Thursday, July 29, 2010

A sad day at the office.

Today I had to complete the grading and upload the marks for the class test. As soon as I done with the uploading, I saw this mail from a student. He must have been waiting eagerly. He got a very low score in the test. His mail was to confirm if the marks were the same and not a mistake. I too had noticed his paper while correcting. He is usually above average in the class and I was surprised at many of the mistakes in the paper. Some of the easy questions were not even answered. I had moved onto correct other papers thinking about the carelessness.
As it turns out, someone close by him passed away on the day before exam and he was not focusing well enough. I think the low score in the exam was another blow for him. He dropped the course. I felt really sorry for the guy. I went through the paper once more. There was nothing I could do, there was simply no place to give more marks. Probably I could have talked to proper authorities and given a retest. But now that he dropped, it is not possible.

© Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS

This reminded of a story that I read some time back....
"A man was sitting on the chair in a railway station. His children were playing and soon their playful voices raised into high pitched giggle and merry making. A young lady sitting on the nearby seat was trying to read a book. She got irritated by the noise; even worse she was angry at the guy who was not scolding his children to behave themselves in a public place. When it got intolerable, she decided to confront him. She got the near the guy and spoke;
"Would you mind asking your children to keep their voices down."
He seemed to be in a trance. He slowly looked at her as if he didn't hear. Her voice carried a sense of annoyance at the irresponsible parent.
"I was just wondering, if you could ask your children to keep their voices down."
The guy replied, " They lost their mom today, they don't know that yet. I am sorry I couldn't bring myself to .. " his voice trailed.

Isn't this the case for many other things in life ? You see only the tip of the people you interact with. You can never see the complex emotions . You never see the chain of events that happened leading to an action. We the mortals !!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Into the wild

"We're all put to the test... but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it? . This is where civilization end and survival begins." - Charles Moses (Played by Anthony Hopkins, The Edge(1997) ) .

(source of images: from internet)

As he turned around, he realized that the slow moving fog he saw earlier has engulfed him. His headlight was of not much help, it was not penetrating the thick fog. That is why they call it the smoky mountains; this IS really smoky, he mused. He had just gone to pee, some 100 feet into the forest from, the trail to the camp and was about to return to the camp site by the same trail. As he tried to find the trail, he realized that it is not so easy to find a small trail at night. He tried hard to hear the faintest of the sound of his teammates. There were none. He moved slowly. With every step he made the fear of getting lost crept into him. He heard a movement some 30 feet in front of him. He raised his head and looked ahead. Two eyes were gleaming at him from the thick forest. It had a red glow, reflecting from his headlight. He froze. Words echoed in his mind, "If you see a bear, don't run. It can easily out run you. They don't want to attack you, they are just looking for food with you. Stay calm, walk away". He gulped and gripped his pocket knife tighter. "Ok, if I am going to fight a bear, then so be it." He tried to see how big it was. As he stared, he could see a faint brown color . He looked once more at its face. It made a sudden move to the left, he jumped back as a reflex, just in time to see the spots on the side. It was just a deer. He smiled sheepishly. He couldn't stop laughing his head off and started looking for the trail and finally found it. He headed back to the camp and reported, "I just saw a deer". Ben,his trek mate, was like "you just passed first standard" with the "Jackie-chan" smile. I smiled back. "okie."

From the beginning
Manu : So Lauran, how long is the trail ?
Lauran : Hmm(biting lips, thinking) .... About 7 miles.
Manu : Oh that is it ?
Lauran passes a knowing cute smile at the first time hiker.
Lauran : Don't worry, we are going to give you some pretty good challenges. So, you are all set to go ? Can we go through the stuffs in the backpack and make sure you got everything.

I was meeting group leader Lauran, for the shake down of the backpacktrip organised by TRiP at UF. Anyone who knows me, would be knowing the lazy boy I am when it comes to getting of my desk and doing something physical. So this came as a surprise to many of my friends when I fought my way, bribing Girish with 2 beers to get his spot, into a trip. The reason ? A couple of hundred fireflies decided to blink at the same time. You see, I always had an amazing respect for this little creature which carried around a flash light of its own.
Here is a link of the video of what that means .

