I procrastinate, therefore I am.

I procrastinate, therefore I am.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


koto din hoye gelo.

bhulte cheyechi sob kichu,

tobu kichu mone roye gelo.

koto kotha, kothokota - tobu roye gelo baki.

majhe majhe chup kore eka boshe thaki.

shudhu bhalo lage onurage gaowa kichu gan.

andharer deshe kichu alo jolpan!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Opekhha (Bengali Poem)

khujechilum mone mone tomar moner kotha.

tumi tokhon buke niye asim nirobota

boshe chile karo ashai, karo opekhhai.

dekhte dekhte somoy boye jai.

cheyechilum tomar gaane nobin surjalok -

amar kichu hok ba na hok, tomar bhalo hok.

sei karone tomai cheyeo jaini tomar kache.

karo ashai boshe thakar aro ki baki ache?

ajke eshe bujhte pari moner joto khelna-bari bhenge felai bhalo.

anto-bihin andhokarer ante prodip jalo.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Glimpses of World History: A Review

The book is a collection of almost two hundred letters by Jawaharlal Nehru containing a panoramic view of world history. The story begins at the dawn of human civilization- Egypt, China, Babylon, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, and ends just before World War II. The letters were addressed to his daughter Indira Gandhi; Nehru was incarcerated by the British Government at that time, while Indira was still in her teens. It took me three months to finish the book, running over thousand pages, but it was a fascinating experience.

We can make some obvious criticisms. Nehru was a poor historian. The book lacks a coherent organization and objectivity. The writing occasionally contains factual errors. To his credit, the author himself conceded the point. He said, "You must not take what I have written in these letters as the final authority on any subject. A politician wants to have a say on every subject, and he always pretends to know much more than he actually does. He has to be watched carefully!" (Letter 196).

We should note that Nehru was not a historian by profession, that he was writing from prison, without any recourse to library, that the letters were published unedited, and that the tone was informal only because they were meant for his teenage daughter. Considering this background, it was "one of the most remarkable books ever written" (New York Times). Nehru comes out, not as a professional historian, but as a leader with a strong sense of history, and endowed with a breadth of knowledge and culture unmatched by most of his contemporaries. Regardless of our political inclinations, we all should read this book to get a glimpse of Nehru's world view.

Nehru tried to describe the history of humankind as a whole, making an effort to highlight the connections and differences between contemporary civilizations. For example, he devoted multiple letters on Ancient Greece, writing on the city states, their system of democracy, Socrates, Plato, and finally the conquest and death of Alexander in 323 BC. In the next letter, he switched to India and wrote on the rise of Chandragupta Maurya in 321 BC. Northern India was influenced by Greek culture due to Alexander's conquest, and Chandragupta married the daughter of Seleucas, a general in Alexander's army. The book is replete with such references.

Later parts of the book, dealing with the history of nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are perhaps more important than the earlier ones. They reveal Nehru's views on secularism, communism, parliamentary democracy, and several other topics that dominate political discourse in today's world. We may briefly summarize his views as follows.

Secularism: Nehru was a staunch secularist, and deplored all kinds of religious fundamentalism. It has become fashionable among the right wing commentators to criticize him for indulging in the politics of minority appeasement. As far as this particular book is concerned, we find little evidence to support their claim. Nehru was very much sympathetic to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's efforts to modernize Turkey. He described the irony of the Khilafat movement after World War I, which was "a purely religious question affecting Muslims only, and non-muslims had nothing to do with it" (Letter 161). The sole purpose of the movement was nullified when Mustafa Kemal, himself a Muslim by birth, decided to abolish the Caliphet. Nehru further wrote, "Probably the Muslims of India have resisted this nationalizing process more than any other larger group of Muslims in the world, and they are thus far more conservative and religious minded than their co-religionists of the Islamic countries" (Letter 163). We note that several times he made equally scathing comments on Hindu nationalism.

Communism and Parliamentary Democracy: Everybody knows Nehru was against Capitalistic economy. He wrote favorably on communism, and pointed out how Big Business exploits people in the garb of democracy. The right to vote means nothing unless it is supported by necessary safeguards. A functioning democracy requires universal primary education and basic health care, a free press, and legislations that curtail the power of Big Business and ensure that it is accountable to the people. All these are true; but unfortunately, Nehru failed to criticize the atrocities perpetrated by the other side. He praised Russia's five-year plans, but did not protest against Stalin's repressive policies. We wonder what Nehru would have said on reading Orwell's "Animal Farm"! To be fair to him, in the early nineteen thirties, he might not have been fully aware of the atrocities committed by Stalin. Nehru was also critical of parliamentary democracy. He wrote a whole letter on "The Failure of Parliaments" (Letter 193), and remarked, "Democracy fails when vital issues which move people's passions have to be faced, such as religious clashes, or national and racial (Aryan German versus Jew), and above all economic conflicts (between the Haves and Have-Nots)".

