momentous to be a part of this happening at the start and I implore everyone to contribute in any way they can.

Getting back to the reunion. It featured,

* Excellent food from Sai Darbar in Nerul, widely acknowledged as the best biryani for miles
* A great performance by the band Colossus which played U2, Coldplay, Floyd etc late into the night and for much longer than they were scheduled to and finally stopped when pleaded to by the organizers about police trouble. It doesn't help that parties on both side were in varying states of liquidated bliss :-)
* A mindblowingly memorable rendition of No Woman, No Cry by alum Kingshuk and some hindi numbers by now famous singer and alum, Sameer
* A lot of networking. The only time I met and talked freely to people from the 2001-02 batches. Amazing experience to debate why our Horizon was the best as compared to theirs
* Listening to tales of bravado and at times, utter foolhardiness in RAIT during those older days
* Lots of white colored RAA T-shirts passed around for free numbering more than 300. Hooo! \m/
* Great combination of spiked coke and chicken lollypops
* 3 student bloggers recording conversations, performances, impromptu stupidities. In another tradition of RAIT, most of these tapes are lost or were mistakenly recorded upon and feature versions of ‘cRapshoddy’ of all the things :-(

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Two fluttering heartbeats of a dying Horizon

Three words can succinctly describe Horizon 2007: Jal, Yana Gupta and Channel V.
A short summary of what happened then for those who missed it!

1. Pakistani band Jal performed for the main concert night and the event featured massive participation, or at least the deft work by the Channel V crewmen makes it seem so. In the long living tradition of RAIT mess ups, while they were being chauffeured from the airport a team was scampering around in Navi Mumbai trying to book a hotel for them that would accept Pakistani artistes.
2. A cricket match was also conducted at the stadium (can’t remember whether it was the international one or the practice ground) between the DY Patil/RAIT and Jal team.
3. Yana Gupta finally came to RAIT and people thought it was a hoax like previous years. Despite massive number of posters, we had to make SOS calls to get people roused out of their slumber on the morning of the 3rd day after a total night of DJ chaos. This included kicking many people off from the floors of RAIT at 7 am in the morning. Needless to say, these people were in varying states of inebriation promoted by various alcohols and stimulants/depressants of the natural/artificial etc category.
4. Once she actually arrived in college though, pandemonium broke loose. We had to resort to a literal security circle around here, not that it bothered me…I was in charge! Yana Gupta didn’t arrive for the Fashion Show or something else. She came to award the prize winners for the Online Gaming contest conducted by, an event that saw an attendance of more than 400 people. This event was conducted at the IT Center and the older SysAdmin Lab which suffered continuous PC crashes. Subsequently, all 20 PC’s were formatted by us on the 2nd night before Yana and the press came in. This was done without the permission of the Lab Admin and left a hundred complaints against us in the next few days. Naturally, they were all water of a duck’s back. A part of her appearance also included a ‘Date Contest’ with her that called for participants to sing/dance/do any foolishness to impress her. The foolish winner turned out to be RAIT SUC GSec 2009 Dhruv Rishi who got a solitary date with her for 2 hours at Bandra Taj Lands End. Lucky bugger.
5. This ‘Horizon’ was perhaps one of the few ones that was telecasted on national television via the grace of Channel V. Deft and undercover work by three student bloggers gave the world many insights about the intricacies of our great festival.
6. Unchained was in a state of decline like previous years with minimal funds. One highlight was the participation of the band ‘Decibel’ which was to gain fame as participants of Channel V’s ‘Launchpad’ programme. They also performed the super-hit ‘Nagin’ before it actually became popular. Emphasizing the cash crunch trend, this band was put up at the house of one of the event heads.
7. In a first, Next Electronics (the Fashion Show sponsor) turned out to be the sponsor for all night events thanks to the lack of any other sponsor!

Horizon 2008:

Few words to describe Horizon 2008: Paintball, Pritam, Times of India, Gary Lawyer and cost cutting
A few one-liners to describe Horizon 2008:
Venky (Cultural Secretary): Paisa nahin milega
Vivek (General Secretary): You are right, and you are also right
Alok (Treasurer): Where am I?
Mohsin (some unknown worker): *%$!*@$#

