Monday, December 18, 2017

I'm done.

At 5:15 AM, I submitted The Last Project.
My reaction?
Fuck the world, and fuck the boys.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The case of the broken amplifier

I am sure I have whined about my internal amplifier before but here it goes again: it is broken, and in an extremely weird manner.
See, some things I feel exponentially, and some things I do not feel at all. All this is, as is everything else with me, internal,  so the world goes on calmly, oblivious to the tempests that rage inside yours sincerely.
The re-reading of stormlight archives is getting to me, you see.
This does not serve as a prelude to my story, but this is just a note of caution that should accompany every piece of my writing.
Amreeka has given me many novel experiences and the cruel hands of time have wrought a large number of changes in even this slow and steady human being to the extent that my mother is going to have trouble recognizing me, but all of this was mostly expected. You expect to come across new things when you are shipped off to CMU and you expect to change when you start living by yourself and for yourself.
On occasion, I have felt tired, frustrated, depressed, alone and estranged. I have also felt happy, optimistic, content and confident a very large number of times but being a follower of Mir's tradition dictates that you do not talk about this kind of stuff.
So I will ignore the kindness that has been lavished upon me by my fellow creatures, both known and unknown, on numerous occasions and just note that an acquaintance just walked by and ignored my wave most probably due to a pretty golden haired girl who was walking with him, but I do not care.
I need not mention that it made me re-realize that I am dark skinned with frizzy hair and non-pretty features and can never compete with a golden-maned beauty, but I will do anyways.
People somehow detect my preference for honesty and never ever lie to me by telling me that I am pretty. My mom and a couple of girlfriends are the only ones who ever do this and I recently complained about this to my mother, to which she replied that people value their lives and do not want to get shot.
Which, I concede, is true, but the admission does not help my existential crisis.
The only unexpected feeling was that of stupidity. It used occur in connection with ML, but now only occurs where algorithms are concerned.
I strongly believe it would be in the interest of me as well as the rest of the world that I simply get thrown off a bridge the next time I dare utter the word 'algorithms'.
They have been the bane of my existence here ever since first semester, and I fear they will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
I suspect that it is very much a case of the bad boy syndrome, something which I have never experienced with humans: I like algorithms, but they don't like me back.
Okay so this is just the public statement, and the truth is far stronger: I love algorithms, and they despise me, and think I am not worth proof-reading the angraizi in their books.
During my first semester here, I flunked a course in algorithms, which lead me to, you guess it, picking another algorithms course during my second semester.
Which I, as you can guess, flunked.
As can be expected, I picked another algorithms course for my third semester.
The normal human being can see a pattern here. The normal human being has the capacity to make mistakes, and learn from them.
I, however, am not a normal human being by any definition or test. I am definitely not normal, and people who are close to me often suspect that I am not human, but that is another discussion.
I make mistakes, only to repeat them for as many times as the system allows.
This algorithms course I happen to be in the middle of flunking, and today marks an important milestone in this regard.
What was supposed to happen today was my presentation for course project: something grand that I was supposed to do by myself.
What actually happened was that I sent out a carefully worded email to my professor in the morning today to which he replied, where are you? Can you come by?
I would have replied, by the bridge, but I have overgrown that.
So I went and explained to him that I won't be presenting today, because I do not have a presentation and more importantly, I do not have a project.
Not that anyone appreciates it or anything, but my only redeeming quality is my honesty. Not that it is redeeming enough, nor will I deny that I am getting thrown out of a window by a Pakistani guy precisely because of it [I have no idea about the identity of this guy but if we condition on the fact that he exists, he is throwing me out of a window with probability 1, most probably within two weeks].
I don't know, but I suspect that it makes things difficult for other people. I like to believe that it makes my life easier.
So I outright stated that I haven't done any work, I don't have any understanding, I possibly can't present and that my comprehension lags so often behind the professor's that I have real trouble catching up with his analysis.
So I stated everything, short of saying that my trouble is that I actually have an order of magnitude fewer neural circuits as compared to the rest of the class and I was marked with 'Not the algorithmic type' on the forehead on the day fates were written.
I only stopped short because I did not want to embarrass him, but I hope he deduced the rest of it himself.
I also did not want to embarrass myself in the first place, because I am quite probably the first Pakistani he has met and almost probably the first Pakistani khatoon and while I would love for everyone to know what a piece of highly compressed trash I am, the fact remains that I am one of the very rare samples of my country most people are ever going to come across.
So I just told him that I can't present today, at which the poor guy was flabbergasted at first but we finally decided that I will present next week.
I think I have an inherent tendency for drama, and it goes everywhere with me, whether I will it or not.
I also suspect that he is really enthusiastic about the idea, the mathematics for which he worked out entirely by himself within ten minutes and which I do not get a single equation of.
The trouble with this drama is that I have involved two of my professors here, and this guy's enthusiasm about the idea is something beyond me. He wanted to involve this other professor immediately, whereas I am scared that seating both of them at the same table would only expose my level of ignorance in both their fields.
Now that I remember, this is a pattern with me, and I recall proclaiming to a very nice professor that I just did not feel like working on my digital design project.
Right now I have two projects that I am going to not work on.
The changes that I did not expect? Discovering that I am a very stupid person, as far as CS theory is concerned, and not the smartest person in the room.
And that I can actually go on an entire day without remembering to eat.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The curse of loneliness and stupidity

