Feuer Frei Thai!

January 25, 2013

A while back I happenend to visit a certain Thai restraunt.

It was Black Friday. Finishing up our shopping, we sauntered down the road to this somewhat run down place. The looks of the place were ominous and I am usually picky about where I want to eat. Nevertheless we went in, my protestations not withstanding.

It was around 2 pm. A little late for lunch but not late enough to be totally deserted. We were the only ones there. It couldn’t have been more obvious that we needed to get out. But who listens to me anyway. A smiling old lady welcomed us and directed us to a table by the window and handed us the menus. We were just about done with hanging up our coats and sitting down, when she was back “Have you decided what you want ?”. “Er, no. … Give us a minute please”. I should have been more careful with my words coz she was back. Exactly a minute later.
“Have you decided what you want ?”
“Er, no. … Give us a few more minutes.”
“Ok, 2 minutes ?”
“How about 5?”

That shut her up and she went away. We went through the menu hastily and decided what we wanted quickly. No sooner had we put down our menu than she was back again. In 3 mins not 5 ! “So, what do you want ?”.

We ordered fried tofu for the table and I think i ordered a Chicken and Eggplant curry. A few minutes we were served some nearly burnt tofu still dripping with oil. The signs were ominous. We each ate a piece, but there was more than half of it still left. The old lady came back and glared down at us, “Are you not going to eat that ?”. Believe me, her face was scary ! I mumbled something, I don’t remember what. And the lady took it away, clearly not pleased with our wastefulness. I had half a mind to challenge her to finish it herself but I didn’t want this to turn nasty while I am out with friends. Also, one should never piss of the wait-staff, after all they have the power to spit in your food.

What happenend next blew our minds. “I’m sorry, we prepared Tofu and Eggplant curry by mistake. Please eat this”

!!! Who the hell does that !? How can you prepare something ‘by mistake’. You might add a little more or a little less of something ‘by mistake’. But how can screw up the whole thing ‘by mistake’. Moreover her apology seemed totally fake and remorseless. She expected me to eat it, as if that was the order of the day ! SCREW YOU YELP ! I AM NEVER TRUSTING YOU AGAIN.
The nerve of that old lady to ask me to eat that frightened us. Also, I was really famished by then. So I bucked up at decided eat it anyway. I got through around 75 % of it before giving up. There is only so much of sticky and rubbery tofu that a man eat ! The lady was back and glared straight down at me, “You are not going to finish this either ?”

Given the entree experience, I think we were really asking for it when we decided to have some desert. We asked for the menus again. “You want more food ?!?!”, she screamed astounded.

“Er …. well …. er …. ok, Never mind”, I replied. Thank God there was no one else in the restaurant at that time. Else I would have died of embarrassment.

We paid our bills, and walked out swearing never ever to come back and making  a mental to note to blog about this.

To top it all off, one of us forgot our credit card behind! I guess we were too eager to get out of that place 🙂

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The ‘Dabba-walas’ of Atlanta

July 15, 2010

Its been 2 months since I posted something on my blog. A lot has happened since then. I visited my parents in Delhi. My sister got married. My Shengen visa application got turned down. My advisor is on a holiday in India. And I am stuck in fucking-HOTlanta. Lots to complain about. Apparently nothing much to be happy about.

Today I want to write about the dabba-walas of Altanta (thats what I call them). Like the typical dabbawalas of Mumbai, they deliver dabbas of Indian lunch. For a cheap and affordable $5. Food is cooked by I-dont-know-who at I-dont-know-where and is delivered to the Gatech campus. We have to collect our dabbas from the visitor’s parking lot where they will be parked. Pretty neat setup, huh ?  I am pretty sure it is illegal, but hech, who cares ?

Today was the first day I availed of their service. I called them up in the morning to let them know that I wanted a dabba for lunch. I was told that it would be delivered at around 1:15 pm. That was the first surprise of the day : Their email said they would deliver it at 12:30pm. Now, I am used to having lunch at noon and the prospect of having to wait half an hour more seemed a bit uncomfortable. Having to wait for 75 mins seemed a whole lot more uncomfortable !! But, heck, it was the first day, and I hadn’t had good Indian food for a long time (they claimed it would be good Indian food). So “teekh hai, ek dabba mere liye” I told them.

They claimed they would provide rice, dal, vegetable, pakora, sweet and roti/puri. All this for $5 they said. The second surprise was that it was no longer $5. Overnight it had become $6 !! Oh well. But a dollar extra for good Indian food is fine right? Right! … for good Indian food.

