Degrees of variation; in various degrees

How do you measure the absence of something? I agree that it’s not difficult to say whether something is there or not but to really differentiate between “well, it’s not there”, “it’s absolutely not there” and “you damn it, it’s NOT there” can be a little intriguing at times.

I am actually talking about air temperature, or rather the lack of it here. Till about a couple of months back, zero degree Centigrade or thirty-two degree Fahrenheit was the epitome, the benchmark for my Indian summer mind (how can something be colder than the freezing point ?). What goes on below the poverty level of heat never occurred to me. But now that I am subject to abject poverty of warmth and am seeing that frequent mercury movements and gauging the next day’s temperature is the talk of the town, I am finding this experience quite interesting. When I came to this city in US a couple of months back at the onset of winter, as I was jokingly telling some people, every subsequent day was turning out to be the coldest day of my life. Over the course of the full season, temperature has now reached a plateau (or is it rather a valley?) and I have also become more seasoned, literally! However, on a Fahrenheit scale, I am still really unable to distinguish between a ten, fifteen, twenty or a twenty-five – all are simply “very cold” and the numeric quantification just helps you to add some bias to your bodily feeling. It’s still good that it’s a fahrenheit world here, centigrade would have put an even heavier baggage of negative figures on your actual senses.

Speaking of the change from Centigrade to Fahrenheit from India to US, it’s like a Cartesian co-ordinate shift with the origin being moved but for all other things measurable; it is more like a spatial contraction and expansion of the unit of measurement. Think about distance, weight and currency; the density of measurement and the power of the unit will vary in almost everything and your brain will have to adapt to that. The currency front is particularly very interesting. When I had first visited America, every time I visited a store it was the multiplication table of forty. Sixteen years and eight Harry Potter movies later, it now turns out to be the table of sixty. This mental math is probably applicable for every person who visits a different country and has to use a different currency. The scale of the buying power is also remarkably different – you might have belittled a twenty or a fifty back home but it’s amazing how powerful the same amount is here when in dollars. And it’s more amazing how just after a little while your brain becomes automatically wired to assess what is cheap and what is expensive in this new currency even “without” doing any sort of currency conversion and thus ensuring a complete overhaul of the mental model.

However, air temperature still stands apart amongst all these physical quantities. Not only does it have a different scale like other quantities, but unlike others it also has a shift of zero and there is also a (perceived) need to measure negative values. So it is rather unique. Or is it really? What about measurement of warmth in a relationship? Will it be too different than measurement of warmth in the atmosphere? Don’t you ever need to distinguish between it’s not there, it may be there and it’s not there but there is still some hope left?

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Happy Birthday

Today is 25th December. Today is his birthday. He is now two years old. He was never much demanding and was always very accommodative. Happy even when he was not much taken care of for the major part in the first year of his birth. Anxious and tense when he was displayed to the world in a new dress every few months in the second year. Content even when very few people actually came to see him. He was born today because it was a holiday, because people had time to give birth to him, because somebody else was born today.

Today is 25th December. Today was His Birthday. He is Jesus, Jesus Christ. He is now more than two thousand years old. The world would have been different and worse without Him.

Today is 25th December. Today is its birthday. It is now two years old. It’s my blog, my expression. My world is different and better with it.

Happy Birthday my baby … !

Who’s Next?

Every time I read and hear about new and new human accomplishments, be it in art, engineering, medical science or most-important-of-it-all, thinner tabs & bigger smartphones with faster apps, it makes me proud, real proud, as a human being. Though it is a fact that the difference in genes between a human being and its closest primate is only 1%, it is a reality that the difference in success between these two species is more than 100%. That leaves a lot of room for us to cheer and to aggrandize our ego.

Or .. does it really ?

Are we sure that the battle is over and won? Are we really the last and final creature? Did anybody announce that evolution of organisms has either ended or the pause button has been pressed with the creation of man? Every hundred million years there is a natural (or super-natural) catastrophe that wipes out the entire eco-system of species and sub-species giving rise to a new super-hero at the top of the food-chain. That’s what happened to the dimetrodons, that’s what happened to the dinosaurs (the difference being everybody knows about the dramatic and rapid Cretaceous extinction of the dinosaurs but not many people may be aware of the great Permian extinction where 90% of species on planet earth including top predators like dimetrodons perished). This probably is by design and is the natural check and balance process in-built in the system by the creator.

So, is global warming the pre-cursor to the next historical event on earth? Only time will tell. Maybe all of us will get wiped out and in the next hundred million years (or its equivalent, since the unit of time may get changed) a new super-species will slowly emerge out. May be another hundred million years later, when their feet are firm on the ground, they would set their eyes on the quest for the history of the world and the origin of species & evolution. They may eventually find out about us and our mobile apps (on a serious note, will our digital footprint stand the test of time ? since technology is changing so fast, I really doubt the backward compatibility going ahead) like the way we found out about the dinosaurs and the pangea and the atlantis.