(counter clockwise from top left : at UF, at mountain top,near stram,map,in the forest)

So twelve of us went to the smoky mountains to see this amazing once a year activity and then climb the Mount Le Conte, 6th tallest peak in the Eastern US, at 6953 feet.
The first day we setup the camp right inside the forest, made our own fire from leaves and matchsticks. I thought at first that it is going to be easy. You have the matches and dry leaves, so what is the big deal about it? It turns out,the leaves, though feels dry is not fully dry. So when you try to make fire, the matches didn't really light up the leaves. Soon we were running out of matches. Lauran and Jared (Group leaders) decided that they are not going to help us, so that we will figure it out on our own. Finally Marie came to the rescue. She is a pro in trekking . To spot her in the college, look around for a girl with a sweet smile and a T-shirt that says , "Geology Rocks". Finally we got it right. Then we had a mouthwatering meal with Tofu and onions, thanks to Lauran. Then we set up the tents, right in the middle of the woods and got ready to sleep. Rejisu and Arun setup the tent for us though I messed it up after "studying" how Marie did it. :D. Right about then, Jared called all of us for a team meeting.

Jared : So before we can all sleep, collect all your food and we should place it in the bear bag.
Us : What ?What is a bear bag ? there is a bear in the forest? !!
Jared : yes there are bears. Also Smoky mountains has a lot of visitors. Thus bears associate people with food. So if you have any food, we will keep all of it one bag and hang it far away from the tent. The idea is, even if a bear comes, it is not going to bother the people but will roam around the food and will go away unsuccessful.
Us : OKKK !! .. so we should take all our food items right ?
Lauran : yes, take anything that can possibly be of pleasant smell, peanut butter, Nutella , granular bars, chocolates, candies, tampons, toiletries, trash. Keep them in the bear bag.
So we slept that day, with the fearful dream of waking up, with a bear licking us. :D

(bear bag, breakfast, packing up again)

Next day morning, we woke up had breakfast did our bathroom routines and .. wait how did you go to bathroom ? Well, we do it like the cats do it. Go some 200 feet away from camp ground, in a totally different direction of the river, so that you don't contaminate your water source.Then, making sure we are not near any other trails, dig a hole with the shovel, do it into the hole, use sanitizer and tissue, clean up well, put that also in the hole and cover the hole properly. Some of my friends didn't want to come to the trip, just because this was inconvenient. But I don't think it is such a big deal, to miss an awesome trip like this. It is kind of uneasy, but that is the whole point of staying in the forest.
Next day we hiked all the way to the top of the mount Le Conte. It was hard on the legs and back. But there was an amazing waterfalls on the way. The water was so pure, and it was so cold that if you dip in it you will feel your brain freeze. I kind of felt dizzy after 2 minutes in the water, it was that cold. We take the mountain water for drinking too. Then we use iodine to kill bacteria in it and bleed the water from the bottle a little to get the drinking neck purified.

(brain freeze, at the fall, fall from a distance)
Then we hiked all the way to the top. We saw the sunset from the top of the mountains. Made a dinner, which falafel and chocolate dessert. It was sooo awesome. Again, thanks to Lauran.

Next day for getting down, we choose a different path, rainbow trails. I think it was called so because of the variety of plants in the trail, in different colors, making it look like a rainbow from a distance. The trail was loose and rocky. So it hurt the legs, my knees are still in pain.

All in all, this was the second best trip that I had ever been to, topping Shimla, Skandagiri and Kumarakam. I want to thank the trip leader Lauran, co-lead Jared and the official Jackie for making this trip such a pleasant one. They were so considerate of the first timers, responsible and were really cool even under real real pressure. (I was with atleast one of them at all times and I really learned a lot.) Their sense of preserving nature is so commendable. They made sure that not one of spilled around anything in any of the camp sites, we carried all the trash downhill, even bits of paper, the plastic strip on top of plastic packages in short anything that we brought with us. They also made sure no one went out of the trail, so as not to make new trails and impacts the woods. The way they ardently stick to the principles, picking up even the tiniest of the plastic or paper in the camp site, even when it was easy to do the other way round is beyond praise. Way to go guys. You rock. Jai Ho guys ( just like Jackie says hurray in hindi ). :)

Hats off to our group leaders, Lauran(lead), Jackie(official from UF), Jared (co-lead)

Picture Courtesy :
Arun Purushu

For more trip pictures see,

Saturday, May 22, 2010

For a friend, by a friend.