They arrived at the stipulated time. Parked their car at the stipulated place. There was a small crowd had gathered around to collect their respective dabbas. Karthik, Subruk and I paid $6 and collected our dabbas. The third surprise : there was no roti/puri. They instead had something like a bun !! Now I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t stay hungry for over an hour for this !! What the hell is  going on ??  But the rest of the stuff looked interesting anyway. I made a mental note that this point will count against them in future.
We collected our dabbas and walked around looking for a place to sit and eat. Subruk didnt want to eat in Klaus. He gave some weird logic that working places are meant only for working and not for eating !! Oh well.
We found a bench outside Van Leer under a shady tree. We decided to have our lunch there. I started off with the pakoras. They were delicious ! They seemed to set the tone for the rest of the meal. Or so I thought. Next came the entree, which was highly dissapointing. Daal, rice and some soya + aloo subzi. Reminded me of the meals we used to get in our undergrad hostels ! But it felt good to have  something spicy after a long time. The same old watery yellow daal. The same old red color aloo ki subzi. And the same old fried rice (no adectives for this one). It tasted just like the hostel food too! The sweetdish, a rasagulla, was only the gulla without the ras ! Reminded me of the sweet-dish we used to get in iit hostels !! Sigh.

In the end I was pretty full. So its all good.  But I dont think I will want to have this everyday. I hope the new Indian restraunt in the student center(yes ! the SC is opening a new Indian restraunt this fall !) is good enough to sustain my interest for …  at least a semester. Dekhte hain ….

On an unrelated note, last week I went to Swapna. The food there was delicous !! finger licking good ! Thanks to Karthik !

Theory Lab Memoirs – Subruk and friends in the Blood Mountains

March 24, 2010

4 of us : Karthik, Subruk, Virendra and me, set out to conquer the Blood Mountain peak in the North Georgia mountains. The Blood Mountain, the scene of a bloody battle between the Cherokee and Creek Indians in the 1600s, is the highest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. Before leaving for Hong Kong, Danupon left us his book “50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains”. The book classified this as a moderate to difficult hike that might take around 4 hours to cover the trail through the Chattahoochee National Forest. The trail, starting at Neels Gap, initially followed the Byron Reece Trail for around 0.7 miles after which it forked to the Appalacian Train (hence forth referred to as the AT) which took us to  the peak of the Blood Mountain. The descent was largely along the Freeman Trail which, towards the end forked onto the Byron Reece Trail.

Saturday morning. Bags packed. Ready to go. Everything was planned out. Nothing could go wrong. Or so we thought. The signs were ominous when Karthik, who by the way woke up more than an hour late, didn’t come to pick me up till 10:30 (half hour late). He had already picked up Subruk. Next we had to pick up Virendra. Virendra lived some 5-6 miles away, in an residential campus which left us spell bound. But to get there we had to consult the GPS system. We had been driving for what seemed like more than 6 miles and still we hadn’t got there. After a while Karthik come to the realization that he had Costco’s address on the GPS system and not Virendra’s ! And the GPS was faithfully taking us to Costco ! and not to Virendra’s ! Oh well !

That fixed, we partially retraced our route to get to Virendra’s. By now we were way off the plan. We had to planned to be out of Atlanta by 10:15, but we reach Virendra’s only at 11. But thats ok, we thought. We are only an hour late, right ? Right !

All set. Everyone aboard. Music at (almost) full volume. Lets go ! Off we raced to the North Georgia Mountains.  We enjoyed the sights and smells of rural Georgia on the way. An hour later we stopped at a Moe’s near the consolidated Gold Mines to get a few burritos for lunch. After much deliberation, we decided to pack our lunch and have it later. Subruk hadn’t had any breakfast, so he decided to have his brunch there.  After the break, we set off once again. We witnessed countless bikers along with us, riding, banking exaggeratedly as they made their way past us. We had a mini adventure just as we reached Neel’s gap where we were supposed to start our uphill climb, we went past and didn’t realize that we had gone past it. But no worries, a few miles later, we came back, reached Neel’s gap and we were ready to start climbing by 1:45pm. Already 1.45 hrs behind schedule. Better late than never, eh?

We started off at the Byron Reece Trail. It was pretty wide at the beginning, but narrowed down after a while. It was pretty steep through out. We crossed a few streams on the way. We walked in a single file. Subruk, being the eldest and hence the wisest, defying his age, led the way. He was almost running. We all tried to keep up, but we fell behind by a few yards after a while. Karthik was next, leading the three of us. He, with his goggles on, was looking like Rajinikanth. Ever fancied seeing Rajanikanth in the woods? hmm …

Virendra, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt was having a hard time keeping up. He was clearly tiring after the short while. His attempts to get Subruk to slow down were in vain. Having no other choice, he himself slowed down. This created a further gap between Karthik and him. And I was stuck behind him. I was the back-marker. Not much choice did I have. There was no space to overtake him. After 0.7 miles we came to a fork, from where we took the AT. The AT is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States, extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,700 miles long. But we were only doing a part of it.

