Posts Tagged ‘musing’

the learning curve

When I started writing for my first conference paper, I was confounded by many questions (funnily enough, none of them included my results, codes, derivations, figures, etc). They ranged from more trivial ones like ‘should I call myself P. Agharkar or P. H. Agharkar or something else’ to more technical ones related to the ‘art of scientific writing’. Like any other subject, I found books on this one too [1]. Since I had no appetite for reading whole books on the subject for the time being, I stopped at Whitesides’ paper on writing a paper. One of the technical questions I had, was whether I should write in Word or LaTex. Like most other things in life (not all, by the way) LaTex is better than Word but more difficult at the outset. Although difficult to learn, it is much easy to live with, once you get a hang of it. People dissuaded by the initial learning curve not only compromise on the overall quality of documents, but they also miss out on the convenience called LaTex. I gave laTex a shot and it took me just about 2 days to get a hang of it. Its doubtful if I will ever write a document in Word again, time will tell).

There are so many such things in life, which require a learning curve. Some of them good, some bad by the way. A friend was telling me how she’s learning to like the taste of alcohol. I said “Don’t. Try learning something else”.

We miss out on so many opportunities because we are wary of the initial learning curve. Perhaps we aren’t convinced of the rewards at the ends of curves, perhaps we don’t want them badly enough. Perhaps, the former reason leads to the later?

I have been using the term ‘learning curve’ with so much ease in the post, that I decided I better know what I’m talking about. Wiki came to the rescue, as usual.

Talking of learning curves, here is Calvin’s struggle with learning Maths [2]. A typical Calvin and Hobbes.

Click to enlarge

[1] I find very few inspirational and topical books impressive and/or convincing. Its me, not them. I am just too cynical I guess. Also, I don’t believe that there is only one way to do things and if there is, there is one person who knows it completely. Life is more complicated than that, right?

[2] Courtesy: GSD, for sharing cartoons and articles from Asian Age.

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an experiment

I name this post an ‘experiment’ for want of a better title! But yes, it did involve an experiment. I am bored with my way of writing and wanted to see how some one else would say the same things in a different way. And one friend readily obliged to ‘edit’ my post. 10 points to any one who identifies the style. Now for the post..

“It’s been a brilliant journey of self-awakening. And now you’ve simply got to ask yourself this: What is happiness to you, David?” from Vanilla Sky (2001)

Except for the Sri Sri, who thinks chasing happiness only leads to unhappiness, and this friend of mine who actively seeks pain, everyone seems to desire happiness. I think Sri Ravishankar might have a point, though.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Development) is an organization that conducts conferences which have talks by people from a widely varied set of people who are experts in their fields, talks that are aimed at the scientifically literate layman. This particular series of talks deals with the pursuit of happiness. As is usual with TED, there were many points of view – scientific, spiritual, philosophical and, perhaps not least importantly, tongue-in-cheek!

The talk by Dan Gilbert was particularly interesting. His hypothesis is disconcerting and yet seems to confirm what one already suspects. He says:

Happiness can be synthesized. Whats more, this synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness one stumbles upon when one gets exactly what she is aiming for.

The talk, in fact, piqued my interest enough that I thought I’d get some first-hand data myself. I asked a bunch of my friends what the emotion they associate most closely with happiness is. The reasoning was this: a plausible route to happiness is: Desire – effort – success – contentment – happiness. ‘Contentment’, for example, was the most common reply I got. I think it makes sense to ask if this is the only ‘route’ to happiness. Perhaps not – a free meal or good weather may make one happy as well.

In which case, we should ask if there is a ‘better way’ to achieve happiness; Or if the same ‘route’ will lead to happiness every time. (Would you be happy mooching off somebody else every day?) Adventure, pleasant memories, compliments, etc make people happy too. Perhaps paradoxically, is it possible that happiness lies in the pursuit of something rather than in the goal itself?

I read somewhere, that you need to desire happiness to be happy. And this is so true. We are as happy as we want to be. When people are unhappy, they do not always synthesize happiness. A lot of times, they would rather prefer to stay unhappy for whatever time. Is it true then, that we don’t wish to be happy all the time? That while being contented makes one happy, sometimes there is contentment in being unhappy? My point is that discontentment probably isn’t always a bad thing.

