Thursday, July 23, 2015

So close, yet so far

Let me narrate a dream.

You are in the semi-final of a Super Series Premier event. You just got there after beating the reigning world # 1. What is more, you are up 19-16 in the 3rd set. And then, in your dream, something happens. A string on your tight high tension racquet breaks. Snap. You  realise this might not be a dream. While you are walking back to get a new one, you are now aware of noises around you. The nerds among us have a word for it; Hypnagogia i.e. waking dream.  Before you know it, the score is 19-21, and you wake up - An also ran who has never won a super series.


This is the reality of Parupalli Kashyap. An ever affable and talented work horse, his career is littered with similar stories. In the 2012 London Olympics, he went as far as the Quarterfinals, the best performance by any Indian thus far. In almost every BWF event (of last one year), he has been a perennial fixture of the final 32 or better.  Only once did he cross the Semi-finals to win the trophy - Syed Modi cup in Lucknow India. He did so by beating a younger, more dynamic, and arguably tired Kidambi Shrikanth. That, however, is a story for another article.

So how does a player as talented as Kashyap fall short, time and again, at crunch moments? In those situations, it is not about skill anymore. The game becomes a psychological warfare. To play a drop or a smash, to expect your opponents move, to be ready and be unfazed, to be in the game, to go for the $ 1 M pot of World series. Summing it all in one word -  Mental Toughness.  It is what seperates the champions from wannabes.

An interesting tit-bit here is that Kashyap is an avid poker player ala Rafael NadalHe knows how to defeat demons within himself - He overcame Ashtma.  We are betting he will defeat the mental demon in the upcoming world series championships and come out a winner.

Our team wishes him all the best

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Career paths and confusions

Here is a small mail chain with long replies. I seemed to have touched a spot for Sriram to write such a detailed mail on his view on PHD, but nonetheless, thought his gyan needed to be shared with broader public*

*Permission pending. And for the uninitiated, Sriram was the IP 3 (Insti position 3) from IIT M and got into Cornell for PHD.


S Sriram 16 
Apr 4 (7 days ago)
to me
11:35 AM me: 16
  u must have read the phd rape article on economist na?
  wat ur opinion?

S Sriram 16
Apr 5 (6 days ago)
to me

I read the article a long time back, just skimmed it again. I agree with the main point that there are perhaps more PhDs being produced than can be absorbed, but that's probably true today of every kind of education and job. I'm one of those people who feels the luddite fallacy isn't really a fallacy (wow the wikipedia title has changed since a year or so back when i read it). I'll leave this technology unemployment digression for another day. Back to the issue of PhDs. This article probably speaks from the perspective of americans or europeans. But from my perspective, and probably that of insti junta and even other Indians, the big issue is probably the very limited back flow of info on PhD from current students to 3rd/4th year undergrads. Then the assumption was that if you are a maggu and generally like to study/learn you'll fit into a PhD. That's somewhat true for science (physics, chem, biology, may be computer science) PhDs, but a lot less true for engineering PhDs. In engineering, the goal is to mix and match known concepts from physics using real phsyical objects to make something useful for people.  

A fundamental realization for me was that no one will pay for you to learn stuff for yourself. Learning something will be of value to society only if you are the very first person to "learn" it, in which case you are what you are really doing is discovering/inventing that piece of information rather than learning/understanding it. So you can't simply sit and keep reading about one subject after the other on things you don't know. You have to contribute useful ideas. The process of sitting and understanding some piece of knowledge (maths theorem, physics equation, or engineering concept) is very different from inventing a new theorem, new equation or new device, or more generally, any new idea. Coming from the indian system, we are fairly poorly trained in open-ended thinking where there is simply no "correct answer" to get to. Like the article says, only a handful of PhDs make go on to become profs. But what i can tell from the inside is that those prof-level students are those who are both extremely intelligent and highly imaginative. They are creative enough to come up with ideas and smart enough to know how to test and execute it. Many grad students like both studying and explaining/teaching but this is not enough to get you a good professorship. 

Others like me are good enough at problem solving to execute an idea but draw a blank on new ideas and probably end up doing industrial D (from R&D :).As a prof, at least in the US, you need to constantly come up with ideas for grants and enough of them should be viable that you have a reasonable stream of money flowing in. Even in India there's growing focus on research output. In that context i realized that we have a disproportionately large number of pure science research happening in India as compared to engineering research. Most govt research institutes, your IICT, CCMB, IISER, TIFR, RRI, HRI... all mainly work on pure sciences. ONLY IISc and IITs do engineering. Like i said before, a lot science research can be done by simply studying something that someone else hasn't studied before. But that's typically very "academic" in nature. Only if you have enough engineering happening, or "innovation" to use the latest buzzword of the HRD ministry, can you translate some of that purely academic knowledge into something that people will pay money for. So coming back to the topic, my biggest PhD gripe is that it's not about learning but about imagining. I know i'm not terribly creative and would not really mind executing someone else's ideas. But i'd like to think i'm incrementally better at open thinking now than i was three years back. So hopefully i'll have some useful idea some day. 

