On Paper

I.

I just wish to know if there is a word for the feeling which is more of an urge, an urge to write on an empty page. To fill it up with letters and curves or anything else that necessarily need not be read, but not let it be so blank anymore. And sometimes when it is a ream of paper or even a half, the feeling compounds as if it were measured by the thickness of the pile.

I get fidgety around piles of paper but the only thing that stops me is the lack of ideas I have at that moment. It is strange how emptiness reflects back from page into this mind. And someday I will have enough ideas and time and then I will fill them all up, perhaps in that pile of paper I will come across and create the word I seek, for this feeling which is more of an urge.

 

II.

Paper is expensive. Paper just looks cheap. – that is what my father said. He said this often when we solved math problems in the empty margins and spaces of the Sunday newspaper- the idea was to be resourceful while also being free to err. The correct solution was then copied down to the notebook, which was tamed and boring compared to the newspaper and offered no joys like working on an already used page. The space in between the photos and the text came in new structures and horizons with every page to embrace the graphite infestation of the weekend we were to seed in it. It really confined the solution and also taught me quite early in life to work inside a framework which was empty & dynamic and hence made up like almost all frameworks out there in the real world. A decade later yet every now and then I still find myself writing in between the margins, articles and columns of old newspapers but usually it is only names of people and their numbers, the symbols are gone and it is not the same.

I feel bad for every space and margin on a Sunday newspaper that I missed filling up with my infestations so far.

 

III.

I liked to draw everyday, my mind could fill up any blank page within minutes but such is the privilege of being a child I suppose and there isn’t anything special about it. Yet we lose it quick, this usual reality which later stays and becomes a gift to the few while some of us spend our entire lives trying to claim a part of it back. My mind consumed paper and paper was all it needed.

So, my father would get two A4 sheets for me from his office, five days a week for almost six years. Sometimes he would also get the flowers from his office on Fridays so that they didn’t wither in loneliness in a dark room on a desk over the weekend. Or maybe he hoped that life would seep away from them slowly in the presence of our family and the comfort of a home. You tend to find the deeper meaning in the actions of boring romantics like him, all you have to do is remember them even if it is too late. At times when he was over-encumbered, the stems of these flowers used to stain my pristine paper sheets with light drops of pink or green because they shared the same hand for a brief distance. I drew around them – these epitaphs of flowers.

I used to be done with both the pages (all four faces) within an hour or two. I suppose it is the only thing that I could claim to have done religiously in my entire life. When I cut down on the drawing aspect because of the hectic later years of my school and the many new passions that I had found, my father would still occasionally leave a few sheets at my study table as a reminder, or maybe as a way to pull me back into what I had always loved doing, or just as a way to remember that dead child which was my past and still his son.

 

IV.

I collect used paper and fill its unused sides. Reused pages deserve a book just like books printed on one side of the page deserve to be filled up on the other. Contrary to what many might feel, paper feels even more precious to me now than ever. Paper is alive. It feels like the bearer of information who should not be discarded away after hearing only the news he was supposed to bring. He should be allowed rest and asked about the other aspects of his life.

This brings me back to the ream again. A ream, or maybe less, of used paper deserves a word of its own more than just a ‘pile’ or a ‘stack’. The feeling is the strongest when I write on such reams, their fibers now having aged and absorbed the moisture like man gets rigid with his own wisdom. The pile gently gives in and pushes back against one’s movements as if it were alive, as if it were a skin – a characteristic which fresh pages lack. This feeling, if not the others then this, I definitely hope that there is a word for that.

 

Advertisements

Seeds Of Paranoia: Bengaluru’s New Year

– A newspaper reports of ‘mass molestation’ on the new year’s eve in Bengaluru with nothing as proof but pictures of people who look hammered – both men and women! But the blurred faces in the photographs instantly fire something in our heads which resonates with the word ‘victim’.

– While still questionable, one should not completely rule out that there must have been a good amount of scum in that crowd, there always is.

– Someone writes about her experience and ‘fight’ on social media rather than going to the cops. The excuse of maintaining anonymity is not there anymore but the legal method is still not approached.

– A few ministers from a distant decade make comments which are alright within their realm of understanding but the context is misinterpreted and propagated even further.

