Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For you, mother

Today is my mom's birthday.

This is for you ma...

Baby's Way by Rabindranath Tagore

If baby only wanted to, he could fly up to heaven this moment.
It is not for nothing that he does not leave us.
He loves to rest his head on mother's bosom, and cannot everbear to lose sight of her.

Baby know all manner of wise words, though few on earth canunderstand their meaning.
It is not for nothing that he never wants to speak.
The one thing he wants is to learn mother's words frommother's lips.
That is why he looks so innocent.

Baby had a heap of gold and pearls, yet he came like a beggaron to this earth.
It is not for nothing he came in such a disguise.
This dear little naked mendicant pretends to be utterlyhelpless, so that he may beg for mother's wealth of love.

Baby was so free from every tie in the land of the tiny crescent moon.
It was not for nothing he gave up his freedom.
He knows that there is room for endless joy in mother's littlecorner of a heart, and it is sweeter far than liberty to be caughtand pressed in her dear arms.

Baby never knew how to cry.
He dwelt in the land of perfect bliss.
It is not for nothing he has chosen to shed tears.
Though with the smile of his dear face he draws mother'syearning heart to him, yet his little cries over tiny troublesweave the double bond of pity and love.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

What has changed?

What has changed?

It was early Sunday morning and I was being driven in a cab to the Tucson International Airport. Some beautiful western classical music was playing which I did not understand. The cabwoman was very talkative and she kept on talking about something or the other varying from weather in India to whether we celebrate Christmas in India and so on. And out of the blue, this question struck me. What has changed? This was the place I had longed to be in. The US of A. The land of opportunities. The land of knowledge. Right now, I am at thousands of feet from the land. Leaving on a Jet plane as Elton John sings! And I can’t help giving way to my thoughts and reminiscences of the last 5 months at the Graduate school.

I have started treading the path I have chosen. The beginning of my journey has been mixed with pleasant as well as harrowing moments. Days filled with stressful hours of work. Days filled with anxiety about project completion. Tremendous pressure to perform well in a severely competitive class. Constant effort to attain financial support from the school. Moments of pain. Moments of small yet tantalizing achievements too. I have been exposed to the shades of life which I had never seen before. I never knew how it felt to continuously fail in achieving your goal and then succeed finally and emerge like a winner. I was unaware of how it felt to have worked extremely hard for something and then loose it by a small margin. I never knew how much effort was actually required to outperform someone who is definitely smarter than you. All these things I learned here the hard way. Life has been a good teacher.

So I sit back and think. What has changed? Or rather more relevant question is, have I changed? If yes, how much have I changed? For good or bad? I believe, what life has taught me in these months is really precious. More than learning operating systems or networking, it is more about learning how to face challenges. In the mega-epic Hindu literature Mahabharata, the Arjun’s son Abhimanyu is faced with a challenge which has seven stages. Each stage getting more and more difficult. And the epic drama-poem depicts how the brave warrior Abhimanyu, achieves his goal of penetrating all seven stages one by one. I have tremendous amount of respect for Mahabharata because it is has some element of life for everyone. It describes every sort of problem human kind can face. And also solution which is, ethical or otherwise, but effective. I take the analogy of Abhimanyu’s victory over seven stages and compare it with any ambitious person’s struggle to achieve the goal she sets for herself. And to live upto the expectations of herself and the world around her.

With every achievement, the stakes are higher. A new set of expectations rise from deep within. Expectations from yourself. And also, with higher and higher confidence. Isn’t this phenomenon common in the world in many diverse situations? For example a gambler will keep raising his bets if he is on a winning streak. A team will display more and more attacking game if they are scoring goals. Being a computer science student, I can’t help quote technical example too. That is the TCP networking protocol which has exponential behavior while controlling the congestion at transport layer. If the congestion is not detected, the sending rate of packets is continuously increased. Every success defines higher confidence level. New expectations, new goals established for oneself. Increased enthusiasm to work harder. And show the world that you are capable of doing much more than this.

Success makes you ecstatic. But failure makes you stronger. It is the failure which makes a person think more. Securing financial aid for the first semester just remained a wish. I could not make it. Hitting upon four or five almost definite opportunities, I failed in the end in each one. Most of them, without my own fault. Some of them I still haven’t been able to figure out whose fault it was. Was it just the fate acting against me or was I really not deserving it? But that does not matter anymore. Another blow came as below average performance in one of the subjects for which I had really worked very hard throughout the semester. But the last two hapless hours of final exam ruined all the hard work and I ended up with not so great a result in that subject. I do not have anyone else but myself to blame for that. If I look back, I realize it required more effort from my side. Probably more hard work than I had done.

As the greatest boxer of our time Mohammad Ali says, “Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee; You just can’t hit what your eyes can’t see” It is about seeing the goal clearly. And an unsuccessful attempt makes you think about how to make your goal even clearer than it is now. Mahabharata also talks about the exploits of Arjun. One of the episodes describes Arjun taking training of archery along with his brothers. And while other could see the whole target bird object, Arjun could only see the bird’s eye as the target. For success, you need this level of accuracy in defining your target and tracking it. Not at any moment, I am claiming that I have attained this level of accuracy or proficiency in whatever I do, but it is for all of us to derive the learning from such episodes of legendary epic.

We don’t know whether the story of Mahabharata ever happened on this earth. Neither do we know whether a man like Arjun or a deity like Krishna walked the surface of Indian continent. But more important characteristics of such epics is to take lessons in indirect form. Instead of questioning the veracity of them, we should learn the underlying morals and principles of such stories. This is what makes them larger than life. The legends. The sources of inspiration.

But apart from all this learning, have I as a part of society, changed? I think I am still the same. Distance and work has not prevented me from being in touch with my family and loved ones. My hobbies and tastes for music and reading have not changed. I am still in love with the music of Pink Floyd as intensely as I was before! I still hate cooking! Even after 5 months of cooking practice, I still do not enjoy it. My heart still bleeds for India when the Indian government brings silly legislations and make way for downfall of Indian society and intellect. I still hate Indian cricket team but still follow the game. Thus maybe as an individual, I have changed and improved a lot. But the other aspect of my personality has still remained the same. That's the beauty of life. The constant change with immutable underlying personality.