As Subruk, the pace-setter, defying his age, raced ahead of the pack, nature decided to set the record straight : He slipped and fell, landed awkwardly on his ankle and thereby twisting it. “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”. My first concern was was something broken? Thankfully no. Was something out of place ? Thankfully no. We were only around a mile from where we had started. There was, of course, the option of returning. But Subruk wouldn’t hear of it. He decided to battle on. He continued to defy his age and the odds stacked against him. He showed no signs of discomfort, and he walked on. And so did we.

It was a hot sunny day. The lack of any tree cover made the woods seem naked. The mid-day sun was driving Virendra  into a state of delirium, whose calls for a time-out were increasing in frequency. It was in one of those timeouts that it dawned upon us for the first time that we did not have enough water for a 6 mile hike ! There were no signs of the clouds coming to our rescue either! Oh well.

We went on on the AT. Open rock bluffs and scattered tree cover provided many excellent views. Stone steps had been added in some places to make the ascent easier.
The labor to install these stone steps must have been back-breaking, but they makes the hike seem like a breeze despite the steep gradient. After a while the AT leveled out  and we reached a good vista at the crest of the mountain. A short hike later we reached the peak of the Blood mountain. The view from this grand vista made all previous views pale in comparison. There were many mountains in the horizon to the south and the east, ranging far and wide above the trees. A few feet from there was the Blood Mountain Shelter – it was a fully enclosed hut, it had windows but no glasses and the fireplace had been rocked shut.

We had stopped to have our lunch in one of the previous vista points. This was our second break-point. For the first time there were signs that Subruk was struggling. We spent around half an hour at the top : Karthik wanted to photograph the wooden house from every angle, from  inside and outside, without leaving any space uncovered. Subruk, not wanting to be outdone by a younger Karthik, got his camera out and started clicking away. Virendra and I prefered to just sit back (literally) and soak in the views.


4pm we began our descent. Had to cover around 3.5 miles. Should be done in 2 hours, right ?

Subruk, was now really struggling. He could barely walk. He managed to walk a few feet, before finding it hard to continue. And we had 3.5 miles to go !!! But Subruk wasn’t the kind of person who would give up. After a short break he was ready to go. We found him two sticks. He used them as walking sticks and decided to battle through the treacherous terrain.

Subruk says :
“My ankle twist wouldn’t have mattered on a plain surface. The problem arose when I had twisted my ankle again at an awkward angle. From the point it got twisted till the shelter, we mostly had to climb. This was not really much of an issue for the ankle. Unfortunately, we had to go down, and this was clearly hard on the lower part of the legs, especially my ankle.”

We all marvelled at his courage, grit and determination. Hiking in the mountains is an arduous task in itself. Hiking with a twisted ankle is harder than you can imagine. He was clearly in pain, a fact vetted by his muffled screams from time to time. He was clearly struggling, a fact vetted by his much decreased pace. He was clearly tired, he hadn’t had anything since his brunch. Yet he battled on. Not once did he stop for a break, whereas we three “fit people” took breaks from time to time. Subruk we salute you !

Subruk says:

“After my incident, the hike had become an test of endurance, than the fun climb it was till then where we could enjoy the views (or the lack of it), and take pictures of the vista. Now it was just a matter of how much could we steel our mind and get past the descent to the fork that would take us back to the Byron Reece. No more fun, no more distractions, I had to just look down and study the terrain before I could lay my left ankle down each time. Till that point the passers by were friends, and were greeted with the friendliest of pleasantries, not anymore. We spotted many a team of hikers that we passed, now they were passing us back. We just had to get on with it and get down as early as possible.”

We descended on the AT for a while before taking the Freeman Trail. This trail had many short ascents and descents, but had an amortized descent. The single track path was quiet bouldary making travel slower. Numerous small streams and numerous fallen trees weren’t helping either. Our estimated 2 hrs were up, but still we were nowhere near our destination.  After 1.5 miles in the Freeman trail, we were supposed fork into reach the Byron Reece Trail. A further 0.7 miles down from there was our car waiting for us.

As time went by, and no sight of the fork we were becoming increasingly unsure of ourselves. Things started taking a dark turn, literally. Other than ourselves, we hadn’t seen any human for a long time. After sunset, the light was fading fast. Our supply of water had ran out by then. Our supply of food was over long ago. Also, in the middle of mountains, our phones weren’t able to connect to the service provider! To make things worse, there were signs warning us to be beware of bears ! And if this wasn’t scary enough Subruk was telling us tales from the TV series “Lost” and “I shouldn’t be alive” which were eerily similar to our current situation ! Thanks a lot Subruk, for making us feel a whole lot comfortable !