Nehru's views, just like that of any other person, changed with time. "Even as I was writing the letters my outlook on history changed gradually. Today if I had to re-write them, I would write differently or with a different emphasis" (Preface to original edition). It is interesting to contrast his views as articulated in this book to his politics post-independence. As always, he remained a staunch secularist. In the economic front, he was inspired by the Russia's five-year plans while establishing the Indian Planning Commission, and following the Soviet example, he put an emphasis on heavy industries in the early nineteen fifties. On the other hand, he, along with Sardar Patel and Ambedkar, was one of the founding fathers of Indian democracy. This clearly marked a point of departure from his contempt of Parliaments.

I recommend everybody to read this book.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Voltaire's Wit

I was reading "The Story of Philosophy" by Will Durant. The author mentions an anecdote from Voltaire's life that made me smile. I hope you will enjoy it as well.

A visitor from Albrecht von Haller's place meets Voltaire for the first time. Voltaire begins the conversation by praising Haller.

"He is a great man, a great poet, a great naturalist, a great philosopher, almost a universal genius."

The visitor is surprised, "What you say, sir, is the most admirable, as Mr. Haller does not do you the same justice."

"Ah, perhaps we are both mistaken." Voltaire quips back.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tumi (Bengali Poem)

Bhebechilam tumi amai poth dekhabe raate,

Kanna-hashi, dukhho-sukhe roibe amar sathe.

Jokhon kono bijon kone katbe somoy shunno mone,

Tokhon tumi asbe jano oporuper alo-

Ghuchbe sokol kalo.

Onekta poth hete eseo paini tomar dekha,

Hoyto aro onekta poth cholte hobe eka.

Hoyto acho sobar majhe, hoyto tumi nei,

Ami kebol thakbo jeno amar ami-tei.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Different Identities

Every person is associated with multiple identities. I was tagged as a Bengali, an Indian, and a Hindu from the first day of my life; nobody asked me what I thought of Bengali as a language, India as a country or Hinduism as a religion. Still these identities play a significant role in the way we view ourselves, and the way people view us.

Born a Hindu, I have grown up to become an atheist. I feel the early prophets of all religions were remarkable men of their time. Jesus and Mohammed were great men, but so were Socrates and Plato. The trouble with any organized religion is it lays a down a set of rules in a holy book thousands of years old, and dogmatically claims that people should follow these rules and the same way of life even in twenty-first century. Plato supported the institution of slavery in his Republic. Today if a person comes to me and says a civilized nation cannot do without slaves, I will call her a racist. However, this does not mean I am discrediting Plato; the society and its value system were completely different in his time. Similarly there are obnoxious passages in religious scriptures, but the followers of the concerned religion will never admit their Prophet could say something wrong. If a person is trying to lead her life according to the dictates of an organized religion, she is in a sense trying to fly an airplane by reading a manual for wheel-cart.

While I have repudiated all religions, I am extremely fond of my nationality and mother-tongue. But I am not jingoistic enough to be a proud Indian or a proud Bengali, due to a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I was born with these identities, and did not do anything to achieve them.

Secondly, quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, "India is home to all that is truly noble and truly disgusting in the human experience". Perhaps the same statement applies to Bengal as well!

I identify with the destiny of this country, regardless of whether or not it is the greatest nation in the world; and I feel extremely fortunate for being able to read Rabindranath Tagore in his native language.

There are people with markedly different attitudes towards the same identities. Some immigrants to the US are devoted to their religion, but feel no compunction while applying for US citizenships and giving up their native passports. Are they doing the right thing? Have I done the right thing? Perhaps these are not the right questions to ask, and one should not to be judgmental about these issues.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jane Austen and Indian Middle Class

A girl is getting married. She holds a masters degree and is unemployed.

A girl, still in college, is in a relationship with an accomplished software engineer. She plans to get married as soon as she finishes her undergrad.

A young man is looking for prospective grooms for his sister. He is even prepared to accede to demands for dowry.

A girl joins a software company after graduating with a B.E. degree. Immediately she starts a groom-hunt with active encouragement from her parents. Come what may, she has to tie the knot before reaching a certain age.

