Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Normal people are scared of fire. Abnormal ones, like yours truly, see fire trails in their nightmares.

Ever since I read The Hobbit, I have sometimes dreamed of gathering my belongings, tying them in a bundle at the end of a stick and going out to explore the big, beautiful world with the stick over my shoulder and an apple in my hand, whistling as I walk along the road. The only hurdle is that I don't know how to whistle-yet.Practically, persistent lifts are a hurdle too, but let us forget about that at the present.

In spite of my horror of social gatherings, large crowds and missing the bus, my friends dragged me to a party that was scheduled at a place quite above sea level. To be exact, I had to drag myself on the mentioned day, since they were too busy dragging their own selves; all the dragging they did to me was done beforehand. We decided to walk there of our own free will.

Walking was the easy part. Then came a wall of rocks and stones; the angle it made with the horizontal was closer to 90 degrees than 75 degrees. It was the fire exit, and I embarked on this vertical path.

I mean no offense to the fire trail; for all I know, it might have been an excellent fire trail as fire trails go. Since I am no expert on the subject, I cannot offer an opinion here. However, the fire trail and I had some serious compatibility issues. My attire did not support the high rate of respiration that an ordinary hibernator requires during such strenuous aerobic exercise. To make matters worse, it had to be supported by a hand all the time; one precious hand that was absolutely required to clutch rocks and stones all the time. My shoes were utterly raaang for the type of walk I undertook. It was while on that trail that I realized how much easier it must be for animals to climb.

I don't remember much about the actual trail itself, except that I made more stops then steps. Quite  a number of time, I liked some particular stop so much that I wanted to stop there for a long, long time. At one of those, I contemplated closing my eyes and sleeping till the evening with my back against a stone. There were some points I took a fancy to, so much so that I considered living there.

The only thing that made me get up was the look of patience on the faces of the people who were unfortunate enough to be the rear guard. I tried to shake them off a number of times, but they were way too decent to leave us alone on a trek. They did not show the dismay and irritation they must and should have felt. They did not mention the word 'drama', and they did not laugh when their laughter would have been perfectly justified. They tried to motivate me to walk on, blissfully ignorant of the fact that I am simply not made of the stuff that gets motivated.

All I can say is this: decent people get eaten alive without a knife and fork in this world.

A couple of my friends helped me by giving me their hand. Smothering the voice of their heads, they helped me up when it told them to kick me down. They did not take advantage of my blind trust, which is a novelty (the trust thing, let me clarify) and led me along the right path when they could have led me anywhere.

That trail went ON, and forgot to get OFF.Maybe it had a volatile memory and its power went out.

After I had truly understood the meaning of forever, it ended suddenly, reinstating my maxim that all things end eventually; I had begun to be rather suspicious of its validity. Ghalib's thousand journeys to the raqeeb's door might or might not have been an infinite loop, but this one had seemed close enough to one.

The rest of our adventure consisted of more walking then climbing. The view was nice at times. One could see lots and lots of trees with beautifully symmetric leaves. The houses in the valley looked as far away and small as ordinary life. We did not come across any form of animal life, not even birds. At some places,the path was hardly three feet wide. I looked down and thought about how easy and convenient it was to fall down from such a place. It was there that I started compiling a list in my head, a list of people whom I intend to take with me to that place one day.

During our walk, for fifteen exciting minutes, we thought we were lost, since there was not a single human being in sight . Twice, we had to decide between two paths, all by ourself. But eventually we again caught up with the rear guard, or maybe they caught down with us. Some old-fashioned people e.g. parents consider walking alone in such places to be highly perilous. In a logical world, I should have been able to show my unscathed self as a counter proof. However, this being a highly illogical world, I must remember to edit my story when I tell it to my mother.

In a logical world, four girls would not be counted as being alone either, I guess.

So-we walked. And walked, and walked. Then we walked some more. Still, we were far, far away from the destination. We tried all manners of walking : slow, fast, with hopes in our hearts, with a dejected tread. We walked as if in a daze; we walked with a painfully clear mind. The gist of the story is: we walked.

Eventually, we  reached the place where the party was being held. We spent most of the time staring grudgingly at other people who were receiving their orders.We discussed the merits and demerits of many people as eatables.  We all remembered that we had forgotten our breakfasts. Though I hadn't forgotten mine (never have, never will), I pitched in just for the sake of unity. We thought about our lunch-to-be for such a long time that Hafeez's words seemed to come truly from our hearts (and stomachs):
اگر تو اتفاقاَ مل بھی جائے
تری فرقت کے صدمے کم نہ ہوں گے

Our lunch finally arrived and we wolfed it down it with a number of human timers ticking on in the background. Then we raced downwards, dragging another innocent person away from his lunch.