– CCTV footage shows nothing of the sort happening at the event. The reporting media outlet makes up excuses when asked to provide the people with further proof.

– One clip of a single attack arises BUT from a different part of the city. Media mobs it and pushes it along with the now questionable piece of news which started it all.

– The culprits of this singular event are apprehended. It turns out they had been stalking the victim for a while – not a case which is exclusive to Indian sex offenders.

– Still no proof of the aforementioned ‘mass molestation’.

– Meanwhile, Indian men get schooled by almost everyone on how they should not rape a woman when they see one.

– International media joins in. The information gets more muddy at their end.

– Everyone projects their righteousness through open letters, articles and hashtags (which slyly shift the aim now to the statements of the ministers rather than the actual issue) while circle-jerking each other aggressively.

– At this point, it is no more about justice, truth or even women’s rights but has rather reduced itself to a game of ‘Look at me! I am nicer, more aware, sensitive and hence better than you. Now like my post and share it so that I get featured somewhere.’

I would really love to see any progress made once that train of thought appears in a movement.

Security: Reshape Your Passwords

Passwords are a complexity we purposefully introduce into our lives while wishing at the same time for them to be easier to remember. The resulting trade-off is that the best ones are which you highly risk forgetting and the easy ones can be guessed by anyone who has known you long enough or has the skills with a computer along with the time and the wits to socially engineer it out of you. In short, a great password is the perfect one to forget.

With this, you might recall that alphanumeric password which makes use of your sibling’s birth date and your driver’s license with a few exotic symbols thrown in between for good but will you be as sure of that one symbol you used once you return to re-type it in somewhere after, say, six months? What about images with sentences you came up with to have a string of random words birthed from your imagination? That too sounds like a good solution doesn’t it? Having a password which is quickly available to our memory yet hidden is such a huge problem that it has bothered security experts as much as it bothers a careful teen wishing for some privacy on the family computer. To add to that, experts advise that you should keep each password different from the other so that a single event of compromise doesn’t open a gateway to all of your accounts. With that, remembering these many new passwords becomes difficult and thus come the password lockers which require a password of their own. The question thus becomes – how does an average and a lazy user like me keep an easy yet a secure password? Before I continue I would like to clarify that this is just an idea I am spewing out the effectiveness of which has not been tested mathematically nor practically – as you read this, many a good cryptographers, programmers and mathematicians are toiling through millions of lines of code to fix newly found breaches and it would be unjust to call this an actual & legit tool or a solution in front of all their efforts.

Even if I tell you how to create your password, which does give it some sort of a rule/algorithm, it is very difficult to guess what you must have chosen. The reason is that you (probably) have the entire grid spread out in front of you which everyone else can also see but only you have a special shape in there somewhere which you somehow remember. Also, this is the best thing over something like ‘password’ or ‘1234’ us simple folks prefer to choose as a password. Since most passwords require the use of a keyboard, we have the keyboard itself as the available hint to your mind. The rest is done by how you view and put things over it spatially or as how your eye sees it. This method is partly dependant on how an individual recognizes a letter and writes it. Imagine it to be something like a cross of a handwriting recognition crossed with the pattern based lock on your smartphone.

The method can be demonstrated as follows – take for example the letter L.

Now, press the keys in accordance with how you would make the letter L with the keys as dots on the entire keyboard. For the sake of demonstration, consider that the L must pass through the ‘5’ on your keyboard. (And trace these letters as I have typed them so that the idea comes across at its clearest)

Did you type in – ‘5rdxcv’ or ‘5rdxcvb’?

Or do you prefer to begin with the bottom – bvcxdr5 or vcxdr5?

Or you like to take the lines of the L separately – 5rdxxcvb/5rdxbvcx/xcvbxdr5?

Or do you view the italicized L differently as –  5tgbnm?

Or is it crooked/cursive – 5tfcvbn?

All you need to know is the letter, the starting key and how you write a letter (which you would anyway know). If you need more complexity and trust your memory, make the same with three lettered words or symbols. With each extra space/digit and each symbol, you add exponentially to the time and processing power it would take to break into your account. You can simply imprint this onto your memory by typing in the shape about 7 or 8 times.