I mentioned a few incidents from the lives of my personal acquaintances. It is patently obvious that these are not isolated events. Instead, they represent a typical mindset of Indian middle class; and I see an uncanny similarity between the plight of modern Indian women and her counterparts in early nineteenth century England, as depicted in wonderful novels by Jane Austen. A girl is given proper education. She goes to colleges and universities, but ends up being treated like a mortgage loan that must be disposed of before the retirement of her father. It is even more tragic to see the prejudices being reinforced by conscious participation of the victims. The girls themselves consider groom-hunting to be of much more importance than job-hunting, and as if to substantiate the point, no girl wants to marry a man who earns less money than herself. Undoubtedly there are exceptions to the above statement, but I am afraid they are too small in numbers to make any difference to the prevailing situation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bengali Poem

emono somoy giyeche jokhon kedechi apon mone,

nirobe shongopone.

jibone prothom na paoar bathaa chole gache more chere,

bondho duarete kora nere.

se duar khule, badha bhoy bhule,

rastai pa feli.

jibone prothom na paoar pore prothom noyon meli.

dekhi koto loke dhulo makha pothe choleche nijer moto;

futeche hashi karur mukhe,

karur buke khoto.

ami taderi keu hoii.

bishal ei bishho majhe ami ekok noii.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

To be or not to be anonymous

I have added a link to this blog in my webpage. Though it is rather comforting to remain anonymous, I decided against it due to a couple of reasons.

1) Since most of my friends and family members are already aware of this site, the blog was not actually anonymous after all.

2) Anonymity is sometime essential to protect freedom of expression. However, it can also be used as a cover to slander another person, and I am deliberately trying to rule out that option. As a consequence, the future posts will perhaps be on more impersonal topics.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Plan B

I am happy to be a student of Computer Science specializing in design and analysis of algorithms. But the question remains whether there is some other profession where I would have fared reasonably well. Had destiny wanted me not to grow up as a nerdy scientist, what would have been my Plan B?

One should possess a couple of qualities in order to succeed in any job: passion and caliber. The situation is quite similar to winning a girl's heart. I may have a passion for Sania Mirza, unfortunately though, she is way beyond my reach. On the other hand, I don't have a passion for Rakhi Sawant, and fortunately enough, I am way beyond her reach.

Just like millions of Indians growing up in the nineties, Cricket was my first love. Unless distracted by unimportant, mundane events such as going to school, I watched every game of team India. I attended each and every match at Eden Gardens. Further, at the cost of being immodest, let me say I had a reasonable amount of cricketing sense. But I lacked the physical stamina and eyesight to become a cricketer. Someone jokingly said, "Sayan bats like an Anil Kumble, bowls like a Rahul Dravid, and fields like a Sourav Ganguly". Can you imagine anyone else simultaneously being compared to three greats of all time!

I am extremely fond of listening to music, and a huge fan of Kishore Kumar. Once I took a serious attempt at learning how to sing. What transpired next was not much different from this clip.

So I tried my hand at painting. It took a couple of lessons and one slap from my teacher (I was only six years old at that time) to induce me to drop both my ambition to become a painter and my name from the class.

Finally, I stumbled upon something I could do well and was really passionate about, namely, reading books. It has remained a passion since early childhood. What a pity that I cannot take it up as a profession, nobody pays you for reading short stories, novels and history.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Glimpses of World History: Part 1

I have been reading "Glimpses of World History". Running over thousand pages, the book is a collection of about two hundred letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira Gandhi. Nehru was incarcerated at that time by the British Government and Indira was in her early teens. The letters provide us with a panoramic view of world history, starting from the civilization of Harappa-Mahenjo daro and concluding with the rise of Nazism in Germany. It will take more than a month to finish this monumental volume. The more you read, the more it becomes impossible, regardless of your political inclinations, not to get mesmerized by the sheer erudition of the man whom we were lucky to have as our first prime minister. He was not a historian by profession, and surely had no access to a library inside a prison. Yet "Glimpses of World History" is rated as arguably one of the best popular history books of all time.

Let me share a couple of amazing facts that I came to know while perusing the book.

India was exposed to Christianity way before Western Europe accepted it. At around late 1st century AC, several Christian missionaries arrived at south India via the sea route. They were welcomed by the natives and lot of people got converted. This was at a time when Christianity was a proscribed religion even within the Roman empire. Descendants of these early Christians have survived to this day in India.

Marco Polo, the great traveler from Venice, along with his father and uncle spent more than fifteen years at the court of Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan in China in 13th century AC. Marco, who was a favorite of the Emperor, wanted to go home but it was difficult to get Khan's permission. At last there came an opportunity. The Mongol ruler of Persia (modern day Iran), who was also Kublai's cousin, lost his wife and wished to remarry some girl from his own clan. So he requested Kublai to send him a prospective bride. Kublai chose a beautiful Mongol princes and agreed to let the three Polos escort her safely to Persia. The Polos were supposed to return to Venice after discharging this final duty. They took the sea route and came to south India. The Polos were avid travelers, and they, along with the princes, seemed to have no major concern regarding the impending wedding. Having spent quite some time touring south India, the trio and the princes finally arrived at Persia two years after they had started.

