Thursday, December 29, 2011

My teachers: Mr. Chauhan

Teachers come in a variety of types, some who would rather be left alone, others who like to take control and drive things. And there are a few, extremely few who actually like to provide intellectual stimulation and make their students really think for themselves.

Mr. Chauhan was one such teacher. When I was doing my computer course we had a situation when we lost our teacher to another job. This, I should clarify, was a very small institute, owned by one person and usually staffed by one teacher. I was hardly in a position to criticise as the fee was very low and even then we had the option to pay in monthly instalments. If I told you how much it was, you wouldn't believe it, it was so low.

So, we had our computer teacher and suddenly he got another job and decided to leave the institute. The owner/manager of the institute, who also taught some classes, got Mr. Chauhan to fill in. We were learning PLT at the time (short for Programming Logic Techniques). Mr. Chauhan came in, and asked us some questions on what we had learnt so far in computers and in PLT. And he had this infuriating habit of saying "Why?" after every answer we gave him. His contention was that you should know the reason why something was so, not just say "That's what we've been told." This did annoy me because at some point that's what you have to say. No, not really. Now, I understand that the chain of answers should stop not at "So we've been told." but at "It's a fact provable by experiment." But we didn't get into that then.

Next we started on PLT. He started to quiz us first.

Mr. Chauhan: What do you need to write a program?
Class: Computer.
Mr. Chauhan: Wrong!

Oh, God!

But that's the sign of great teachers - their words can change your life, and you NEVER forget those words. He told us the "A program is written on paper, not on computer." This might seem blatantly obvious or even flippant but any computer programmer worth his salt would know exactly what it means. When you start writing programs on computer, you do shoddy work and make more mistakes. When you write a program on paper, you do your best work, and that way lies excellence.

He told us that the best paying job in computers (at the time at least) was a Systems Analyst and he hardly ever needs to go near a computer.

In that same class, he asked us more about programs and I was giving an answer when he stopped me and said, "No, not a program, algorithm." Arrgh! That almost sent me into a rage! They were the SAME thing! No, they are not!

Years later he told me that after the class he told our centre manager to keep an eye on me and forget the rest. Hehe, yes, I am proud of that. No way I am NOT going to mention that! But that day I was pissed off with him. But that was always his style, he never believed in spoonfeeding his students. I did very well in PLT, so what did he do? He didn't praise me or anything, he just gave me MORE problems to solve than other students in the class. The result is that I have very strong PLT skills and love to debate with people on the merits of "OR" and "AND" in a line of code.

After PLT he taught us COBOL. Yes, it was that long back. COBOL was on its way out even then but this was before the year 2000 so it was not completely out yet and did make some programmers rich when the Y2K work came. Alas, I was not one of them. Still, I did very well in COBOL and got 93% in the test,  which was not only the highest in the class, it was my highest score in any computer subject.  A year later the centre owner asked me to teach a batch there and guess what subject he asked me to teach - COBOL.

Then there was the incident when Chauhan Sir taught me MS-Office in 5 minutes.

This was a couple of years later, I was a software faculty by now and was teaching in a small institute other than the one I studied in. I was teaching DOS, Windows and a few other things, but not MS-Office. That was new at that time. It was version 4.3 I still remember very vividly. The nice lady I worked for wanted me to learn MS-Office so I could teach it as well. She and Chauhan sir were friends so I could go and learn with him at his institute which was in the same city.

I remember it like yesterday. I went to the pay phone near the institute and called Ds (that’s my code for him) to arrange for classes. He was in office and we talked. I explained what I needed. Here’s how the conversation went:

Ds: Toh MS-Office seekhna hai? (You want to learn MS-Office?)
Me: Yes, sir.
Ds: Kya karoge seekh ke? (What would you do with it?)
Me: Sir yahan padhaoonga. (I will teach it here).
Ds: Wordstar aata hai? (You know Word Star?) (Word Star was an older word processing software, DOS-based, and quite popular before MS-Word came along.
Me: Aata hai, sir. (I know it, sir.) (I was very confident, I was very good in WS).
Ds: Phir? (Then?)
Me: Sir, MS-Office nahin aata na. (I don’t know MS-Office).
Ds: To MS-Office seekhoge. (So you will learn MS-Office.)
Me: Yes, sir. (I was getting a bit annoyed by now.)
Ds: Phir? Naya aa jayega phir woh seekhoge? Kitne word processor seekhoge? (Then, when the new one comes out you’ll learn that? How many word processors will you learn?).
That shut me up and made me think.
Ds: Usko khol lo, help file kholo saath mein, aur karo. (Open it, and open the Help file, and use it.)