Hoping against hope and comforting each other, we walked on.
After walking for what seemed like an eternity we heard Virendra let out a cry of joy! He had found the fork !! We all raced the last few meters to reach the fork. Just 0.7 miles more and we’d reach our car. But wait, we were not there yet. There were 4 trails from there : One from which we had come and 3 others. But only one of them led us to the car. After 2 minutes, all of them looked indistinguishable from one another. We had difficulty spotting the one that we just descended from! With a bit of geometry and common sense we found the correct one.

The eerie silence of the woods was interrupted by sounds of motor cars with increasing frequency. Our joy knew no bounds. Subruk was almost running once again. We sighted more and more humans on the trail. Yes! we were indeed on the right trail! Our gloomy conversations about survival were replaced by the far less gloomier conversations about algorithms for PPAD complete problems. From the fork, the 0.7 miles were a relative breeze, we traversed that in about half hour’s time. Soon we reached the parking lot. We got into our car and raced away to Atlanta !

Cast :

Subruk : Subrahmanyam Kalyanasundaram

Karthik : Karthekeyan Chandrasekaran

Virendra : Virendra Kumar

Me : Anand Louis

How Stuff Works – part 2

November 13, 2009

No, I am not writing about how stuff works. I am writing about how my life works. No, I am not going to write about how grad school works. I am going to write about how Atlanta works. Or rather how it doesn’t work.

The public transport here sucks. There are only 3 ways to get from 1 place to another.

  1. Walk
  2. MARTA – (short form for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transport Authority, like Delhi’s DTC)
  3. Bug a friend to give you a ride

The first one is usually not viable because Atlanta is a big city, and like every other big city things here are pretty far apart. There is only a certain so much distance that you can cover on foot, and that certain so such is usually just an ε-net  around you.
MARTA is like the Delhi Metro, only it is significantly smaller, reaches significantly lesser number of places, and costs significantly more. The MARTA buses too have to same problem, in addition there are usully at most 3-4 touching a bus stop, and the frequence is close to 1 in 30 mins.
In contrast you can get from any place in Delhi to any other place in less than half hour*  for less than Rs. 10 (approx 20 cents).
Conclusion : Save some money and buy a car asap.

American food is so bland, I feel like my taste buds have died (I hope they are only sleeping 😦  ). I have tried chinese food, american food, thai food, cuban food, carrabean food, mexican food … its all the same. To all my American readers, I would like to invite you to India, which offers a mind blowing gastronomical experience. Indian food is different from rest of the world not only in taste but also in cooking methods. It reflects a perfect blend of various cultures and ages. Foods of India are better known for its spiciness. Throughout India, be it North India or South India, spices are used generously in food. But one must not forget that every single spice used in Indian dishes carries some or the other nutritional as well as medicinal properties. In my opinion American (fast) food is neither healthy nor tasty.

The social life, or rather the lack of it, is very dissapointing as well. Unlike India, people here mind their own business, intercation with neighbours doesnt happen unless absolutely necessary. ‘Hum hai tho kya hum hai, Tum ho tho kya tum ho‘ from Border rings so true.

… To be continued

 

* Terms and conditions apply

Indian food is different from rest of the world not only in taste but also in cooking methods. It reflects a perfect blend of various cultures and ages

A Walk down the memory lane

October 5, 2009

It was a cool October morning in Delhi. The students of group 3 assembled in the top floor corridor of Bharati. We were supposed to meet at 9am . It was 9:10 am but still no sign of Prof. Bakwaas (henceforth refered to as simply bakwaas). At a little past 9:15 am, in walked the penguin like figure of bakwaas, holding close to his bosom a folder containing heaven knows what. What would a prof coming to colloquium need ? Perhaps comics to help him keep awake ? hmm ..

Anyway, we followed him to room no. 501. We all knew what was going on there, but bakwaas didn’t : Moshu was teaching a class there ! Bakwaas knocked and peeked in, and in a trembling tone, said “Excuse me Prof. Maheshwari, but I had booked this room for this morning”. We all huddled behind bakwaas to see what was going to happen. Moshu walked up to the door. We all scampered leaving bakwaas to handle Moshu on his own. Moshu came out of the class, put a hand around Bakwaas‘ shoulder and in a calm voice said “Dear Prof. Biswas, I am taking a make-up lecture for the Analysis and Design of Algorithms course. I came here first, so why don’t you go find another room”. That was Moshu‘s logic. Bakwaas was stumped, his face turing crimson with anger. We, too scared to face Moshu, were hiding behind the stairs and rolling on the floor with laughter. Its not too often that a prof gets to bear the Moshu effect. Bakwaas, one of the senior faculty members, was highly respected and revered by everyone. He was also liked by everyone because of his amiable mannerisms.  On the other hand, Moshu’s claim to infamy was his acts of terrorising his students.  My batchmates, know too well what Moshu can do. Ask a certain Mr. Umang Mittal, or ask a certain Mr. Pankaj Kumar Lohmor, or ask a certain Mr. Prashant Meena. They’ll have tails to tell about the devil hidden behind the wizened old face that resembles that Dumbledore.