Why does God always start afresh? Is it all a part of a bigger experiment in search of a bigger truth and better future? Or is He also still searching for the answer to this conundrum and doing trial and error on the way?

What do you think?

Of Lions and Human Beings, Countries and Differences

I went to Bhubaneswar last winter to take my daughter to the open zoo at Nandan Kanan. Bhubaneswar is a city where I had previously worked, made a lot of friends for life and had some wonderful experiences. So it feels like a second home to me and everytime I am on a train that passes by Bhubaneswar I make sure to get down from the train and step on the railway platform even if for a minute, it sends me on a happy trail down the memory lane.

I do not have such emotional bonding with the zoo though. Most of the time I was in Bhubaneswar, I was outside the zoo. But still it amazed me when we visited it this time. A full-blown white Royal Bengal tiger is a beauty to watch if you are sure that it cannot reach you. One strong growl from it and even the most lion-hearted amongst us will immediately start calculating the distance and analysing whether there is any chance that it can jump over the wall and come over to this side to personally meet and greet the spectators. Talking about lions, the Asiatic Lion next door was no match at all and looked more like a dog compared to its neighbour. A few weeks back I had seen a movie filmed in Uganda and the African Lion shown there was a different beast all together. Yes, captivity does make a difference but then it should have been true for the Bengal tiger as well.

That prompted me to have a look at the periodic table of animals. I learnt that apart from the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica), there are almost about 6 to 7 variations of the African Lion itself (Panthera leo leo, Panthera leo nubica, Panthera leo krugeri etc. etc.) and the main differences between them are just their sizes and mane appearances. But still they are considered to be different sub-species with different scientific names. Okay, so then what about a human being from Africa and another one from Asia? Don’t we have several marked differences in size, shape, colour, hair, physical ability and overall appearance? What is the reason behind these all? Genes of course ! Plus there are loads of other behavioural differences as well. And not only continents, that’s also true for many of the countries across the world. For example, it will almost become a book if I try to list down the differences between an average Britisher and an average Indian – in addition to the stark physical difference the other things like perceived purpose of life, the approach towards it in general, the thought process, the actions and reactions, the hindsight analysis etc. all are very very different, not good or bad or better or worse, just “different”. Yet, we are all still just Homo sapiens, the universal “wise man”, and so there is no serious endeavour to officially accept our differences as they are and hence we try to forcefully fit ourselves into the globally accepted norms of thought processes and actions thus marginalizing the recessive ones.

So why will the lions be more privileged than us? Should humanity remain only as a monolithic virtue? Can we also have Homo sapiens indiana and Homo sapiens britannia some day?

Food for a chuckle .. 🙂

“I”

Talking about after life, what do we carry with us from this life to the next or for that matter have carried forward from the last life to this one? The mind, the heart, the brain, the unfulfilled wishes or just only the soul? Do the memories, the histories and all the learnings acquired over so many years accompany us? Can the mind change completely so much so that the intrinsic type gets altered? If one’s mind is always full of good wishes for others in this life, can he/she become a criminal in the next?

Apparently, we travel luggage-free. Neither carry-on nor check-in, absolutely nothing. Just the starting point and the class of transport are handed over to us. If you are lucky (what is luck by the way? but I will come to that later), you probably get a business class ticket with a facility to lie down full-length but more often than not you just manage to stand on one foot in an overcrowded bus. From there a life-long journey ensues through the ups and downs and twists and turns and everything gets lost when you get down or thrown out from the bus. A new set boards before you are out and gets to know the past from you but for you in particular everything goes into oblivion once you are out of the game. It is again back to square one and you board the same bus sometime somewhere once again as a complete rookie and thus goes the eternal journey without any apparent purpose or destination.

So what does luck, the difference in the class of ticket, really mean? Is it that inexplicable factor which separates the haves and have-nots or is it the result of either good karma or bad karma? In that case we really carry something! So rather than indulgence, should we put all our energy and focus on creating a bank balance of good karma to get a good ticket for the next chance? But if I neither know who I’ll be next time nor I’ll remember anything about this life in the next and who had saved for me and that person has a different mind, will it really be the same “I”?  And does it make sense to focus on a life-long recurring deposit for an unknown person who will never ever know you?

I started this post with the question about what we carry with us. But now I am confused about what is even meant by “us”! What about you?

