Filling in the blanks

Yalloo there.  Long time no write.  Work intervened, some serious questioning of the relevance of my rants and/or supposedly keen observations occurred, and laziness prevailed. But, they say that form is temporary but lack of class is permanent.  So here I am.

Lack of blog posts does not mean lack of blog-worthy happenings, though.  Several cool things happened during my self-imposed hiatus. I got to play a really neat cricket match organized by the Institute cricket team.  That was very nicely done by the students and the few Profs who played were really appreciative of their efforts .  Thanks, Vikas. Then, a colleague and I took five of our students to a really neat design show at Brunel University, in London.  For us engineer-types, this show is a bit of an eye-opener because many of the concepts presented there are quite far from Engineering.  Check out this link, and you will get an idea.  Overheard one student saying that the most popular exhibit there was the concept for Playboy!  Let’s just say that is not a comment I am likely to hear anytime soon where I live.  The show itself is brilliantly organized and the kids do a great job exhibiting their ideas.  If you are ever in the neighbourhood, it might well be worth checking out.  Overall, though shortened due to some visa issues, the trip was sweet.  I also got to hang out with a childhood friend who took me on my first round of golf ever. That was a blast, which tells me that for the sake of marital harmony, I should never again be anywhere near a golf course.

What else?  Took up swimming … again.  Every time I jump in, I feel like I am channeling the reviled Mahmud of Ghazni.  To be fair to the record, incremental progress has been achieved in that I can do the forward crawl for a few strokes before my breathing rhythm completely breaks down. Also gained a bit on the breast-stroke.  I was feeling pretty pleased about this development until I heard my coach saying this is a very easy stroke and ‘is for the ladies’. Obviously, he hasn’t seen a live child-birth.  Did go to the pool once during a wicked rain-shower.  It was quite exhilarating to be in a pool full of warm water with cold rain falling on me.  Highly recommend.

During the break, I also learned a few valuable lessons.  After a thoroughly underwhelming experience with some final-year students, I learned that I have a long way to go in motivating students and getting the best out of them. Also learned that two-wheelers are probably not as safe as four-wheelers (duh?) and insisting on stopping at a red light for the full 90 seconds when the big bus behind you wants to jump the light may not be a bright idea (duh? again).  Finally, also learned during the tamizh semmozhi maanaadu that Dr. Kalaignar single-handedly built Stonehenge and the statues on Easter Island while secretly drawing strength from the Thirukkural.

On the debit side, a couple of deaths.  The first was that of a retired Prof., who died in totally avoidable circumstances in a road accident: you know how much I love to go to town on such things. Man is dead for no fault of his, while the real culprits remain anonymous and vanish into the dust and noise.  Yet, I resisted the temptation to write, feeling not unlike a freshly lactose-intolerant Tambram in front of an offering of thayirsadam with maavadu at noon.  I guess one does need to stop plucking low-hanging fruit at some point.

The other death was, and is, much harder to take.  An old friend from Urbana, likely suffering from severe depression, took his own life.  And how?  By jumping into Niagara Falls!  Absolutely stupefying.  Of course, one goes through so many different emotions when faced with a situation like this, but for me the overwhelming feeling is that this is all such a tremendous waste.  He was a really, really, nice guy; kind and seemingly happy. But, he did go through some tough patches, maybe tougher patches than typical.  He lost his only sibling to a road accident, his Ph.D. took longer than most and he couldn’t find a job easily. Just before the incident, he had been told that his post-doc position was not going to be renewed.  But, in the grand scheme of things, I guess one would have to say these are surmountable obstacles rather than life-taking miseries.  But, depression is a crazy thing; makes you imagine demons in every nook and cranny and sucks the life out of you.  All I can say is that this is serious business, and that we better learn to recognize the signs in ourselves and our loved ones.  Here is a touching piece on the topic.

Something bright to close with.  After the tragic death of one of our students I wrote about in my last post, a bunch of us invited ALERT, a non-profit organization to our campus to deliver a workshop on emergency awareness and CPR.  These workshops are run entirely by volunteers and their aim is to have one in every family trained.  Karthik, Rajesh and Srivatsan ran our workshop and although some felt it was a bit too long, everyone was very happy with the content.  Best of all, this is a free service.  Needless to say, I highly recommend this organization, and if you can get around 50 participants to register, you should give them a call.  In fact, we are in the process of organizing a second workshop in the next couple of weeks on our campus; drop me a line if you are interested.

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4 Comments on “Filling in the blanks”

  1. Satish Says:

    “…insisting on stopping at a red light for the full 90 seconds when the big bus behind you wants to jump the light may not be a bright idea..”

    I’ve been there and it can be suicidal at times 🙂

    Who would want to be the subject of a blog post about a guy who was stupid enough to wait at the stop light and got run over by a bus?

    You have reason to feel happy about the breast stroke, it burns more calories than front crawl.

    • deshvaasi Says:

      ‘Who would want to be the subject of a blog post about a guy who was stupid enough to wait at the stop light and got run over by a bus?’


      After switching to a four-wheeler, I can’t imagine riding through the arterial roads on a motorbike. I would feel thoroughly exposed.

  2. I found your blog and was reading it; when I saw this post which mentions your friend’s suicide; and thought immediately of him. We had talked over the years about his delayed Ph.D. and difficult job search and I helped him with interviews. Did not know this happened until now..So sad!

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