Who said it can't be changed ? And what great victories has he to his credit which qualify him to judge others accurately - Napoleon Hill.

I was just saying adios to my family after the usual hour long skype call and was about to sleep. A friend pinged me
"Manu, can I talk to you. Are you busy?", she asked
I am never busy for a friend, so we talked. What she told me, freaked me.

She had a suspicion that her gmail account has been hacked by her in-laws, she wanted to know what she can do about it. She told me the whole story. It seems she is being treated poorly by her in laws for want of dowry. At first it was just verbal abuse. Now it has turned to occasional physical violence. She was not crying. As she says, "I don't cry anymore Manu, I have accepted this, I don't feel anything now".

Think about this girl, she could be anyone in your friends list. She used to have a job before marriage, she had to leave all that to be with this guy. This guy, he is not some weird guy, he holds respectable position in a very reputable company. Both are from typical middle class families. I am writing this, because she wanted me to tell her story, so that at least another girl won't have to go through what she has gone through. She wanted to tell how her family had took the pain to check the guy's background and how it came all clean. How no one told anything about him or family, though they knew all about this.The scariest part of it !!! The guy's family didn't even mention about dowry. Though she admits that they were curious, as to how much gold the parents were going to give to the girl ; but it was casual. The whole thing about gold being not enough, land to be transferred to her name, all started after marriage. Once the girl gets married, it is like a one way road unless you dare to get more hurt by the society.(more such stories about, about a divorcee in the links at the bottom of the page)

This is not the first story I have heard, but the previous ones hadn't come to the edge of physical abuse. I know a friend's friend, whose husband came to see their child once during birth and once during a ceremony. That is it, he didn't care about her well being or the child's, neither did his family. As I talk to more and more people, I hear new stories. Stories that are not disclosed for fear of shame.These are guys who look modern, with lucrative jobs, cooling glasses and supposedly well educated. They are friends with us, they are among our very own friends list. I guess being educated and being civilized are two different things that can get confused easily. I don't think, our educational system increases the morale in its disciples.

An awakening call to the guys and girls of my age. Do you really want to continue this tradition ? . For all you know, this might bite you back. Do we really need this. Don't we have enough problems already with caste, creed and religion.

I just want to warn the girls out there who are reading this, just make sure that guy's family background is good. If you ask enough people, you can find out enough. If no one says anything good, probably that is because they don't want to say anything bad . In case you can't do all this, there are successful detective agencies for that. I am not kidding, do you really want to play dice with your life ? The simple truth is, you do have the power to change it, say no to any guy or family who even remotely hints about money. You might have to wait longer, but you don't want to get into a spider's web do you?

I know the typical responses from guys, so I just want to give some preemptive answers
You are a guy right? What are you complaining about ? Paisa kittiya pullikkuvo ?

Paisa kittiya pulikkathonnum ella, but how many successful lottery winners do you know ? they have no clue what to do with the money. They end up spending it on alcohol and adultery. Only if you earn it, will it be useful to you. I guess very few people understand the difference between wealth and money. At least have a sense of self respect than to extort money from the girls poor parents. Do you think it is right to ask someone else money because they are marrying you to their dearest. The world around you will change, sooner or later you will be the one at the gun point. Would you stand and watch if this happens to your sister or cousin ?

And for those elderly people who might say Ninakku onnum ariyilla. Paisa-de vila enthannu ariyathathu kondu aanu engane okke parayunnathu. Kurachu kazhiyumbo manasilakum enthinanu njangalu angane paranjathu ennu. njagalu kurachu onam kooduthal undathu alle.

Just because people are elder doesn't mean they are wiser. They have seen a lot of life, I agree, but they still continue the very stupidity that their elder generation went through. And to think people younger to you know nothing of the world is the attitude of a frog in the well, come outside of the familiar tranquility of the home, see the world and tell me. And to say I haven't experienced poverty might not be completely true. I know the value of money and I have always earned it, the hard way. That is another story that my close friends can tell you.