The whole conversation took less than 5 minutes, but he taught me MS-Office in 5 minutes. Alongwith that he taught me all other word processors and all programming languages without a computer in sight! Never felt the need to go for a class to learn a new application after that. And I ended up learning many other software and programming languages after that. I started teaching MS-Office later that week and have taught all versions. I pride myself on my Word and Excel skills and even though they are not my primary tools the knowledge has been extremely useful to me in my career.

That’s the kind of teacher Ds was and is. He knows how to kindle the spark and let the student learn instead of crippling him with spoonfeeding.

I am still in close touch with him. Whenever I go to India half of my vacation time is spent with him, either visiting his business or home, or debating something in technology or society.

One thing I really hate  is that he never taught me Chess. He was a state champion in his time and I really wanted to learn to play better Chess from him. But the only time we played together it was like him playing with only 10% of his mind on the game and he beat me, no, actually crushed me without even bothering to “play”. I hated that. But I haven’t given up, some day I’ll trap him into teaching me. ;)

There was a great time, a wonderful period of my life when I was working in his own company. Even when I had a problem in a technology or language that he didn’t know, I would still go to Ds for solutions. And he would sort me out. Without knowing the language and without learning! His logic is just so strong that he always knows what questions to ask.

He had written books on COBOL that were used in schools as textbooks, but he never mentioned it to brag. I found out just by chance. Same thing about his Chess skills. He never brags, never needs to. But anyone who meets him, cannot forget him. I am very proud and privileged that I met him and that he is still in my life as a guiding spirit.

My dream is to one day collaborate with him on a project! Amen!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Facebook is a waste of time

Sigmund Freud maintained that all energy is sexual energy and if a person uses that energy in anything other than sex he is applauded by the society but if he uses it in pursuance of sex itself he is considered a pervert by the same society.

I am proposing a theory that all energy is Facebook energy. If it is used directly on Facebook then it is a waste of time but if it is directed into some other venture it turns into a useful, productive result.

As usual, let’s look at history, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Mao Tse Tung were these great people? Yes, they were. Did they have Facebook accounts? No, they didn’t! On the other hand, George Bush, Paris Hilton, Sarah Palin are all on Facebook.

‘nuff said!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sachchi Shiksha

[I was planning to do a blog post on this topic (which I still might do later) but when I woke up this morning the inspiration in my head was more towards poetry than prose. Result is this poem. I take no responsibility for what happens if you follow it like a life philosophy. Or if you don’t. ;)  ]

नया ज़माना आया प्यारे इसके नये उसूल,
झूठ के ढोल बजाओ भाई, सच को जाओ भूल,

सच को जाओ भूल यही दस्तूर है प्यारो,
सच की फीकी दाल में यारो, थोड़ा झूठ का तड़का मारो.

बारह आने सच्चाई के चार आने का झूठ,
खुल्ली लूट मची है प्यारे लूट सके तो लूट.

लूट सके तो लूट, बहुत मौके हैं प्यारे,
बेईमानी की चाबी पकड़ो खुल जाएँगे ताले सारे.

दस्तूर जहाँ दस्तूरी का हो, सच्चाई का राग ना गाओ
भाषण तो घर जा कर देना, पैसा फेंको काम कराओ

पैसा फेंको काम कराओ, चाहे नौकरी या हो तरक्की,
चोर चोर मौसेरे भाई, अपनी दोस्ती सबसे पक्की.

सच की राह तुम चलो हमेशा बच्चों को यह पाठ पढ़ाओ,
Admission  का समय जब आए, donation दो entry पाओ.

donation दो entry पाओ. , मत सब को उपदेश सुनाओ,
'खाओ और खाने दो' का तुम नया मूल मन्त्र अपनाओ.

सच्चाई की राह चले तो काँटे ही राहों में होंगे,
बेइमानी की खाद लगाओ, फूल उगाओ खुशबू पाओ.

सूखी रोटी सच्चाई की कब तक पानी से खाओगे,
बेईमानी का मक्खन मारो अपना जीवन सरल बनाओ.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Movie Review - Desi Boyz - Rocking it filmy style

When you go to see a Hindi film, especially in the current times, you don't really expect a lot of  common sense and realistic scenes. You expect to be entertained with larger-than-life characters and dramatic scenes alongwith Bollywood style music. If you go with those expectations you'll love Desi Boyz.

Frankly, my expectations were much lower courtesty of Akki's last film Tees Maar Khan. But I was pleasantly suprised. The story as usual is very basic and can be explained in one sentence. Jerry Patel (Akshay Kumar) and Nick Mathur (John Abraham) both lose their jobs in the times of recession and in order to fulfill the dire need of money in their lives, they become male escorts. That's it.

