Saturday, October 1, 2011

Size does matter!

Yes, it does!

Many of my friends often have heard me saying this; but for those who haven't: there are two kinds of buses in the world - the ones in which I fit, and those in which I don't. And one may also generalise the statement for anything - chairs, beds, bathrooms in old houses, trousers, t-shirts.. ahh..well, in case some people like SJB starts extrapolating from here, the list does not include everything.

People, its rude to stare! You came across a 6'2" species trying to fit himself standing inside a bus by bending his neck in an angle of 82.36 degree? Yes, that WAS me, and I have got cervical spondylitis for doing this drill over years. You have a problem with that?

And its not only the length. Here is what happened a couple of weeks ago:

I am out of jeans (almost all of them are torn apart to the extent of vandalism). So I was out in the market hunting trousers for myself. Although the chances of finding a right sized one in Chinsurah (lengthwise) is really fat, it was worth a try. But the best response I received is, "Nothing in stock right now. The best I can do is to special order one of your measures to our tailor".
Yours truly (hopefully): And by what time I am going to get that?
"Well, with the orders in hand and considering the puja rush, I think it will take at least three to four months provided our tailor agrees to make trousers with special measurements as yours".

So much for hometown shopping. Desperate yours truly came to Kolkata to search the bazars - there are a couple of them suffixing and prefixing (at this point I can't help remembering about spot fixing .. funny how the meaning relates to what prefixes and suffixes does with a word) to Big and Kolkata respectively - and was thwarted yet again. There must be others with my dimensions.. what the hell do they do?

This was the point when I went to Pantaloons.

A beautiful shop attendant (female, of course..can't leave too many loose ends now a days as people like SJB or AC are always looking for them) came forward asking, "Good afternoon sir! Are you looking for something particular?"
Yours truly (flustered): I'm just..yes, umm.. I am looking for a trouser.
Attendant $_{1}$: Could you be a little more precise .. jeans, formal, casual .. ?
Yours truly (more flustered): Jeans. Jeans. Or, cargo may be..
Attendant $_{1}$: Okay, you will find cargo at that corner. May be you can have a look at them first..
Yours truly: Okay..
And she took me to the pile of cargos at the first right corner of the large floor where another attendant (this time, thankfully, a male one) took charge.
Attendant $_{2}$: Size, sir?
Yours truly (jumping to the obvious): You mean length?
Attendant $_{2} (smiling)$: Your waist size.
Yours truly: Oh, thirty four I guess!
Attendant $_{2}$ (handing me a cargo): This one is thirty four. Give it a try first. Then you could decide the colour. The trial room is over there..
I tried.
Yours truly: Well, I think I need the next size.
Attendant $_{2}$ Here.. its thirty six. Try this.
I tried.
Yours truly: Umm.. this is not your largest, is it?
Attendant $_{2}$: What? It didn't fit?
Yours truly: Well, its a bit tight here and there..
Attendant $_{2}$ (thinking): Please wait a minute.
And he left me standing at the corner, anxious.

Attendant $_{2}$ returned after five minutes with attendant $_{1}$ and a measuring tape. I stood helpless and in utter discomfort while attendant $_{1}$ started measuring my waist (hell, why could it not be attendant $_{2}$?).
Attendant $_{1}$: Sir, thirty eight would be okay.
Yours truly (very embarrassed): You have some of them?
Attendant $_{1}$ (smiling broadly and pointing at a very far and completely deserted corner): Yes, but not of this brand. You see the farthest corner over there..? There you will find everything you need.. next to the cargo hanger is the pile of all; the base size of their t-shirts is forty two. Those would be perfect for you.

As they say, they believed in stimulating success, sustaining growth, empowering people, their dreams and making them real. They believed in all these until they came across me. I believe that they do not believe in sustaining growth any more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Conference and sarees

Conferences are fun ..

Dirty jeans, conference foods, late-night chats (face-to-face kinds), skipping boring presentations to wander off the venue exploring new places - I just love all these, let alone the always-and-only physics side of a conference.

A couple of days ago, SB (not the usual SB, for he re-abbreviated himself to SJB, giving considerable importance on J and using the new name in printing. This SB is my junior - a nice chap) was expressing his despair for not being able to attend an upcoming conference. I consoled him with some seniorly advice alright, but yes! He IS going to miss all the fun.