If you are a true romantic at heart, dare to imagine: A beautiful princes, a young Marco Polo, embarking on a voyage, touring an exotic land, for as long as two years! Try to think about the romantic potential of the saga! Can it ever be possible that the princes will eventually marry some old King whom she has never seen?

Of course not!

Great! So Marco gets the girl??

Errrr no. Actually the prospective bridegroom (King of Persia) dies before the party can reach his kingdom. So the King's son, younger and more attractive than his father, marries the princes. Marco heads off towards Venice with his father and uncle.

To set the record straight, there is no historical evidence of a romance between Marco Polo and the Princess.

Hopeless Marco!!

PS: As the title suggests, I plan to write at least one more post based on this book.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writer's Block

I am enjoying a lazy vacation since the beginning of August. In spite of having plenty of free time, I was not able to produce a single post, and I sincerely apologize for this terrible disaster to the superior race of people consisting of regular readers of my blog.

Any post in this blog is an output of the following simple program.
  • Write some garbage that instantaneously comes to your mind.
  • FOR( ; ; ){
  • IF(satisfied with the write-up) BREAK.
  • ELSE edit post. }
  • Publish post.
A "writer's block" is encountered if the program runs into an infinite for loop during execution time. I decided to modify the program a little bit in order to get out of "writer's block".
  • Write some garbage that instantaneously comes to your mind.
  • FOR(i = 1 ; i <= 0 ; i++){
  • IF(satisfied with the write-up) BREAK.
  • ELSE edit post. }
  • Publish post.

Moral of the story: This post is garbage. Furthermore, one way to get out of writer's block is to write a post on writer's block.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alma Mater

I did my undergrad from a university in Kolkata. I made some great friends, was lucky to be mentored by a bright young professor, and spent some wonderful time dreaming about algorithms, girls and my future as a researcher in theoretical computer science. It has been more than two years since graduation, and with the benefit of hindsight, I have to confess everything was not all right in my alma mater.

We put too much premium on success in competitive exams. One becomes a superstar if she manages to crack IIT. As an ordinary mortal, I was not able to attain this extraordinary feat. But I somehow got into a university of reasonable repute that guarantees a job in the software profession. There students (including myself) used to bunk classes on a regular basis; most of the classes were not worth attending anyway. Copying was rampant in class tests, occasionally even in semester exams. I was guilty in this count as usual. Majority of the professors were bad teachers, majority of the students did not consider studying to be one of the top priorities.

Ours is a peculiar society that judges people by their ranks in competitive exams. I sometime wonder about the extent to which professional success and exam scores are correlated. Yet I have seen people boasting of their academic backgrounds quite often. A person should be evaluated on the basis of her professional achievement after she gets out of college, not by the name of the college she managed to get into. The education system can do with some reform.

I am neither proud nor ashamed of my college days. I simply cherish the sweet memories.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Last few posts dealt with the rather interesting topic of politics. This one is to cheer myself (and the multitude of four people who still follow this blog) up.

Suppose a man in his early twenties embarks on a grand voyage in India by public transport; and providence dictates that he has to sit right next to a young member of the fairer sex. Without loss (lots?) of generality, his fellow traveler will fall into one of the four categories.

1. Normal type: She spends most of her time reading books, looking outside through the window, or sleeping, and can be easily put up with.

2. How Dare You type: She feels every single (pun intended) gentleman on this planet earth is eagerly waiting for the opportune moment to propose to her, and it is her holy duty to nip in the bud even the most innocuous looking approaches. For example, if she has occupied the window seat in a bus, and the poor mortal asks where her destination is just to know when he can grab the vantage point, she will deliberate vehemently in her mind before (if at all) condescending to give an answer.

3. I have a Boyfriend type: She loudly chats on her cellphone, consciously conveying the message to people around her that she is talking to her boyfriend.

4. I am a Princess type: She travels by train, and cannot stoop to carry her own luggage. Moreover, it is incumbent upon her fellow passengers to place her bags in the upper bunks before settling down themselves.


1) Types 2, 3 and 4 are not mutually exclusive.

2) This post is entirely in good humor. No offense meant.

3) Feel free to point out if I missed some other types. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

NRI puja

I came across an interesting article by Ramchandra Guha.