1. Well, Horizon 2008 featured the very expensive artiste Pritam and his band in one of most touted events in recent times. The event was highly appreciated with VP calling it the best he has seen (big smile there). I had a strong suspicion they were lip-synching since I was up close, but couldn’t prove anything (who would want to?)
2. RAIT also went back to ‘The Rock Age’ (patent mine) with Gary Lawyer performing on the third night to an almost empty arena. Doesn’t matter. It was the highlight of the festival for me.
3. Paintball came to RAIT for the first time after an effort of over 4 years. The very expensive sport was loved by everyone. I almost got gored by the actor Chetan Hansraj (he owned the paintball company) because I inadvertently sprayed the bullets read paintballs in some unmentionable area.
4. Project Udaan saw the light of the day. 3 underprivileged students are being educated by the savings of the organizers in the college. Two of them are performing exceptionally.
5. Perhaps the only ‘Horizon’ that had only 12 people helping with publicity, read poster slapping across New Bombay, two nights prior to Horizon. I did the headcount. This was thanks to Venky’s no free beer policy.
6. The only time that Horizon also got Page 3 coverage in the Times of India main edition. It wasn’t about rave reviews of Pritam or Paintball, rather, the beating up of LT college dance troupe participants who had the audacity of shouting ‘RAIT sucks’ inside the campus!
7. There was a huge fire inside the Dental building while Gary Lawyer was performing. Two fire engines and the entire Nerul police station ensured Gary Lawyer was stopped on time. The interlude between the cop and Gary on stage was hilarious.
8. The only time in recent memory that Unchained organizers actually ended up paying more than the prize money promised thanks to the generosity of the previous Unchained organizers committee.
9. In my opinion, the highest budgeted and cleanest Horizon in a long time. Period.

Brief summary of the last two Horizons' in the maiden RAIT Alumni Magazine (RAM).

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

So Texing

Well, first to the title, it isn't a spelling mistake. Well, that's obvious innit? I don't make spelling mistakes ever. Alright, before I veer off in some tangential direction, I have to focus my thoughts on my rant.

I have never been a decision maker. I have always been wedded to the blissful wife that goes by the name ignorance and I loved her too much. For every decision that I have ever taken, the situation was never under my control. I preferred to keep or rather throw the ball in someone else's court so that I would be at the receiving end of a decision.

Alright, chuck it. Hindi movie jingles and flashback. Sunlight streaming in on the camera.
The last time I took a decision. Well I remember vividly, don't I? Only time I ever let my brain do the talking and it did me no good. That was almost 6 years ago. I was confused between what to do after my 12th. Medicine and Engineering were the two options; and like a cruel joke of fate, one was expensive (private medical college) and the other something I was never interested in and detested to a certain extent; To the extent that I skipped integration and derivatives in 12th.
I was the idealist then, wanted to be self sustainable when I still am not and can never be! Like the good, concerned, overtly idiotic child I chose engineering and lived to tell the tale. Eventually, when I look back upon it in a nutshell, I guess it was the right decision. I would have been miserable amongst those whitecoats and the chicas.

I find myself in a similar position today. There is GWU, the cold of DC, a stone's throw from the White House (not that I would dare to, probably have invisible lasers surrounding the place shooting things down), considerably high tuition and living expenses but the saving grace of my sister's house in Maryland, and the killing grace of the thought of staying with a sister again!

On the other hand, by a quirk of fate, I have an admit from Texas A&M. All you engineering sods planning their MS'es don't go gaga. The Bush School (cries of anguish) is good, one of the new prestigious ones that has a great course relevant to my interests. But in the end, it is not the best. There went my UN dreams with GW. But hey, the CIA recruits at Bush \m/.

GWU is one of the best. But I am slightly inclined towards the Bush School (bigger cries of anguish) because it is turning out to be almost 1/3rd of the costs even if I don't work anytime. Plus, I had a small scholarship which I just declined yesterday as the deadline ran out because I don't want to commit to any school, just yet. Again my inherent failure in making decisions. Now I have upto May 11 to commit to Bush (biggest cries of anguish yet, Oh C'mon, its named for his poppa, not the end of the world) without the financial aid. Even without the aid, the costs are still way way cheaper.

Now, the crueler twist of fate is that Texas is one of the last places on Earth I ever wanted to land on, the list in descending order of livability goes thus, Norway, Switzerland, NZ, ...Iraq, Afghanistan, Texas, Pakistan. But I am adapting, i.e. watching cowboy, rodeo movies, throwing Howdy at strangers on the street, following TV evangelists, planning to buy a rifle and go hunting in the forests of Borivli etc.

I don't want to leave Bombay weather to land again in Bombay weather. Aaargh.

What was this article about? Oh yes, my desire to create new words.
Texing : To be super confused about the intention of doing something. Something against your wishes, something you never wanted to, never wildly dreamt of. It happens because the universe always conspires against you. Eat me Rhonda Byrne.

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