I planned to attend this programme since the moment I heard about it for the first time (February of this year to be particular, at Allahabad. Unlike me, I remember because the possibility of a trip to Cherrapunji along with the conference dawned at me at that very instant). I needed a team. I called up RDG from Allahabad and created excitation. I stirred up RS, PKM, SG and SGe as well. Thus I had formed my crew (Or, as Sheldon would have said, "I formed my crew thusly") - SGe could not join us at the end..pity!

Oh I tried to convince SJB also and failed. He has an immense inertia, and just at this point I remember that good old line from our physics schoolbooks, "mass is a measure of inertia".

So I attended this conference last month on my way back from the much awaited Shillong-Cherrapunji trip, a wonderful trip with luscious green landscapes (now I know why they call Shillong the Scotland of the East), roaring waterfalls and a five hundred rupees fine for photographing them (I am saving the story for another entry). They (read 'local organisers') accommodated us (read 'some of us', for they did not accommodate, recognise or certify those who only participated and did not present anything) at two beautiful places by the river, about twenty kilometre from the conference site. Yours truly and PKM adjusted in two joined beds along with a third guy (PKM did not present anything and like many others, got kicked out of the accommodation list by a mail saying 'please ignore my earlier mails' just a week before the conference when we were all about to pack our backpacks) while RDG, RS and SG had to climb five stories downstairs (unless the lift worked), climb uphill for five minutes (five was the key number - we were a team of five as well) and then again five stories up to reach their sanctum. I closed the door behind them at about 9:30PM only to open it again after fifteen minutes or so at the loud knock by a devastated-looking SG.

Yours Truly (alarmed): What the hell happened to you?

SG (panting frantically):k-keys .. I forgot the keys ..

And the conference began thusly.

The real show was staged next morning when RDG and Co. woke up in their refuge atop the hill and found themselves in isolation - no water, no electricity, no cell phone network and nobody to report to. Lift wasn't working (electrical gadgets don't work without electricity - simple) and help was temporarily and spatially separated by a climb five stories downstairs, five minutes downhill (may be less as it was downhill this time) and lastly five stories up. Classic, eh? Hence they turned up at breakfast with sweaty faces and sickened expressions only to be greeted by the innovative breakfast-menu: chowmin with channa. Sorry girls, couldn't warn you about that. We had no network as well.

You gotta admit - they showed real novelty in choosing the breakfast menu. Chowmin with channa, pasta with channa .. how many people start their day with this? Thank I don't know who, they arranged bread, banana and egg as well, saving our lives.

The most no-fun (or fun?) part was the trip to local market with RDG and Co. to buy things. They picked up sarees, mekhlas and things I don't know what they call them for hours, completely ignoring yours truly and PKM who hovered outside the shops, bored to hell. At one point, I could not help asking, "what is the standard algorithm for choosing sarees?"
RS (since she was done shopping and the others were still in the game, burying their noses under the pile of sarees): Why, that's easy!
Yours truly: Tell me!
RS: You gotta consider three things. Colour, pattern and size of the discrete patterns.
Yours truly: In what order?
RS: No order. Only the decisions on all these three parameters must unanimously be yes on his/her part who is choosing the saree. Say I come across a saree which has beautiful patterns sewed on the foreground, has a nice colour combination but does not have the right pattern-size, that is, I am not okay with the size. Then I can discard it at choose a new one.
Yours truly (like he understood every word): Hmm..

Subjective choices are always tough. It would have been far better if I could just input some parameters about a saree and my code would have given me a binary decision - yes or no.

I must admit, conferences are much less fun if the site has saree-shops around.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The rebellious me

Oh yes, the rebellious me!

Coming to think of it, it is perhaps not rebel..not per se. It is a rather desperate attempt to move the wheel that has been stuck for ages.

Or you might call this a rebel against my unbelievability.

You see, people don't believe me. They never believe me when I say that I need to pee in the middle of an important discussion that somehow involves me, no matter how serious my condition is. They don't believe me, and that too just because I have the remote, when I say that the TV just went dark all of a sudden and I didn't do anything. I guess there is something unbelievable about me, something unearthly that does not commute with our senses. I dunno what it is, but it is there.