The biggest drawback of this method is that someone can look at your personal computer’s keyboard and probably guess what keys you strike the most. The wearing out of the keys is dependent on how often you put in the password and how long have you worked on that single machine. Also, a software could check all the permutations and combinations possible with every letter and symbol around a select key and run through the entire keyboard but that would take much more time than running through a standard language dictionary for sure. But, in case someone is really hell-bent to break into your account, with time and enough computing power they absolutely will because no system should be assumed to be perfectly secure. Now until the tech community brings about a password revolution or a simple tried-and-tested method, I think sticking to shapes on the keyboard can be any simpleton’s best bet.

So, what’s your letter?

 

If you want to read about scientific work done on the subject of keyboard patterns and password, you can start with these papers:

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=5375544

http://www.ijicic.org/ijicic-10-09032.pdf

Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi is one of the finest examples of an experience very rare in life when art is surely able to carry you to a different place. I have rarely seen films end on such a powerful note but then again, I have not seen many movies like this. Though today was the third time I was seeing this and it blew me away harder and better than it had the first time.

The part which totally dissociated me from myself and in towards the film and its message was in fact one of the ending scenes where the exploded engine of Atlas-Centaur plummets through the atmosphere back towards the ground.  As it seemingly falls free yet tumbling against an unseen force which burns and bends it whenever it resits it too much, within a few minutes the now-absorbed viewer might suddenly remind himself to check whether this fall is really that long as shown or rather the director’s obnoxious little trick. The slow rotation and the burning up of metal section by section with each spin is terrific to see. This huge piece of human genius, dreams and effort condensed into a mass burns away right before your eyes against the bluest of skies.

Countless other interpretations could go in there and I am sure they do because this film is purely at a level that is meditative yet not focused on a certain message or agenda. All of this happens while Philip Glass takes you back to square one, back into the ground from where you came alongwith the melody of a primitive beginning now louder and more confident than ever – worried but optimistic. What else can represent the human spirit and life better than this I really do not know.

Familial

I do not know how it is for most people (and cultures), but for me, I relate family to late summer afternoons. It is usually during the summer break when either I used to visit my cousins and aunts or they used to come over. Every summer was one to look forward to.

Here in this darkened room where curtains dance with the persistent light from the outside to the draft of a cooler humming in from the window it blocks in some corner, keeping the ruthless summer along the edges of this house full of ten people or more – silent, well-fed and sleeping they are but something wakes me up. I assume it usually is a gulp from the bottle of water that has sweat itself over the table by now because someone forgot to put it back in the fridge.

They sprawl in threes and fours, the women and the kids; probably because this rest came unplanned though was foreseen as they fell asleep while chatting about the heavy lunch they had had. I glance over their calm faces, lost in their own dreams and worlds, they will never be this carefree or silent when together and awake. It is like a congregation they are participating in but one which no one else, not even they themselves, but only can I spectate..

Gracing With Uninvited Presence

I glided peacefully through a traffic jam keeping my footwork balanced between the clutch and the brake. While the traffic in its movement held the spirit of a lazy teenager trying to wake up for school on time on the first Monday morning after the Christmas break, its slumber broken by huge and hasty leaps, the music happened to be just the perfect thing present on my phone for that moment bringing in the much required calm in a mental state where usually there are waves of idea-slush gyrating inside one’s skull. It tamed and shaped what was otherwise a clunky and monotonous washing machine into a wine glass inside my head – a containment which is clear, fragile, smooth and reflective.

Post yesterday’s degeneracy and brain splitting discussions followed by a ten hour blackout, I had to drop Ishan back to the metro station but the traffic made us opt for a quick trip to McDonald’s which with each passing moment became more important than ever. Doing a very careful and an oh-so-smooth parallel park, I stepped out and cinematically pulled in the entire evening for my lungs to see. Even with my eyes closed and through the minor hints of the smells of petrol and rotting garbage could I tell that each breath held the bright navy blue sky accompanied by the warmer hues of the street lights below – the moment had been objectified, packed and successfully consumed. I was seeing with lungs.  