Man, I am one recluse.
Also, I am one lazy sloth.
I have lots and lots and lots of things to do, and too little time, and I am trying to stay away from facebook and not call my mother as I got a REAL dressing down from her this morning so this blog is the perfect hiding place.
I don't know what I was searching for, but I landed on this fellow-man's blog who studied at UWM and man, was it full of juicy snarky commentary on people's lives even though he claimed to be such an introvert and a pursuer of literature and philosophy and poetry (duh!).
It also set me on the path of reflection about my life, my current situation and my metamorphosis that happened in Amreeka. Which isn't much, except that I told my friend that if I ever go for a PhD and feel that I need someone in my life, I will formally ask folks out.
As I see, I am destined to remain a spinster who writes 3rd class poetry all my life, a very weird amalgam of East and West who doesn't fit anywhere nor ever will, and who will only be left with Mustafa Zaidi's line as one of the precious few people and ideas that remain true:

آندھی چلی تو نقش کف پا نہیں ملا
دل جس سے مل گیا وہ دوبارا نہیں ملا
ہم انجمن میں سب کی طرف دیکھتے رہے
اپنی طرح سے کوئی اکیلا نہیں ملا
These eternal lines have stuck to my mind for a very long time, and I have always wondered, did Zaidi actually feel this? Because this is just what I feel. Can two people feel the exact same thing, with such high accuracy?
A couple of weeks ago, I read another nice work by him titled 'barafbari' that mentioned:

زندگی اک بے وفا لڑکی کے وعدوں کی طرح
آنسوؤں کے ساتھ آئی، آنسوؤں میں بہہ گئی
This, again, rings so true. So damn true.

Anyways. He was obviously a very talented man and his ghazals were way better than mine. The way the society treated him makes me sad, man.

I am going to read more of his stuff.

Back to my life.

I have mentioned quite a few predictions about myself, but they don't bother me in the least. 
The only thing that gets me is that I am never, ever, ever going to get how matrices behave.

The semester is ending, and I am wrapping up my life, my MS and my graduate applications. I have eliminated nostalgia and regret from my life completely [except for regret minimization, an interesting technique it seems] and if someone would ask me how I was feeling, my reply would be, 'meh'.

There are a lot of conditions for this to happen. Someone must care to talk to me, care enough to ask this of me and then have the courage to ask this to my face. No one fulfills a single one of these conditions, let alone all three. There is something in my demeanour that used to make people behave in a very cautious and reserved manner with me, and it has come to Amreeka with me. It lingers in the background in every encounter, even though my outward appearance has turned by 180 degrees[ something on which a guy much higher than me in my ex-office was quick to comment on, and something for which I will get back to him one day] with my truly few zulfain flying loose and what-not, and me as sweet and smiling a thing as ever, but I guess I don't deceive anyone.

I don't wish to deceive people, but I wish everyone was not able to see so quickly through me, or through my poetry, but duh, and whatever, and I really truly don't give a damn.

The extent of me not giving a damn is one of the very few things that scares me. As I have often told an acquaintance, I don't approve of women being called bitches under any circumstances, but I guess I have the liberty of proclaiming that I have the ability to be such a cold hearted bitch at times that it frightens me and I wonder if I should really feel bad about it. To be clear, this is not my default mode, not even with random guys since coming to Amreeka, and this is something that I try to control. It is extremely difficult to provoke me, and very time consuming to do so. When I like people, I simply adore them. I go out of my way to make them happy, and since I am observant on a level that very few people are, I do it on a very micro as well as macro level, and never expect anything in return. Their happiness means the world to me, and I gladly sacrifice my own for theirs, and I never take them for granted. They can hurt me, and I am willing to forgive that, and not even in a teary-eyed broken-hearted 'x hurt me but I love x' kind of way, but in a very grown-up 
x was tired and did not really mean it, duh!' way.