I don't know how many will be laughing, how many will be sympathetic. Both doesn't change anything. If you believe that the system is wrong, that something needs to be changed then be that change. Do you remember the ad of that child pushing the heavy tree ?

the politicians run away, the police sleeps or stands helpless. It is time we do something. This is something that can be changed only by a community. Spread the word, talk to people, try to talk some sense into them. One of my friends is telling her views via facebook, twitter and her blog . it might change someone's attitude. Another is talking to his friends trying to convince them how this is bad. I convinced one guy, why dowry is bad ; what did you do today ?

Updates : Some things I read. It might kindle the fire in you as it did to me.

Thanks to all friends who are responding. If this helps to change atleast one person's viewpoint about dowry, then I would consider that she passed on a message to the world.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stranger in Paradise

"He jumped, and rose slowly in the air with a freedom he had never felt, and jumped again when he landed, and ran, and jumped, and ran again, with a body that responded perfectly to this glorious world, this paradise in which he found himself. A stranger so long and so lost- in paradise at last. " - Stranger in Paradise, Issac Asimov

A smile streaked across my face. This is not the first time I am teaching, but this is certainly the first time someone is paying me to teach. All this started when I decide to attend a class instructed by one of my friends. I was so inspired by her enthusiasm and the way she manages the class. I could see that it was not at all easy. You might want to go and ask your professor a question,. However there will be students forming a line to ask you questions. But sure, it looked so much fun. That is when I decided that I will certainly apply as a teaching assistant(TA) for the next semester. It was near the end of the sem, almost all the positions were filled. I knew I had little chance. I was not so much tensed as I was pretty sure that my professor can take me as a research assistant. So I was not so much worried about the fee waiver and stuff. But still somewhere inside me, I felt sad that I might have missed a chance because I applied a bit late into the semester. One day a mail came, "We have an opening for a TA position, are you interested ?". I didn't have to think twice.

So finally the day came for my first class. There were only very few students, which worked out well for me. So I started with my intro and the course-syllabus etc. That is when I thought of all the interesting professors that I have met in my life. How some of the classes are still fresh in my mind.
I still remember the class by my 12th standard Math professor, Venu sir. He was such an inspiration for me. Most students didn't seem to care about what he used to say. But for me, they were golden words. Even now, when the classes go, way over my head and I can't make head or tail of it, I hear my friends saying, "this class is too fast, the prof should slow down". That is when Venu sir's words voice inside me, "You shouldn't ask me to lower my bar of standard, instead try to catch up to mine. That is when you learn your best." I know he is right.
Then there was George sir. He is a fatherly figure. I guess he is one of the professors who can mix class with fun and knowledge. Everyone from the laziest guy to the most hardworking guy used to like him. For he cared for all of them and every one of them knew that.
I shouldn't forget to mention another of my favorite teacher, my language instructor. She is the one who told me why being a teacher is so awesome. "In an office, you have the same files every year and you go over them again and again. But for a teacher, each file before her is an entirely different student with a totally different character, box full of ideas and a very sharp questioning mind." I won't forget that ever.

Then there was this other chemistry teacher. Seeing my nonchalant attitude towards entrance preparation, my parents decided that I should join a entrance coaching center. It was pure hell for me, I didn't want to go there, but my parents can be intimidating at times. So reluctantly I went to the class. I had some classmates as well there. Some lazy, but smart bums (cough .. Alok, Nandi, Karthi..). After a few classes I was bored like hell, I just wanted to get out of there. I hated cramming like that for the exam. Then came this guy. We knew he was supposed to teach chemistry. But certainly he needed a lesson in dressing. His shirt was really faded, he had a chappal (flip-flop) and he had his hair and mustache unkept. After class we named him "Kroor Singh", the then ChandraKantha fame. He asked some simple question to our chemistry expert (cough, cough.. Karthi.). It was simple and she answered it easily. He looked directly into her eyes, in a questioning manner. She was sure of the answer. Right after seeing the attire, I had stopped paying attention. But, I heard her answer and ya that sounded right. Then the most surprising thing happened, he said the answer is wrong. I have often felt that being on the front bench is the best cover up for being absent minded in the class. Very few teachers really pick on front bench students. ;) :D . Obviously this guy was different. He picked on me. I was taken by surprise, I replied that I had the same answer in my mind, but if that was wrong, I needed to hear the question once more. He repeated and somehow I caught wind of the catch. It was some trick question.( Karthi still hates him for that, I am sure.) From that day onwards, I stopped evaluating people based on the dress code. He may not know how to comb his hair, but sure he knew his subject and that was what mattered. I loved his classes while I was there, but only his. As for the rest of the story, I managed to finally convince my parents that I hate these entrance coaching and went back to my favorite profs.