To continue with the story, bakwaas chickened out. He let us all down. He wasn’t up for the fight. He had retreated. We followed. We set up base in the Intel Lab. Bakwaas was looking into his folder for … something. First to go was Anshum : he came, he spoke, he left. Before bakwaas could even look up from whatever he was looking down into, anshum was done. The next speaker Kshitij put us all to sleep (bakwaas included): in the few minutes that I was awake, I vaguely remember him talking about some denial of service attacks, or something that sounded like that.  This wasn’t going right. This session didn’t even start right. I was to go next. I spoke on approximation algorithms for graph partitioning, something related to the work I had done during my summer internship at IBM India Research Lab. I showed them a linear programming relaxation of the problem, and showed them how to round the LP solutions to obtain an integral solution with poly-logarithmic approximation guarantee. I also showed them some cases when the LP relaxation was exact. Interesting, huh ? I am sure everyone loved it. 😛

After half a dozen people had talked we had a break. The second session was set under way by Rahul Gupta. The allotted time limit was 15 mins per speaker. Rahul spoke for 40 mins !! The recommended no. of slides was 20 per speaker. Rahul had 68 !! And, could you believe it, in the middle of the talk, Rahul’s phone started ringing ! Poor guy, mumbled a few apologies, and continued with his talk. I somehow instinctively turned right, and sure enough a guy (lets call him X) who was grinning. I understood what had happened. I smiled at him. He smiled back at me. Then X  took out his phone and punched in a few numbers. And sure enough, Rahul’s phone started ringing again !! This time both X and I were grinning from ear to ear. Rahul again squirmed uncomfortably in front of the audience. Looking sheepishly at us, he tried to shut his phone down. For a moment I thought he was going to start crying, or pee in his pants or have a nervous breakdown. But nothing of that sort happened. For some reason he glared at me. Angrily. Why me ???

We were about 20 mins into Rahul’s talk, and I was getting pissed by his baritone which was sowing seeds of sleep in us. We were desperately trying to stay awake. On of the guys started a game of FIFA on wLAN which we all joined into. But when Rahul is speaking, time seems to travel slower than usual. I was hysterically waving out to Rahul trying to indicate to him that he was 10 mins over time. I wondered why Bakwaas wasn’t saying anything. Lo and behold ! bakwaas was sleeping ! His chin rested on his palm, with his elbows on the arm rest of his char. His eyes closed and his glasses near the edge of his nose. It was a sight to behold ! I had had enough of Rahul’s lecture. We were done with FIFA, it was time for Counter Strike on wLAN. The game was started. The game was played. The game was over. But Rahul went on and on and on …

I decided I had to do something to bring this to a stop. I took upon myself the responsibility of saving this class from the falling asleep.I took out my phone and punched in Rahul’s number. And yet again Rahul’s phone rang. After almost 40 mins, Rahul had paused for a moment ! The phone ring also managed to wake bakwaas up. I wonder why Rahul didnt switch off his phone after the first time his phone rang. Probably he was looking forward to those breaks ? Or probably he liked his ringtone (some song by Britney Spears Shreya Goshal I guess). But anyway, it had served the purpose, bakwaas had woken up, he glanced at his watch and asked rahul to stop with immediate effect! Rahul tried to bargain for a few minutes more but bakwaas would have none of it. There was a collective sigh of relief from all the audience. I had managed to save the day yet again 🙂

Epilogue
After this, bakwaas called it a day. He packed up his folder, tucked it between his forearm and his bosom, and walked out. I guess he too couldn’t stand the Rahul effect.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Rahul for digging this incident out of my subconscious memory and into my RAM. Without him this post would not have been possible.

How Stuff Works

September 25, 2009

No, I am not writing about how stuff works. I am writing about how my life works. Grad School. Not Grade school. People here have their own desks in their labs, not some desk in some lab. People do what they want to do, not what they are told to do. People play with the rubix cube to kill time (and they are not considered geeks for doing so). People don’t write exams, but write papers. People don’t attend classes, but teach classes. Ok, I am probably exaggerating a bit on the last one but i guess you get the drift of what I am trying to say.

Sometimes I dont see my roommates for a few days in a stretch. Wake up, eat, go to your lab, come home, have dinnner, sleep. Thats what its like. And in between all this we are also expected to do some work !! How do they expect us to find time for all this ?I some how manage to find time to get some work done in between coz I dont like to get paid for doing nothing.

Weekly shoppings are also somewhat an adventure. Go the Publix, throw in as much stuff(mainly food stuff) into your cart as possible. There is a thin line between how much you want and how much you can carry and how much you can stuff into your refrigerator. But when it comes to food, these lines are usually ignored. Gung Ho! We usually end up with way more what we need. Who cares ? One should never compromise on food. Speaking of food finding lunch on weekdays has taken me to many restaurants and food courts in and around Tech. But, armed with this experience, I can confidently say ghar ka khana is the best !