However. However. However.
If I ever suspect that X does not want to have me in X's life, then it is story over, the end, the game is done.
And at that particular instant.
No, there is no breaking of the heart, or welling of the eyes. No ideas for revenge, for getting even. No considerations.
I just stop caring for that person, completely, in an instant, and I don't feel anything about it, because what has to be, has to be.
I have done this quietly to three very important people in my life, in the recent past. One of them I'll probably never see again after a month. One of them I have met a very few times. One of them I'll have to meet after one month.
None of them practically did anything to me, they just said things that made me realize that maybe I wasn't as important in their life as I thought I was.
Maybe is my life, and might prove to be my bane. I don't care; skepticism and incessant questioning are the essence of my being and intellectual honesty is one of the rare things I believe in.
To be clear, this did not happen the exact same moment or the week or even the month they said those things. It happened much later, when I was cool and calm, I like to think.
By all usual markers, my life is sedlyfe but duh, who cares.
The sheer enormity of my not caring, again, gives me pause at times.
I change. Like a lot. I laughed it off when my FPGA professor from 1st and 2nd semester mentioned it to me twice or thrice but my mom has been telling me since forever and I think my derivative is really, really high here. 
When I came here, I was quite obese and had all the usual troubles like not being able to fit in the right dresses and the right chairs and the right circles. In retrospect, I had some nice curves, but you can never control your fat deposition and consequently burn-off pattern.
So I did not like it and tried to alleviate it, like half the population back home always seems to be doing and only gets ridiculed, instead of being guided and motivated.
I haven't ever been ridiculed, but neither do I want to be guided.
So one day I saw this cute Chinese girl in the university center in a grey crop top and with a very nice mid-riff and I decided it'd be nice to wear a crop top and that I wanted that sort of midriff.
Of course I can't ever have that exact type of mid-riff, because duh, genetics! Somehow I never get exactly what I hanker after in life, but I am cool with that, like I wanted to go to MIT but I was sent here to Carnegie Mellon, and now I absolutely love Carnegie Mellon. 
Must be the arranged-marriage enabling gene that runs in mashriqi khawateen.
Anyways, I can have a nice though different midriff, and I tried for it, and it payed off far more than my efforts, although there is still some work to be done, which I'll have to defer to a PhD.
My weight is still exactly the same, though I can do stuff like push ups that I only could dream of. Deadlifts and squats, again, I have deferred to the future, if ever there is one.
Strength training changed my life. It changed my freaking life. I don't use obscenities, because I don't like them, but it took away the fat from my midsection as well as my personality. The scientific aspect alone deserves a blog post of its own, which I'll probably never do out of laziness.
It is kind of addictive, though, and easy to overdo so be careful, my dear reader.
I don't think I have ever been inspired by anyone in Pakistan and definitely not by a scientist but here you come in touch with people who have pioneered fields and won Turings and Nobels and who are an authority on their subject. This makes you think about the state of your ignorance and stupidity.
Till yesterday, I had too many discussions with people about the sheer idiocy that was happening back home and finally I had enough and I decided to shut my mouth once and for all and to focus on the stuff that matters.
So even here, you come across different categories of people, and when you meet someone who is a class apart from their peers even in the CMU CS department, you can easily tell.
One such poor guy, who has something of a skill with-you guessed it-matrices-landed here after some adventures post-MIT and landed in the spot of my teacher for a particularly beautiful but strong-headed course.
My observations:
-His luck MUST have run out. No other explanation.
-I would KILL to have his level of skill and knowledge. I honestly suspect I can NEVER match the level of his intellect, or talent.
-He makes SUCH an effort to make me understand stuff that it moves me to pity. Like really. You can tell that he loves his stuff, and teaching it to the world.
-His level of sweetness is something that I don't want to match, ever. Still, when he finds an idea bogus, he says that outright, with no mincing of words.
-I suspect he encourages me in some part due to the women in STEM thing. I am one of two girls in his class, and the other one is one parhi likhi larki, whereas I struggle and struggle and struggle and do everything much later than the deadline. Outside the academic environment, I guess he wouldn't even talk to a girl of IQ level when highly intoxicated.
-If I live and work in some area with focus for fifteen years, I should revisit thus blog and comment here about whether I have achieved 20% of his level or not.
-I really really really wish I had a paper with him.
-He emailed me to ask if I wanted to discuss my project with him after the usual office hours, since those are often crowded, and I went and wasted his two hours straight, and honestly it is a crime against humanity.
-I suspect I am actually too stupid for algorithms, and have often exclaimed that I should be shot if I let their name come to my tongue one more time.
-I absolutely love CMU.