Then there was this professor in our under grad. He was a strange one, quite different from any of the professors I have ever seen. He was the first one who told us that if you want to leave the class you can, he doesn't mind and that he won't be taking attendance. The number obviously dwindled, since for many a mid-day sleep was a better investment than his class. The only people remained after some weeks were the Nine-point-someones ;) :P .. and some of us idiots. There was one more idiot, whom none of us expected to be there. Babu. He is a story by itself, but in short, he entered Ajayan sir's hit list. He was asked to be in all the classes. It was so funny to see him in the class, because even his classmates rarely got a chance to see him. So this prof was teaching us about poles in a system. The question boomed, "What is a pole?". The Nine-point-someones had the crisp, well rehearsed book definition which neither didn't make any sense, nor made any impact on the professor. Then he explained in simple words, with the example of the fan in the class what a pole meant. Babu asked so many weird questions, to the point we thought he was just fooling around, but he was not. That day I saw a prof, who knew what he was saying, was willing to spent any amount of time for genuine questions - a true professional in every sense. Every time I ask / tell some one what is a pole in a system, I remember him. I guess that was my first contact with great professors. Also in the same college was one of my ever favorite professor, Mr. David Solomon. He was our advisor, friend and mentor. Every one likes him. :) . He and Ajayan sir literally pushed some of the best ideas in the department like technical paper presentations etc. They inspired us to become thinking engineers than become engineers who studied to get a job.

Then I met this proud German. Frank Hund. He pushed us far past our abilities. It was hard to keep pace with him. He is, to this day, one of the sharpest minds that I have come across. He was the CEO of the company, he was our techincal advisor. He showed me setting himself as example that "you should delegate a job only if, given proper technical support, you can do it yourself." There was one favourite remark that everyone acquainted with him, would have heard. "You are looking at the trees and you are not seeing the forest".
I heard these same words, from one of my professors here. Lou Cattafesta... I still remember the first time I met him. he looked around the age of 30. I thought he was a post-doctorate fellow. The post-doc who hired me introduced me to him, "This is Lou Cattafesta".. I didn't catch the last name.. I him again "Lou.. what?". He repeated it twice I guess. Little did I know that I was shaking hands with one of the finest professors in University of Florida.He is one guy who can explain things in the most simple words. I have never been in his class, but I can imagine how good his classes will be. There has been situations, when any other profs would have shouted at us. But this guy, he is one of a kind, that does justice to what America calls "cooool..."

My association with some of the best professors here continue. Prof. Khargonekar, Prof.Gader, Prof. Banerjee... Awesome professors for whom I can continue to tell a tale..
Here I am in a place where I have seen the awesome-st professors that I have ever known, in a place where ideas are born, and rewarded for. This is a paradise.

Back to the class, so after the big pause, I continued.. " Where were we, ah !! the pole.. so.. What is.. a pole in a system.. .".
I loved it when the students came and asked all sorts of questions after the class. They even tried out some extra questions I had put. This is so much fun.
Now I need to prepare much more for the next class.

I want to thank all my teachers.I want to silently thank you for giving an opportunity, inspiring hopes and for creating a better tomorrow.