Now, if you gave that premise to a 5-year old (Desi) boy and told him the star cast, he would be able to give you ALL the twists in the story including the type and number of songs.

And yet, the movie manages to not disappoint because of the silly but nice humour and the little twists that have been executed well. The movie manages to keep people on the seats and doens't make them look at their watches. Pace of the story is fairly even.

It's Rohit Dhawan's first film as a director and I think he has done a good job. At first when I heard the name I thought David Dhawan had adopted Rohit Shetty, but later found out that he was David Dhawan's own son. To Rohit (Dhawan)'s credit, the film is much less silly than David's films that he has made with Govinda in the past.

The gigolo part of it is done with brilliant dance and music numbers. Like almost all modern music this won't last long either, but for the flavour of the month the music is very entertaining and hummable, even danceable. Suffice it to say that I have all the songs in my playlist right now.

While we are talking of music, I think at least 2 of the tunes are stoen, excuse me, inspired by other Hindi songs. If you are curious do a comparative analysis and see if they click. Here's the data. The retro type song "Filmein shilmein chalti thiiN, hum gaane waane gaate the" reminds me of that that song about Gandhi in Lage Raho Munna Bhai. The other song - "Jhak maar ke" has starting music that looks exactly similar to "Rookhi sookhi roti tere haathon se kha ke aaya maja bada." I think it's from Nayak. I'd like to hear your opinions on both. But all in all, the music is very good and the singers have done a great job as well.

The kid who plays Akshay's nephew is very cute and has delivered a good performance for a child so young. Unfortunately his name is not in the IMDB credits.

The humour in the film is good and fortunately not much of it is gross male-movie type humour. The dialogues for the most part are clever and suit the characters. The outtakes used in end credits are really funny, best part of the movie in my opinion, though they are filled with *beep*s.

Let's talk more about the star cast. Both Akshay and John have been presented as beefcake and if my friend's reaction is any indication the female audience will love it. Both female leads, Deepika Padukone and Chitrangda Singh, are looking really good and their clothes have been designed to cash in on their beauty. I like both of them, especially Chitrangda so no complaints from me. I might buy the DVD just to watch them. :) No, I will buy the DVD for the extras. There are a big number of female extra's in the songs and there are really sexy. They have done their part quite well too, as I was watching them in the songs, having no interest in either John or Akshay's oiled up bodies. In one song "Subah hone na de", Bruna Abdalah has done an item song like appearance and she's hot, man!

Anupam Kher has done a great job in his role as the girl's father and they way he has balanced his gay/curious streak in the character is both hilarious and genius. Omi Vaidya the annoying guy from 3 Idiots has a small role, he is annoying in this one as well, but I think that's what he's meant to be. Mohnish Behl, small role that he done with dignity. Sanjay Dutt has delivered a good performance as the Escort Agency Owner.

As for poetry in the lyrics, hah, what poetry, mate? The lyrics are the normal, cheap, rhyming crap you get with most new songs. The chorus of 2 or 3 songs ('make some noise for the desi boys', 'subah hone na de', 'allah maaf kare') is very catchy and will stay with you but the words are almost meaningless.

There are lapses in common sense, but you kinda expect that much. For example, my highly intelligent nephew asked me yesterday, "If they are struggling so much for money why does John not sell his motorcycle?" Yes, John had really expensive-looking bike that he doesn't sell even when they lose the kid because of money. There are other things,

This film reminds me of two other movies. One "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" in which Rob Schneider does a hilarious job of being an inept gigolo. Second, "Evelyn" in which Pierce Brosnan delivers a tremendous performance as an out-of-work Irish father fighting for the custody of his children.

This movie doesn't touch either of them but is a good entertainer for a weekend afternoon.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Btw, that article I posted on the nevative effects of cursing your computer "Be Kind To Your Computer"? Well, it was a fake. I wrote the whole thing just in the fit of a creative spasm. You can take it as a late April fool's prank from me. But I did post the truth as part of that post at the bottom. But only for those who can read invisible text. :)

Actually, it was a good test of my readers after my "Be Safe On The Web" post. If you had followed any of the links in the article, you'd have found that they didn't lead anywhere. Except the Wikipedia links. And as befits a good lie, I mixed it up with a good helping of the true facts.

I hope you enjoyed the post. ;)

Death of a Legend - Dev Anand

Indian film cinema legend Dev Anand passed away in a hospital in London yesterday. To the Hindi film lovers in India, Dev Anand needs no introduction. I just want to use this space to express my deepest sorrow that the industry has lost an icon!

