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The great writer of our lifetime passed away. I was aware about his illness and ongoing treatment at Mexico city.  Yet, the news of his death brings in a cold wave splashing through my mind.  Sadly the end came all too sudden, especially that he had looked jovial last month on his birthday, when he turned 87. What an incredible literary giant Gabriel Marquez has been. With his death, a huge void will remain unfilled.  The surreal touch of his pen in bringing life, social culture, colors, politics, revolutionary romanticism and then beautifully transform all of them to our minds, at mythical proportions is something Marquez-sh. It was a privilege to share a timeline, albeit brief with this colossal literary figure. The Latin American writers always had a special place in my heart, the reasons are many. Marquez surely tops that line with Neruda and perhaps Miguel_de_Cervantes among the pantheons. RIP Gabo. We will miss you, but your memories and work will stay timeless.

Sitting at 15th floor of the Hyatt regency in Dallas, with a night view of the city scrapers in the background, the only thing that flashes is nostalgia. The feeling of growing up, adoring and tirelessly following a true champion in Tendulkar. Suddenly, he is taking one last walk to the 22 yard strip, a test match at his home turf in Mumbai. It must be emotional for many and I for sure cannot hold my tears. It is only a retirement, but wait no. It has been our life in some ways.

Today may well be his last innings with cricket bat in a test match. Stamp of vintage Tendulkar was seen yesterday. Let us hope that he adds a few more of his straight drives and cover drives today.  Never have a farewell touched this close. He was not just a hero, but a pride and a part of my growing up. As he walks to the sunset of a glittering career, a part of me fades from the horizon as well.  The timeless thing of our life, prepares to turn the page! Oh dear life, we have crossed two decades!

Joshy

One of my closest friend, Joshy Sebastian met with a tragic accident in Qatar and unfortunately left us for good. I am terrified in tears with that devastated feeling of emptiness. He was such a gem of a friend, ever since we met in middle school days.

Yesterday, a call from parents back home had this news. When they mentioned Joshy, my initial hope was that let it not be him, but unfortunately it came otherwise. I called another childhood friend with a glimmering hope that things wouldn’t be  as bad as I had feared. Sadly, there was nothing to hope for and it was all over. We just couldn’t utter a thing for a few seconds, just to console each other! It is tragic and the most unexpected.  How do I even scale such a loss? Sitting thousands of miles away, I suddenly felt numb and helpless. Memories rolled back, one by one, painted with pain all over. Oh dear, this is cruel!

After hearing this terrible news, I hardly could take an eye off his face etched in memory. I vividly remember the first day, a chubby boy transferring to our 6th grade class at MGM school; How soon we became good friends, and not before long the best pals around! Seated next to me, on the first day, he had given me a book sticker, which was a grand gift back then, for that matter anytime; Oh dear! How well I had cherished those moments? He would buy those caramel cookies and the groundnut  plaque with jaggery (kadala achu or chickey) from the little store across the road, break it into equal pieces and share with me. Those days, he was the one who had the chance to travel beyond territories, to the bigger towns, which many of us never could even think of during school days.  It may sound strange to fathom. We are talking about different times altogether, huh!  Joshy always would come back with stories to tell, a lot of them! Recently (about two months ago) when we spoke over phone , I had asked him, the movie buff he once was, whether he still watches all the new Malayalam movies. He sure did!

At high school, we were in different divisions, but during the breaks, we used to meet up; There he loved describing the movie plots and boy, did I love hearing those? Do I see those blue eyes brightening up while describing a script! Is it all real? Oh dear, how can he go this soon? Between him and another close friend we had pretty much all sources of Balamangalam, Balarama, Poompatta, Amar Chithra Katha and the Pico children books and many more. Memories keep coming, so do tears!

The middle and high school days are full of nostalgic memories of being together with him. And even the pre-degree days, the fun we all had! The gentle friend he always was, I hardly recollect him overly being angry, even on occasions when he looked pensive.

Once in UP school, we boys out of curiosity and partly spurred with the boyhood mischief, sneaked into a neighbourhood land and grabbed cinnamon skins (Karuvapatta). Without knowing what  it really was , we all munched pieces of it with thrill. Somehow the teachers came to know that. Back at school, post lunch was mayhem when the dreaded headmaster Father Chandi (fondly called Chandi Achan) himself barged into the class with his notorious chooral stick. He began asking who all had indulged into that mistake of crossing the school boarder. Joshy, sitting next to me was one of those honest guys who stood up first. After repeated probing, several heads started popping up. They were all beaten up heavily with Chooral; With each passing second, my feet would start rumbling more and more. The fact that I had decided not to stand up in the first place and the danger of getting a compounded punishment made me touch cold with all senses. Only about 5 or six boys were left sitting by then. Finally when Chandi Achan asked Joshy who among the remaining seated were with him there. The lone culprit remained in me, who was sitting next to him, was sure to get caught. But he chose not to and stood guard a friend he found in me! The greatness of a true friend at that young!  I’d asked him about that later on. He would just smile! It is that smile which comes to my mind even after years since I saw him last. When we spoke over phone, couple of months ago, we were hopeful to meet up sometime and now, a sense of void cutting through my breath.

