Monday, December 31, 2007

A madman's dream - khawaab deewane ka

Happy New Year! Happy New Year!! Happy New Year!!!

Is it? Really? Why?

What's so wonderful and unique about a year change? It's just a unit of time, isn't it? Seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, and years. So? What's so bloody fantastic about changing a year that you have to go all out and spend a lot of money, drink like crazy and wish each other like idiots, "Happy New Year, Bill!", "Happy New Year, James!".

This world is a funny place. Not funny as in "ha, ha", but funny as in weird! Very weird! There are people who go crazy celebrating the change of a year, and there are people who wouldn't know what bird you mean if you say "Near Year's Eve". There are places where a man may be killed for a 100 dollars and there are places where it wouldn't buy a cup of coffee. There are people who devote all their lives saving the rain forests and there are people who pride themselves on buying genuine crocodile purses and suitcases. There are children who don't have a regular source of food and there are people who need to take pills to digest all that they eat...

You know as well as I do that I can go on and on, there is no limit of such contradictions in this world. You don't even have to look hard.

The question is how to make sense out of this madhouse? And more importantly, what is my place in all this shambles? Am I being callous when I ignore the sad pleadings of the tragic, miserable, needy situations in the world? Or I am being stupid by thinking about such things and wasting my chance, one chance, at living? There must be a balance somewhere, there must be some method to this madness? Is there?

I don't know!

That's my honest answer. I simply don't know. But then that gives rise to the next question - I don't know but what should I do about it? One extreme path leads to the mountains in search of "the Truth" and the other extreme leads to the concrete jungles made by humanity to enjoy this life in the pursuit of happiness in endless cocktail parties and meaningless festivals. Again, is there a balance, a middle path somewhere?

I don't know!

I'd like to quote from Faani Badauni's ghazal once again:

एक मुअम्मा है, समझने का ना समझाने का,
ज़ीन्दगी काहे को है, ख्वाब है दीवाने का.

Ek mu_amma hai, samajh_ne ka naa sam_jhaane ka,
zindagi kaahe ko hai, khwaab hai deewane.

[It is a riddle, neither to be understood nor to be explained.
Don't call it life, it is the dream of a madman!]

My interpretation, (not very insightful), is that a dream has no logical or rational flow, nor any basis for things that happen there. And a mad person's thoughts are also like that, with no logic, no rationale, no sense. So when you combine the two and talk about the dream dreamt by a madman, you are talking about something that'd defy the "sensible" completely, something impossible to understand, something beyond our powers of comprehension and imagination.

I'll continue to try and find my place in this infinite madness...in the meantime I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to add your own questions, comments, answers, opinions. I'd really welcome a chance to discuss this.


P.S. Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year! :-)

Thought of the day - 31st Dec 2007

Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.
- Mario Fernandez


A Very Happy New Year to everybody!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

O des se aane waale bata

I sometimes wonder on that one point on which everybody and their dog has given an answer - what is it that separates us from the animals? Makes Man a superior species. At this moment, I'd say it's music and poetry.

I have posted about this song before, today I found the lyrics on another blog. Now I am looking for the soundtrack, to download of buy. The blogger has written his own comments on the song/ghazal and they are exactly my sentiments so I am not going to say any more. If you can read Hindi and like poetry, go read this post.

http://ramblings2reflections.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/o-des-se-aane-wale-bata/

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thought of the day - 28th Dec 2007

“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.”
- Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thought of the day - 27th Dec 2007

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. -Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More books for me



Last night just before going to bed, I decided I need some more books. Well, that's always true all of the time, at least in my life. No matter how many books I have I want more books. That's one of the shortcomings of not settling down in one country that I can't build a personal library. But this time it's different I "need" more books. Having just recently finished Asimov's crappy story collection "I, Robot" I have nothing to read that I would want to pick up just for the sake of reading rather than as a necessity on the way to the crapper.

So, having the vast resources of the internet at my disposal I searched ebay for A. A. Fair. That being the famous pen name of E. S. Gardner. More people know him as Gardner because he wrote the famous Perry Mason series under that name. But he wrote another series "Cool & Lam" as A. A. Fair. Quite a small series and very rare to find those books. They were so hard to find, in fact, that I bought even the ones that were in such bad shape that they were missing last few pages. But I still bought them and read them.

