Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Evolution of I/O Function - Computers and Us

In the first computers, the processor directly controlled peripheral devices. The processor used to be busy with I/O most of the time. Then an I/O module got added to the architecture and the processor started using programmed I/O but the processor still was busy with I/O. Interrupts came in next followed by DMA making the processor more and more efficient and making I/O devices more independent and intelligent. Now, I/O devices are mini computers with processors and memories of their own.

Perhaps similar phenomena happened in the human body. Cognition is far more complicated than what most super computers can do today. But, imagine, what will happen if the brain starts making our sense organs more independent. Right now, the sense organs gather data and the brain is responsible for integrating the data and making sense of the impressions. A first step towards making the sense organs more independent would be to integrate them because cognition is almost always the result of a combination of sense perceptions. So, there will have to be ONE sense organ that can touch, see, hear, smell and taste. Lets assume that the human skin is that organ. It assimilates all the sense perceptions and transfers the data to the brain. Lets look at how our lives as these evolved human beings will differ...

Our vision will be panoramic and phenomenal. If naked, we'll be able to see 360 degrees all around. Our concepts of back and front will be altered. Back stabbing won't be possible anymore! Eyes will not be as delicate and vulnerable. After all, if you lose a part of your skin, you can always see from another part!! But yes, skin diseases will be the biggest problem of our lives. Looking into dark corners will just mean fingering around!

Of course, it'll naturally force us to shed our clothes, since we can't cover our eyes all the time!! And the parts that are covered will have to see the back of our clothes all day!! That'll probably start off a new fashion trend - clothes with pleasing designs on the reverse!! Or clothes with books or movies on the reverse, so that part of the skin is reading or watching movies while its clothed!! Scope for new technology as well!!
Touching an apple will tell you how it looks closely, feels, smells and tastes! Selecting fruits and vegetables will be easier!! For the first time, you'll be able to look into your shoes while wearing them! And, after a long day's work, your legs will have to suffer their smell and taste!! Aaaargh!! Shaking hands with another person will involve not just knowing their touch but also their taste and smell!! And sex will really involve "perceiving" your partner deeply and completely!!!

Our face will not have ears, nose, mouth and eyes. Probably just an opening for chewing and swallowing. Heads will be much smaller - only small knobs resting on the shoulder and containing the brain. All humans will look more or less the same - only changes being in the size and shape of the body and the color of the skin. That'll have tremendous impact in fashion, advertising, movies and all industries that need human faces!! Well, identification might become a problem. A person's identity will then consist of his/her shape, size, smell, texture, taste and sound. The face will be an insignificant part.

More can be thought of - I request readers to add more. Overall, I feel it will be a better I/O model!!


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Of, relating to, occurring in, or appropriate to winter - Lila

When I look at Lila now, I wonder how I had ever fallen in love with her then. She is talking about things which I don’t want to hear now. She is telling jokes and laughing and I am responding by smiling my arrogant smile – only to let her imagine that I am with her in the conversation. Perhaps she knows that I am not listening and she doesn’t care either – she never cared anyway. I don’t even know why I came here when she called me. Despite all that had happened between us, I have come. Her face has not lost her radiance; she is still as attractive as she had been. But, it’s lost. The feeling just isn’t there. I actually feel strange at the thought of my sitting and talking to her. But, that’s what I am doing. I feel disgusted at myself and the fact that circumstances have led to this. I really don’t know how to describe it. I have thought about it for about six years now – the thought of how it happened almost made me crazy.

After those two months, I always loved her only in her absence! Or, perhaps I only loved those two months – the time, the place, the atmosphere, her. But I loved those two months after those two months…

Her sweet smell used to drive me mad. The soft, freezing nights, fog fragrant with blooming jasmine - enchanting and still vivid in my memory - Our first train and jeep ride; the mellifluence of her voice; our walks together in beautiful moonlit nights –
when we discussed dreams, philosophy and coffee! Her special treats only for me; her relief when I came alone to meet her without my friends; chocolates for attending her concert; her calling my name aloud in her shrill voice; our emails which determined when we would meet next and where – despite the fact that we met at the same place everyday and at the same time! Her songs sung only for me and the stars in the romantic quiet of the temple garden; her standing close when I was sitting on the parapet; the warmth of her touch – her hands on my knees; her reading my fledgling writings; her prophecy of my writing, my dreams of her – real and fabricated, her piety and my atheism, our only photo that I lost, my dreams, my dreams, my dreams…

Those two months I didn’t realize what was happening. I was in a trance. Everything had changed. My only pastime was to wait for her evening calls. My only thoughts were the cumulative memories of our togetherness of the previous days. Each day only added more memories. I was dormant, I did nothing – she came and there was magic… everything happened effortlessly – like an intoxicating fog coming from heaven, enveloping my helplessness.

