All Roads Lead to Philosophy?

Every time I logon to Facebook, I’m overwhelmed by a deluge of links and shares. Most of which is sheer hogwash!! I’m amazed by how gullible people can be and how it’s so easy to trick people into believing absolute crap. This is, of course, the backbone of Narendra Modi’s election campaign. But I’ll leave that for another time. Anyway, let’s get back on topic. There’s this persistent claim that keeps popping up in my newsfeed: that the Indian national anthem has been declared the best in the world by the UNESCO. Now, stop and think for a moment. Why would the UNESCO go through all that trouble? On what basis would national anthems be judged? On the ability to invoke patriotism, antiquity, lyrical quality or their musical appeal? I hope the absurdity of the whole thing is obvious to you at this point. That’s why I treat all such claims with a great deal of skepticism. As Abraham Lincoln once wisely said, ‘Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.‘ Man, he was spot on!!

I recently read online that clicking on the first link in the main body of any Wikipedia article, and then repeating the process for subsequent articles, will eventually lead you to the article on Philosophy. I found the claim to be plausible because the first sentence in every article usually categorizes that particular article. All the same, I wanted to try it out to see for myself. Call it the spirit of scientific enquiry, if you must.

So I decided to start off with the article on The Beatles. Here’s how the link flowchart worked out:
The Beatles, Rock Music, Popular Music, Musical Genre, Music, Art, Human Activities, Organisms, Biology, Natural Science, Science, Knowledge, Fact, Proof, Necessity and Sufficiency, Logic, Mathematics, Quantity, Property, Logic.
As you can see, I got stuck in a recursive loop once I got to Logic.

So the hypothesis doesn’t hold in this case, at any rate. Let’s consider this as an anomaly and start over, this time with Chelsea FC. Here’s how it breaks down:
Chelsea FC, Association Football, Names for Association Football, Association Football.
Damn. Recursive loop again!! I’m seriously starting to doubt the validity of this theory now. Further googling has revealed that the theory holds true for 94.52% of all articles (as of May 26, 2011). I find it highly improbable that I picked two articles that belonged to the remaining 5.48%. Either that or I must be really unlucky. No wonder I don’t have a girlfriend yet…

As they say, perseverance is the key to success, so I tried again. This time with Salvador Dali:
Salvador Dali, Spanish people, Nation, Culture, Classical Antiquity, History, Umbrella term, Term, Word, Linguistics, Science, Knowledge, Fact, Proof, Necessity and Sufficiency, Logic, Mathematics, Quantity, Property, Logic.
Oops!! We’re back on the yellow brick road that leads to recursive loop of Logic that we encountered earlier. Mission Failure!

One final try. This time, starting off with the article on India.
India, South Asia, South, Noun, Part of Speech, Grammar, Linguistics, Science, Knowledge, Fact, Proof, Necessity and Sufficiency, Logic, Mathematics, Quantity, Property, Logic.
D’oh! On the yellow brick road to the recursive loop of Logic again. Yet again, no success…

Screw it! I hate this theory.

The Principle of Arithmeticolinguistic Equivalence

As I walked out of the exam hall yesterday, one of my friends asked me, ‘How did the exam go?’ To which I replied, ‘Not bad.’ The next question was a googly: ‘So you’re saying it was good? That it was easy for you?’ HELL NO!! That wasn’t what I was trying to convey at all.

And that got me thinking… Good is the opposite of bad. And not is a word that is used for negation. So not bad should mean good, right? I realized that it wasn’t that simple and that there can be varying degrees of negation in language. That it isn’t like Boolean algebra: it’s not just about the zeroes and ones. All the numbers in between also matter. So on a scale of zero to one, with zero being really easy and one being insanely tough, I’d rate my exam as being a 0.42. In other words, it wasn’t half bad. Notice how even though I used the word half, it didn’t exactly signify a difficulty that corresponds to 0.5. That would be best described as an ‘okay exam.’ It’s precisely this: this non-equivalence that makes language beautiful. There might be poetry in mathematics and there might be mathematics in poetry, but I don’t think you can equate the two and call it ‘The Principle of Arithmeticolinguistic Equivalence.’