It's a nice little setting of a young, very charming and inherently good boy, private detective Donald Lam, in partnership with a cool-minded, heavyset, aggressive woman Bertha Cool. They get cases and he solves them with his brilliant, brainy yet unorthodox and highly dangerous approach while Bertha mostly takes care of the business end of the ..er..business.

So, ebay being what it is, I found not one or two but about 15 of these rare beauties and immediately bought the ones I could. Read or unread alike. Glad to see they include the ones I had read but did not have the last pages for (in one case, half the book was missing :) ). So, that's my Christmas present to myself. Other than the flying alarm clock, of course. And the locklite keyhole light. Those are necessities. ;-)

I, Robot

Okay, so I finally finished Asimov's crappy story collection "I, Robot". And since you guys are all agog to hear my views on it, here it goes.

To be honest, the story collection was not that horrible, it just didn't have the same grip that keeps me hooked to Heinlein's work. To start with I had thought it to be a novel and since it had the same title and Will Smith's photo on the cover with the words "Now a Will Smith starrer movie...", I had assumed, with sufficient evidence, that it would be the same story as the movie. "I, Robot" the movie I had loved. Well, both assumptions proved wrong. It was a story collection and not a novel, I hate it when that happens. And it had nothing whatsoever in common with the movie other than the title and Will Smith's face on the cover. I really hate it when that happens. Other than that also, none of the stories justify the title, at all!

Moving on from the title and movie, the stories themselves are okay, just okay. I place Asimov as a contemporary of Heinlein and expect about the same quality if not that astonishing mind-whirling magic from him. I was bitterly disappointed.

To talk about the content of the stories, the narration device is weak and makes you wonder if it would lose anything at all if the narration device was neatly cut out of the picture. The answer is no, it would not miss anything. The stories themselves are not much more than simple puzzles all based around, you guessed it, robots. Asimov keeps harping on the Three Laws of Robotics so much that it becomes annoying.

The last story "The evitable conflict" sucks the most, and I seriously wondered if it would lose any real content if 80% of the story was removed! It wouldn't. The story will still make as much sense.

After I picked up "I, Robot" in the library, and before going to the check out counter, I went to the help desk and asked the lady to search for any other Heinlein books in the library system. She searched and I found that I have read all of the Heinlein books that are available in this or any other libraries in the state. Great. The lady helpfully pointed me to a book that tells you which other authors write like a particular author.

"Oh, I know that!", I said with more than a little smugness in my face, and held up I, Robot, "This guy writes like him!". After reading "I, Robot" I will have to say, "I stand corrected!".

Don't read it unless you are a big fan of Asimov and like anything he writes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thought of the day - 21st Dec 2007

If you don't make mistakes, you're not working on hard enough problems. And that's a big mistake. - Frank Wilczek (1951 - )

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thought of the day 20th Dec 2007

Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price.
- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thought of the day - 19th Dec 2007

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thought of the day - 18th Dec 2007

To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.
- Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881), Sybil, 1845

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No-It-All

Oscar Wilde has a famous quote, "I am not young enough to know everything!" that fits perfectly with my current mindset. Current, not as in these days but more like "these years". I used to know all the answers, I used to know all the secrets to the universe and then....then the answers changed, opinions reversed, beliefs altered beyond recognition...but now, now I don't know what I believe and what I know, if anything.

Let's start with religion. I was raised a Hindu, so I believed in the Gods, omnipresent, omnipotent and above all benevolent. Then somewhere in my teens, I started developing doubts, doubts introduced into my brain by my studies that involved science. The mythological stories that seemed like the gospel truth before(literal metaphor, if there is such a thing), started to look like ridiculous fairy tales in view of my knowledge of science, limited though it was. This was followed by a period when I completely denied the existence of God as a fantasy created by Man. This, in turn, was followed by many other, shorter, more volatile periods of beliefs - a malvolent God, an indifferent God, no God just Nature, and many others. At the time of going to press it's all up in the air and I could not tell you which one I really believe even if you hung me over Grand Canyon by a thin thread and threatened to let go!