The same happened again when my modem started to blink irregularly a month ago. Long since I had learned not to lose patience (mainly after I started research I became aware of the universal truth that in most of the cases, the reason of something unexpected is most likely some mistakes in my part) when something went wrong. So I calmed myself down, analysed the case logically, checked and cross-checked my deductions and then came to the conclusion that whatever wrong was there, it was in the modem. But that was the easy part; I still had to convince people, specially the Internet maintenance guys, that my modem wasn't working properly. And that, guys, wasn't easy.

What happened is something like this : I called up the maintenance and described the problem. They promptly came to my house and asked me to demonstrate the problem. I turned on the modem and bling! The link was there, steady as rock, superfast like never before.

See, there is a reason people don't believe me! I don't blame them, for this happens to me all the time. Whatever I say, people get thousands of opposite examples like what happened with my modem. But I had learnt to be patient. After a couple of days I went to the maintenance guys once again:
Me: Ahem..!
The maintenance personnel (looking up and positively disgusted): Yes..?
Me: My modem is still not working ..
The maintenance personnel (amused, I swear): And what is the problem this time .. ?
Me: Err..the modem is blinking all the time and never connecting..
The maintenance personnel (tapping his fingers on the table): Well, we are a little short of people right now. Why don't you bring your modem here? We may thoroughly test your gear then .. what say?

So I came back, gathered my modem and the power cord, put them in a polythene bag and went back. The engineer who attended me was hardly older than me. He powered the modem on and connected the LAN. My I don't know what slang to use modem blinked for a minute (not to mention that I, for that entire minute, remained immensely optimist thinking that at last I could show them what my problem was) and bling! The connection was established.

Any comments? Any suggestions? Have you ever seen somebody more unbelievable than me? Well, I havn't. But one thing you gotta admit - I have persistence. May be I was thwarted twice, but I did not give up! I waited for a few days and then started afresh. This time I dodged the maintenance department and went straight to the big boss. He listened to me carefully (clearly, the story of my unbelievable unbelievability had not reached him yet), and ordered his men to take care of it immediately. Accordingly four persons entered my room yesterday - three new guys and a fourth, smug, shrunken, middle aged engineer who had lead the team the first time. The new guys checked my wiring, flipped my modem up and down and sceptically observed the window open in my ubuntu desktop showing the progress of a running code while the fourth stood behind, smiling silently and observing others. After a long fiddling with the wires, one of them turned on the modem. I held my breath .. one .. two .. three .. and bling! I seriously considered snatching the modem out of their hand and smashing it.

That was it. I did not have a single drop of patience left in the bottle. Those guys left giving me suggestions like be patient, rub off the moisture from the jacks of the wires, blah blah blah. After they left, I set my camera in front of the modem, focused it, started recording a HD movie and turned on the modem.

I went back to the maintenance department this morning with my modem and my netbook. The guy I first came across was the smug middle aged engineer who smiled at me.
Engineer: Still having problems with the modem?
Me (Opening my backpack and taking my netbook out): Yes ..
Engineer (smiling broadly): Still blinking, is it?
Me (waking up the netbook from sleep): Yes ..
Engineer (going back to whatever he was doing): Very well, lodge a complaint in writings. We shall see what we can do ..
Me (hitting the play button of my video): Here is the complaint.

I got a new modem today. Internet is working fine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A number of wrong numbers

Some old things are bad to lose.. old friend, old mobile number, old watch that stirs up distant memories, old books that were gifts from someone dear (ahh, well..books are always bad to lose, old or new)..

Here is one example. I never known any Shrijit. Now I know Shrijit like I know any of my good friends, and its all because of my new mobile number.

I shall not go into those nitpicking details of how I managed to lose my old number, only the important factoids would suffice. Long story short: I had to do what I had to do due to some silly reasons for which I am absolutely not responsible (usually I am responsible for all the bad things that happen to me, but not this time). That was the easy part apart from the emotional turmoil that you have to go through when you gotta give up a number which you have been using for seven long years and shared with countless people. I changed my number, sulked over it for a while, recovered and got a new number. Getting something new instead of repairing is becoming easier and easier these days.