And then, it snapped. The fog lifted. The sun blazed the plains but froze the memories - neatly casketing and locking them up. There was nothing more to be filled and yet there was enough for a lifetime of agonizing recalls. All of a sudden, there was a callous wall between us. We met, but not the same way. We talked of the same things and yet, the feeling wasn’t the same. It was as if the curtain had been suddenly raised and the chilling suspense and sweet anxiety evaporated leaving an annoying vacuum. It was maddening. I just couldn’t figure out what had happened. And my confusion led to bizarre behavior. I acted stupid – behaving like a spoilt child, nagging her sometimes indirectly and often, directly. That furthered the rift.

Life moved fast. It took us to different places, led us to different circumstances. Our paths didn’t meet of its own like the earlier magic. And when forcibly intersected, it only brought to the fore the saddening absence of harmony. All the while, I kept thinking about what had happened. How? Why? What did I do? What did I not do? Each time I met her, I went with an expectation. Outwardly I put on an angry, stoic front; deep inside I wanted those two months back. They never came. I never discussed it with her. It had to happen by magic like in those two months. My conscious efforts in the past had only ruined it further. I tried for two years and then I was sapped out. Hope has a limit.

Love only touches for a moment. And then, nothing lasts – neither love, nor the moment; only memories of the moment – tender and haunting memories.

Once in a while, we meet like today. I don’t like these meetings. Yet, the ghost of hope lurks within, gnaws inside and brings me to her. The safely hidden casket in my heart opens. Those two months flash through my mind along with the absurdity and nausea that followed. I try to keep the latter away from my precious casket. That’s my secret treasure that nobody can comprehend or see – not even Lila. And yet, even while I write this, I am hoping that she sees this and…

Hope never dies. Fortunately, love does! Does it?

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Morning walk

On the left, is a towering apartment block. It has huge gates well guarded by dark, thin men, elegantly dressed, with proud faces adorned by moustaches. They have a separate room at the side with a window through which they can peep with irritated, raised eyebrows at every passer-by who looks at the gates. There are hundreds of flats in the block, the windows and balconies of each flat overlooking the road - each room looking identical but encumbering a distinct fascinating tales of human lives.

The footpath in front of the apartment bears men and women jostling to begin their day. Most have blank looks which betray some expression only when they see their watch or an irregularity in their attire or some curious incident on the road - like the motorcyclist hurling abuses at the autorickshaw for having rammed into him. Meanwhile, other two-wheelers are busy strenuously finding ways of moving ahead - some move into the footpath, they tilt at various angles to squeeze through gulleys, furrows and other formations created by the traffic.

A pirated-books seller is busy laying out the books on the footpath, dusting each book before placing it. Bevies of young girls continuously cross the road to reach the college gate on the opposite side. Most of them are giggling at each others' gossip. Some glance at the books. Each glance diverts the attention of the book seller, frustration quickly following expectation from both sides.
Some men with company tags hanging out of their pockets also stop to look at the books. Most men wear formal clothes, have a briefcase like bag and a serious look. The tags unite them like dogs of a pedigree. With men possessing similar tags, they share a common future and common jokes. [Different tags only change the names and some jargon - the essence of the conversation remains same among the tagged men!]

The bus stops are thronged by many colors and dull faces. Eager faces pop out of every bus that arrives, each face yelling - announcing the route and the destination. Most people want to go where the most packed buses go. Empty buses seem to be going where nobody wants to go and there are so many empty buses and so few packed buses!

The shopping mall looks lifeless. All the shops are closed and the mannequins stare eerily from the dark backgrounds. Coffee Day has woken up and are serving the morning dose of MTV to the cleaners of the mall. A sharp turn after the mall, and my office comes into my cone of vision.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

At the railway station - Lila

He had boarded the train with four other companions. The din of the railway station had started boring him nowadays. Looking around, he saw people of all kinds with one thing in common – the dust and grime of the railway station. He remembered the time when he was fascinated by crowds especially on a railway station. So many people, each one with so many thoughts and ideas, would it be possible to look into the minds of all these people, know their thoughts…thus he would muse often. And now, having thought of the same thing over and over again, he had got exasperated and was daydreaming about his past daydreams.