That is just one area, then there are others, many areas where my beliefs have been shaken by time, and it comes not from not knowing but from knowing too much (or at learning and reading too much) and based on that, being able to reason against myself. If you were to debate with me on this topic, I could provide arguments, at length, supporting or denying any of the abovementioned theories. Yet, that doesn't get me anywhere. And "faith" which seems to be the answer for majority of the populace just earns my contempt and pity, nothing more.

For another example, take patriotism. I used to be so much in favor of that, jan_ni janm_bhoomishch swargadapi gareeyasi (Sanskrit, meaning: mother and motherland are higher than the heaven itself), while I still concur with the part about mother, I am not sure about the part about Motherland, you can read my views on that in my post about patriotism. http://sunilgoswami.blogspot.com/2007/07/love-thy-country.html

I am a tester, a tester's creed is "Take all statements that seem true and question them!". I apply that to everything. There are many other topics where I have more questions than answers. Regular readers of my blog would know that, but I have more questions than I put on my blog even. There are a lot of quotations that mention the same kind of thing, that the more a man learns the more he learns about how little he knows. socrates even went so far as to say "All I know is I know nothing.". Still it can be quite frustrating at times to be so confused about everything that you don't know what you believe.

At times like this the quote from Lazarus Long (character by Robert Heinlein), "I have no beliefs. Beliefs get in the way of learning." is quite comforting. I do find that not having beliefs helps you keep an open mind and that's the only way to learn something new.

I would love to hear from others who have gone through or are going through this same kind of thing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wonderful blues

This morning I was thinking, aimlessly, and recalled a couple of sher's from Ghalib's ghazal:

कोई दीन गर जिंदगानी और है,
अपने दील में हमने ठानी और है,

आतीश-ए-दोज़ख में वो गर्मी कहाँ,
सोज़-ए-ग़म-हा-ए नीहानी और है.

Koi din gar zindagaani aur hai,
Apne dil meiN hamne thaani aur hai,

Aatish-e-dozakh meiN wo garmi kahaN,
Soz-e-gham-haa-e niha-nee aur hai.

[In simple words,
If I have a few more days to live,
I have some different plans in my heart.

The fires of Hell don't have that heat,
which I feel in the heat of unknown sorrows. ]

And I thought it's so wonderful to have poetry and songs to fall back on when you think life is not going as it should or when you are sad, actually the right word would be melancholy, even without a reason. This second sher used to be one of my favorites during a period of my life when I was not happy with my daily routine, my work and the overall direction of my career. Not so now, but I still think it's a beautiful sher!

Thought of the day - 14th Dec 2007

Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.
- Samuel Johnson

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thought of the day - 13th Dec 2007

"If thou thinkest twice before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it."
— William Penn, Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania (1644-1718)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thought of the day - 12th Dec 2007

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Be outspoken

Be outspokenSo you loaned your car to the friend in need. Today they returned it, and as soon as you get in the car you notice it's not very clean, or maybe the fuel gauge needle is almost touching Empty. The first thing you think is "What a prat!". Then later you get a call from that same prat and he/she apologizes, "I am sorry about the condition of the car, I was running very late and didn't have time to refuel/wash....I'd like to pay you for the next refueling/carwash..." and you say, "Oh, it's alright! Don't worry about it!"And you know what, it is alright, you don't feel that angry any more, you understand they were running late, and they are a friend, after all...this is a minor thing. The flow of thoughts suddenly becomes more positive and the fuming rage is gone. It wasn't about the money, it was about consideration, now that you know they were not being an incosiderate ass, everything's alright!
Has this ever happened to you?
I'd say if you are the "prat" in a situation like this (and there are about 20 million of those situations), then don't let your friend assume that you were pressed for time or anything, tell them! with a few simple words you can take a stress off the relationship.
That's all I had to say!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thought of the day - 10th Dec 2007

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thought of the day - 7th Dec 2007

There is no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
- Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thought of the day - 6th Dec 2007

Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.
- Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thought of the day - 5th Dec 2007

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
- Gloria Steinem (American Writer and Activist. b.1935)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thought of the day - 4th Dec 2007

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.”
 - Conrad Hilton (American Hotelier, 1887-1979)

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