Rest in peace dear friend. Thanks for the memories. It was such a privilege to be your friend. You will be missed and my heart will never be lighter without you. You were such a beautiful mind! Saying a good bye has never been this painful and how I wish I had a choice not to, but…

joshy_kid

Since most of us at home are hit by cold and feverishness from big bear and at Las vegas, the new year is largely spent at home, sipping hot tea, listening to some old songs, watching some movies and reading the book Land of a thousand Hills (Want to finish up reading that before office tomorrow!). Last night, we had a nice dinner pot lucking with  three other families!

I was scanning through the newspapers pages to get a glimpse of the new year celebrations across the globe. The Washington post has a few images of New year shots grabbed from across the world (the photo credits seem to be for Divyakant Solanki / European Pressphoto Agency). The following shot (form that list) captured my thoughts of a bright part of life in general. This one has two Indian girls enjoying the last sunset of 2012!

new_year_mumbai

It is somewhat ironic that, the day to celebrate love is not named after Cupid, the Roman god of love. His mother goddess Venus and father Mercury are not considered either.  The Greek mythical folks cannot be happy either. Eros, the Greek god of love or his mother Aphrodite, the goddess of love are not the ones remembered by the lovers of this century. In the Hindu mythology, encomium is poured over to Kama (or Kamadeva), but who listens when it comes to naming the modern love day? All the accolades instead went to a saint who to his innocence did not really had any fun himself when it came to love, but he was generous enough to facilitate the young lovers.

One of the legend of St. Valentine’s day go like this. Valentine was a priest who served Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decided to bring in a law to outlaw marriages. His claim was that, single men, without wives and families make better soldiers. The priest Valentine, apparently was not quite ready to bulge to this idea of Claudius. In those days, of course you don’t challenge a ruler in public. How powerful democracy is. We are lucky, don’t we?

Anyway, defying Claudius, Valentine continued to secretly perform marriages for young lovers. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, the king ordered that he be executed. The martyr Valentine became one of the most popular saints in centuries to come in Europe, especially in France and England.

Valentine day of the modern world has surely made St. Valentine proud for his worthy sacrifice. After all, it was all for a good cause. Love is beautiful. It is up-to the people to decide, what way they want to celebrate. There is nothing as beautiful than seeing people in love.  The very sign of love is pleasing to the eyes. Let love relish.

Happy Valentine’s day.

It has been raining since evening here in Lausanne.  It was about 19.50 when I came back home for dinner. The light was getting dimmer and the sign of rain was there very much looming. Almost when I romped home, the rain started. My windows shutter seems to love this rain drops falling tirelessly onto them. They make a pretty nice chitter chatter sound which I just cant stop cherishing. Tired to do anything else today, but the rain is still there and the aluminium shutter still make that rhythmic reaction to the rain drops. It is only a moderate rain, but the sound of the water droplets when it embrace the tree leaves and this window is a lovely one. I have been an avid rain fan since childhood. The tiled house of my parents in Kerala in monsoon come close to this. I am ecstatic and now just want to wait longer to enjoy this beauty. Sleep can wait for a while, cant it? Let me stop everything now and just embrace this rain music. How beautiful this Suisse rain?

Ramani visited me during the weekend. He arrived from London this afternoon. It truly brought memories of undergrad days. We had quite a lot of fun cracking PJs and chilled out with memories of funfilled undergrad days. How time flies? We had a game of cricket as well to spice things up. I leave you with a picture shot at St.Sulpice near the EPFL UNIL sports center.

ram_rat_Lausanne_epfl_around

…High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

Oscar Wilde‘s ‘The Happy prince‘ is one of the many stories that I have read during early school days. Remarkably, this is one of the few I still remember! I was barely able to read difficult English literature per se then, but still the story of Happy prince was within my grab. I don’t recollect whether I had understood all the words of Wilde, back then. This was at a time, when I was happily enjoying my schooling and life in my mother tongue Malayalam. Malayalam literature had its penchant style and aura, which is difficult to explain to non-Malayalam readers.  I was ‘at-home‘ when it came to reading the Malayalam literary works. Yet, I had thrived to learn English stories, albeit at a reduced speed. That whenever, I got a chance to read. Oscar Wilde was one of the rare English writers whose work, somewhat accidentally came to my reading list.  I was surrounded and enthralled by the works of great south American and Russian writers, otherwise. Partly, thanks to the communist influence in Kerala society, the translations of great Russian and south American books were far more available at ease  and at cheap rate (In fact I don’t remember buying anything, but all borrowed from various small local libraries around). 