Idle Worship, Or The Non-Resident's Role Play

It is surely worth some introspection.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom of Expression

I was watching this week's The Big Fight on NDTV. Vikram Chandra is one of the few anchors I admire; he is composed, articulate, and unlike most of his ilk, is not in the habit of shouting at the pitch of his voice or rudely interrupting the invited guests. Having enjoyed the show, I decided to convert my thoughts on the topic into a blog post.

Vikram asked an intriguing question that can be briefly summarized as follows. A democracy cannot function properly without freedom of speech. However, consider the following situations. 1) A person makes a hate speech instigating the audience to kill members of a certain religious community. 2) A person makes a comment that is clearly racist, or derogatory to women. 3) A person writes a book offending religious sentiments, people throng the streets demanding a ban on the book, and riots may ensue if the government doesn't succumb to their demands. Shouldn't we be better off by restricting freedom of expression under such circumstances? Can a country ever accord unfettered freedom of speech to her citizens?

I do not hope to settle such a nuanced question in a short essay. Nevertheless, I state my point of view. Freedom of expression necessarily implies the freedom to offend. If I am only allowed to praise you, and you will put me in jail whenever I say something that you consider offensive; it should be called freedom of sycophancy, not freedom of speech. Moreover, if I am allowed to offend your political sentiments, reason dictates you must allow me to offend your religion (or in case of atheists, the lack thereof), as well as race, gender, and every other identity. This provides an answer to the second and third questions: No, freedom of expression should not be curtailed under these situations.

As an aside, I should mention that being a liberal, I get deeply offended to hear someone make a racist or sexist statement. And sometimes a sensible government might have no choice other than proscribing a sacrilegious book, though such incidents will further highlight the fact that we have a long way to go in order to become a mature, tolerant and progressive society.

Finally, freedom of expression does not imply the freedom to kill or physically hurt someone. Hate speeches and inciting riots don't fall under the purview of freedom of speech; there should be separate laws to deal with religious fanatics.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Life as it is

I haven't blogged for a while; in fact, did not even check the blogs I usually follow. It is Friday afternoon. I skipped office in favor of work from home, and this post is clear evidence of my penchant for hard work.

I am eagerly waiting for my trip to Kolkata in August. Furthermore, there are plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Mumbai and Durgapur. The countdown has begun.

During the last few weeks I felt extremely motivated to master the art of procrastination, read some Bengali novels by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, and finally finish the 900 page volume "India After Gandhi". I want to dedicate a blog post for reviewing this fascinating account of independent India, together with "The Last Mughal", a book on the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 that I read couple of months back. Unfortunately, right now I am too lazy to do any serious writing.

Perhaps I should start teaching a crash course on procrastination; prospective students will be able to get inspiration from my unmatched personal achievements in this front, accrued over a period of no less than two years of graduate study. Let me know if you are interested.

Before signing off, here is my first attempt at a short (micro?) story.

Once upon a time there was a boy.
He loved a girl.
She did not reciprocate his feelings.
Yet he could not stop loving her. WHY??

Because he was fond of wasting a whole lot of time. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010


While reading the book 'India After Gandhi', came across an interesting quote by V.N. Gadgil.

In India you do not cast your vote; you vote your caste.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

San Francisco

Last week I briefly visited San Francisco for a few hours. These are some of the pictures.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


fele asha pother dhulo, brishti bheja din;

hatchhani dai smritigulo, hothat udashin;

khamkheyali golpo kotha, karon chara bishonnota;

khuje berai mon-

basto diner kajer sheshe, klanti bhora ghumer deshe

shanti ghera kon;

purono kichu hariye geche notun kichur bhire,

chotto-belar dabowala ashbe na r fire;

cricket bat, onko khata, chena mukher sari,

hariye gache cholar bake, hariyeche school bari;

purono pata jhore gache, notun diner alo;

achi ami amar moton, bondhu theko bhalo.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mind Your Language

Do you expect a child of Indian origin, born and brought up in US, to be proficient in her mother tongue? My personal experiences, garnered from intermittent encounters with NRI families over the course of past ten years, suggest she will understand the language perfectly well, but prefer talking in English even to her parents. The situation is similar to me being able to comprehend Hindi, and at the same time being extremely uncomfortable in using it as means of verbal communication.

Although it is painful to see a Bengali child conversing in English with her Bengali parents, I should not be passing a moral judgment. My own grandparents migrated from Bangladesh, and I have very little emotional attachment with our neighboring country. Perhaps the kids in question see themselves primarily as US citizens, and just like me, have little interest in the region her immediate ancestors migrated from. Intriguingly, on most occasions, the parents of these kids are quite fond of Bengali culture. They listen to Rabindrasangeet, take part in quintessential Bengali addas with their friends and colleagues in the weekend, and behave just like any other person residing in Kolkata. It is not uncommon to see the parents trying to initiate a conversation with the kid in Bengali, only to get exasperated as she invariably replies back in English.

