Random December Thing.

I’m attracted to you.

I would keep hanging out with you forever if it were possible.

You’re hot, you’re a star. I keep circling around you all day, wondering how it would feel to actually touch you.

I’m jealous that I’m not the closest one to you, but happy I’m at least in your inner circle.

Everyday, you brighten my day, and I feel like breaking this orbit and homing in to you, letting attraction work wonders if possible.

But you look at me with sorrow, crying out to keep my distance, begging me to not burn myself in the process of coming closer to you.

You believe that when we meet, I will be destroyed and life will hold no meaning.

I know exactly what this means.

I’m the earth. You’re the sun of my solar system.

And as long as time remains, I will be around, waiting for you to embrace me and give me your warmth, even if that is the last breath of my life.

What are some trippy thought experiments?

Answer by Jim Stone:

You enter a library, . . .

. . . take a book off the shelf, and notice that it’s filled with seemingly random strings of characters.

You take another book off the shelf. Same thing.

You examine a few more books and notice that all the books are quite similar.

Each book has exactly 500 pages. Each page has exactly 40 lines. And each line has exactly 50 character slots.

You examine a few more books and estimate that there are roughly 100 potential characters (including a blank spaces) that can go into each character slot.

Hmmm. Interesting.

Then you notice a sign that says “START HERE.” You go there, pick the first book off the shelf, and see that every page is blank.

You pick up the next book. It has a single letter ‘A’ in the first character slot, and all the other pages are blank.

You pick up the third book. It has a single letter ‘B’ in the first character slot. And, again, all the other pages are blank.

Then you look out across the library, and the shelves go on and on as far as the eye can see.

Your best guess is that each book in this library is a unique combination of characters, and that, collectively, the books in the library cover all the combinations that can be formed in books of this nature.

You do some quick math and calculate that there must be 100^(500*40*50) books — or 100^1,000,000 (one-hundred to the millionth power) books. 

A vast number indeed.

Then you begin to wonder what books might be out there.

There must be:

  • A copy of “Hamlet," — TAKE THAT, infinite monkeys!
  • A copy of “Hamlet” with one typo.
  • A copy of "Hamlet" with a different typo.
  • A copy of “Hamlet” with two typos.
  • A book containing all the best Quora answers that can fit in 500 pages — including some Oliver Emberton answers that haven't been written yet.
  • An accurate 500-page biography of your life (from your birth until your death).
  • An extremely elegant proof of the Riemann Hypothesis (or is it a counterexample?)
  • A book containing a cure for cancer.

Wow! Just wow!

This is exciting.

Those books are out there somewhere. You just know it.

You have a cure for cancer almost at your fingertips!

Then the reality of the situation hits you, and you realize that the odds of finding any book you might want to find are very, very, . . . in fact vanishingly, . . . slim..

The numbers are just too big.

And there you sit with mixed emotions — torn between absolute wonder at what books must sit in this library, and abject depression because you’ll never find them.

———

This is basically Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel” thought experiment.

It never fails to blow my mind.

What are some trippy thought experiments?

Finding the Beatles.

Yet another trip. Yet another experience.

I was happily on my way to Roorkee this week, when my driver (a prodigious chap named Shekar) told me that we would be crossing Haridwar on the way from Dehradun. Since we reached Dehradun in the early afternoon, and the trip to Roorkee would take a couple of hours at most, he suggested I should spend some time in Haridwar and maybe explore a few places along the way.

Always happy to take a detour, I decided we would stop at Haridwar and maybe I would collect some Gangajal for all those sinning friends of mine. Halfway there, however, a fork in the road and a wrong turn meant we were almost at Rishikesh before we knew it. Now, anybody named Rishi would love to visit Rishikesh, and though the place has a huge list of beautiful places to visit, we wouldn’t have much time if we did.

How then could you spend an hour in Rishikesh and view all that it has to offer? Google it, and you get 49 places to see in and around Rishikesh. Damn, no chance. So I prepared myself to do a recee of the place, and return when I had more time on hand. We crossed the Laxman Jhula and the Ram Jhula, past the mountain where India’s highest bunjee jump is set up, and decided to try our hand at rafting this cold and unruly part of the Ganges.

We were out of luck. Modi’s Swachh Bharat abhiyaan is in full swing (I have mixed feelings here) and the river has been dried up to help clean the source and the paths at Haridwar and further. Rishikesh now has a drying Ganges flowing through it, providing enough water for the temples, but not enough for rafting. Even the Triveni doesn’t draw the crowds in this year.