At a traffic signal, we encountered a child of about seven or eight who was selling a bouquet of flowers. The roses were red and fresh; the child was pale and dejected. He must have been cold too, since he was not appropriately clad. The pessimist in me smiled at the bitter irony. At times, I fail to see the entire point of human civilization for a fraction of a second. Then I conveniently shut my mind down.

The most interesting thing on the way back home was a possibility in the plan that I might have to wait by a road for some time in the dark of the night. There are always a number of people willing to offer a lift to one in such places, provided that one is a lone woman, but it is not considered socially correct to accept their offer. My mother is the only person I am ever afraid of, but a more socially apt friend of mine who was following my plan detested the idea of me waiting on a road.However, her nightmare (and my adventure) was averted, since I did not have the opportunity to wait at the stop.

There is one thing I can say with certainty now: it was definitely an adventure as adventures go, and it involved a lot of planning and cooperation from a number of people whom I did not bother to thank. Being a natural critic, I see the rest of the world through mistake-tinted glasses. Really, its not my fault.


Thursday, November 29, 2012


Change is the only constant factor in this world, and it brings at least some spark to lives which are otherwise tightly clamped at a dc level.
Great changes often occur quietly and modestly, and without any prior warning of any kind.
Personally, I have noticed a tendency to revert back to old habits on a periodic basis. Had I still been a fan of self-made theories, I would have hypothesized that people change significantly after every ten years, but I have completely lost the ability to tolerate arguments without any logic behind them and theories without any proof. You know it is a sad world when people list logical arguments under the 'barriers to effective communication'. A recent mental bug I have caught says that people who have opinions must express some of them at least.
It has been some time since I embraced the ideology of 'think nothing, hear nothing, speak nothing'. While the strategy is recommended in particular situations, adopting it as an all-time maxim is dangerous in many ways. Simply putting your thinking and speaking processes on hold can act as a drug that numbs the senses more and more every day.
When you do not express your opinions clearly and articulately, people assume that you have none. When you do not use your tongue, it is generally understood that you do not possess one. Gradually and slowly, you just become a colourless, voiceless creature who is just a creature that lives and breathes; nothing more, nothing less.
Regard about others' opinions of my self has not been a sore point with me for most of my life, but due to a strange combination of hollow reasons, I altered my manner of thinking. Completely unnecessary, I tell you.  with other people and learning about the world.
To while away the time during the recent exams, I started watching the Bond movies. Casino Royale is my most favourite one so far.
Maybe I'll elaborate the hazards of keeping quiet all the time one of these days. Right now, I must sleep since I have to watch Skyfall afterwards.
I considered the idea  of saying one sensible thing for every ten senseless ones I say. The problem is, if I impose such a restriction upon myself, I will have to keep quiet all of the time.
The world will be a less cheerful place, then.
A nice shair I recently came across is:
مصیبت کا پہاڑ آخر کسی دن کٹ ہی جائے گا
مجھے سر مار کر تیشے سے مر جانا نہیں آتا

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The minimal path problem

Finding the minimum path in a graph is a problem that occurs frequently in different situations. A well known algorithm for solving this problem is Dijkstra's algorithm.
To get an understanding of this algorithm, I tried watching a couple of lectures and reading some descriptions on a number of sites. The most detailed and easy-to-understand material I found was a sample question, explained thoroughly at Dijkstra's Algorithm example . Before stumbling across it, I did have some idea about this algorithm, but it did not have much to do with the real thing. (Update: this link doesn't seem to be working any longer.Pity)
I was introduced to Wodehouse by a friend while in school and I have been an avid fan since. The Jeeves books are the best of all, but I have not been able to find all of them in the local bookshops I usualy haunt.
Incidentlly, I was also introduced to Agatha Christie by the same friend. Now there are a number of her books that I have seen in every bookshop in Saddar, my usual resource, and none besides. When I had finished all the available ones, I searched for others and recognized the pattern. There are some including Black Coffee, 4:50 from Paddington, Nemesis that one can find in every shop.
Talking of books that one can find in every bookshop, there is sometimes a book-of-the-time that every shop offers you. Some time ago, it used to be the twilight series. The last time I went, there were A Song of Ice and Fire books in the most noticeable places. There was some other vampire series too, vampire diaries I guess, that had glossy black covers.The covers were nice.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The end of another glorious vactaion