In conclusion: 
- I am going to die a friendless spinster after spending my life writing low-class poetry. Fine with me.
-I am going to die without sound knowledge of algorithms and linear algebra. Not fine with me.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have two projects and one application process and one winding up of life in a lovely, lovely city where I spent a lovely, lovely time to do.
My mother says that I should look forward to spending some lovelier time in the future in a lovelier place but I don't think that is possible. Luck runs out, and I for one always expect the entropy to increase with time.
I used to be a cynic, man. Hell, strength training has cured that to an alarming extent.
Most importantly of all, I have to make a phone call to my mother. 
I never grow out of my habits, do I?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

اگر اور جیتے رہتے یہی انتظار ہوتا

زندگی بڑی عجیب شے ہے اور حیرت یہ ہے کہ انسان اس پر حیران ہونے سے بھی باز نہیں آتا۔
خود ہم نے بھی ایک عمر گنوا کر کچھ سیکھا ہے تو یہی سیکھا ہے کہ بہت کچھ تبدیل ہوتا رہتا ہے مگر بہت کچھ دراصل وہی رہتا ہے۔ شاید آج کل ہمارا سوال یہی ہے کہ انسان تبدیل ہوتا بھی ہے یا نہیں یا یہ سب فہم کا دھوکا ہوتا ہے اور ذرا سی تیز ہوا چلنے پر تجربے کا پردا اڑ جاتا ہے۔
یاسیت پرستی اور قنوطیت سے ہماری پرانی یاد اللہ ہے اور وہ ہمیں رہ رہ کر سمجھاتی ہے کہ دنیا میں کچھ بھی کرنے کا کچھ فائدہ نہیں اور زندگی کے اختتام پر انسان کے ہاتھ میں خسارے کے علاوہ کچھ نہیں ہوتا اور یہی یہاں کا نظام ہے۔  ہم ناکامیوں کے موضوع پر ایک مدلل تقریر پہلے کر چکے ہیں لہذا یہاں خلاصہ بیان کرنے پر اکتفا کریں گے۔ ہمارا ایمان ہے کہ عمر کے ساتھ ساتھ ہم ناکامیاں سمیٹا کرتے ہیں، اور کچھ نہیں۔
کبھی کبھی ہم غور کرنے کی کوشش کیا کرتے ہیں کہ کہیں کوئی غایت دکھائی دے مگر نہیں دکھائی دیتی۔ ہماری فہم کا ضرور کچھ قصور ہو گا اس میں مگر ہم کبھی کبھی بے طرح جھنجلا اٹھتے ہیں اس بات پر کہ ہمیں محسوس تو یہی ہوتا ہے کہ ہمیں کبھی کچھ ملتا نہیں، نہ تو بقدر آرزو اور نہ ہماری پسند کے وقت پر۔  سچ ہے کہ زندگی میں انتظار کے علاوہ کوئی خاص کام نہیں ہمیں اور قسمت نے ہمیشہ اسی پر لگائے رکھا ہے۔ کچھ اس میں مسئلہ اس فلسفے کا بھی ہے کہ ہمیں اول تو کچھ پسند نہیں آتا اور اگر اس پر ہمارا لیبل لگ جائے پھر تو ہم اسے صرف ہائلی کمپریسڈ کچرا ہی کہا کرتے ہیں۔
لیکن اپنے ٹیڑھے پن سے آگاہ ہونے کے باوجود ہم بری طرح بیزار ہیں آج کل کی تاریخوں میں اور وجہ اس کی یہی جو ہم بیان کر چکے ہیں، یعنی ہمیں کبھی کچھ ملتا نہیں ہے۔ یہ ضرور ہے کہ اگر کبھی کچھ مل ہی جائے تو ہم اس کے معیار پر مشکوک ہو جاتے ہیں اور پھر اپنا سنگ میل اٹھا کر ایکسپونینشئل فاصلے پر نصب کر دیتے ہیں۔ ایک زمانہ تھا کہ ہم اس بات پر رونا دھونا مچاتے تھے کہ ہم اپنی انجئنئرنگ کی  کلاس میں احمق طالب علم ہیں اور سرکٹس ہماری سمجھ میں نہیں آتے اور تیز بچے سمجھ لیتے ہیں۔ پھر گریجوئیٹ ہونے کے بعد ہمیں یہ تکلیف تھی کہ کوئی ہمیں نوکری کو نہیں پوچھتا اور سچ میں اس وقت نہ تو کوئی ہمیں جانتا تھا اور نہ ہم کسی کو۔ اب اندازہ ہوتا ہے کہ ہمارے حالات واقعی میں خراب تھے اور ہماری ایک دوست کو خدا کروٹ کروٹ جنت نصیب کرے کہ جن کی سفارش کے مارے ہمارے سابقہ دفتر والوں نے ہمیں جگہ دی۔ یہاں اور کچھ نہیں تو متعلقہ جوتوں کے ساتھ ہمارا شمار شمشاد قدوں میں ہو ہی جاتا تھا۔
ہمارے طرہ پر پیچ و خم کے پیچ و خم نکلے یہاں پٹسبرگ پہنچ کر اور یہاں ہم پہلے سسٹمز میں نکمے رہے، پھر مشین لرننگ میں اور پھر ٹھک کر کے سی ایس کی تھیوری میں آ گرے اور اب تکلیف یہ ہے کہ ہم وڈرف جیسے کبھی بھی نہیں ہو سکتے۔
یہاں بیان کرتے چلیں کہ وڈرف ہماری زندگی کی گنتی کی انسپریشینز میں سے ایک ہے اور اس میں تھوڑا بہت حصہ اس بات کا بھی ہے کہ کل اس نے صاف صاف ایک کام پر بوگًس ہونے کا الزام لگایا جس سے ہم چھ مہینے سے سر مار رہے ہیں۔
وڈرف کی طرح تو شاید ہم ساری زندگی گزار کر بھی نہ بن سکیں لیکن ابھی ہم کچھ تو خواہ مخواہ ہی موازنہ کرتے ہیں اس سے اپنا۔ وہ دس سال تو ایم آئی ٹی کی سی سیل لیب میں رہ کر نکلا ہے اور ہم ہنوز وہاں کی راہداریوں میں جھاڑو لگانے کے قابل نہیں۔ پھر ہمیں پہلے تو اپنی کلاس کے چھوٹے بچوں سے موازنہ کرنا چاہیے اپنا جن کو اوسطا بھی ہم سے دس گنا سمجھ ہوتی ہے لینئیر الجبرا کی۔ 
تو اب تو ہم یہ اقرار کر ہی لیں کہ لینئیر الجبرا کے باعث آج کل ہماری زندگی میں انتظار ہی انتظار ہے، یعنی اس میں مہارت کا۔ معاملہ وہی ہے جس کی بندی اردو غزل میں کی جاتی ہے، یعنی کہ ہم ہیں مشتاق اور وہ بیزار۔ ہمیں الجبرا پسند ہے اور کسی زمانے میں اسے ہم پسند ہوا کرتے تھے مگر اب نہیں اور ہمارے بیشتر غم اسی کی وجہ سے تھے پچھلے ہفتے تک جب تک کہ ہم نے شیشے میں اپنی زلفوں کا بغور معائنہ نہیں کیا تھا اور جس کا رنج تو ہم فی الحال بیان کرنے کی تاب نہیں رکھتے۔
شاید، شاید ہمارا مسئلہ یہ ہے کہ ہم کبھی کہیں ٹک کر نہیں بیٹھتے اور ایک معاملے پر توجہ نہیں دیتے۔ میر کی طرح بننے کی کوشش بھی کرے انسان تو اس میں کچھ تو کام کرنا پڑتا ہے اور کام سے ہماری ابھی تک جان جاتی ہے۔ کچھ بھی سیکھنے کے لیے اس کو توجہ دینی ہوتی ہے اور الگوردمز میں شاید ہم میں کچھ اینٹی ٹیلینٹ ہو مگر اور کچھ معاملات تو نپٹا ہی سکتے ہیں ہم۔
خلاصہ یہ کہ زندگی بڑی ہی احمق شے ہے اور ہم شاید مہونے کی طرح کبھی بھی نہ بن سکیں۔ کیا کرنا چاہیے ہمیں، یہ ایک اوپن کوئسچن ہے۔