Weekend nightouts are becoming almost a regular feature now. Though one can make up for the lost sleep by attending some math lectures. (I am doing 2 math courses this semester). I wish my lab had a couch/bed 😦 .

I have been here for 6 weeks now. I ran into my advisor a few times, but I havent had a proper meeting with him yet. He gave me a problem to chew on. And as along as he sees me chewing, he is content. But little does he know that I have other stuff to chew on (*evil laughter in the back ground*)

Those of you who are in grad school,  you would probably know what I mean. But for those of you who aren’t,  you will either love it or you will hate, there is no in between.

Last day in India

August 12, 2009

In the end all that could go wrong did go wrong. My bags were over weight. My first flight was delayed but my connecting flight was on time. The flight was overbooked. My seat had been given to some one else. And when they finally found a seat there was no place to put my hand baggage. Damn !!

For most of last week I was busy catching up with friends, so owe a big thanks to my parents for taking care of my packing. They did all the shopping for me : from buying clothes, blankets, spices, utensils and other stuff  to packing all of them (near) optimally they took care of almost everything. However, packing everything optimally is not always desirable. Framing this as an instance of a modified bin-packing problem is not the most ideal abstraction :  in this case we also have a constraint on the weight of the suitcases. Oh well, theory apart, the point is we ended up with 1 suitcase around 2 kgs overweight and 1 suitcase 2 kg underweight. So we had to over-stuff the underweight suitcase and under-stuff overweight suitcase to even out things. That was easy. But things did not end there !

My flight, by Kingfisher Airlines, was supposed to depart to Mumbai at 7 pm. But as usual, the flight was delayed, initially upto 7:45 pm and later upto 8:20 pm. Thankfully I had a cell phone with me and I put it to good use. I started calling up friends : friends to whom I havent talked to for months and friends to whom I talk for hours everyday. Some were happy (that i was leaving). Some were happy for me. And some were crying.  Sometimes I used to think that I had the emotional capacity of a pea, but I was wrong …  I was in a state when I was going through all these emotions simultaneously.

The flight from Delhi to Mumbai was largely uneventful except for the 2 gentlemen with boisterous voices who were making plans to build a house somewhere in Mumbai. Apparently one of them cared two hoots about Vaastu and the other couldn’t careless either much to the dismay of their significant others. They were to arrange the requisite capital by selling some ancestral farmland somewhere in Maharashtra and blah blah blah …

My flight finally landed in Mumbai at 10:30 pm, a good 90 mins later than the scheduled arrival time ! So much for Kingfisher Airlines, ‘who take pride in on-time performance’. Unlike most of airports, the baggage processing in the Chatrapati Sivaji airport was pretty swift. I didnt have to wait more than a couple of minutes to collect my bags !! However my joy at getting hold of my bags was shortlived as the thought of having to rush to international aiport dawned on me. A wild 15 mins taxi ride later I found myself in the line for checking into Delta Airlines. A little over 11:45 pm I was again rushing, this time to the immigration counter. A couple of minutes later I again found myself in a long long queue for the security checks. After yet another uneventful anxiety filled 20 mins long wait, I was rushing yet again. I breathed a sigh of relief when i found that the airplane hadnt left without me (I reached there approximately 2 mins before the scheduled departure time).

I was as excited as a kid who is travelling to USA for the first time :P. I clutched my boarding pass and half ran to seat number 38F while dragging my suit case behind me. I was shell shocked when I found some one else already sitting on my seat. I was told that there was some mix up between the ground staff and the airline crew with the former having informed the latter that I would not be coming !!! Wtf were they thinking ? How could they think that a person who has checked in his baggage would not be boarding the plane ?? After an animated discussion between the cabin crew I was allotted seat # 35C. I was pretty damn sure that that seat belonged to some one else. And I was right. A few minutes later the person with the right to park his ass on #35C came along and  he was given the same treatment. aaah! God help Delta Airlines.

You think the adventure ended there ? Naah … Their inflight entertainment program system crashed ! Apparently it was running on a Red Hat; they were desperately trying out some hacks to get it running. But that will be another story … for a later day … 🙂

Fire! Fire!

June 26, 2009

Disclaimer
The following play is an entirely fictional account envisaged by the author of this blog. All rights rest solely with the author. Resemblance to any real life situations is entirely co-incidential.

Characters
Anand : me
BBAMB : Big Bad-Ass Microphone yeilding Bloke
AB_ : Arbit Banda/Bandi

Scene 1 : First floor of  ‘Scientia‘. In the Algos area. A low whistle is heard.

