Thursday, September 27, 2007

The lecture.

Mr. Lim has been a turning point of sorts. It cured me of regrets and remorse. The memories are far too precious to be wasted on them.

The experience that sealed it up was the last lecture of Dr. Randy Pausch. To use the oft repeated cliche, words don't do justice. It's an experience, and I would urge you to watch it.

It's easy to be scared of death. It's easy to live mediocre lives. But to be able to look back and say, in this life, I have been able to achieve all that I wanted to do, I have been able to get all that I desired, that needs something. Don't we all want lives like that?

I had a friend argue with me that he is not impressed with the speech of Dr. Pausch. He's white, rich, educated, American, smart, born with the privileges. There are many others who have done it, face cancer, face death, and yet keep their courage. "What's the big deal? Let him be an African", he said, "Have kids with malnutrition .. live in a country torn by civil war... then we will talk about his contribution"

It's so easy to be cynical. At the expense of sounding crude, if a person with one leg manages to get from point A to point B, would it be right to undermine his achievement by saying "What's the big deal? A person with no legs has managed to do the same."

Probably the reason why we are starved of heroes. Because we refuse to believe. I agree that many others have done it. Bad example, but didn't millions eat spinach before Popeye did?

Touching the lives of millions and setting an example needs courage. To do so in the face of death, even more so. This is what a teacher would do: communicate, in no uncertain terms, the lessons learnt, and provide a structure for the path ones life should take.

I am a changed person.

PS: Comp Science people should be able to recognize Andries van Dam. Remember the big fat book of CG?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


God, give me my forty winks, and I promise I won't ask for anything else.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The uncommon couple

Due to the immense popularity of my previous post on Mr. Lim (Two people, both friends, read it and liked it), I have decided to do more sketches of people. The people I meet make up most of my stories and to avoid repeating them when I meet you in person, I will type them here. So today, I will introduce you to Jorge and Soo. Both in my Spanish class.

Jorge is retired. Jubilado. The connection with the word jubiliant is rather distressing for a workaholic like me. If I have no work, what will I complain about? Anyway, Jorge seems rather happy. He comes on time, does his homework, and pays attention in class. He has a snorty laugh and perverse amount of curiosity about rights of transsexuals in Spain. He also refuses to accept that things like tables, chairs and keys can be classified as masculine and feminine.

Soo teaches. Somewhere. Something. But that's not really relevant, is it? She speaks very clear English, which makes me suspicious that she teaches the language. She owns a dictionary, and brings it to class rather religiously. I don't carry mine around since dictionaries are thick and rather boring to read on the bus.
I think Soo is a closet activist. She brings up her dissent in the rarest of moments. The word bonita means pretty. It can only be used for things and little girls. Chica bonita. Pretty little thing. This made Soo immensely worried about the objectification of women.

Soo and Jorge have been together for many years. It is rude to ask how long, but I am curious since she pauses before she refers to him as her boyfriend. They are too old to be boyfriend and girlfriend, you know. What makes them strange as a couple is that they don't stay together. He claims, they would have killed each other if they had another day under the same roof. This works, and works well for them. But it must be togetherness, since he buys her a snack before coming to class so she can grab a quick bite during the break.

They amaze me... for in this world of fragile relationships, they are willing to stay away from each other just so that they can be together.

The question of anonymity

I think bloggers make a big deal out of their online identities. You find some of them obsessing over keeping it secret. Not sure if it is because the persona they create, that of being fun and erudite and with a fun life is far detached from their real lives. Not sure if it is the romantic appeal of being a mysterious stranger with a smart moniker, or Spiderman-Peter Parker dichotomy. Maybe it was a trend started by the chicklit bloggers to preserve the identities of people they speak about and to avoid being googled.

Anyway, nom-de-plumes are a good idea. If and when you become famous, it will make a good trivia question a la - What was 'The blogger formerly known as Prince' formerly known as?
Ok, bad joke.

My point being that bloggers put up a nice little fight to keep their identities secret. Frankly, it's hardly a challenge, ever since orkut, facebook and the other evil sisters came about to put one's six-degrees in the public domain.

How hard can it be? There is a high chance that people blogroll their fleshandblood friends (as opposed to virtual friends?), and few of those friends are vain confident enough to use their real names for sure. A click here. A click there. Easy, no?
And then there are pics of family, kids, latest holidays and tattoos proudly cross posted on orkut and the blog. Seriously, you actually thought you won't be discovered by someone who has listed "stalking" under "passions" a lot of time to while away.


Find a random person on orkut, and discover their blog. Now that's like a real challenge.

Saturday, September 22, 2007



If the last bits of my memory would fade away, what would I do? Would I look at everything differently? Would not knowing what to call a table bother me? Would there be any remorse left with me? Would it be like speaking a different language? Would it be worth expressing pain in a different language? Would I have any memories of my desires?

Mr. Lim is about seventy years old. He is in my Spanish class for beginners. We are in the early stages, and still at a loss for words. What sets Mr. Lim apart is that he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. His motivation, his perseverance confuses me. I want to ask him, will it be worth forgetting it all in a different language?

Deseo, he said the other day, doesn't that mean desire? And Hawaii, doesn't it have active volcanoes? That when he was being helped with his homework. The homework I had forgotten all about. Never before have I felt smaller, like a speck, whining about the memories that I would rather forget. My memories are what make me, I had argued with myself endlessly. My memories attach the relevance to my existence. And that, when I can't remember my best friend's phone number... when I can't remember who my best friend is... when I can't remember which was that one moment that filled me with joy... when I can't remember the how "wonder" feels like...
when I can't remember what I desire...
And yet, like Mr. Lim, perhaps I can't remember the end of my desires...

Hazaaron khwaishein Aisi, ki har khwaish pe dam nikle.
A thousand desires, each one worth a million times to die for.

Its not desires that I lack, I lack lifetimes...