That's enough ramble for the day. Should put vid call next time to avoid this pain of typing.  :)

Anupam Chakilam 
Apr 5 (6 days ago)
to S
haha..dood. seriously. Long arse mail. Strong opinions you have. I'm familiar with luddite fallacy. Suresh Babu mentioned it during one macro economics class. I have been reading similar articles on MBA. My biggest worry is, no body seems really happy you know. Like, people say MBA is not worth it, PHD is not worth it, staying in Job is not worth it..then what the hell is? I know I'm painting everystream with same brush, but the future seems kind of scary

Out of interaction experience, the only ones I have seen little mellow and happy about career path are entreupreneurs, but I guess that is not everyone's cup of tea. Have you read this about U bend of life? This kind of gave the answer.Read if you have time.

And yea, you are right, we'll put vid chat. I'm going home for Ugadi for a week. And apparently mattu's marriage is there sometime next month and India juntha are planning to put meet. Wassup that side of the world? My MBA applications cupped spectacularly. Thinking of applying locally next year. I'll 99% stay in India and make a career here only looks like, which I'm kinda happy about as of now. Lesse.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I wrote this for a dear friend when asked for a creative invite. Do let me know your thoughts:)


There was once a Sage, peaceful and nice. Of men and mice, he had great knowledge
He set out to write an epic, but no story seemed wise. So he thought of seeking intelligent advise

Write about "dice", said the advise. "That's a strange choice", said the sage in soft voice. 
"How about kings and sacrifice?", added the advise. The happy and hungry sage loved it. "Good. I'll combine all three like pulav rice" 

Thus came the Company Bharatha, the greatest book ever written. To have a bite and be a part,
Please be gracious and accept the invite.

Calling Y'all for the big prize

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Greenery, Scenery and the Great Godavari

This is going to be one of my(or only) long blog post. So if you've just wandered here to pass time between running codes or bored of seeing the same facebook updates and looking for more excitement in life or just stumbled here because of my brilliantly worded blogsite, which draws a lot of Akon fan traffic here, I advise you just skip the crap and directly go to the pics. On the other hand,if you are serious about taking a boat ride on Godavari or most likely just too jobless in life, go ahead.

I've always wanted to go explore places (I know. Like who doesn't?). Went to a few with family. Let me see now: Ooty - Coimbatore, Mysore - Banglore - Hospet, Kothagudem - Kinnerasani, Kurnool - Ahobilam - Nandyal, Mumbai and around: all mostly when young. And then there were the trips I put to Banglore, Pondicherry, Goa, Delhi with dosths. I know, not very extensive. A regret of my life. But a deeper and greater regret has been not seeing the Andhra part of my own state. So when my mom told me that they were shifting base to Vizag, I was actually kinda glad. Finally, the coastal districts. I can now tick off one other part of A.P.

Clouds, Hills and the Great River
Vizag was a nice change from Pune and I loved the August weather there (pun intended). Our house was on the slopes of a hill, in a place named Seethamma Dhaara. For a person so very used to the corrupted names of Hyd localities, the names here sounded like poetry.(The names of localities in Hyd actually deserve another post. Will do that in future. And don't get me wrong, Hyd still is first love. No body can beat names like Neem Bowli Adda, Kacheguda, Koranti, Seethaphalmandi, Tirumalgherry and such)

So you are right, this post isn't about Vizag and Hyd and the never ending debates which usually crop up while comparing cities. Its about this launch (Boat) ride I took from Rajamundry to Perantalapally (If you are a Gult, lol with me). We started from a place called Pattiseema. Now if you come from a parched placed like Hyd and have only seen villages in an around there, this place looks like a green paradise. The closest I can compare this place is with the pics of Kerala backwaters. The greenery just overwhelmed me. But this was nothing. The actual boat ride was even better.

The boat was good. So was the food. We took an A.P tourism managed one but you can choose from other private operators too.The first stop was at a small Lanka (Island, in the river). There was a Rama temple there, but I spent most of the time strolling on the river banks, trying to soak in the rivers vastness. Man it was huge. Like a giant moving lake. The tour guide was telling me that the best time to undertake the journey is when the monsoons aren't too rough. The river usually has very strong current after a good monsoon and the steamer cannot navigate or its usually dry during other seasons and the steamer anyways cannot navigate in shallow waters. So usually August to November is a good time to be there.

The lake like river, after about an hour jounrney became a vast but stronger moving current. There was an opening, about a kilometer wide in between the hills from which the river comes from the valley. That's the Paapi hills welcome gate. I originally thought the name had something to do with some guys sin, but apparently, it comes from the telugu word "Papidi", meaning the hairline partition of a woman. The river is like the "papidi". I remember another story the guide told me about the hills. There were some hill rocks on top of one of the hills making it look like a man, with a long nose. The story he told is long and like most mythological stories involves Rushis' and curses and rakshas and Godavari cleansing sins etc (Ok.Ok Guilty. I forgot the story.Sorry!). The guide made a snide remark saying nowadays they are calling it the K.C.R hill (refer long nose part:D).