And this crazy beauty isn’t just confined to language. It extends to life as well. Everything isn’t just plain black or white. There’s plenty of grey in between as well. Fifty Shades of Grey, according to EL James. That’s why every cloud has a silver lining. It’s why what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. It’s why you don’t know who you sympathize with, when you watch a movie like The Prestige. One moment you’re rooting for Hugh Jackman’s character and the very next, you realize you feel sorry for Christian Bale’s character. I felt the same while watching Rush. My loyalties kept switching from James Hunt to Nikki Lauda throughout the course of the film. It wasn’t just about the acting, it was also about the writing. In both films, the rivals had plenty of grey in their characters that ensured that it wasn’t just a simple case of good versus evil. It wasn’t a Ramayana, if you will. Both sides were right, and both sides were wrong. Simultaneously. The definitions of good and evil might seem mutually exclusive but the reality is far from it. And now suddenly we’ve crossed over to the realm of quantum physics. It’s why light can simultaneously considered to be both a particle and a wave.

That’s all the philosophy I’ve got for today… Peace out.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to India

Because sometimes, Wikipedia just isn’t enough…

DisclaimerAll characters and events described in this post… even those based on real people… are entirely fictional. This post also contains badly written sarcasm and dry humour, and due to its content it should not be taken seriously by anyone. (Oh my god, you killed Kenny!)

Aadhar – Possibly India’s biggest black hole. The incumbent UPA government has spent an estimated 38 billion rupees on the project but the BJP national general secretary Ananth Kumar has stated that the project will be scrapped if the NDA is voted into power in the ongoing general elections. What a waste of money! But India is not alone in this respect. To quote Bill Bryson, on the Superconducting Supercollider from his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything: ‘In perhaps the finest example in history of pouring money into a hole in the ground, (US) Congress spent $2 billion on the project, then cancelled it in 1993 after 22 kilometers of tunnel had been dug. So Texas now boasts of the most expensive hole in the universe.‘ Now that’s literally pouring money into a black hole!

Alphonso Mangoes – What India sells to the US in exchange for Harley-Davidson’s. Who’s the Fat Boy now, huh?

Arnab Goswami – The lone crusader in this country against corruption. Has been given the moniker, ‘Supreme Court‘. Since he’s the guardian of the Indian constitution.

Arvind Kejriwal – Youth icon. Brought Nehru caps back into fashion. And has somehow got everyone talking about 69. Or maybe it was 49? He got himself inked during a recent election campaign, probably to gain the support of the urban youth. The press hasn’t been able to get a proper snap of the tattoo yet, though.

Bata – Every Indian’s favourite ‘indigenous’ footwear brand. Too bad that it’s an MNC headquartered in Switzerland.

Breaking News – The name by which stale news is sold in India. Just like rotten fish in markets is always sold as ‘fresh fish’.

Cricket – Insect belonging to the family, Grillidae. Virulent pest. Causes the loss of thousands of man-hours across the country. Particularly nasty swarms have been observed to attack every four years. Scientists are still perplexed. Laymen have made a religion out of it.

Curry – What Indians eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Known to cause Delhi Belly among foreigners.

Indian National Congress – Political party turned organized crime syndicate. Specializes in large-scale financial scams. Headed by Indo-Italian mafiosi.

Left – The direction in which all political parties turn to, when they’re short of a majority in Parliament.

Mulayam Singh Yadav – India’s greatest satirist. Nobody in the country seems to realize the satire behind his recent comments on rape incidents. Genius is often misunderstood. Bleh.

Narendra Modi – Political leader. Apparently a Faecist or some sort of shit like that. Hailed as the next Hitler by many. Even has his own version of the SS: the RSS.

Olay – Makes you seven years younger, apparently. I wouldn’t touch the thing myself. It’d make me twelve again. What if puberty isn’t as kind the second time around? (Parental Advisory: Keep out of the reach of young children. Unless of course, you want to get rid of them.)

Pakistan – India’s estranged sibling. Separated shortly after birth. Sibling rivalry is pretty intense. Pakistan is also proof that grass is literally greener on the other side.

Politicians – People who can choose not to answer uncomfortable questions on national TV by saying, ‘I thought I was going to be interviewed, not interrogated.’ They have been unanimously barred from participating on Kaun Banega Crorepati because they have an unfair advantage in the Fastest Finger First round. They’re so used to pointing fingers at other people, you see.

Rajesh Koothrapalli – Stereotypical Indian guy. Smart, shy, weird. Can’t talk to women unless drunk yet married to a former Miss India. The power of arranged marriages never fails to astound me!

Raj Thackeray – Maharashtrian separatist leader. Pushing for nationhood of Maharashtra. Halfway there. Residents of UP and Bihar already need visas and work permits to enter Maharashtra.