GOD Data

There has been a lot of talk lately about Big Data. Everybody I know and everybody each of them knows is talking about Big Data. Of course I considered only the people working in information technology because only they matter to the human race as they know what lies in the future. And number two, with the software boom In India you really have a rare chance to come across people outside this industry, let alone mixing with them. Even if we can carve out some time after all the conference calls get over, by the time we raise a toast half of India is already asleep. So thinking about the rest of the mankind is a sheer misuse of valuable facebook time and hence a wastage of internet bandwidth.

Let me ask you a simple question – what is the scope of big data? I am sure even the most die-hard big data fans also do not want to keep or maintain any information about the life and times of the ancient Flintstones or the modern-day Eskimos simply because there is no benefit or business opportunity in mining their data or analysing the pattern there. Sure the Eskimos are an interesting lot, sure they know a little about snow and seals and bears and whales, but till the time you buy something from me or there is any hope of any revenue in the future in even the most distant way, you simply do not exist in my world. So big data seems to have both a chronological as well as a geographical boundary and may not be as big as they want you and me to believe.

So are the Flintstones and the Eskimos not important to anybody at all except their progeny? Not even to their creator? That surely cannot be true! So if that be the case, how do God and St. Peters and the team of database administrators up above there handle such enormous information? Well, that’s what I call “Bigger Data” or simply “GOD Data”, data which neither has a start nor has a beginning. So if you are the designer of this database system, how will you arrange this data through the cycle of lives and places and ages? I bet we should use the souls as the primary key in the master table and create a relationship for all the lives, if you believe in reincarnation, associated with each soul. And then every life of every soul does merit a transaction table itself with a transaction record for every action of every single day of the entire life. And since this should not be just limited to the seven billion living human beings which is only a decimal percentage of the total number of animals in the known world, if we extend it for every animal, how does it sound for the total size? And what if life really exists beyond our beloved earth? What about processing this data – batches and triggers and indexing? What about database back-up lest it crashes?

No wonder God is a busy person. And now I know why He does not have time to respond to our prayers!

My Approximate Life

I went to Park Street last week, to be precise on the last day of the Mayan calendar. During the day Park Street is no different from the other streets but at night it’s truly fascinating. With the glittering restaurants filled with gleaming patrons, seems there is not much agony left in anyone’s life.

We met for a close friend’s birthday or that’s what I had initially thought. Our organiser had legendary organising skills and had given different timings to different people. As usual, or I would rather like to think that as a result of this, I was late in joining and when I reached the Mocambo restaurant all others were already in the swing and some had their glasses refilled twice or thrice. It seemed it was a get-together of old friends but not everybody knew all others since some were from a common college and some were from past organizations and some were common to both these sets. It was only after a while that I discovered that the attendees were not aware about the fact that our organiser had his birthday on that day and since most of the people were TUI (talking, holy shit!), hence even after it was disclosed it didn’t take much time to forget whose birthday it actually was and soon the table was full of birthday boys each greeting the other with happy birthday.

Amidst this utter confusion, one person commented that the biggest agony of his life is that mathematics is mostly approximate and has failed to live upto the expectation of being the ultimate resort for getting a definitive answer in case of need. At first he mentioned about some heavyweight issues concerning a thousand cross thousand matrix or something like that which simply went above my head. The common college for them being IIT Kanpur and the common department being Mathematics, I thought I should have apprehended this kind of trivial kitty party discussions beforehand and instead should have raised a more cerebral and nationally important topic like deciding and finalising Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement date from the arena of international cricket. After all, throughout the history of mankind people were known to have either shared their problems or blabbered about their likings after filling in a glass or two to some like-minded folks who may or may not be in a stable state of mind to comprehend all that is being said. But just when the food arrived, this guy came down to the brick and mortar topic of measuring the area of a simple circle of diameter 10 centimetres and announced that nobody in the world can say exactly how much that area will be. Since it was coming from the class topper, everybody thought that the last shot has probably gone directly to his head and the guy from Oxford was the first to put forward his counter-argument. But since it was nonetheless quite absorbing, there was a commotion to make the original speaker drink more to get some more chunks of enlightening thoughts from him. But then he grinned and explained that the calculation and the result will totally depend on the value of Pi assumed and that Pi is an approximate number correct to only those many places of decimals as you allow it to be. So if you base your answer on an approximate number, your answer is bound to be approximate since after all Pi is irrational in this life as well as the life after. He said he can cite many such similar examples but since it was becoming late and approximately everybody wanted to head towards home, we had to cut the discussion short.

Only while I was going home, the idea or rather the analogy of it struck a chord with me. It dawned on me that approximately everything that has already happened in my life or is about to happen in my life is to an extent approximate, all our expectations and goals are either approximate or vague and more so are the fulfillments. Who on earth has ever seen an absolute entity unless when the reality approximately matches the expectation etched in the mind and hence gets perceived as absolute or exact ? My life is approximate, so is yours and so it is for everybody.

So my friend, do you agree to it ? At least approximately ?