[The lines of ‘Phir Dekhiye’ from Rock On!, that deal with discontentment]:

Aankhon Mein Jis Ke Koi To Khwaaab Hai

Khush Hai Wahin Jo Thoda Betaaab Hai

Zindagi Mein Koi Arzooo Kijiye

Phir Dekhiye

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are you lonesome tonight?

I lost. I lost miserably. I was almost shattered. In spite of knowing that it won’t last long, this pang of defeat, I was still shattered. And I thought she would feel so too. But she didn’t. She had a life of her own. She was listening to an entirely different song, registering totally different emotions from the situation. And I felt so lost, so lonely. And the weird part is that I didn’t blame her for not being sympathetic to my situation. It was more like a realization. Of what? I am not too sure. Let’s say it just brushed past me and I was too meek to look at it in the face.

The realization:

It is a very unpleasant fact as facts many a times are. Harsh truths. Unspeakable realities. We are on our own in this world, have always been so. We were born alone, we die alone and loneliness or rather aloneness touches us every now and then throughout our life too. And many a times it’s not a very pleasant emotion either. So the struggle to brush it off.


Loneliness can be quite an ordeal at times. It is one of the most profound and disturbing of human experiences to strike people in their lifetimes. If we look closely into this sense of loneliness, we find that it is composed of several elements: nostalgia, sadness, silence, and a yearning imagination for “something else” not here, not now. These are probably the times when we wake up from illusions that life has to offer, with all the relationships and emotions, which have people in them. So much is the dependence on them that our story is incomplete without them. The absence of these characters can shake the very basis of our play.

But then, many a times it’s not so unpleasant either. Our language has widely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone. The puzzle is, why is it so pleasant sometimes and so unpleasant on other occasions?

Being by ourselves means no pretensions, no following unwritten codes of social conduct, no expressing interest in something just because you are expected to, no flattering others just so you don’t end up hurting someone. On the contrary being ourselves is being original and honest. We know everything about ourselves, well, better than what most other people do anyway, we agree with whatever we have to say (like duh!) so no arguments. We love ourselves (at least I do). So there you go, you are as such the best company you can ever have.

“We wait all these years to find someone who understands us, I thought, someone who accepts us as we are, someone with a wizard’s power to melt stone to sunlight, who can bring us happiness in spite of trials, who can face our dragons in the night, who can transform us into the soul we choose to be. Just yesterday I found that magical Someone is the face we see in the mirror: It’s us and our homemade masks.”

Ending on a philosophical notes, a few lines from Siddhartha.

Over the earth there lead
Many roads and paths,
But all have
The same goal.

You can ride and travel
By two and by three,
But the last step
You must go alone.

So there is no knowledge
Or skill or ability so good,
But that everything difficult one must
Do alone.

-Hermann Hesse

However uncalled for it might be, or however desirable at times, loneliness is a part of our life whether we like it or not. Ok, now you may yawn.

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I am one of those people who almost have an aversion to poetry. I can not look at them for longer than a couple of seconds leave alone read whole poems. This is my first attempt at writing one, and I am not counting the English classes in school where we would be forced to write stuff about saving trees and appreciating the nature.

I found a quote which should make me feel good.

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.

-Oscar Wilde

Needless to say, this is a genuine and no-frills effort. And don’t search for rhyming words. You wont find any. So, here goes


Having chilled beer on a breezy beach

Feeling course sand brush your feet

Sipping red wine in dim moonlight

Playing Mozart effortlessly on the piano

Sketching your desire in charcoal

While listening to your favorite song


Walking in a dark empty street

With the man of your dreams

To turn on the heat


Finding never-never land

Where all your wishes come true

Where you always know what you want to do

Where the surprises are always pleasant

Serendipitous moments filled in

To give it an adventurous streak

Where plans don’t shatter

And hearts never break

Where people mean what they say

Where there are no dull moments

And you never feel lonely and lost

The fairytale world which I just drew

Now isn’t it just too perfect to be true?

So here I am

In this confusing world

Maybe it’s my fault after all

That I feel so lost

Feeling euphoric now

And depressed later

Wondering what brought about the lull

Who stopped the clock and whispered

“Nothing matters, it’s all pointless”

Who made me believe that this is all a mirage?

It felt like this was going to last for ever

But thanks to a mystery force though

The sun lit back again

I again swung back into my merry mood

It made me smile and fooled me into believing

That another pleasant moment was going to last forever.

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