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On being handed a vial of sulphuric acid

Life, somehow, always finds ways to one-up me, and always throws balls at me that I can't play.
I've gotten plain tired of the strategy of giving up but my fate knows how to trigger my existential crises.
See, there are things I think I foresee. I worry about them, I mull over them in my mind all the time. They keep me up at night and melancholy during the day.
Or they did for a long time. Then, quite recently, I decided to send them all to hell, because I do not care, and I realized that my happiness was my own and not to be affected by anyone or anything outside.
Thing is, these things usually never come to pass. My problems, when they arise, are quite different.
My mother calls me a chameleon and I had it recently stated to me by my first-semester professor that I have changed quite a lot (twice) but even my transformations can't help me escape my fate.
Fate is all-reaching, and I guess that is why it is called fate.
So today, on the 18th of November in the year 2017, I got up in the early noon of a Saturday, feeling like a queen because
1. I had cleaned my room the previous night
2. I had had a bath last night!
3. It was early noon and I have been rising at 6 30 in the morning for quite some time. Early rising is good in the long term but lazy lounging feels nice from time to time.

I am behind on a project report but I was happy nonetheless. I am doing the project by myself and I don't know if I am going to complete it at all and the professor refused me a LOR and I might lose my only nice grade because of the report being late and the assignment that I submitted last night being incomplete (I didn't do the extra credit thing) and I screwed up the last assignment too but-I was happy.