Image - Avatar, Cameron
Text - UF Shands Hospital

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The window seat

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,

All by himself and gathering brambles;
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Whenever I am on the move, it be bus, train or a plane I almost always go for a window seat. What is so special? Nothing much,but then; in a bus, I like the wind blowing on my face, in the case of train I would like to put my face touching the rails,feeling the gush of air, without any worry about the rust and dirt on the window. Also at times, to lean back and look out at the passing trees. If it is night, I would be watching the moon all the time. I love a train ride on a lovely moon lit night...I miss those days !!! Now in a plane, wow!!!! now that is an entirely different story. I just simple love the queen of the skies, the raw power of the roaring engines and the beauty of the wings which take you into thin air.Always an inspiring moment.
So as usual, on this one fine morning I am going to the college and I am of course in my favorite spot.
The bus is fully occupied. Most of them are students going to the college. I see this couple on one of the seats,looking at each other. .I smile inside, 'ah.. there goes a lovely romantic couple'. As I try not to look at the them and think of something more useful, like where is today's free pizza,the bus moves into a bus stop. I take my eye off the road and take a look at the door, oh oh.. my lovely couple, they are deeply engaged in a dead lock kiss, a french one. :) . I felt a small tug of pain deep inside. I had started thinking about some of my own sweet moments. Then I see this beautiful young lady in her late thirties, boarding the bus. There is no seat in the bus and she decides to stand near the lovely couples. I am not sure what to do now. In this country, is it fine to stand up and offer her a seat. Then again, this is the land of 'women equality' and 'women empowerment' . Of all the things in the world, today, I am not looking forward to hear "oh my!! , thank youuuu.... that is soooo sweet of you, but I had rather stand here" statement.

My mind transcends to sometime back. I was a cute little boy back then, I am back in the good old KSRTC buses. It is a bumpy ride, it is a long way to go. Almost all the seats are taken, and I ; I am in my favorite spot, a window seat. I can see most of the seats. Most of them are middle class people, dwelling in their own thoughts and worries. In the seat just in front of me, I see this sweet couple. He is a gentleman and she is quite a lady. They too seem to be liking this ride. I can sense their occasional glances at me from time to time, but I never really cared. I had a lot of things to see out through the window. I am sure, they love to talk to each other for any length of time. I have not a clue about what they are talking, but whatever it is, it must be something nice. They have been laughing, giving a smile at each other occasionally, looking outside through the window and his hand is kept always surrounding her shoulders. A gesture of his care and warmth I guess. Anyway, as usual I left them for the moment, only to be waken up by the sound of brakes as the bus pulled over at a bus stop. A lady in her mid thirties boarded the bus and started scanning for seats. The girl who is just returning from the office started taking out a book, careful not to make an eye contact. Ok, I said to myself it is time to leave my sweet spot. As I was about to stand up I saw the gentle man in front of me standing up, gave a kiss on his woman's forehead and offering the seat to the lady.Never in my life again, have I ever seen such love and such a gentle man. I had gone home that day, having reinstated my faith in humanity.

As I came back from my thoughts,I stood up and was about to offer 'the lady in this bus' my seat. But the bus stopped again and the lady disembarked the bus. A smile spread across my face as I sat back down in my seat. I was thinking how on that day; the gentleman took his son onto his lap, and sat on that window seat.

‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. - Hemmingway ( Movable feast)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You've got mail

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!" Joe Fox , that is right Joe F-O-X , in "you've got mail"

“I don’t understand, why do people go to star bucks to get a coffee !! I can make much better coffee than this” Taruja my project mate was musing. Well she is right, I agree. Star bucks coffee is not the best I know of. Then why is that on a otherwise fine evening I went to building A to get star bucks coffee and was told they were closing. Briskly walked to building D to get there before the star bucks closes only to find they are packing up. Then took my cycle and cycled all the way to building Z and stood in the line to get that special “tall iced mocha with cream please”. I was so happy to have that on that “otherwise normal” evening. I was like that kid holding on to the first trophy he ever got in his life. :)
That is crazy. Well, that is not so hard to imagine when it comes from me. ;)

So what is the point? Why do you go to star bucks. To me Starbucks holds special memories. Each time I go there I am reminded of the beautiful time I had. Those are the times I look back in life and muse about how things change over time. They say that you don’t remember days or months or years, you remember moments. Moments like a stare you got, a kind word to you, a simple missed call which brings back so many memories to you. When I am there this is what is going through my mind, all those sweet memories. So thank you Starbucks, not for the coffee alone; but for bringing back those moments.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Self Driving car