There are a few plausible explanations for this behavior. It is true that the child has no option of learning the language in school, she has very few Bengali friends. Her only exposure to the language is at home, at the adda sessions with her parents' colleagues, and during the annual trip to Kolkata.

The paradox is each of the above statements hold equally well for a kid born and brought up in Bombay or Bangalore; but you rarely see such a child speaking in Hindi with her parents.

Feel free to comment if you can shed some light.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Going Home?

Yesterday marked the end of second academic year in grad school. I am going for an internship at a research lab in Silicon Valley for the next twelve weeks, followed by a biannual month long trip back to India. I will visit Kolkata for twenty days, and spend rest of the time in Mumbai, a city I consider to be second home. Life is good.

As an Indian studying in US, I often wonder - shall I return to my home country after graduation? Having debated the issue threadbare, I am reasonably sure of a positive answer.

It is said, and rightly so, US nurtures an environment that helps a person thrive professionally. An overwhelming proportion of great universities and research labs are located in this country, whereas in India, most institutions are plagued by internal politics. There are further reasons to settle in US if one is aspiring for better income and a lavish lifestyle. However, I subscribe to the view that beyond a certain threshold, an increase in income does not necessarily lead to an increase in personal happiness. Having grown up in a Bengali upper-middle class family, I will be content to live a life where I can afford the amenities I used to enjoy during the college days in Kolkata.

On the other hand, it is sheer impertinence to claim I will be doing a service to my nation by settling there. In a country ravaged by malnutrition and casteism, where half the population is illiterate and more than a quarter below poverty line, I belong to a privileged few. By churning out papers as a researcher or minting money as an IT professional, I will not even get to know the real Bharat.

I wish to return to India simply because it is my home. It may or may not be the greatest nation in the world, but it is my nation, a nation whose fate I wish to share, a place where I was born, and wherein I wish to spend the most of my tiny little life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Kache ache tobu ache bohudure ,

jaane more tobu jaane na ;

dekha hoy koto, kotha hoy koto ,

kano mon tobu maane na ;

raat-bhore, koto mishti dupure

dekhechi taare je shopne ;

shopno sesob jaayni haariye -

rekhechi saajiye jotne ;

aaji ei kone, aponari mone

akasher neel rong -

khela kore jano, asheni kokhono

emono modhuro khon ;

aajibon dhore jaano tar tore

royechi shudhui daariye ;

aasha niye mone, hoyto shopone

debe se du-haath baariye.

Purono Chora

chottobalai prothom lekha ankora ak chora ;

porikhhar ager raate golper boi pora ;

school er sheshe gorer mathe shudhui cricket khela ;

adda mere katiye deowa sara bikel bela ;

ektu boro hobar pore JU campus ;

college kete cinema, r GL6 bus ;

koto notun bondhu paowa, koto loker bhir ;

se chilo ak jibon bote, duronto osthir ;

aro onek cholar baki, bolar baki mor ;

dekhar baki andhar raati, surjodoyer bhor ;

sukher bhitor dukher basha, dukher bhitor sukh ;

amar ki jai ashe tate, jamon chole choluk.

Chotobalar Kobita

akash theke brishti naami

ghuchiye dilo moner glani ;

jibon pother shokto mati

shokto holeo noyto khnati ;

sei matike bhijiye diye

namlo bari jhorjhoriye ;

pran-sagorer duronto dheu

ghirlo more, roilo na keu ;

poran amar akash-paane

roilo cheye jader taane ,

taderi baani ashlo bheshe

somukhe mor choddobeshe ;

dekhar majhe odekhare

dekhte je mon parlo na re ;

parlo na to mukhti pete

nitto-diner badhon theke ;

sei badhonei porlo badha ;

hridoye fer laglo kada.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


After spending the whole day reading papers, thinking hard, and staring blankly at the walls, I decided to hit the gym. When you are mentally exhausted, the best way to recharge your batteries is to exhaust yourself physically as well. At least you will have a good night sleep, making it easier to refrain from obsessing over that problem you are trying to crack since the past couple of months.

While running on a treadmill, a piece of thought occurred to me. Let me begin with a gentle warning: I am a self confessed nerd, and by implication, a slew of weird thoughts capture my imagination all the time. To be honest, I had read about it somewhere long time back, and do not claim the perspective to be an original one. Nevertheless, I would like to articulate the viewpoint.