I was happy because I figured that yet another B grade or a C-school only acceptance list or the fact that the boyses in my linear algebra class have ten times my level of understanding at minimum (God knows what the infinity norm is) and my poetry is third-grade and the set of my real friends is really small, a singleton set these days I think and that I am going to be homeless and jobless come January 2018 and that I never, ever, ever fit in anywhere be it East or West or that people always find me intimidating and way-over-the top serious even though I only talk to them on one subject out of that weird list of poetry, politics and philosophy and then they don't talk to me about that either-don't matter at all.
No one loves me and no one cares about me. That does not bother me in the least, because at the end of the day, I believe even my mother isn't obliged to love me. I might write stuff about it that people like but really I don't even give a quarter of a damn about it.

People never ever understand me, and that still rankles me to quite some extent, even though I try to keep a lid on it. People so rarely bother with listening in the first place, and I so rarely condescend to talk out loud but when I do, I feel that I am speaking a different language altogether. I suspect that the longing to be understood and to connect with someone on an equal level is a primal instinct of the intellect and it'd take huge amount of effort on my part to overcome it.

The need to be understood. Duh.

Maybe, maybe I should focus on my writings for this reason alone. People do get it when I say it in the form of poetry, and they don't need to be good friends with me to get this. it has happened twice in the recent past with two different people and I guess it does soothe my burnt ego to some extent.

So someone told me that a shiar of mine was super awesome, and that he could relate to it:
اک تبسم کو نظر انداز کر دینے کے بعد
اک تکلف تھا کہ میں نے درمیاں رہنے دیا
This is, to be honest,  what I call a sedlyfe shair. It is very honest and that is why he was able to pick it up I guess but it depicts a life I wouldn't wish on anyone. A life where you maintain a distance with everyone by choice. The distance is visible to anyone who cares to look a bit carefully, and your facade of rakh-rakhao and worldliness and girlish smiles can't deceive everyone. When someone tries to come closer in the metaphorical sense, you grow stiff and snub them and put them in their place instantly, even though you might spend hours whining about the lack of interesting people in your life, later.
I don't think I'm talking to him, again, ever.
Another incident was something that happened when I tried to show someone how to incorporate an idea in a shair. Another thing that I appended to the entire ghazal was:
سننے کی تاب ہے نہ سمجھنے کی آرزو
بہتر ہے میری بات یہاں ان کہی رہے
I thought of it as just another thing that I said but this guy called me out on it and he was like, pointy point! Again, this is very true, and equally sedlyfe. I think I appended it because I don't even expect people to understand this , though now I see this was naive of me.
Anyways, this time I gave my frank opinion that this is a sedlyfe shair.
I think my writing are the only way, ever, through which I might hope to get some understanding from the world.
Though I still don't see why this matters to me.
Oh, the existential crises. So I saw a couple of white hair on my head and I think this signifies that the end of my life is very, very near. I think I should keep this in mind, from now onwards.
I have learned to live without love, empathy, understanding, money, people, and most importanly, grasp of linear algebra. 
I guess I'll have to learn without a mane of beautiful hair, too.
Life is cruel indeed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of unrequited love, and the sister-zone, and on becoming a ten-minute-being

Today I received the perfectly non-shocking news that my GPA might make me eligible for cooking rice but it definitely does not make me eligible for grad schools, at least the ones I dream of.

Okay the cooking rice part is an embellishment of my own but the gist of the matter has been captured correctly.

On hearing this , I felt down for , like ten minutes max and then I was like, duh.

It was then that I realized my transformation into a ten minute human being was complete. Once I read a nice short story by the name, chalees minute ki auraat. or 'Woman for 40 minutes ' . I imagined I was going to be like her, but I have turned out to be radically different.

If I had a heart I could love you, if I had a voice I would sing.

I am going to quote this at a man one day. I do not know who the poor soul is going to be, but he will be capable of comprehending this.

Happiness, I have re-discovered, is a function of your innards only. At least this is the way I am. I do not need anything or anyone to be there in order to make me happy.

This hasn't turned me into the snow queen I admire in my low-class poetry. I love people, and I love things, but I do so on my own conditions and by my own conscious decision.

Conscious decision is the main ingredient here, the secret sauce as a really nice professor says in his class. He exclaimed twice or thrice today that I have changed a lot, and finally added that it is a change for the good, and that I used to be so quiet in his class during the first semester. This still makes me happy in the evening, after a soul and backbone crushing day.

After the night when I wake up, I'll see what tomorrow brings.

Once upon a time, I grew scared of loss. It was silly, and pointless, and it served no purpose. You can never be sure of something or someone sticking around(my ex-zulfain being a case in point) and really, why do you need something or someone, when life is wondurful and brimming with opportunities and new ideas and things and people are always popping in your life and when you can think and read and write beautiful poetry?

As for needing something or someone, I have very strict rules. The other day someone pointed out something that happened to my taste because of reading too much Iqbal- he thought I'm inclined towards heights. I think I've become a very independent person in the past few months in every sense of the word and a more fiercely independent thinker would be difficult to find.