And on Google, I finally found what I knew I would most certainly enjoy, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. For those without a background, this is where the Beatles came down in the 60’s for most of their inspiration. (Thanks Akshay Harikumar for all those stories of the Maharishi! I knew at once that this was the place.) No one on the street did know, however. We tried to grill at least 50 locals for the location, no one knew it. They could count out fifty places of significance in Rishikesh, but no one knew who the Beatles were.

I found a few random blog posts claiming that the ashram was in ruins, and half engulfed by the forest. I knew now that this was a place I had to see. We took a forest route suggested by one site, and ended up at the other end of the Laxman Jhula, again in the midst of locals who had never heard of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Shekar was giving up now, intent that there wasn’t such a place and I was just reading the stuff of internet folklore.

I read somewhere that the ashram was close to the Swargashram, and people seemed to know where it was. But there was no sign near the ashram. Finally, a local who had heard that the foreigners flocked to this random cave in the hills pointed me in the right direction. When you move south from the Swargashram, you come across a cab parking area which is where the cabs drop visitors to the river bank. Somewhere along a small road from there is a one lane road which ends up the the river, with no where to go but a broken concrete bridge with cows herding all over. I left my cab here and started walking. The cab driver was skeptical, and said, “There’s nothing here. Let’s get to Haridwar, I will show you the best temple in India, and you get to go there via a cable car.” But he didn’t understand that I had a temple of my own I was searching for.

A good ten minute walk uphill, and you meet a few straggling tourists lost. Ask them where the ashram is, and they don’t know. They just came here to this lonely spot to ingest some narcotics approved by the local baba. A lone young foreigner walks down the hill, wearing John Lennon shades and a Beatles tee. Yes! I asked him where the Beatles Ashram is, and he excitedly points me towards the left, happy that someone else has at least a tiny interest in the ones he came all the way to Uttarakhand to understand.

We get talking, and he says, “It’s shut down. They don’t let anyone in, saying the Government has shut it down. Why would the Indian Government do that? In England, this place would be a museum. But I’m glad it’s not, preserves the feels. However, you need to pay the gatekeeper to get in.” He paid Rs. 100 to get in, and guessed that Indians would have to pay a little less. He walks away muttering about unofficial bribes and looting the foreigners.

Revitalized, I walk further. I reach a broken down gate, made of stone. This, is the entrance to the Maharishi’s ashram. A sneaky Indian youth sees me and informs me the place is shut down. Government doesn’t let anyone in. A persuasive conversation of how I’ve come all this way to see this place makes him open the gate. He shrugs, “Your wish. There’s nothing here. I don’t know what is wrong with all the people who come here.” He didn’t charge me a dime, as I’m Indian. I grin to myself, when has that ever happened?\

The ashram is an odd ruin, overgrown with weeds and hidden in the forest. However, all the huts of stone are intact. It is a nature lover’s paradise. Birds, fauna, flora, and happy people. There are close to 20 people inside the ashram. I’m the only Indian here. A Russian passer-by asks me, “Is there a temple here? Why are you here?” “The Beatles!” I grin. Relieved, he points me up the mountain and says, “House No. 9, you want to go there.”

House No. 9 is where John Lennon apparently stayed while here for six weeks. The Beatles wrote over one and a half albums while here, all within 60 days. The entire White Album was written here. And no one knows. Wow. At least now you do.

All the huts are the same, except 9. You crawl into it, and you are met by paintings and doodles by fans, a memorabilia which is worth visiting if you’re a Beatles fan. Hugely popular in the 70’s, hundreds of foreigners have visited this place, and still do, as an ode to the inspiration that created some of the Beatles’ best work. A few musicians sit outside, under trees, seeking their own inspiration.

I found the Beatles. I found peace, in an Indian setting, with huge history and amazing feels. I hope that the Indian Government conserves this goldmine of history, restores the area and maintains it. I’m sure any fan would pay Rs. 100 to visit this place, and many fans don’t even know of this place. But again, I don’t want it to be a crowded museum, it would spoil the legacy and the ambience.

My driver called, we don’t have time for Haridwar. Let us head back to Roorkee as soon as possible, before it gets late. I smile, it was well worth the time lost. And as I walk away, the White Album plays in my head…

Yeah, ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on,
La-la how the life goes on.