Right now, I am in a video shot at a boy’s ninth or tenth birthday party. I am blissfully lost in the background while oily crispiness of capitalism waltzes on my tongue. All of that but my mind is completely present at the other table as if it had been invited in person. I noticed how the mothers here are acting lamer than the kids. I can feel the jealousy and the competitiveness of the modern world behind their silly jokes and pleasant smiles. The conversation hurts intelligence on multiple levels but that is nothing in front of the most important issue at hand – the birthday boy really needs to cut down on his television intake, it would ruin him! Three and a half gulps of ice tea and a passing thought which is extremely funny pull me away for a while. The second time I return to the partying table less critical of things and people, I realize that a part of me in a moment of stupefied joy has been captured in a complete stranger’s memory. Someday the birthday-boy might watch that video with the same cringe I have right now and perhaps he would be able to spot it on the face of the weird guy sitting at the back who keeps turning around to look at the ruckus his friends are making.

After this absolutely silent yet a very engaging dinner, I further navigated through the traffic like it was a video game. By the time I dropped Ishan off at the station, the skies had darkened but the orange streetlights stayed steady dancing in and out of my car dashboard as I finally drove back home singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ loudly with my windows rolled up.

 

A Mascot So Corporate

The crowd’s warmth was too overwhelming for the poor air conditioning unit which was sweating and gasping with struggle in its own unique mechanical way. Everyone and everything felt on the edge and ready to break. It is simply amazing how even the slightest unexpected increase in footfall on a particular day can make private banks turn into old government offices. In the chaos, my wait took my gaze to something which is so commonly found in such environments and hence is as quickly neglected. It was either boredom or the lack of sleep which brought me to this conclusion but sitting there in the foyer of that bank I realized that plastic plants are the one true symbol of corporatism.

Think about it, what else holds better characteristics than this object which stands silently in boardrooms, desks and waiting areas across the world. Here, even the shadow below this artificial plant stays stagnant because the fluorescent light above its head won’t let it go anywhere. The light itself has a duty to ensure that there is nothing such as a night or day within these walls which can hinder the flow of shifts and capital. Don’t the businesses wish for employees like this plant – always present, looking and feeling human yet requiring negligible upkeep? Don’t the employees too not wish for a similar life like this plant’s – no need for self improvement because of a secure stagnation, no effort in a comfort zone without disturbance, challenges or growth but a rare cleanup just enough to brush off the dust. Is it not sad that these plants are manufactured and brought in specially inside buildings to mellow down the artificiality that is bursting through every corner and surface?

Pretending in this way that things are alive in the heart of the corporate machinery is the moment when we must stop and re-analyse our lives and histories among all the other things we have done in the name of progress.

For The Soldier

Soldiers are men who are sent in someone else’s battles under a flag which convinces them that the fight is their own. The discipline and the courage that drives them to stand first against a rain of ammunition directed towards their land shines through the grime, the blood and the smoke a war brings. Wars have been filled with instances that show the presence of the human soul in the mayhem which surprisingly feels misplaced but I believe wars are the most human thing we can witness. Wars are a cultural heritage of man that teach us about the fatal mistakes of our forefathers and in some unfortunate cases encourage us to repeat them.

I saw a very moving video today, it resulted in a buildup of something profound and sorrowful. The video is a footage from The Kargil War and shows Indian soldiers returning the dead bodies of their Pakistani counterparts to a party that has come to take them. These men were probably trying to blow up each other to bits only a day before this meeting and now in this moment they stand in the most gentlemanly order inside a bubble so exclusive that it makes them the closest to no one else but each other – even more than what they hold for their respective countries.

War never ends, it only changes form but within its flames you could always find two brothers looking at each other through a barrel as long as the men in comfortable rooms behind them tell them to do so. Both of them have a common wish that their sacrifices will be recognized and honored whether they live or die. The sad truth is that no medal or gun-salute back home can match the unsaid respect they hold for each other even if it is focused through a machine gun’s sight.

Vedic Fashion Comes With A Health Warning

As I strolled the lawns of a college through the lines of white tents standing on a budget destroyed by a student leader, my gaze was fixed straight through the movement of flesh and bone on nothing but the food stalls. Cuisines which I could not recognize let alone pronounce lay waiting for my tongue. The only problem was that in this fest, like most fests I had been to as a student, I didn’t have any money.

