Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2brnt2b is the question!

It is when you need to concentrate the most does your mind play all the tricks up it's sleeve and more often than not, the mind emerges the winner. Most of my writing is an artifact of such moments, but I'll let that be since that is definitely not the theme of my write-up today. I have always advocated that 'annoyance' is a perfect example of an intangible creation of our own mind, something that you can completely avoid. And yet, I infallibly fall for it every single time. But enough said about the mind, which I know is a product of my own contradictions. The anguished linguaphile in me had to seek solace by writing his agony targeted towards everyone and none in particular. It would be nothing short of being perfectly idiotic to fight for a lost cause, especially when the entire world is against you. But I'll stand up now and dish out a piece of my mind  to the world  in which mutilation of languages is considered fashionable.

Today, I was woken up by the muddled hooting of my phone on receiving a text message which said "tst" which was followed by another which said "txt d msg". And there it was - annoyance on two counts. The first being the most obvious - someone apparently chose me as the lucky person for his random testing of the new features of his/her phone. To explain this in terms of the butterfly effect, a few days ago the 'half-bitten fruit' folks released a new version of their iOS (to be pronounced ayyos), the impact which I had to bear now with some random person's experimental text messages. Following the two minute silence spent ruminating over my ill-luck was a half-an-hour nostalgia session recounting the undergrad days when free text messaging had been in vogue. Back then, it was the bread-and-butter communication strategy for students for a variety of recreational* purposes. The second reason for my annoyance was the content of the message - not the semantics but its syntax. The blatant non-availability of vowels in the message was just the icing that the cake needed.

That brings me to my chosen theme of the day - spelling. I can possibly understand the intent of robbing the words off its heart, if you were sending a Morse coded message hundred years ago when every alphabet communicated (or perhaps spoken too) was costing you money. Or if you were effecting a will endowing your million rupee property to an orphanage right before your very last breath^. Or if you were preparing** for an examination. But even the gentleman in me just cannot accept an email missing the vowels in a professional setting like requesting an appointment or writing to someone whom you do not know personally.

Very recently, an update appeared on my Facebook notifications; a comment that read thus "gr8,u 2 cum... pls du sumthn awsum dis wknd 4 dat." How in the sweet heaven do you guys even manage to do that! Every single word in there was perfectly misspelt! It has become fashionable to spell 'date' as 'd8' and 'time' as 'tym'. "To be or not to be" becomes "2 b r nt 2 b", "awesome" becomes "ossum" and "right" becomes "rite". And then there is "Choooo chweet" that pops up in all diabetic conversations between couples. And this list is endless. To misspell a word has sadly become a measure of cuteness in writing. If you end up spelling "do" as "du", I really think you should rather spend more time in middle school than on social networking. 

While there is one faction who splendidly mutilate the spelling by truncation, there is the other group who believe in perpetual repetition of an alphabet as a perfect equivalent for punctuation. So apparently, the length of grunting encoded using 'r'  in a "grrrrrrrrr" or the depth of disappointment in a "booooooooo" is a perfectly acceptable measure of your emotion. To say 'cooooool' is super cool and 'beautifullllllll' becomes extra-beautiful. On a similar note, the level of excitement in a "Superrrrrrr" or the measure of awe in a "Woooooooooow" is totally justified too. Sometimes, the length of repetition is so appalling that I often suspect their keyboard could possibly be the miscreant.

To all those who take pride in writing such sentences - Yes, I do appreciate your exceptional ability to comprehend sentences encrypted using phonetics and without vowels. But words are spelled in a language in a certain way for a reason - please let them be.

End of rant.

* includes SOS calls and soul-searching
** if you know what that means
^ if you don't understand this, you really need to watch more Hindi/Tamizh/Telugu movies. Don't look for Kannada, apparently even Google is not able to find any such thing called kannada movie.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

dmr - a true titan

Last week-end, one of the great minds of our time, a true Titan of Computer Science, someone whom I respect from the bottom of my heart for his contributions to the world, departed this physical world. He revolutionized the world of computers - a true pioneer, a superlative mind and a great person. He invented the language that formed the fundamentals of the computers that we so freely use today. He laid the foundation for an operating system that fuels the world we live in. It is on his giant shoulders that millions ride on today and will do so for ever. He won the Turing award and the Hamming medal, something that can only be dreamt by most people. Being the intellectual giant he was, he kept contributing to this world, until his very last days.