The golden, glorious holidays are gone,every single one of them. Never to return.
As can be expected, there is a gloom that surrounds everything on this last evening.
To be honest, I still have some power that I have exercised on previous ocassions. Much time has not gone by since I gave myself almost a week of holidays. It was quite a nice feeling, I lazed around for another week and felt happy with myself and the world.
This time, it is not possible, since I have been asked to present myself on the appointed day by some quarters which are too high to ignore.
I read some interesting books , the most mentionable of which is an Urdu one .It was lusciously thick and I hope I can finally embark on a study of Urdu literature.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My reverse evolution

So I seem to be undergoing some sort of reverse evolution, going towards the least fit specie.
The road to the all time misfit is not exactly smooth, but it is one you undertake without having a say in the matter.
The evidence is too much and I cannot possibly document it all. But there is a recent, grim Friday I remember, because it was the day I broke my pen.
Not literally, of course. Who wants to waste a good new shiny blue pen? I can always use it for sketching silly but elaborate patterns on unsuspecting victims' hands\feet\clothes and if I am lucky enough, faces. So I just tucked my pen away, for the poor thing had done a lot of hard work (writing a lot of pages in legible writing which can be read by ordinary beings is no ordinary feat for me.)
For this intensive task, I even put an important assignment aside. As a consequence, I later had to explain to the instructor that yes, my assignment was late, and yes, he could deduct marks for it.
The things I  do for books.
Despite the very hard work, my story failed to fetch a single pamphlet, let alone a book. It probably stood at the nth place in the competition, where n is the number of entries submitted, if I was lucky.
If I was unlucky, or if fate was feeling particularly fair towards me, as in "Let us show this girl some true reality, for she talks way too big' then it probably stood some place in the range of exp^n.
The real world is so real, I'd rather live somewhere imaginary.
 Besides, we went to a literary session and missed the particularly interesting part like we always do.
Recently, I was lured to a party in spite of my reluctance to get up and wash my face and untangle my too-tangled locks by a group of particularly insisting friends and then dumped unceremoniously by the said group. They avoided me before, during and after the party religiously. They even avoided me on the way back, and I had to sit all by myself in the bus.
This sitting alone part is not due to reverse evolution.It has been so since time immemorial i.e. time when I started school. I have always possessed a special force of repulsion and I am secretly proud of it (hey,people even let me cross them in a queue due to this).
The reverse evolution part is related to how I have started noticing these things when I have always scoffed at other people who notice such things (noticing such things or no, scoffing is my usual manner of interacting with life, the universe and everything in it.)
To gain some sympathy, I went to my mother. She said flatly, 'I told you so, tumhari kahani bus aisi si hay' .
At least my friends never say that to my face, and I have shown them some really mad stories, but maybe that is because there is always some electronics or microwave lecture droning on in the background.
 Recently I learned the art of calculating the weight of a couplet. There has been a folder intended for burning in my room ever since.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A nuclear touch

So I have been ordered here, despite my uttering the tujh say bhi dilfaraib hain couplet.
Boy, are they dilfaraib! I had to clean the house and produce some weird compound. Strictly speaking it wasn't supposed to be weird but strange accidents do happen when I enter the kitchen(not that they get me exempted*sigh*).
There is this strange touch I have.Things tend to go haywire when they come too close to yours humbly. You must have heard about the golden touch that a king suffered from due to his greed. In my language they have a phrase that describes a very successful person as someone who touches dust and transforms it into gold. Some opposite power resides in my poor hands.
There is absolutely nothing in my home that I cannot destroy or disturb or break or annoy. I had a fairly reliable printer. At least it was very reliable as long as it was out of my reach.
Then it became mine.
Then it stopped working one day.
I deduced , quite correctly, that it had run out of ink ( I am good at deductions, its just that the practical thing is difficult).
So I fished out a new cartridge and swapped it for the old one. The thing started working but gave me way too much confidence with a printer.
(Hint: injecting me with more confidence is always bad. Always.)
So he next time it stopped working, I tore it apart to no avail. The poor thing currently resides on my table, crawling with cobwebs and spiders. Maybe you, the reader, can shed an imaginary tear or two for its fate.
Then there is my desktop pc. I manage to blow up its os at least 4 times a year. In my defence, I have to reinstall everything from scratch all by myself.
Some time ago the fan in my precious graphic card started whizzing too much. I confidently took it out and oiled it. Only later did I know that you can burn a fan by oiling it the wrong way.
Again, in my defence, the fan works silently as a mouse now.I just hope I don't have to take it out again, for its own sake.
The last time I got someone's out-of-order pc to repair, I let it gather a lot of dust and then fished out its browsing history and showed it to their mom (ouch!).
 For my life I cannot count how many LCDs I have destroyed while doing one thing or the other. Just hand one to me and consider the thing done.
And it is not for want of practice that the daal chawal I cook are always lacking in salt.Or biryani or aaloo gosht or bhindi.
Anything that I cook, that is.
I rarely press my own clothes, but on last Eid I managed to burn my zero-second shirt. (I hid it in my closet and simply took another dress out).
A couple of weeks ago I was trying to kill a lizard nicely, and ended up splattering its blood on the floor and the wall.(I know it is gross)
Some time ago, being a poor person, I was trying to straighten my hair with an iron.Fortunately (for my hair) my mom found out.
I guess I do like experimenting with things too much to be considered safe.
As for annoying people on purpose, I am considering doing that for a livelihood now.
Its this tendency towards self-destruction that I identify with in Mohsin Hamid's characters(he is quite a favorite writer)
You may have read an excellent work titled 'mujhay meray doston say bacchao' by Sajjad Hyder Yelderem.
One of these days I am going to be forced to write an essay 'Save me from my self'.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some more reviews and the spring