A person should have a clear idea of what she wants to achieve in her life. I intend to use the word achievement in the broadest sense possible. Indeed, one may aspire to become a respected professional, a loving daughter and wife, a trusted friend, and all these are considered to be achievements. A way of verifying that you are on track, an easy way, is to ask yourself whether or not you are trying hard enough. However, this can often be misleading. Suppose you are running on a treadmill. Close your eyes, and it will feel as if you are working very hard, perspiring a lot, and making great strides towards your goal; whereas in reality, you are stuck at the same place, wasting valuable energy for no good reason. A similar situation might arise in life. So the next time you approach nervous breakdown due to late nights in office, or get emotionally drained out in a relationship, open your eyes and honestly ask yourself: Is it worth it? If the answer is no, better change course late than never.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

India After Gandhi

I have started reading "India After Gandhi" by Ramchandra Guha, and am slowly getting addicted to it. The book documents the political history of India from 1947 to the present day. Though it will take more than a month to finish a 900 page volume, I hope to stick around till the end. Here are some excerpts.

...throughout the sixty years since India became independent, there has been speculation about how long it would stay united, or maintain the institutions and processes of democracy. With every death of a prime minister has been predicted the replacement of democracy by military rule; in every failure of the monsoon has been anticipated countrywide famine; in every new secessionist movement has been seen the disappearance of India as a single entity......The heart hoped that India would survive, but the head worried it wouldn't. The place was.....far too diverse to persist as a nation, and much too poor to endure as a democracy.....

....On my way to work, I had to pass through Rajpath, the road whose name and location signal the exercise of state power. For about a mile, Rajpath runs along flat land; on either side are specious grounds meant to accommodate the thousands of spectators who come for the annual republic day parade.......By the time I had moved to New Delhi the British had long departed. India was now a free and sovereign republic - but not, it seemed, an altogether happy one. Signs of discord were everywhere. Notably, on Rajpath, the grounds meant to be empty except on ceremonial days has become a village of tents, each with colorful placards hung outside it. One tent might be inhabited by peasants from the Uttarakhand Himalaya, seeking a separate province; a second by farmers from Maharashtra, fighting for a higher price for their produce; a third by the residents of the southern Konkan coast, urging that their language be given official recognition by inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution of India. The people within these tents and the causes they upheld were ever changing. The hill peasants might be replaced by industrial workers protesting retrenchment; the Maharashtra farmers by Tibetan refugees asking for Indian citizenship; the Konkani-speakers by Hindu monks demanding a ban on cow slaughter.....I wished I had the time to walk on Rajpath every day from January 1 to December 31, chronicling the appearance and disappearance of the tents and their residents. That would be the story of India as told from a single street, and in a single year.....However, this too, is a story, above all, of social conflicts; of how these arise, how they are expressed, and how they are sought to be resolved.......

The forces that divide India are many. This book pays due attention to them. But there are also forces that have kept India together, that have helped transcend or contain the cleavages of class and culture, that - so far at least - have nullified the many predictions that India would not stay united and not stay democratic. These moderating influences are far less visible; it is one aim of this book to make them more so....Suffice it to say that they have included individuals as well as institutions.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feminist Rant

March 8th was women's day. The upper house of Indian Parliament passed the historic women's reservation bill on March 9th. Though I have serious misgivings regarding many aspects of the bill, it is heartening to see the issue of female empowerment receiving a degree of political attention that was long-overdue.

I grew up in an urban middle class society and have never been to a village. Thus it is not appropriate for me to comment on the grave socio-economic discriminations the females suffer in rural India. I will rather highlight some practices, quite demeaning to women, that are still prevalent amongst the so called educated sections of the populace.

1) A girl has to get married before a certain age, even if she is not financially independent by that time.

2) The husband should be professionally more established (in terms of job profile) than the wife.

3) The husband should be older (and taller) than the wife.

4) Even if both the husband and the wife are working, it is the wife's duty to manage the household chores.

5) If the parents of two kids (a boy and a girl) are constrained financially and have to make a choice, the boy will be encouraged to go for higher studies (PhD / MBA) while the girl will be married off as quickly as possible.

6) The girl's family will pay for the bulk of the cost of organizing the marriage.

7) It is the wife's duty to give up or change her job (or seek a transfer) and relocate to the place where the groom is working. She should not expect her future husband to relocate to her place.

8) A woman cannot preside over a religious ceremony. How many female purohits have you seen?