And if you want some fun,
Take ob-la-di ob-la-da.

Thank you, uh, ha ha ha!

– The Beatles

Pictures up soon!

IMG_2514

Aliens exist – Thoughts from a travel diary

“Have you seen aliens?”

“Yes, of course. I see them everyday.”

End August, and I’m at the fag end of my road trip to Pondicherry and half a dozen other places around. Our second last stop was Mahabalipuram, known for ruins of an old temple, and amazingly well-detailed artwork in stone at multiple sites. (Pictures to be uploaded on Facebook.)

I was walking along the main street of Mahabalipuram, bordered on one side by the exquisite beauty of the shore and the blue sea beyond, and on the other side by local hawkers for food and local handicrafts. One long stretch along this road is only sculptures, Gautama Buddha, Ganesha, Natarajan etc etc.

Among these shops was a quirky little shop, and the owner of the shop was immersed in sculpting his latest. Read More

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Imperfection works.

Everyone dreams of the perfect product. The perfect service.

No one wants the proverbial insect in their soup. Come to think about it, that insect doesn’t want to be in your soup either.
Nothing is as powerful as marketing “perfect”. Or as easy.

Toys_R_Us

Watching a few ads on the television yesterday made me realize that we’re almost following the same pattern of advertising, irrespective of the product.
Shampoos, skin creams, insect killers, even food products – none fall short of being the perfect product for you and your family. Phones, cars, apps – they’re overly-useful, never fail, suit all your needs.

Are we still falling for these gimmicks? We’re in the age of social media, where the public should seek out these ads and destroy them, no? Wrong. Social media makes it worse. We don’t target the product or the ad, we target the sentiment behind the ad. We are the moral police we were so eager to get rid of a couple of years back.

Buzzfeed was a revolution for bringing great stories to the purview of the public. Indian copies have just focused on the monetary aspect of running such sites, and everywhere, buzzfeed lookalikes are spamming social media with ad-driven stories, very unsubtle promotions and blatant lobbying in some cases.

Traffic isn’t generating revenue, revenue is generated, and then desperate attempts at meeting traffic targets are made. My feed, my phone, my television viewing experience as so full of ads it just makes me gag. I want to dissolve into my world of fiction, books and non-capitalistic filter coffee.

And yet you can’t avoid it. Social Media is making our lives expensive.

From random travel ideas we get because our friends are doing it, to food we want to eat, to check-ins, to hotels, to exotic locations to continuous phone usage. From a time of recharging our phones once a couple of months for a hundred bucks, we are now lavishly spending three to four times that in the urge to stay connected. Our phone usage exceeds our mouth usage, and though we have read through hundreds of articles on Facebook regarding how it’s ruining our lives, (ah, the irony!) we can’t let go.

In our little world of Facebook and Twitter, we are so glorified and connected, that we absolve ourselves of the little tasks that make us happy in the real world. Because they aren’t as rewarding as a couple hundred likes on a blog post, are they now?

But we’ve discussed the social impact way too much, and everyone knows the ifs and buts. But the economic impact? The energy we’re consuming through our phones, the internet, the cost of servers to store our daily nothings on Instagram and Snapchat, our media circus regarding online newsrooms and sports forums, the energy lost in cooling those thousands of servers, apart from the amount we spend on all those things we do to be popular on Social Media come at a cost.

More users>>More Servers>>More Demand>>Higher Pricing>>Costlier Servers>>Higher Prices>>Costlier Lives.

You get the point.

The most crippling of all this, is the fact that imperfection works. It sells, and yet we don’t give it a second look.

Just because we dream of perfect, we dream of everything and everyone around us being perfect. Our actors have perfect bodies, our superheroes always save the day, our stories always have the happy endings. But nothing connects like imperfection.

I can relate to the imperfect. I can relate to mistakes being made. I can accept it, and I can even trust you more if you tell me the truth rather than a white lie. You need to tell your story, to help me understand where you come from. And I’m sure we can find more common things and trust, just builds on that.

The places we go, the pictures we take, the food we eat, the friends we make, none are perfect. Why are we on an endless struggle to perfect those imperfections? Why not revel in the imperfections that are alive. Because that crooked photograph, the wrong note played on the song in a guitar, the one white hair in a million black ones, it makes it real. Keeping it real.