Planning with, for and against hunger, I found myself climbing a small hill that led to a stage which shot the latest techno tracks in hemispherical concussions towards the crimson skies. All I could imagine was a paper plate in my hand overloaded with samples from each of those food-stalls with oil glistening in the bright lamps that lit up this dream of mine. Sadly, the only thing that glistened right now was my salivating tongue.

The music reverberated from the buildings that towered around the stage and as I tried to make sense of it through the bass I ran into a man in a grey suit. He was speaking in a heavily accented English with two of his friends who seemed more like his bodyguards. His beard was cut short, he had a piercing in his left ear and had covered up his sunburnt skin with a lot of makeup – he obviously seemed important. As he tried to avoid me standing there and gazing at him, I instantly recognized the man. It was Baba Ramdev. The man himself. The man who bent himself through the masses to climb and sit atop a pharmaceutical empire that is giving international consumer product brands a run for their money. The same sodium laurylsulphate that Unilever sells gets a special Vedic property when sold under his name. He was the Yoga Prophet of Profit. Now his gaze and the quarter of its flicker caught this fool looking at him again.

I decided to not creep him out any more and started a simple conversation with him from which I learnt that he had been invited by this college to judge their fashion show- the main event of the night! I was heavily confused at this point as nothing was making sense and really felt like recording all of it because this was unbelievable. The conversation ended as quickly as it had started and a crowd began to assemble around us. I realized that the stalls would close soon and made a dash towards them to get a plate full of that unhealthy filth. The music started again, louder than before as the first model stepped on the ramp to the beats of an artist who was really famous in a chamber in my head. I looked ahead as I ran down the slope to see the tents drift further away with my ever increasing speed. I think I had been cured.

Sabse Bade Bhaisaahab

It did not take much for the truth to come out, only a mere twelve years even when it had always been present. What was more shameful than Salman Khan strolling out of the court after driving over a few people sleeping on the pavement was the support he got from his fans all along. Money had obviously influenced the Indian Judicial system like it always does but fame and popularity had also blinded the masses against a person’s proven misdeeds. He had accidentally killed one of their own and still these men cried and whistled when he briefly appeared and waved at them from his balcony. Celebrity worship took a new low when people started taking the effort to justify his actions. The shamelessness with which witnesses were bought off, evidence bent and the denial still running strong at the end of it was not only appalling but also a lesson about how in this country, you are a God if you make money by entertaining the lowest of the low.

Some defenses which the fans had were that Salman Khan is a great philanthropist and a helpful soul, his good deeds should sort of ‘cancel out’ his mistakes (and crimes) etc. It is true that Salman does a lot for those close to him and beyond but that has never been a legit defense in the court of law. What is surprising is that these defenses mostly come from the well-educated hard working subset of fans who usually support the correct issues (some sane voices have discussed this problem). It is great to see these very people use the tool of inductive reasoning in the way which really makes one tear up and break into a slow clap for their forefathers who fought and survived to see their collective genetic perfection stand up, sit down, log in and type this. They are still not paying enough importance to the fact that a man died because of him! All I have is a message for them: ‘Just imagine yourself on a fine evening walking down a pavement back from work with those glorious ideas behind that pretty face of yours. In your life, you hold value in some people’s eyes and you do not want to disappoint them or yourself but then, out of nowhere, an SUV swerves in and crushes you into a stew on the pavement. Your blood and bones crust up like pizza toppings before the cops arrive. Your entire life and its worth is summed down to (maybe) 50000 INR and your ageing parents don’t have the will or the money to fight this superstar whose twitter feed looks like a slambook of a fifteen year old. And then in the end he walks free.’ This sounds like a perfect plot for a Salman Khan movie with a social message! Wait… what?

We must get this simple thing straight – Salman made a mistake and he should be punished for it like any other citizen of this country. Or maybe I want to live in a world which is too far to reach or too deep in my dreams because here in the real one, some animals truly remain more equal than others. But even if, say, in a distant future should I forget this hit-and-run case, I would never forget Jai Ho. I am sure that I would be diagnosed with cancer anytime in the future just because I watched this film. For that if not for anything else, Salman Khan should definitely be hung.