I can only hope the next generation will be more liberal and open-minded than us, and things will change for the better.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Khamkheyali Chora

amar gaane tomar sur-

bajlo moner ontopur;

ontopure kanna hashi-

kotok notun, kotok bashi;

kotok asha, kotok bhoy,

diner sheshe shondha hoy;

shondhakashe shopon bhela,

prothom prem r cricket khela;

khelar majhe jhogra-jhati,

akla pothe akla haati;

egiye choli, hochot khai -

aro onek haat-te chai.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Looking Back

Have you ever seen a quintessential "Good Boy"? I was one such rare specimen in school. I never went to a movie with other students, never bunked a class, and was pathetic at initiating conversation with any classmate who belonged to the fairer sex. Four years in JU helped me rectify the first two personality defects, the remaining one seems incurable. As you may have guessed already, I enjoyed a lot in college. We were a group of 50 boys and 2 girls (what a pity!). I found many good friends. We used to have long "adda" sessions, the topics varied from cricket, girls and movies to discrete maths and algorithms.

It has been a couple of years since we got out of college, and slowly lost contact with each other. I still call up some of my best pals, but it is no longer possible to stay in touch with all of them. Do I miss those wild days? Yes I do. But at the same time I am happy with my present circumstances. I cherish my work. I talk with my family and a few old friends on a regular basis. What more can a person ask for?

Sweet memories are like lost love. While taking a solitary walk on a pleasant Saturday evening, you stop by the road to relive the golden times and wonder what went wrong. It brings out a wistful smile and a few drops of tears. Then you suddenly come to realize it is getting dark; you move on.

This is life.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My thesis topic and an announcement

I have finally decided upon my dissertation topic. The thesis title will be "An approximately optimal strategy for procrastinating in graduate school". It is easy to see that finding the exact optimal strategy is undecidable. The proof is by contradiction: First of all, you cannot procrastinate indefinitely, otherwise good sense will prevail and you will be kicked out of the department. Now suppose there is an optimal strategy that enables you to waste "x" amount of time during the course of your PhD, while leaving room to convince the professors that you are actually doing some work. Then surely you can waste "x + \epsilon" amount of time for arbitrarily small "\epsilon" and no one will notice. Thus, the strategy you chose was not optimal to begin with, and we have reached a contradiction.

The good thing about this project is that I can provide experimental evidence supporting the claims (citing my own procrastinating journey through graduate life) in addition with theoretical results. The work will have serious practical impact and this in turn will increase the chances of me getting a job after graduation.

Announcement: From today onwards, I will be posting once a week (possibly every Sunday). It should help the viewers better digest and dissect the intelligent opinions propounded by this humble author.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I wrote this the night before my Madhyamik Physical Science exam. Just shows how sincere a student I was! :-)

Morichikasomo tomar alo
Kano amai path bholalo?
Cholte giye andhar raate
Alo amar chilo na haate,
Bhebechilum tomar kache
Alo bodhhoi lukiye ache.
Sei aloke pabar tore
Elam ami tomar ghore.
Obak hoye takiye dekhi
Charidikei andhar eki!
Charidikei kalo,
Sei kalor majhe dariye theke
Tumio khojo alo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Not so long ago there was a kid who used to go to school, play cricket, watch sunsets (he was always a late riser), and loved to dream. He was afraid of spiders, cockroaches, drawing classes, and wanted to remain a child forever. Time flows by. He went to college, made some great friends, graduated, had a fair share of joy, sorrow, love and heartbreak.

The kid turned 23 today. Let us see what life has in store for him.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Love at first sight

I met her in the library a couple of months back. She was mysterious and beautiful. I immediately fell in love.

Now I keep thinking about her for hours, being unable to concentrate on anything else. I have tried my best to approach her but it has not been easy; progress has been very erratic so far. Sometime she opens up, sometime she ignores me completely.

If you are a true friend, wish me luck.

Want to know who she is? She is the problem I am currently working on.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Five facts about me

1) I work in TCS (Theoretical Computer Science).

2) I work hard.

3) I am fond of SODA and WINE.

4) I am ambitious.

5) I am an atheist because I want to get a job after graduation.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hello World

I like to go out for a walk, sometimes for hours. It helps cheer me up when I feel depressed or demotivated, and on other occasions serves as a good pass time. Today was one such occasion that prompted me to take an evening jaunt across Duke campus. While contemplating about the existence of cosmos, the purpose behind our existence, and other serious issues of dubious importance, I suddenly discovered the three defining characteristics of a graduate student life:

1) Dedication

2) Motivation

3) Procrastination

It is the third characteristic that is most significant, for it ensures that one fine day you open a blog, and start writing a post not knowing what to write after all.

Welcome to my corner! I am an ordinary boy living in this extraordinary world; a hopeless geek wishing to articulate his own feelings and opinions but failing to do so with an amazing degree of accuracy.

I will try to come up with regular (and short) posts. If you are reading it, do leave a comment. I am a junior researcher and nothing excites me as much as good peer-reviews :-)