Life goes on, like it always does, and leaves sleepyheads snoring behind.
But personally, I cannot think of one reason why one shouldn't spend one's life snoring while the world sprints on.
It steers you clear of a lot of quite unnecessary hassle.You also save up on a lot of energy, which you can use for some more hours of blessed ignorance of the world around you.
If the world wants to go on, let it go on. I do not want to go on, and that is the most important thing.
But I must not get carried away, as I promised to reduce the level of pointlessness that I carry around with me all the time.
So there are some books that I'd like to recommend to anyone who wants to read them:

  • 'The Physics of Impossible' and 'Hyperspace' by Michio Kaku. I came across the former , liked it a lot, and read the latter. It was even better. Kaku is really good at explaining things and has an interesting style.
  • 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series by George R. R. Martin. Based in a fictional world, it has some excellent, multidimensional characters and a gripping plot. It is still incomplete, five books have come out so far.For some people, it may be too long. (I am re-reading it nowadays, and praying that the next book comes soon).
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, a story that depicts a future world. Huxley is a favorite writer, and I wish for some soma  from time to time. Brave New World Revisited is a collection of his essays, equally liked.
  • 'Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions' by Edwin Abbott Abbott, the satirical  narrative of a 2-dimensional being. (Women were a separate and markedly lower class even there.sigh.)
  • 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' series, consisting of 3 books. Detective fiction at a fast pace, though it gets rather predictable as the series moves along,but I like Lisbeth Salander.
  •  'The Taliban Shuffle' by Kim Barker, an American journalist's account of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recommended.
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • A Room with a View
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  • Daisy Miller
There is no kindle fire in the near future for me, I am afraid. A sad existence mine is, indeed.
There was a discussion with a friend about showing off, and I argued that one must have something to show off. I don't even have a Sandy Bridge i7 (which I dream about), what can I possibly show off? Or something with Ice Cream Sandwich, which I'd really love to have.
Sad,isn't it?
One day, when I will be rich, may God have mercy on all things beautiful and fast and slim and symmetric and with processors.
Right now, it is difficult to be sad for a long span of time. Yesterday morning, when I stepped out of the house, a gust of cool air greeted me. The sky was a beautiful grey, neither too dark nor too light to be as plain as daylight,but a metallic shade. For a moment, I stood looking at the tree in the yard, which had its leaves waving merrily along with the wind. The sun had not yet climbed high on the sky and was a nice shade of pale yellow.
Somehow, when I boarded the bus to my college, I couldn't find it in my heart to be as gloomy and cynical as usual.Rather, I thought of forests and valleys with streams and waterfalls and tall green firs and dew-covered grass in the morning to walk upon and a clear, star-studded sky at night.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A few reviews

Even though the semester has ended, the workload has not.There is still a project, and I have no idea where to begin.
As someone so aptly put it, this project is a way for us to recognize the might of the subject that we call antenna.
Not that I am even begging to differ.
Iqbal comes to my mind:
وہی میری کم نصیبی، وہی تیری بے نیازی
میرے کام کچھ نہ آیا یہ   کمال  نے نوازی

There are some books that I thought I may want to review.
  • The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. The story transports you to the world of Clarice Starling, a trainee at the FBI Academy. She is portrayed as a determined and courageous woman and is assigned with the task of interviewing a man charged with cannibalism, who also happens to be a noteworthy psychologist, to help the police in what may be another case of a cannibalism.  
  • Rebecca,by Daphne Du Maurier. The writer has a distinguishing style, a blend of the mellow and the melancholy,with some unexpected twists in the plot thrown in at places where you do not expect them. Basically, it is the story of a young,poor girl who meets a middle-aged rich widower and marries him, to find out that their life is constantly haunted by ghosts of the past. Throughout the story, you cannot help feeling sorry for the lack of self confidence and the childish innocence of the heroine, who, interestingly, remains anonymous till the end of the story (and even after it).
  •  The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. It is a story for children. A very good story, nonetheless, of some animals who, of course, live in their respective homes. Some of the animals it features are a mole, a rat (called ratty) and a very conceited toad, who composed a poem in his own honour:
              ' The world has held great Heroes,
               As history-books have showed;
               But never a name to go down to fame
               Compared with that of Toad!'