Coming back to the Happy prince, the story had indeed put a stamp in my memory as a child.  I may have been 10 years or so when I was ‘introduced to’ the ‘Happy prince’.  The subdued request of the prince to the little swallow was by heart to me. When the prince says ” Swallow, swallow little swallow…”, my heart seemed to have resonated at a lower pace.  As a child, I had never seen an European city, for that matter any great city including the ones in India, let alone city across the Atlantic. It was all in my mind, that I’d imagined a mythical model of such a city, a city of the happy prince!  I used to visualise the position of the Happy prince statue standing tall in the middle of a city. Did I ever imagine the enormity of a city as big as this? As a child it is difficult to fathom and relate the seriousness of people’s struggle, a statue could see.  For sure, I was touched and moved by his sorrows and pain.

The swallow represented a role model so to speak  when it comes to helping others. Subconsciously, the little swallow literally drenched my cheeks by living through that difficult winter.  Back then, I had never seen what it is to be a snowy winter, still, could feel the chill of that season, when the shivering swallow wholeheartedly fulfilled the Prince’s wishes. Years later, the words “…Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow. Stay with me one night longer” still linger my ears. Tears still beckons! Perhaps that story have had a deep influence to me since childhood, to an extend that I’ve never imagined. As a child, I wished if only the swallow could go to Egypt, but alas!

Now, I have accidentally come across that very same story in video form in youtube. That brought in a rewinding of years! I feel the same chill now, as a 10 year old that I had felt years ago. I had told this story to Nivedita a few times. I could see her expression when I uttered the prince’s humble request “…Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow. Stay with me one night longer” .. The impact of Oscar Wilde’s powerful writing tells a story in itself. Don’t they?

…High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

The prince and the swallow still stays on.. in my memory…I really want to tell this story to many kids! The youtube video is commendable too.

A few years ago, during undergrad days, myself and  friend Ramani during our lazy 75 paise mini canteen tea outing, were discussing a small riddle. It was motivated from a real world experience from our computer center in NIT Calicut (REC Calicut). In REC those days, we students almost exclusively used rubber slippers (Yes, those Paraqon brand which used to cost 20 rupees or so), usually called by the name ‘chappels’. With that, we were not only comfortable while walking and running around, but we’re equally at ease playing cricket and badminton with the very same foot support; and many other things too, including jogging. Those thin hard rubber slippers used to last an year or more without giving much trouble, other than perhaps an occasional tearing of the rubber tie. In all, we were at peace with that.

But there was an issue, not exclusively for this brand, but for chappals in general (shoes were a luxury of sort in the campus;atleast it wasnt very common). Not for everyone though! If and only if you were fancied of visiting the computer center! Well, computer center wasn’t all that fanciful then, since we were provided with only graphics less Unix terminals (no colour monitors!). You might wonder, huh! what age am I talking about? Besides, Internet and Emails were only taking shape then. Chats and browsing were not quite there yet;Unless you felt a touch inferior to the computer wizkid around, that was not a compelling centre de visite. As, ‘would be‘ electronics and communication engineers we had that occasional inferiority complex!. Computer center was air conditioned and was strictly slippers free. We were expected to keep our valuable slippers outside (no clock room luxury! well that was not a necessity either) before entering to that cooler room, filled with monochromatic terminals. Since most of the chappals dropped outside were alike (in size and also sometimes color) there was a good chance that at the time return, we ended up with a different pair of slippers (Some folks found happy for themselves by a visit to the computer center, just for a pair change, often to an improved lot!).  Sometimes, we ended up having differently colored ones, say left foot white and right foot blue. That wasn’t a problem socially either, as long as you stayed within the campus. It was socially accepted within the walls!