And along came the bad part. Within ten minutes from when I inserted the new sim into my cell-phone for the first time, my phone beeped.
Me: Hello..!
Who the hell: Shrijit..?
Me (confused.. or as per LH, befuddled): Hello..?
Who the hell: Hello, Shrijit..?
Me: Wrong number.

And again after only a couple of minutes..
Me: Hello...!
Sounds like the same *#*%&: Yes, Shrijit.. ?
Me (irritated): Wrong Number.
Yes, it's definitely the same *#*%&: Come on dude, stop pissing me off. I really need to talk to you..
Me (patience..patience): Please check the number, will you? This number does not belong to Shrijit..
That *#*%&: Shut up! You made me ring whatever his name was to check your number, you idiot. Now listen, tomorrow..

Apparently, the phone companies recycle prepaid numbers once they are abandoned by their owners. My new number must have been in possession of some guy named Shrijit - my storekeeper proudly informed me. Is there a way of knowing beforehand whether a number is completely new, or has already been used and chucked away by someone? Well, my storekeeper looked away absent-mindedly, entertaining other customers.

Clearly, giving a heads up to one of Shrijit's friends wasn't enough. It turned out that Shrijit indeed was a very important member of his friend circles (if there were Google+ at that time, I would have written G-plussian circles). Within the next couple of days, I received calls from numerous friends of his (I don't remember the names. Sorry Shrijit, whoever you are, for not being able to tell you whom amongst your apparently uncountably infinite friends had been enlightened by me and who are remaining for you to surprise them), his aunt who calls him, if I have heard correctly, Shunu (come on dude, you should have told her. She seemed a perfectly loving aunt to me), his non-Bengali partner who can barely speak anything other than distorted I don't know what, and the receptionist from a pathological center asking to collect his blood reports. Shrijit must have been really committed to his number; all of them were, again thanking LH's achievement to find the word, befuddled and almost disbelieved my claim of having this number in my possession. I don't blame them. I do sound unconvincing most of the time.. I am aware of that.

The number of wrong numbers dropped gradually over the next few months. I thought that I had hit some real influential node in Shrijit's friend network; the news must have propagated and reached full penetration. I almost forgot about this little incident until very early of this morning when my cell-phone woke me up..
Me (sleepily): zzzzzz...Hello.!
Don't have a damn idea who: Hi Shrijit...
Me (a little less sleepy): huh..wha..?
Must be someone from Shrijit's circles: Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Shrijit..Happy birthday to you..

I need a new number..

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kitchen, Chemistry and Cooker

Cooking is fun..!

Ahh, my mother may not agree with me, spatially after those totally no-fun hours she had to endure during her valiant effort to make me interested into kitchen chemistry (FYI, I am enjoying it pretty least it does not involve pointlessly mixing up weird, sometimes even foul smelling solids, liquids and gases only for obtaining various bright coloured some-oxy this-nitro that-chloride which we used to cook up in the lab in our undergrad offense, my chemist friends).

Hey, here is a question - why a person who cooks is called a cook? A person who loves is called a lover; somebody who reads is called a reader. Shouldn't a person who cooks be called a cooker? Instead, they named a funny looking cooking-bowl as the pressure-cooker, which operates using the change of boiling temperature due to pressure and eventually whistles loudly. I can whistle too, even without pressure! If I use an amplifier to increase its loudness, should I not be called a cooker? I am not claiming the prefix, as pressure has nothing to do with my cooking.

I asked my mother about this shortly after she started training me, and received a very nasty look. Curious minds always face difficulties in this curious world.

I am having other difficulties as well. For instance, picture me sweating all over in the kitchen with a new preparation in the making (and I am sweating not for the heat but for my huge effort to remember the step-by-step instructions my mother threw at me before going to watch the 19:00PM TV soap). At that very moment one of my seven aunts (like the seven dwarfs, I have seven aunts - my mother's seven sisters) brusquely walked into the kitchen and without much farther ado started examining my work..
'Did you add this and this?'
'Yes I did.'
'Did you stir it a little before adding this?'
'Yes, I guess..'
'Did you add this and this before adding that, or after?
'See, you forgot! Well, no harm done.. add this right now.. you were supposed to add this after that anyway..'
'umm.. OK!'

And the rest was history.