“Coffee!” he yelled out. The man carrying a huge container of coffee came rushing to him. “One cup,” he said. While he was searching for a five rupee coin, the man quickly handed him a cup of coffee and was ready to sprint to the next customer. The coffee soothed his dry throat. ‘Perhaps I am about to catch a throat infection. Better drink some coffee to prevent it,’ he thought. He looked out of the window and could see an amalgamation of floating colors. The rush was so terrible that he did not want to distinguish the people it comprised of. He preferred to imagine a “bird’s eye view” and just observe the illusion of colors rushing to and fro. Suddenly he felt a torrent of grey and brown and green almost overwhelming him. Something else also perturbed him – noise. It was more irritating than the din of the mob. It was someone, rather a group of three or more people talking near him.

He shook himself mentally and focussed to perceive what was happening. Just on the other side of his window, on the platform, stood an elderly couple. His hair was grey and her sari was green. He turned and saw a man of about forty sitting in front of him with his glorious paunch celebrating his existence. The man with his paunch was verily the embodiment of feast and gaiety. His thoughts were now interrupted by simultaneous invasions of a sweet-smelling perfume and feminine chattering. On his left, was a girl who was bending to look out of the window to talk to the elderly couple.

‘She is so engrossed in her talks that it appears that she hasn’t even seen me. My presence is obviously a hindrance to her conversation. I have to get up but I don’t want to. I like her smell! And it’s not daily that I have the opportunity to sit beside a sweet smelling female!’ He quickly made the chivalrous decision. He looked at her and made some movements in order to get up. She looked at him without any expression. ‘Maybe that’s an expression which signifies a little bit of irritation and a little bit of worry. After all the biological self is the first to react. An unknown male moving in the direction of a female is bound to inspire biological apprehension and fear!’

“Please sit comfortably and talk,” he said to her and moved to sit beside that epitome of mirth. Her expression changed in an instant. She smiled at him and quickly resumed talking to the elderly couple. Her smile instantly changed his mood. ‘Wow. I hope this girl travels with us,’ he felt delighted at the prospect of spending the next two days traveling with this sweet smelling creature. He began to observe her carefully and was ecstatic at being engaged in his favorite pastime. She was thin, very thin indeed. ‘I guessed she considers her emaciated self slim!! These girls are too much.’ She was his age or probably older. She spoke Tamil fluently and indeed buoyantly. She appeared to be a bubbly creature with a body capable of withstanding the gymnastics of her exuberance. Her face was pleasing, not really beautiful. But all of a sudden, an ornate smile displayed a lovely set of teeth and made her immensely beautiful. ‘Oh! Come on. Nowadays I have started finding excuses to make every girl beautiful!’ She had a large forehead which made her look old as well as wise. ‘Her eyes! Yes, that’s why she appears so beautiful. Her eyes sparkle when she smiles and gives her a divine beauty!’ Her thin eyebrows and extremely thin lips accentuated her feminity but when one looked at her below her face, it seemed to accentuate her rather gaunt features. Her nose was sharp and small.

He immediately felt a dichotomy in her being. There was something of a contradiction between the face and the rest of her body. He wasn’t fully aware of what it was. He realized it only days later. Her body radiated vibes of spirituality. The thinness of it reminded him of yogis of ancient India!! Her sweet smell further added to an ethereal, mystic aura about her. Her broad forehead seemed to be fighting this spirituality, trying hard to come out of its grips into the mundane world - a world where a woman had to be beautiful to succeed if she didn’t have any other talent or skill. The battle lines seemed to have been drawn at her chin which was small and pointed and from which seemed to emerge her lower spiritual body. The face had been able to resist till this chin and not beyond that – the broad forehead and the small, strained chin gave this appearance. Of course, he just had a vague notion of all this. He was able to articulate it better much later.


Moribund (1)

The first rays of the sun tore through the clouds and burst forth with all their might. The night put up a struggle and was unwilling to leave. Strands of day and night adorning the dawn sky lit up the struggle. Below on earth another encounter witnessed the divine play of light above. It was an encounter of unequal foes – life and the will to perish.