Another thing in which I identify with Iqbal is the duality he mentions in his poetry, and I am tired of running dimensionality reduction algorithms on myself in order to make people understand me. I have vowed never ever to do that again , under any set of circumstances whatsoever.

Plus, the kud-dari. I hate being indebted to people, and don't like accepting favours from them.

One thing that I am good at is adaptation. I adapt slow, but I adapt like a lot. Like A LOT.

One thing that I am going to miss back home are interesting conversations. These I would die for, and I have such a dearth of them in my life. I am even willing to accept disjoint sets of folks for discussing politics, poetry, science, philosophy and then life stuff but each of these should ideally be non-empty.

If I had a heart. Sigh.

My poetry has definitely deteriorated.

Still, when all is said and done, I guess I am glad to have recovered from mid-life crisis by 26. It has made me realize that nothing can be taken for granted, and anything can disappear, but anything can appear, and in the end the self-styled importance we attach to everything is just silly and childish.

My GPA might be pathetic, but I am going to own it, and my life does not end with it.

I absolutely love Carnegie Mellon, but interestingly enough it has thrown more failures at me than successes, and shown me gently that failure is all right, and the important thing is to keep trying.

Unrequited love should, however , be a cause of concern to any poet, and I am a poet after all.
See, I love linear algebra with all my heart but it does not love me back. Painful? You bet. Am I going to falter? No.

The sister-zoning[that happened recently] is not something that I object to in the least, but it happened without warning and left me disoriented for some time. It was an interesting experience and God knows I have a dearth of people to talk politics to and I'm simply not going to let up such a person.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The thoughts of an ancient being

Life is weird. Uncertain. Full of surprises. Yet the biggest surprises of all always come from within when you pause for a moment to reflect on yourself and wonder, aisi chingari bhi ya rab apni khakastar main thi? [O wonder, did I really have that spark in my essence?]

I might be trying to understand regret minimization these days (and the geometry of l 1/2 norms!), but regret is one thing that I have completely and utterly eliminated from my personal life. It is counter-productive and it never serves any purpose. If I made mistakes, it was what I thought best at that time. If I wasted the time I should have spent on my assignment, there is no point in chastising myself for it. Life is so, so very finite and wasting time is the only silly thing one could ever do.

Wasting time has a very different definition in my dictionary, to be clear. For me it means being bored, I think. Yet, the things that bore me are very different from the set of thing that bores the general populace.

Clearly, I have lost my ability to express myself clearly along the way. Yet, try I must.

For instance, I do not count blogging as a waste of time. Writing is an extraordinarily therapeutic process for me, and maybe one of the best ways to get in touch with myself in the noise that the world constantly makes. I should really be working on my deep learning assignment, which I moderately like, but I realized that I want to do this.

On my 26th birthday, I spent an entire day quietly with myself, ditched a DL class and went for a lecture on differentially private algorithms instead, and wrote a treatise on my life for maybe like 3 hours. It soothed me a lot, but I think I would like to continue here and see if I can write without mentioning any proper nouns.

I hate wasting time on things that I do not like.

At 26, I have finally embraced my loneliness. I have always been a very withdrawn person, for as far as I can remember, but somehow in my late teen years I got the poisonous notion that maybe one should be one with the world. Incidentally, that idea was planted by the world itself.

It almost ruined my life, my personality, and my happiness.

People grow, and change, and transform, but there are some underlying things that remain the same, the deep roots that are not touched by the frost. Now I look back at my 22-year old depressed self and wonder why the heck I was such an unhappy little thing. I had awesome hair, I could understand maths and I did not have to worry about cooking my own dinner.

The hair thing really, really gets to me. Only after losing that glorious mane have I realized how very important it was to me and how I always took it for granted. Lesson of life learnt for ever : you can never, ever rely on something always being there for you.

Okay I still have nice hair but they have been prettier.

And I struggle with matrices.

The feeling of being alone is real. Very real. Not that I mind it at all these days. This is what I am, and this is what I am always going to be, on a very fundamental level. Not that I am always going to be.

That, folks, is the biggest realization to hit me in my 25th year of life for no apparent reason whatsoever. That time is finite, and life is short, and a privilege to have, not something that the universe owes you. Sure, there are problems and what-nots , but ultimately nothing matters more than your own happiness. The goal should always, always be to maximize happiness.

Now my idea of happiness is very similar to that of the original epicureans, and many people find it hard to grasp. However, trying to communicate to people with whom you have a tried and tested communication gap is again something mind-bogglingly silly and why would I ever, ever do that?

Let us get back on track.

My idea of happiness is to sleep on a floor in my own house and to read papers on linear algebra during the day and to write ghazals in the night.

Okay I just need a roof ultimately, it'll be fine if I don't own it for the time being.

But I am done with trying to make the world understand me. This longing to be understood is very silly in a human being of my age, unless it is for some equation or couplet that I write. Those need to be understood, not me.