There were some people on the river banks making small pits in there to collect water. They were using it as some sort of filtration technique. It was a tough life, filtering water like that and then transporting uphill. I din't understand why they were doing it until I realized that was another river island. The journey upstream next took us to Parentalapally, which contained a Rama Krishna ashram. The setting was absolutely serene and I wasn't at all surprised to see an ashram there. In fact, I was kinda expecting more baba's at those locations. There were also lots of "Tribals" , mostly selling forest/tribal stuff. God how I hate commercialization at such places. But guess we got to accept them with the journey

The journey down stream was much faster. All those CAT problems about upstream downstream boats suddenly made sense;). Since there were no stops, the guide was playing very loud music from the PA system. I soo badly wanted to just spend time sitting and staring at the never changing hills and the fast flowing water. But the boat setting made me think. Instead of going to Goa or a costly resort for office parties et all, hiring a boat on Godavari makes lot more economic sense, and trust me, with enthusiastic people, it is great fun. There is one small island in between which has lots of tents and stuff by AP tourism. A stop here can make the whole journey two days long. Ofcourse, even with my parents it was good fun. In fact, I would term the experience a perfect family time.

At the place where we start, i.e Pattiseema, there is the huge Polavaram project coming up. I don't think there is any danger of the journey being spoilt because of the damn cuz,come on, the political situation makes sure the construction just won't happen. The dam may spoil the fun by cutting short the journey once its up so I'd say the next 3-4 years are the best time to undertake this journey.

Although I'm not much of a photographer, I'll still leave you guys with some pics. The place has great scenery, good food and will give you some peace of mind. An experience worth trying and especially for Rs 600, its a steal. My only regret was that people around used plastic bags and cups indiscriminately in the river and in the islands. There isn't much littering yet, but I can see that once tourists pour in, these places are bound to get screwed up. We as a nation should collectively improve our civic sense.
I wonder why they don't have races on Godavari.
The place looked very pretty

Early morning clouds on mountains

The Polavaram project. Somewhere here

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reading it wrong

The starting was simple
He was reading a page now and a page then
When there was free time, it was always there
He din't understand all but he was sure he was going to read it again
Spending time with it became a daily affair

The chapters were humble
Each giving him a new outlook
He went with the flow
Enjoying both happiness and grief of the book
Greeting every new turn with a happy hello

But then there was this rumble
The episodes became slow
The thrill was low and the depth was more
It made his impatience grow
His brain was clouded and feelings were sore

He took the gamble
He could not contain it any longer
He wanted the pages to turn fast
That nothing would be lost and things would be stronger
Desperate to get to the excitement of past

There was a lot of fear
He was here, she was there
The things between them were never really clear
The book ended because they could not persevere

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Indore Incident

Reshared from FB:

This happened while I was coming from Indore to Hyd on a Jet Konnect flight. The flight was completely full, with a marriage party, a bunch of IPS trainees and some random other people like me on it. The Airhostess was a Punju, strong looking, teacher types.

The marriage party was apparently travelling for the first time in flight. They were very noisy and moving all around the flight immediatly after the take off. The airhostess, irritated, was trying hard to calm them. She lost her cool after a while and started scolding an elderly man in the group, pointing out that there were other passengers who also paid and needed their peace of mind.

There was one guy in the group who took extra offense with the airhostess. He kept pressing the "call stewardess" button above the seat and started asking for water, permission to roam around and permission to go piss. It was as if she was the teacher of a school struck with a bunch of naughty boys. She wanted to scold them, at the same time, had to comply with her fake smile duties as an airhostess.

Since this was an budget flight, the food was being sold on a trolley. Also, this being an ATR , there was no microwave/heater and hence no coffee/tea. The Punju lugged the food trolley and these people insisted on chai. They were positively agitated when she said there was no tea. It was as if she was denying them chai on purpose.Then they asked for a sandwitch. She said it was Rs150 for a veg sandwitch and Rs 200 for a non veg sandwitch. Shocked, they again looked as if the bloated prices were a ploy by the airhostess to keep them from eating.

As soon as she left, our group hero went for his cabin luggage and took out a huge bag, containing lots of chips packets and buiscuit packets amonst other things. He openly shared all the food with his group and started walking down the aisle saying."1 packet, Just 100 ruppees. Khareedoge?". There was wide spread laughter in the flight. Everyone was enjoying the show.The airhostess came running down to him. She was totally helpless. She then ran towards the headmaster(pilot) and came out of the cockpit after a while, came to them and said "Abhi captain tak pahunch gayi baat. Meine complaint kardiya".A few moments later, there was this annoucement from the captain saying they were expecting heavy turbulence and that all people should wear their seatbelts and stay put. Since it was official sounding, every body went back to their seats.

Ofcourse, there was no turbulence. What could have been an even more eventful journey was cut short by that wily pilot. But still, it was my best flight journey ever. Go Indori's.

My first rage attempt