Dev Anand or Dev Sahab as he was known to everybody, was not just a film star, to me he was a symbol of undying passion and indefatigable spirit. He had a very successful film career starting from the black and white era of Hindi cinema all the way into technicolour with so many hits and superhits that they cannot be counted on the fingers. In his old age (I use this word hesitantly for him as he defied the term with his very being), he continued making films, and he kept on making them despite the result on the box office.

There were questions about the quality of his films and that he was so fond of being in the frame himself. Maybe there's something in that, or maybe it's that elusive x-factor that one needed for a box office success in Bollywood. But even his worst enemies cannot say that he accepted defeat. Even after the bad failure of a movie, he'd simply dust himself off, announce his next film and go out in search of his next discovery.

Despite the failure of several of his later films, he launched many successful careers. There are many legends and inspiring stories about him that you can easily find on the web. But I cannot refrain from mentioning the legend of his black shirts. The legend goes that Bombay police had to request him not to wear black shirts as it excited his female fans too much. There is a mention of some girls jumping off balconies. I don't know how true that is but it must have a grain of truth in it based on the facts we know.

Dev Anand was always a well-dressed, debonair star on-screen and off it. Even in his later years this image didn't change. Any time I saw him on screen in a film festival or award function, he was always the well-dressed, well-spoken gentleman who did our film industry credit.

Another inspiring fact about him, for me, is the song "Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya". In an interview Dev Anand said that he lived his life like that and indeed he did. That song has been an inspiration to me for years.

Dev Sahab was 88 and he worked till his last breath. His latest film is Chargesheet to be released in 2011 (already released?).

I will just finish with the sentiment that Dev Anand will be missed for his contribution to the Hindi cinema and he will live on forever through his work.

General information about him you can read in this news item:

Friday, December 02, 2011

Random sher - ilm ka sauda

अश्आर मेरे यूँ तो ज़माने के लिए हैं
कुछ शेर फक़त उनको सुनाने के लिए हैं

ये इल्म का सौदा, ये रिसाले, ये किताबें,
एक शख्स की यादों को भुलाने के लिए हैं.

Be Kind to Your Computer

[Photo: Courtesy Article from external source.]

"Come on, you useless little piece of junk! Print. PRINT! PRINT!!"

Are you one of those people who shout at your computer whenever it fails to please you with its unquestioning obedience and superfast performance? Are you one of the frustrated thousands who look for a hammer when the Control-Alt-Del doesn't work?

Perhaps it's time to rethink your approach. Scientists in a company in Norway have released a research that describes the negative impact that "dysfunctional behaviour with inanimate electronic devices" can have on the human nervous system. Based on a sample of 2200 people from the IT and IT-dependent companies these scientists have developed a profile which they are calling "Electro-Chemical Human Responsiveness Index". This profile, called ELCHER for short, categorizes the range of various responses humans have in a "failure through negative feedback loop" situation.

During the study subjects were told to interact with a computer system as part of the "preparation" phase of research. Typically, they were told to fill out a form in a word processor and print and sign it before bringing it back to the researcher who would then tell them what they were supposed to do as part of the "research" phase.

The computer systems were rigged to produce 3 different kinds of failures in sequence. Examples of failures included - failure to save the file, various error messages during typing, sudden deletion of all text, flickering of display and printer failure.

The scientists claim that depending on a human user’s reaction to a failure condition produces different chemicals in the body. Users who were observed (secretly) to shout at the computer system in a failure situation were later discovered to have a higher level of melatonin in their blood stream than those who suffered patiently. Melatonin is a harmful chemical that increases the electric polarity of the red blood corpuscles leading to an increased chances of cerebral damage.

Users who silently suffered the malfunctions were measured to have 3 to 5% of increase in their melatonin levels whereas users who shouted at or cursed the system were found to have a whopping 73% to 81% melatonin in their blood. Normally melatonin, known in the scientific circles as the “hormone of darkness” is released in the blood by the pineal gland in very specific situations.

The company, Digichem Research Labs has hinted that they are planning to use this research to develop a highly sophisticated gadget to offset this phenomenon. No design or prototype is  available at this stage but the company spokesman, Druger Balonski confided in the Norway Times that it would be a wristband type gadget that the user will need to wear only in front of the computer to offset the “negative feedback loop effect”. No other details about how the gadget will work have been shared at this time while the company waits for a patent hearing.

Until the gadget is in production though, we would advise you to be kind to your computer!

[Source: Norway Times English Web Edition]

This whole article is a joke. There’s no truth in it as far as I know. I just wrote it to flex my creative muscles.

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