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is definitely a very curious case and a good read, though a short one. The (short) story of a man who was somehow traveling backward along the time axis.
  •  A Damsel in Distress, by P. G. Wodehouse. One can always trust Wodehouse for some hours of sheer delight. This book describes one of his high-spirited heroines and the adventures she had, defying her family.
  •  Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. A sad and disturbing tale of two field workers looking for work, a sharp yet unsuccessful man and his friend with very limited mental capabilities.
  •  Something Wicked this Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. Science fiction, fantasy and horror. It discusses some of the deepest, most well-hidden desires in almost every mortal being. The desire to live forever, and to be young forever, and the lengths to which human beings can go to get what they want.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saying it at last

For once in our life, we can blame the absence of a martial law for our troubles.
Disregarding the serious, the ugly and the tragic sides of the ongoing tussle for clinging-to-power-despite-absolutely-lacking-morality in the country, a royal friend and I discussed the situation for about an hour and expressed our hopes that we may get some unforeseen holidays and hence could have the exams delayed.
Alas,our hopes were in vain, and now we have to face the terrible truth:the papers are here, and our preparation is nowhere.
If there is anyone in the higher setup who is in the mood for an adventure, I do hope they embark on it before the upcoming holidays,or it won't be any use at all.
Sometimes it happens that you try to escape something and it comes after you in hot pursuit.In another discussion, the above mentioned two had agreed that the following questions fall under the category of very immoral questions:
  • How was your paper? (particularly asked again and again from a poor student who is staggering out of the exam hall with a numb brain)
  • How is your preparation? (asked on the day before the paper, the night before the paper, the morning of the paper,while the poor, lazy student stares at others' shining, eager faces.Of course, as it happens, the student under consideration is the dumbest and the laziest of them all, rather one of the very,very few dumb and lazy ones.)
  • Have you studied subject x, book y, chapter z, topic a, page b, figure c, curve d? ( This asked all the time during the semester.A solution may be for the student to prance around with a placard saying  'NO' worn around the neck.)
So we are trying to create a world in which exams don't have a hype around them. But then we got a message telling us that we have to go and see our marked papers this monday.
Now I particularly dislike this subject, for it is an ultra stupid one, and not even the instructor, who is one of *the* best teachers I have ever come across, could create a spark of interest with his amazing teaching skills.
(By the by, the teaching talents of this particular teacher have been quite wasted, teaching a stupid course. He could have been assigned something worthwhile. But,on second thought, which talent isn't wasted here? Jump to next thought.)
So now we will have to see it and forget it.
Having a short term memory helps. I wonder if goldfish really are the happiest of us all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I am afraid that the semester project I have to complete is turning into a case of
 ہاتھ کانٹوں سے کر لیے زخمی
پھول بالوں میں اک سجانے کو
When I succeed in overcoming my fear of doing it finally, the monitor goes blank,courtesy wapda. Recently, there was a power outage of approximately 18 hrs at my end. A discovery I made: lack of electricity can induce murderous ideas in a human being.
I am not sure if it would last long enough for me to complete this post or not.
Not that I am out of ideas. Not at all. In fact, I was rather looking forward to my teacher's reaction when I was going to deliver a little speech in front of him, elaborating that I could not complete the work as there wasn't any electricity the entire weekend, and because I am a miserable,poor person after all, and how I should be excused for it.
In fact, I'll still have to give him some excuse.As I am a proponent of telling the truth, it would be something along the same line, that I am lazy\slow-witted\hibernate in winter\have some family feud with processors\ etc etc.
In the cold morning, getting up seems one of the most difficult and brutal things one can ever be compelled to do.
In the upcoming holidays, I want to try my hand at developing some website. Personally, I think I don't have much of a taste for creating a design, so I'll just have to use some custom template. Rather, I'd concentrate on the development part.
Rain is finally here, and is as nice as ever!
So, if I emerge alive out of this trying to make a project, I'll continue this blog. For in the other case, I won't be able to blog.
To my single, most devoted reader: I promised you that I'll try to decrease the level of idiotic content in my babbling, but I don't seem much successful.