Anyway, coming back to the riddle we were busy conjecturing on. We wanted to automate a clock room. The idea then would be to just deposit the chappals there at random. The clock room work automatically. Upon asking (at the time of return, say) it will select a pair at random and give it to you. Sorry, you cant have a choice. Just accept and hope for the best. We asked the questions:

1) What is the probability that everyone gets their own chappals

2) What is the probability that none of them get their submitted pairs

Assume n number of  people (and hence n pairs). We can assume that, a pair is a single entity (say both left and right slippers are tied and submitted as one) . This simplified the problem to n people n slipper scenario. A simplistic model assumeed that all n people submit their slippers at the same time. We wanted to build that great randomized clocker machine! And we wanted that to work for any n, which means, the algorithm had to be implementable and to work well in expectation!

We had thought and pondered about it for a while, then. In the end, we had found that the first one is easy, but the second one a little harder to generalize for beyond n=10 or something.  As busy undergrads, we left the problem after an hour of discussion, probably until we had finished sipping the tea. Aside, we were busy with many other extra curricular activities including a 3 hour daily cricket match at the lush green international hostel ground. The megadeth team, as we proudly grouped ourselves, the electronics and communication batch hardly missed those cricket matches. We were electronics engineers and had taken pride in ourselves by not really bothered to ask any fellow discrete math or combinatorics folks! That perhaps helped in some sense.  Ramani found management more interesting than those technical details of counting. I am sure he took the right career. Anyway…too much digressing already!

Now, it turns out that, the very same problem is akin to a well known problem in combinatorics. It is called the Hatcheck lady problem. It is fairly easy to solve it using the inclusion exclusion principle. The proof outline is shown below. As I type, memory fetches that discussion,  sitting leg-folded on the cement bench at the REC mini-canteen, perhaps an occasional cool breeze around too. 

The inclusion exclusion principle is the following:

\lvert \bigcup_{i=1}^{n} A_{i} \rvert=\displaystyle\sum_{i=1}^{n}{\lvert A_{i}\rvert}-\displaystyle\sum_{1\le i_{1}<i_{2}\le n}^{n}{\lvert A_{i1}\cap A_{i2} \rvert}+\displaystyle\sum_{1\le i_{1}<i_{2}\le n}^{n}{\lvert A_{i1}\cap A_{i2}\cap A_{i3} \rvert}

                 +\displaystyle\sum_{1\le i_{1}<i_{2}\le n}^{n}{\lvert A_{i1}\cap A_{i2}\cap A_{i3} \rvert}+\ldots+

                 +(-1)^{n-1}{\lvert A_{1}\cap A_{2}\cap A_{3}\cap\ldots\cap A_{n} \rvert}

The Hatchek lady problem can be stated with a similar story as the random clocker machine. (From Harris, Mossinghoff, Hirst’s book on Combinatorics and Graph Theory)

A lazy professor gives a quiz to a class of n students, then collects the papers, shuffles them, and redistribute them randomly to the class for grading. The professor would prefer that no student receives his or her own paper to grade. What is the probability that this occurs? This indeed is an equivalent statement of the well known Hatcheck lady problem (I guess the exact name come from a hatcheck lady who collects hats and absentmindedly return them)

For Hatcheck lady problem, the probability P(n)=\frac{D(n)}{n!}.

D(n)=n!-\lvert A_{1}\cup A_{2}\ldots\cup A_{n}\rvert=n!-\frac{n!}{1!}+\frac{n!}{2!}-\ldots+(-1)^{n}\frac{n!}{n!}

= n!-\displaystyle\sum_{k=1}^{n}{(-1)^{k-1}\binom{n}{k}(n-k)!}=n!-\displaystyle\sum_{k=1}^{n}{(-1)^{k-1}\frac{n!}{k!}}

P(n)= 1-\displaystyle\sum_{k=1}^{n}{(-1)^{k-1}\frac{1}{k!}}

When n gets larger and larger it converges asymptotically to a constant!

\displaystyle\lim_{n\to\infty} P(n)=\displaystyle\lim_{n\to\infty}{\displaystyle \sum_{k=1}^{n}{\frac{1}{k!}}}=\frac{1}{e}

I wonder how this song found itself a way to the drains!  I remember listening to this audio in All India Radio chalachithraganangal program during childhood. It is a little slow but I have enjoyed the  rhythm. Never seen this video before. Now, the video brings more nostalgia about those paddy fields and picturesque Kerala, my home land.  Missing Kerala!

Hope you guys enjoy this music. (For information the music is in malayalam)

Growing up in Kerala is an experience one cannot describe in few words. One must live through it to really feel it. It is different! This video

brings back a whole lot of those memories of childhood. I may be heavily biased here to say so much uniqueness about the social life in Kerala, but to me they simply remain so. The greeneries and the beautiful countryside, the many little ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, paddy fields, the list goes on. The days of Onam and Vishu are more than festivals for the people of Kerala. The expectations and excitement build around these festivals on children’s mind and the fun of playing so many little games: playing in rain, then invariably fall sick, all that in spite of being truly aware of the consequences. August-September time frame also had the monsoon settles when all the ponds and lakes are filled with water. As kids, those were special days to spend near full days swimming and play the various games by staying in water. Beautiful! Now, all those little games like Kuttikol, Pulikkali, lathi and the countless many games all must have disappeared and perhaps paved the ways for cricket or computer. I wish to believe that it is not!