Rakhi Sawant – Indian traditional culture revivalist. She is said to be in favor of doing away with matrimonial websites and newspaper classifieds, and returning to traditional Indian swayamwars. (Swayamwar, in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age.) Even did a reality to promote the same called Rakhi ka Swayamwar. Recently rumours have been going around that she has been approached by the BJP, following her announcement as an independent candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. ‘Rakhi is the very embodiment of traditional Indian culture and would be a huge asset to our national committee,’ according to a BJP worker, who prefers to stay anonymous.

RTI Act – What made the Congress realize that Shakespeare is still relevant: ‘……which, being taught, return to plague th’ inventor: this even-handed justice commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice to our own lips.’ If it wasn’t for the RTI Act, none of the UPA’s scams would have come out. Oh, the irony…

Third Front – Third wheel in the love-hate relationship between the Congress and the BJP.

Western Culture – The source of all of India’s problems. It just is. Now don’t argue, or the Sri Ram Sene will come and beat you up.

A Rhyme Worth A Dime?

I’ve always been amazed at how people manage to write poetry, especially poetry that rhymes. And I’ve tried too. A million times. But somehow, my rhymes just don’t work. And here are a couple that are just that. Hollow, artificial, meaningless, contrived, altogether worthless. No life in them, basically…

Every night at nine
Recklessly do I pine
For a chance with thee to dine.
In exchange, what would I not give:
Only all that can be called mine.
And thus, gallantly did I strive
To write nine
Of these completely shallow lines.
‘Tis not for my pleasure, but thine.

Her name was Rose.
Her sweet smile framed by a snub nose,
She was the very personification of sucrose.
Of that she was to me, an overdose.
Now she’s gone. To where, no one knows.
I find myself staring at my toes
Whenever I’m feeling too morose.

Now that you’ve seen my pathetic attempts at rhyming, take a look at what Eminem can do:

Then I got up and ran to the janitor’s storage booth
Kicked the door hinge loose and ripped out the four inch screws
Grabbed some sharp objects, brooms, and foreign tools
“This is for every time you took my orange juice,
or stole my seat in the lunchroom and drank my chocolate milk.

And to wind up today’s post, here’s a joke that I came up with today:

What does a Malayali mother call her son, who happens to be a budding artist?
Monet *Ba dum tss* (A rudimentary knowledge of Malayalam is essential to get this joke.)

Barely A Fresher Anymore

It’s been almost a year since I joined CET and it’s depressing knowing that one-fourth of my college life is already over. It seems like it was only yesterday that I joined CET. I can still remember the feeling of anticipation on my first day on campus. It was a completely new, yet strangely familiar feeling. It was like my first day at school all over again: wondering what my classroom would look like, whether my classmates would be fun, whether the professors would be nice. Over the past year, I’ve managed to figure out the answers to all those questions and many more.

The first few weeks were spent exploring the campus and finding my way around the college. It’s funny to think how scared I used to feel when I encountered seniors in the college bus or in the canteen. But thankfully, all that has changed. The senior-junior divide has been completely erased and it’s sickening to know that the present fourth years won’t be around next year.

The start of the year also saw special meetings and orientation programs for freshers organized by the Innovation Center, ISTE, IEEE, NSS, Debate Society, RoboCET, and so on. More than the time spent in actual classes, it is the time that I spent in these clubs that I cherish the most. The past few months have been a flurry of activity: with Disha (fresher’s inter-department fest), Sargam (inter-year fest), and department nights all providing hours of fun and joy.

Somehow in the midst of all this, we had to find time to do some actual studying. After two years of entrance preparation and cramming, the last thing you want to do in college is studying. But as engineering students, study we must, and we valiantly battled our way through assignment submissions, hours of workshops and engineering graphics, and series exams.

It’s funny to think that in a few months, I’ll be in my sophomore year and will be called ‘chettan’ by the next batch of freshers. And that I will be able to give them a few nuggets of wisdom: that it’s okay to just bunk class and chat with friends in Pancharakaad.  And that the joy of finally getting your workshop records certified is quite unlike any other. And that nothing is as satisfying as saying that you study at CET, when someone asks, ‘Mone, ethu engineering collegilaa padikunne?‘, on seeing the mini-drafter sticking out of your college bag.

As they say on campus, ‘CET verre levelaanu‘. And I’m proud to be a CETian.

This article was originally written for the college alumni newsletter.