The legend goes that, Dr.Knight had created the world's most sophisticated artificially intelligent autonomous vehicle. Tt is called, The Knight Rider

Being born and brought up in a wealthy family, my mom was brought up with so much fun and energy. Being the little sister of her two big brothers, she was the most pampered. She had everything she wanted in life. If there was anything that I felt she didn’t have; that was fear. I am not saying she is not afraid of anything in the world but the attitude she had to anything was that of fearlessness. She is very much a God fearing lady but ..... mortals intimidating her!! , you must be joking guys. The things that sometimes she does are so bold and outgoing that, anyone in the immediate vicinity will look up to her with awe.

Be it in a temple, railway station, government office or any other place where if it was I or dad it would have taken hours to get a thing done, she will get the same thing done in fifteen minutes. I just can’t believe the kind of contacts she has. Invariably she will know someone who knows someone there. If all else fails, no guard can stop a lady who says, “ I am Padma kumari Amma, from ERTL South,Central Government of India. It has worked even in passport office. Such an amazing social skill she has, which I am sad to say I inherited only in partial. Now that you got an idea of what kind of person my mom is, I would continue with this one particular story.

It all started when we went to Ettumanoor,kottayam her hometown. My uncle (her brother) had recently brought a brand new 4x4. The little girl in my mother very much wanted to drive it. She was like the typical Indian woman, who owned a drivers license but rarely get a chance to drive out of ‘non-support’ from the family. She was a short plump woman, so it was difficult to see the front when she was in the drivers seat. Some pillows solved this shortcoming. Yet we could see the struggle she was having. My dad was skeptic about she driving it, but it was her brother’s kingdom and he was the ruler so that settled it. She gradually gave the accelerator and the vehicle started moving backward..oops the gear.. she changed it and with a horse like jerk it started to move, first slowly then a bit more faster. As we watched with wonder at the ease at which she is driving we saw the jeep moving slightly away from the road. We waited it to steer back to the road, but that never happened. Oops... so as it moved outside the road we started saying “amme amme.. turn it this side... ”. The car slowed down as it entered the grass, just as we sighed... instead of giving brake, mom pressed the accelerator. Shoooo... here goes the car straight through the grass and BANG !!!!.. hit the mango tree ... a part of the tree fell off. We rushed on to the spot, really worried. Poor mom, was there, a bit scared. While we were helping her out she had a sheepish smile.

By this incident she was shaken, though not stirred. Also this gave some supporting evidence to dads skeptism of her driving a car. All this wouldn't shake her. My mom is a strong woman. After some months she did take our old Maruthi 800, and drove all by herself. If dad is there she says, she will get nervous. Ignoring all our plea shecontinued to take the car even after many parts of the car lost paint on it. ;) . Finally, now she drives from home to office and back on her own. Our teasing didn't stop there. We continued to tease her that now, the car knows the path so well that it is driving by itself!! :) [ By the way, My mom had drivers license long before dad had taken one, or even before we even had a car. Told you, she has such a good network of friends. ;) ]

It was last autumn that I understood the importance of her perseverance. Driving a car was not about an easy way of transport, it was about independence. She has to no more worry about the auto rickshaws, crowd in the bus or walking long distance. She was a free bird. Once when dad was away on an official tour , I managed to bruise my ankles quite extensively. :) .

That day while I was sitting beside her and she was driving me to hospital, I noticed quite a number of flaws in her driving. I kept quite, I knew that it didn't matter... she is getting done,what needs to be done. :) .
she showed me what womenhood meant, the strength, perseverance,patience and care lying within. So here I present before you Ms.PadmaKumari Amma from ERTL south, additional director by designation, respected social lady by position, caring wife and above all a loving mother.

Sidenote : Now she drives the car nicely and she has taken charge of teaching my sister how to drive a car. The story goes that, now she is almost repeating the same words which my dad used while teaching mom. :) [ even the shoutings like, accelarator alla, clutch clutch]

Update : Guys, if you reach till here, do comment. So I can tell mom, "Mom, you are famous now" :)