Chetan was lying on a bench in the park. The park was surrounded by roads on all sides, rather one busy road and three narrow lanes – two of the lanes joined the road and the third lane was narrow and lonely. The bench was along this lane. The park was thickly populated with trees – so many that neither could he see the boundary walls on the farther sides of the park and nor could he discern the presence of another person. There was path that had been hemmed out from this thick outgrowth and ran parallel to the boundary walls on all the sides.

He had escaped from the hospital. He didn’t know what he was doing and where he was going. He watched the sky with a child-like expression of wonder and a moribund stillness. He felt blank. He felt empty. He was wearing a gown given him in the hospital – he had nothing but the gown and his underwear.

He could see a tent at the edge of the park. An old hag became visible as the sun started gaining in the encounter - she was sitting outside the tent. She wore a ragged gown which had been stitched together from various pieces of dull, faded clothes. The gown was too big for her and made her look bigger than she actually was. From the opening of this gown on the top a face emerged that was dark, ugly and wrinkled. Her hair was grey and dusty. Her eyes were sharp, piercing and a strange madness in them – a penetrating ferocity.

She was trying to light a fire with some twigs that she had collected. He looked around and found a saucepan beside her. He imagined tea in the pan and the smell of tea wafted its way from his mind to his nose. He longed for a cup of hot tea. One year back, at this time he was demanding tea at home and his mother was preparing tea at top speed. She had to prepare tea for Chetan, coffee for herself and her husband and then get ready to leave for office. Chetan liked tea more than coffee – he preferred coffee only before serious studies. He used to like tea more than coffee – now he liked nothing, wanted nothing and yet missed everything – he felt that it was this feeling which was the weakness of his soul and life sowed the seeds for this weakness. The dream suddenly dissolved in his tears – tears not of sadness or nostalgia - and when the drops fell on his cheeks clearing his eyes of the dream, he could see the old hag lifting the pan from the fire which was now burning vigorously.

He lifted himself from the bench with much effort. His leg where he had been operated hurt him and walking was difficult. The fire and the food provoked him to draw near. He was attracted as though by some invisible force. He had completely surrendered his mind to his body and his body moved instinctively towards nourishment, towards the burning fire of life.

The old hag saw him approaching and her features became taut. She guarded herself, her pan and her tent with a maternal ferocity. As Chetan limped forward, she clutched a branch which was shaped like a club and stared constantly at Chetan. Chetan was too feeble to speak and approached without a word. Without any warning, the old hag got up, ran towards Chetan swearing incessantly. He was shocked and paralyzed at this sudden revolt. He saw the club descending on him and the thorns in the branch scratched his head leaving a bleeding gash behind. He fell on the muddy ground with a pain piercing his leg. A stone had abraded the bandage from his leg and his wound now lay open to the brutality of nature all around. The old hag could see a deep wound stretching from his left knee to the middle of his calf muscles. Half the leg had been scooped out and the raw flesh was visible. The wound looked fresh although there was no blood. It seemed as though blood was tired of oozing out. There were stains of blood all over the wound and she could see the faint outline of his bone in the middle of the wound. Chetan was crying softly as the sunlight, having won the battle against night, sought its next victim in his leg.

The hag saw his leg and felt nauseated. She went back to her tent muttering constantly to herself. Chetan’s head was bleeding at two places - near his left temple where the branch had hit him and on the other side where his head had landed with a thud on the ground. The pain in his leg was moving slowly upwards and he could feel the excruciating radiating pain. In agony, he kicked his left leg with his right leg. His right toe touched the wound and he yelled out in pain. His head was throbbing as blood dripped from over his eyebrow and mingled with his tears on his cheek.

He felt as though the pain from his leg wanted to meet the pain from his head and his chest and torso prevented the meeting. He felt a tug of war being played at the two ends of his body. The sunlight had become harsher and he could feel each ray clawing into the two ends of his body. He could not hear his own wailing increasing in intensity. The old hag heard it and ran away from the park with her pan. There was nobody in Chetan’s vicinity. Then the wailing ceased and Chetan saw himself in a different place. In fact he saw himself in two places – lying in the park tormented with pain and standing in his house just out of bed. He knew that one Chetan was a reality and the other a dream. How he wished it was the other way round. He tried hard to concentrate on the dream. The other Chetan was now static and slowly he could only see the events of his past unfurling in front of his closed eyes...