I stumbled upon a line (thanks to Google, of course) which reads, 'the kitchen is a great place for people to connect and work together while achieving a common goal'. Surely a kind of kitchen chemistry that does not involve boiling and does not work for me, my mother and my aunts..

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A formophobic's dayout

Background information:

Compelled by insult ("you lazy, unpersevering, sluggish git") and blackmail ("I won't buy you a laptop unless you do what I say"), yours truly filled in the passport form in 2008 (winter, as far as he can recall). But his undying spirit and resolute nature saved him the trouble of actually submitting the form. It remained safely in a file for the last two years until yesterday when he, once again compelled(details suppressed to avoid repetition), dug up the documents and felt so ashamed to turn up at the passport office with the form duly filled in but bearing a signature with an ancient date that he carefully mapped the entire form onto a new one and signed..dated, 6th of February, 2011.

An overheard conservation:

AC: Hey, did you know that AKP has at the long last applied for passport? Her Alter Ego: OMG!! What made him do that?
AC: God only knows. (Sigh!) That fellow has formophobia..
AE: Formo..what?
AC: Well.. he is afraid of forms. I think it's not defined in the psychological
literature yet, so I call it formophobia.
AE: (slowly) So if he has this formo..whatever, then how could he fill in that
hell of a passport form?
AC: You can only guess. I asked him and he wouldn't tell me clearly. Every time I get into the subject, he delivers one of his irritable laugh..
AE: So what is your opinion?
AC: Knowing him, I have only one explanation. He must have fallen in love with some girl outside this country!
AE: What!
AC: Why, you don't believe me? I am actually relieved ..I was beginning to think that the girl of his dream must be from outside of this universe. At least he now is coming down to earth!

Dry facts-The chronological bird eye view:

10:05 A.M. AKP stops dead in the middle of the street. The queue before him must be of about two-hundred people - men, women, children and infants - all present to have solutions of their problems regarding a small blue book. AKP gathers his fragments shattered and scattered over the street a few seconds ago..where is the god damned patience? Although he has a very tiny piece of it, he knows that now he is going to need it the most...where is it? Ahh..AKP breaths a sigh of relief..there it is, hidden beneath the broken van-rikshaw. He collects it and joins the queue..its going to be a very long wait.

10:20 A.M. AKP looked up from his book..somebody was poking him at his elbow. Turning, he saw a middle edged man with light brown eyes, thick curly hair and a carefully maintained mustache. He had a bunch of what looked like filled in passport forms under his right arm. Noticing that AKP is awake from his 'in-book' sleep, he smiled, "Dada, deben naki?"
"Are, formTa bhorti korte help chai? Help lagle bolben, ami ei pashei achhi. Amar rate kintu beshi noy!"

Without another word, he approaches forward, "Ki hoyechhe, ki? Sample form lagbe? Xerox paben, paNch Taka kore..."

10:55 A.M. AKP enters through the collapsible at the entrance of the passport office guarded by an armed guard and a plain dressed office staff (may be) who were shouting at the law-breakers - people intending to apply in tatkal without a token or people trying to talk their way into the office without queuing up with others.

11:05 A.M. AKP joins a shorter queue of about twenty people before counter number five at the first floor of the passport office. There is an array of about twelve broken chairs in front of every counter. AKP waits patiently (clearly his patience is greater than what he thinks) for his turn to occupy a seat.

11:35 A.M. AKP sits down at the last of the twelve chairs. On the chair next to him is a short stout man of about fifty-five years of age with a couple of filled in forms and other regular documents. He smiles at AKP and says, "Notun passport naki?"
"Original kagojpottor enechhen?"
"Era asole khub jhamela kore.. ami to ageo diyechi, jani...ei to sedin amar bhaipor jonye dilam, aaj abar amar dui chheler jonye.."
'Accha!', AKP looks at him with respect. Filling in forms is a piece of cake to him..a skilled filler (no, the narrator is not trying to construct words like healer as in the wizarding world of HP).

12:05 P.M. The filler is talking impatiently to the official behind the counter who denies to accept his son's application. There is some mismatch in the date of births in the birth certificate and the matriculation certificate. AKP is shocked to watch his hero failing to rescue his own children.

12:15 P.M. AKP leaves the passport office, triumphant. It's over, and without any help from anybody.