Looking back, it is amazing that people of Kerala unanimously enjoyed the festivals like Onam, Vishu and Christmas irrespective of religious beliefs. The excitement of a festival was much more than religion, even though there is mythological trace to each of them.

Coming back to this video, it instantly took me to the days of Onam when we all kids (my siblings, cousins and neighbourhood friends) took pride in displaying new dresses, (more traditional it used to be) and group ourselves to play the whole day, with intermittent breaks for lunch feast etc and the pleasure of eating a sweet or two from the neighborhood house and to feel it tastier than the one at home.

And how can I have enough of those Kani konna pookkal (Cassia fistula), a seasonal flower seen all around during vishu summer days! (Courtesy, this beautiful image of kani konna is taken from http://www.ulujain.org/album/casino/casinoflowers/cassia1.jpg)

kanikonna poothappol

kanikonna poothappol


Nandu (Nandakishore Santhi) married to Kavita on 27th December 2006 at Cherpulasseri, Palghat (Palakkad), Kerala. I went with my friend Soni PM (in the photo, Soni is at right hand side of Nandu and yours truly is seen to the left side of of Kavitha) to this beautiful part of Gods own country!

Paghat is a beautiful place, known for its natural setup aside the western ghats. The green paddy fields are a scene worth many a click. You could see many fields all around (all over Kerala for that matter, but Palghat has little more to its credit, historically). Music is one another thing you would associate Paghat to. The Tamil Brahmin’s population in this area (this place is also in the close proximity to the city, Coimbatore) credits to a rich history of music (Carnatic music).


Monday, 2006 December 18
Mangalore

On 18, December 2006, I could attend wedding of my good old friend Sukesh Pai. Sukesh and I are known to each other from my higher secondary school days at Kanhangad Nehru arts and science college (those days..early 1990s we used to have a two year pre degree course, in place of the 10+2). Sukesh married to Archana on 18th December at Mangalore.

On 17th December night, I set out for an overnight trip to Mangalore, along with Narayana Pai. Maya and Nivedita couldn’t join since they were caught under the weather. Even though, I wasnt feeling all that well with the viral fever, I somehow wanted to make it to this occasion. In fact my hometown is very close to this port city (Nileshwar in Kerala’s Kasargod district is less than 60 miles from Mangalore). With Pai (Narayana Pai is known as Pai in the friends’ circle) it is always fun, because he has this huge ability to make you feel very comfortable, anytime, with the worldly discussions on any topic. No matter, where we start, with Pai, it will never get completed without discussing about cars and automobiles (and not to forget the Cisco goodies, they give it to employees with a certain regularity!). As one would expect, we also talked about cars. We talked about the new BMW cars being launched in India and to the torque adjustment mechanism of the latest Mercedes S series. Travel can never be boring with Pai and it was no different this time. I enjoyed every moment of this Volvo trip to Mangalore. The Bangalore-Mangalore highway was so messed up after the monsoon, that buses these days go via Mysore-Madikeri route.

Anyway, we had a comfortable journey (barring the condition of the road itself; I for one, didn’t feel it to any extend, thanks to the sound sleep on the journey). We reached Mangalore Jyoti circle at 6am . Mangalore as you would expect was relatively warm (even in winter it is quite not chilly there) compared to Bangalore.

Sukesh looked gorgeous in his wedding dress. The wedding was reminiscent of typical Konkani GSB Brahmin’s function. The pooja’s and other rituals would start from the previous day and would continue till the next day. It was quite a pleasant, and well organized sort of function. Both Sukesh and Archana looked very happy and it was indeed a pleasant sign. With Sukesh, you would always find a pleasant smile, the very sign of it could make anyone happy. Sukesh’s parents are known to myself and my wife Maya for a long time (may be longer with my wife because she is also a Konkani). They must be very proud (and a little relieved) that he found his very suitable better half.

I am very happy and feel proud of him. He is one guy, to whom I have tremendous respect as a good friend, as a simple human being who cared for his family and friends, and also a role model for any youngster with the sheer dedication and hard work he put in. I wish him all the very best for a continued, happier times in life.

happy married life Sukesh and Archana

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