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The Reprobate

There were two rival groups of dogs in that area. Both were proud of their ancestors and both upheld the values of their clans ferociously.
Actually, the story of the two groups had a common beginning.

In the beginning there were just two dogs and their mates. The two dogs had been brought up together and were friendly. How the four of them came there, nobody knows. But once they came, they never left.
Because of a misunderstanding between the two males and because of a natural instinct of possessing one’s own territory, they separated. Their territories were clearly demarcated and were fiercely protected by each pair. They co-existed as rival neighbors and never went anywhere else.

Their families grew as the females gave birth to healthy litters. The pups were schooled well by their parents and they imbibed noble virtues of love for territory, parents and kith and kin. The enmity between the two groups was now a family matter. Each group ferociously guarded its territory and didn’t allow any dog from another group to enter. A dog from the neighboring group wouldn’t dare to enter the territory of the other. And if one ventured by mistake, the unity and ferocity of the pack would soon pounce upon it. The lone adventurer would then not flee, for it was from a brave and proud clan. It would fight with enormous courage as its brothers would soon join it and carnage would ensue. Bodies would be terribly wounded and the souls would be glowing with pride. The females would have another story to narrate to their young and the unity of the group and their pride in their values would strengthen.

One day, a reprobate was born to one of the groups. The entire group cursed their stars for the puny male pup was the weakest creature they had even seen. How could a clan that boasted of its valor ever produce an animal like that! The pup grew and was different from others. It was devoid of anger – it was gentle and caring. It was despised by the entire group. The males of the group had to be dogs of valor, power and ferocity – such a weakling was a blemish to the group. He was ostracized from the activities of the group. He stayed in the territory of the group and managed to fend for himself but was a failure in school. The noble virtues of patriotism and savage strength always eluded him – he was a depraved creature.

One day, the reprobate dog ventured into the neighboring territory and was immediately surrounded by the rival dogs. Their violent barks were deafening. Their threatening canines were waiting to rip the flesh out of him. Their tongues were hanging out ominously and their blood shot eyes were piercing his soul. The difference between his life and death was just a moment. While the rival dogs were surrounding him, dogs from his own group saw him and were rushing forward eager for battle. Then the unthinkable happened. All the dogs from both the groups were stunned and stood motionless. The reprobate bent down and surrendered.

The rival dogs didn’t know how to react – they had neither heard nor even thought of such a happening. The dogs of his own group were looking, awe-struck, waiting for the reaction of the enemy. The rivals cleared the way for the reprobate and the dog got up, head and tail still drooping and made his way to his brothers who were looking at him with a look of abject disgust. The battle had ended without beginning and the soldiers returned home.

The reprobate sat with his head bent with shame while all the other members of the group surrounded him. The eldest (who were the wisest and most brutal) were together, the commoners and females were together and the only thought that was in everyone’s minds was – the group had been insulted. The thought was like a solid wave flowing (through everyone’s minds) and static – it united them and at once gave rise to a communal feeling. It was a united feeling of hatred towards the depraved dog.

Almost simultaneously it was decided and then the elders proclaimed – the reprobate is no longer a part of the group. He is exiled. Being their brother, he will not be attacked by any member of this group. However, no responsible member of the group will allow him to eat anything within this territory.

The reprobate heard the pronouncement calmly and then, slowly walked away. He loved his country and didn’t want to go anywhere else. He was just averse to the violence which was a part of the lives of the two groups. He sat dreamily basking in the sun. He was sad and forlorn.
Then hunger shook him up and he wandered about to swallow something. He found a piece of meat and was about to pick it up when he remembered the morning’s pronouncement. There were two dogs staring at him angrily on the other side of the meat. He turned away and went in another direction. Wherever he went, he always saw the same sight – food and beside the food, his brothers guarding the food from him. Hungry and tired he sat under the shade of the tree. He slept without food. After some time, the hunger was intolerable. He got up and wandered again – in vain.

Then he saw some food that was not guarded – it was in the neighboring territory. His mind was delirious and it saw nothing but the food that was a few yards away. He ran towards it and just when his teeth were about to touch the meat, it vanished. In its place he saw three dogs – enormous and frightening. One of them had the meat in its mouth. They knew him – for the news of his surrender had spread far and wide. They didn’t attack him. He turned under the threat of their cruel glower.
He went back to his land. He waited and slowly life oozed out of him. Insects and infection were devouring him. Agonizingly he starved to death.