Never me.

What Iqbal said about himself is equally applicable to me too, 'hay ajab majmoo a azdad ae Iqbal tou' [O Iqbal, you are such a compound of contradictions] but people don't understand it in my context. Heck, I am an enigma to myself, but I am utterly done with 1. Trying to reduce my dimensions in order to fit myself in my own little mind and 2. Trying to reduce my dimensions to fit myself in people's minds.

Not gonna happen, my girl.

I must confess my interest in dimensionality reduction, as applied to matrices. I might do a semester project on it. Hopefully I will, with a professor who is the first person ever in life to inspire me. I do not think I am ever going to be as good at approximation algorithms as him.

Mustafa Zaidi's couplet on being alone, 'hum anjuman main sab ki taraf daikhtay rahay, apni tarah say koi akaila nahin mila' resonates with me on a very deep level. Maybe it is lamentable, but I have decided that it is the world's loss and not mine. I am not an equation that longs to be understood. I am what I am, and never again am I going to feel out of place.

The most remarkable thing my life here has taught me is confidence, self-reliance, optimism and a don't give a damn attitude. Like seriously zero damns given. Absolutely zero. This is my life, and I get to choose who and what I care about. I have realized that caring about how people behave with you is, again very silly and I don't care one bit about it. Those who like me and those who don't are absolutely equal to me and I am going to behave with both of the same : with cool bar-e-saghiri courtesy.

The bar-e-saghir part is very important to me in a way. I was a misfit back home, and strangely enough I am a misfit here in a sense too. I accept that I am never going to fit in, be it Mashriq or Maghrib, and I don't want to. I am strictly my own person, and this is what makes me happy.

Yet I am very much a Mashriqi khatoon, and I don't want to lose that part of myself.

I don't even remember what I was trying to say.

I hate getting bored, and my tolerance for BS has dropped to absolute zero. Also, I am done with throwing tantrums like the little girl that I was, but no longer am.

In spite of all my disconnect with the world, I recognize that being completely aloof does not work for me either. There are people who interest me, and people I simply care about. I do not mind listening to someone quietly for hours on end, provided they tell me interesting stuff. Interesting stuff to talk about never includes people that we know.

With all my passion for linear algebra, I am not the cold theorem I suspect myself of being. I care about people, those I know and those I do not, but there are always limits and it is very important to be aware of them. Maybe the thing that I do differently is that everything is a conscious decision with me, or it comes back to haunt me. I like people in my life and I care a lot about them but it is simply because I choose to do so. No one ever is a saint and everyone will hurt you at some point in your life, if you give them that power. The trick is not to let it get to you personally and to not turn into the snow queen I admired at some point at the same time. My philosophy is of loving people unconditionally, but no one shares it with me, but that is totally fine. I realize it and whole heartedly accept it. I know that I always have the choice of behaving like the sweetest thing in the world that I am at times, or like the cold hearted bitch that I am at others, and it is always my own decision. Personally I'd prefer being the sweetest thing in the universe most of the times but sometimes the world succeeds in bringing out the worst in me.

And that is the thing I hate the most, because it indicates a loss of control at my end, and that is something I can't abide.

I don't like the world being able to trigger me at all. Getting immune to the emotional effect people you love have on you is very difficult, but it is very important for your mental calm.

The trouble with rousing to anger once every five years is that it is a catastrophic experience. And I loathe being triggered. I think I want to be something like Helium.

I do not want anyone to be ever able to elicit a response from me against my conscious decision. This is what I aspire to now.

The solitude, the feeling of being different from everyone else around you and the communication gap is always going to be there. I am always going to be alone actually, and that is fine with me. I think everyone is really alone and people only get over it by blending their self very intimately with the world in a manner that I can neither copy nor succeed at, for I prize my individuality dearly, as everyone should if it makes them happy. Iqbal suffered from it, and so did Mustafa Zaidi, and if I can write poetry as pretty as theirs, I'd be utterly fine.

Happiness, I have realized, is key. I am not the number of people who love me, or the number of questions I can solve, or my degree or something else. Achievements are nice, but my happiness does not depend on them in the least bit. I actually am a very simple girl and my ultimate idea of happiness is sitting under a tree writing proofs for LA and reading ghazals. People, and things, can come and go in my life just as they please, and it'd all be the same to me. I will always be kind and warm to the world, without ever making judgments about who deserves it and who does not, because if I choose to lavish it, it is entirely within my own power.

I'll write poignant and bittersweet ghazals but on my part, I am never going to be a bitter person again. Or at least I'll try my best not to. Melancholy and sweet, yes. Bitter, depressed and in despair, no.

Never again.

I just wish my hair would go back to being what it was.

I guess that is enough pseudo-philosophy for one day. I really should be working on that assignment.