Anand : Who the f*** is whistling in the lab ?
AB1 : Dude, no swearing in the lab
Anand : Oh sorry, but anyway whats that whistle ?
AB1 : I dont f***ing know.
AB2 : ITS THE FIRE ALARM. EVERYONE EVACUATE THE BULDING IMMEDIATELY AND ASSEMBLE AT THE ‘SAFE ASSEMBLY POINT’
Everyone : Where is the ‘Safe assembly point‘ ?
AB2 : Dont know, just follow the crowd.

So everyone followed everyone else and we evacuated the building and assembled in the ‘safe assembly point’

Scene 2 : ‘Safe Assembly Point’ which actually is playground in the vicinity.

BBAMB : Welcome all to the ‘Safe Assembly Point’. You have managed to evacuate the building in 2 mins 30s. Good job. But let me tell you this was only a fire drill, not a real fire. Give yourself a round of applause.
EVERYONE : CLAP CLAP CLAP

BBAMB : But in case of a real fire I dont want people to come out of the building eating mangoes.
AB3 holds up his mango.
Everyone : LOL LOL LOL

BBAMB : In case of a real fire, I dont want ppl to come out sipping coffee.
AB4 holds up his cup of coffee.
EVERYONE : LOL LOL LOL

BBAMB : First a few pointers. When evacuating the building first preference should be given to the physically challenged, and then to pregnant women, then to woman and lastly to the gentlemen.

MEN : Groan.
INTERNS : What about kids ?
EVERYONE : LOL LOL LOL

BBAMB : You remember the what the hot airhostess in aeroplanes say before takeoff ? Aage 2 dwar hai, peeche 2 dwar hai aur wings pe char dwar hai, agar aag ke time aapko in me se koi bhi na mile tho upper Haridwar bhi hai.
EVERYONE : LOL LOL LOL
Non-hindi-speaking-interns : WTF ?

BBAMB : (After a lot of Fire-Theory and some real life examples) Enough of theory, lets now get some hands on experience, after all if theory was everything then men wouldn’t get married.
SOME Kids : WTF ?
SOME WOMEN : Scowl
EVERYONE ELSE : LOL LOL LOL

BBAMB : I am now going to show you how to use a fire-extinguisher. Do you know what it is used for ? (pause) It is used for putting out a fire.
FEW PPL : LOL
OTHERS : (straight face)

BBAMB : Before I begin the demo I want to warn you that there will be a lot of noise when I open this, afterall gas is always accompanied by noise.
EVERYONE : LOL LOL LOL

BBAMB then goes on to demo the fire-extinguisher.

BBAMB : Any volunteeers who want to try this ? Cmon, dont we have any rambos out here ?

Rambo1 steps up and successfully tries out the fire-extinguisher.
BBAMB : Good job Rambo1
EVERYONE : CLAP CLAP CLAP

BBAMB : Now any of the ladies wanna step up ? Cmon ladies, don’t be shy, the men are not going to laugh at you if you dont do it properly.
AB5 : Will she be called Rambi ?
EVERYONE : scowl and BOO

Rambi1 steps up and and successfully tries out the fire-extinguisher.
BBAMB : Good job
EVERYONE : CLAP CLAP CLAP

BBAMB : Good job everyone, I would like to thank you all for coming and … (and lot and lot of blond crap).

Scene 3 :
Everyone heads back to their desks and life returns to normal.

First Shot at Cooking

June 4, 2009

An internship at Bangalore. At Microsoft Research. In algorithms group. A half decent flat to live. What more could a person want ?
FOOD !!!
I can not live without food ! Correction. I can not live with out good food !
On my first day at work, I could barely move coz I had barely eaten anything the previous day. And I could hardly keep my eyes open as I had barely slept on the previous night. The root cause for all this : Shitty Food !
 
Over the next one week, we tried every permutation of spreads and jams to put on a slice of bread. We gained enormous gastronomical experience, albeit at the cost of the loss of appetite. It took a daring act by Rahul to slap us back into our senses and bring us back from our self imposed gastronomical exile : Without my knowledge or consent, and with his own money, he bought home a new 5L pressure cooker !! While we marvelled at is beauty and its curves, and childishly enjoyed seeing our reflection on its surfaces (believe me, we had a lot of fun making faces at it!) a small thought awakened in my mind : None of us knew any cooking !!
 
No experience at all ! No raw materials/ingredients either !
 
And moreover we had only 2 plates, 2 glasses, 2 spoons, etc for the 3 of us !!
 
Nevertheless we decided to fight against all inhibitions and do what we had to do : Cook to survive !
 
And to test (taste) our food, we had invited a very special guest “Swappy”.
 