I hate making comparisons, but it pains to see such a great person like dmr departing the world unnoticed while that of an corporate innovator gets flashed in the headlines and is being mourned by millions. By what standards is a Turing award winner lesser than the corporate wizard? But then, this is how the machinery of the world works. I guess, it doesn't matter anymore. That said, I do hope there would be a few who will recognize the magnitude of his contribution to the world. I do. 

You are one of the few people whom I shall repent not having known personally despite being almost in the same building.  Your emails signed with the famous dmr will no more reach us. You will be missed, Sir. The world will most definitely miss Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Beyond the golden urn

So that's that. And we have the golden urn once again. And it doesn't end there.

The last few weeks have been an excellent avenue for columnists to mass-hypnotize a humongous audience and it is not surprising that they had milked it dry. I had run across many an article that elaborates why cricket is a religion in India. Numerous theories were churned out to proffer explanations about how a sport could bind a billion strong nation. Look at it from a hundred feet and it's just another game involving a few people. Generation after generation have warned us about the banality that surrounds the sport and how fragile the sentiments behind it are. It is also imperative that a sport cannot feed a country that has been fighting hard to establish itself on the world map. It was a dream come true for an entire nation all the same. A billion hearts beat as one today. And therefore we needed to win.

A friend of mine said she felt a sense of belonging every time India plays cricket and the things people do when they are passionate about something. There cannot be anything more honest than that statement. The thinkers have put it simply - the nation needed something to cheer about, to be passionate about, something that would help sail through disappointments that each individual is facing every moment in his life. And thus Cricket became a religion and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar its God. A religion to a country in which you have to constantly compete - compete to progress, compete to prosper, compete to survive. We have to constantly fight against dominance from the rest of the world, fight against our own systems, fight against bureaucracy, fight against corruption, fight against mediocrity, fight for pride. A mere outlet for our passion in the form of a sport would never suffice. And therefore we needed to win.

While it is plain that cricket has been the glue that binds Indians together, a billion people coming from all obscure parts of life, it has remained just a symbol of hope and not of confidence. It is true that the flame had burned bright at times, but never consistent enough. And no, I'm not speaking of just cricket, but of a spectrum beyond it. We needed much more than a faint 'hope' to cling on to, something that can inspire us, motivate us, give us something to cheer for and aspire. And therefore we needed to win.

Today is definitely going down as one of the most historic days in Indian sports. Today is the day when we declared that the heroes of 1983 are not legends. We can do a better job of what they did earlier. They too are mortals and today, we ground them. Today, we declared that it wasn't just a lucky chance that we won. Today, we declared our will and grit to compete, fight till the finish. Neither was it an associate nation that we beat on our way, nor was it a result of a contrived complex interplay of politics. We blasted our way through the champions of the game and resoundingly declared that we are no less. And therefore we needed to win.

We needed to show, we learn from mistakes. We needed to show, we have the consistency and courage to stand up, aspiration to succeed. We needed to show that we do not merely stand and stare. This transformation in Team India wasn't an overnight process. It started ten years ago with a man who ripped off his shirt at Lord's and declared his grit and will to win.  And we never looked back. The last decade stands an immutable testimony. And today, we needed to show that irrespective of the future, we shall keep our will to compete burning bright as ever. And therefore we needed to win.

It is totally justified if you think of this to be a thought of mine that comes from the heat of the moment, a flash of inspiration that comes from passion rather than an instilled confidence. Trust me, I have been waiting for this right moment for a long time. I have had times of quiet satisfaction and pride when I have seen India stand up and command its authority and will to fight. How many of us remember our shooters and pugilists quietly wrapping up accolades in the Olympic events over the past decade? We had a time when India was huffing and puffing about a single medal that we won "long long ago, nobody knows how long ago" and now are at a stage where we take as many as 10 for granted every time. How many times have we been able to afford a contented chuckle when a coach from a pugilist powerhouse like Cuba comes over to the changing room and says, "I'm certain your boy would win the bout hands down".  We needed to show it wasn't just in a bunch of sporting events that we are competing. We needed to show that it is our indomitable spirit to compete and progress as a professional and as a peer to the rest of the world. And therefore we needed to win.

We all connect to cricket in a way that we do not connect with any other. Shedding their differences in social or economic status, Indians unite when it comes to cricket. We identify ourselves with cricket to the extent that we feel actually feel good about ourself when Team India wins. We let our thoughts and spirits fly high with intensity when we watch our team play. The Men In Blue resounded the nation's spirit today at the Wankhede Stadium. And then they lifted it. At that moment we realized what we gained was much beyond just the golden urn.