Following the advice of our parents we bought what we thought was absolutely essential : Rice. daal and tomatoes. Things we should have got but didn’t : salt, chilli powder, onions, haldi.
 
rahul was gracious enough to do the ‘inauguration’ of our utensils : He tried (and seemed to be enjoying) scrubbing the utensils with varied strokes. With the limited ingredients we had, the only option was to make tomato rice. While swappy played the DJ for the day, the 3 of us set out to work.
 
First thing was to cook the rice. We had 2 recipies to cook rice, and after much debate we settled on the one which seemed easier (no, i am not going to give out our secret recipe for cooking rice). Seemed simple enough, but we had another debate about how much water to add. Eventually they won the argument and needless to say that the rice was grossly undercooked and seemed somewhat raw.
Lesson no. 1 : always listen to Anand coz Anand knows.
 
The next thing to do was to, well, do something with the tomatoes ! We decided that we will make a tomato paste and add some condiments to it before mixing it with rice. First blow : we did not have any cooking oil ! Second blow : We had only 5 tomatoes out of which 1 had gone bad. Third blow : We did not have any haldi or jeera. Nevertheless, I tried to motivate my team to get to work with the things we have. And to lead by example I decided to take on the task of chopping the tomatoes. Secretly though, swappy was photographing us making a fool of ourselves in the kitchen and I wanted to look like their saviour. But alas that was not to happen.
 
As I gripped a tomato, placed it on a plate and brought down the knife in an attempt to cut it in half, the sharp point of the knife made small cut at the tip of my index finger. It seemed as if my heart was pumping all the blood to my fingers as blood was oozing out in copious and the bleeding didn’t stop for around 5 mins. Rahul got scared like hell, he got out every oinment/cream that his mother had given him. Shubham started giving advice about how the stop the blood flow. And all this while swappy continued to play the role of the DJ. I was starting to enjoy this. I was being treated like a king. Shubham had taken over the responsibility of chopping the tomatoes, Rahul being his assistant whereas I joined swappy on the sofa. Gone had my dream of being the saviour of the kitchen, but I didn’t mind the option of putting my legs up and relaxing.
 
But that didnt last too long either as shubham didnt know what to do after chopping the tomatoes. The saviour had to return. The saviour did return ! WIth the very limited amount of tomatoes we had, I tried to make as much paste as possible (by adding water to dilute it). (I am not going to give out our secreat recipe). It was all done and ready to eat in 15 mins.
Lesson no. 2 : let Anand do his stuff coz Anand knows.
 
Lunch time !
We had 2 plates, 2 spoons, 2 bowls, 2 glasses. But we had 4 people !! We decided that 2 people would eat out one plate. I decided to share mine with rahul, as rahul was known to eat very less and i, famished after all this work was looking to take a majority share. The ‘tomato paste’ turned out to be good, but the rice was dry and undercooked. And to compensate for the limited quantity of tomatoes, on rahul’s suggestion we decided to add some curd to it.
Lesson no. 3 : Do not listen to Rahul coz Rahul doesn’t know.
 
Unfortunately it turned out that rahul took a liking to my cooking and ate almost half of the rice from the plate. Both of us ended up being half hungry.
 
Poor swappy, couldn’t take more than a mouthful of what we had cooked. Damn! I should have shared my plate with him. Shubham got almost the whole plate of rice to himself !
 
Shubham and Swappy left to meet some mutual friend of theirs while rahul and i stayed home to attend to some overdue laundry, groceries shopping and catching up on some movies.
 
The dinner situation was even worse. As we finished up with last movie for the day the skies opened up. The rain poured cold water on our hopes of eating out. The subsequent power cut poured cold water on our hopes of cooking something. We waited for a long time for the rain to ease up. The power cut wasn’t making our mood any better either. Out of pangs of hunger and on the lack of any other option we decided to cook the same tomato paste. Rahul courageously volunteered to chop the tomatoes in the semi-darkness. I did not object. And he did successfully chop his tomatoes (and not his fingers) ! We went through the same secret recipe to make the same shitty tomato paste. But this time we resisted the use of curd.
 
Much to our joy, we didn’t have to eat in the darkness as the power service resumed soon. We had some rice left over from lunch. So it was rice and tomato again! We had bought some packets of ready-to-eat pasta. So we had pasta too!  But we were still hungry, all this work makes a guy hungry ! The rain had eased up a bit, but it was still drizzling. Since we CCD was just a stones throw away from our place and since it was the only good eatery (if you can call it that) in our neighbourhood, we had no other option but to go there to fill the little empty space in our stomachs.
Lesson no 4 : Always have a plan B ready!
 
We returned home after an hour somewhat satiated. And thus ended our first day in the kitchen. It was baptism by fire but a good ‘adventure’ nonetheless. This wasn’t my day to be the saviour but I am sure that day is not too far away.

New Home

June 4, 2009

Hey all,

My blog has been moved from here to here for want of better UI and due to the comparitive ease in using mathematical symbols in my posts.