Saturday, 21 January 2017

Review: Ghachar Ghochar

Ghachar Ghochar Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ghachar Ghochar- narration of a pretty common situation that every Indian has either gone through or has heard about. While money is something that is essential for survival, rapid exposition to wealth is not something that can be handled quite easily by a middle class family. Add to it, the indisputable disposition towards the family members, the fervor to hold everyone together, the frailty to accept new individuals into the family and the close yet not so familial relations with outsiders. This story says it all and it leaves me with a ticklish sensation that Ghachar Ghochar is every family's tagline.

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Beneath the crowd

This is a poem for some who prefer solitude and for others who question solitude.

Through the alleys of bodies,
Bound like raucous hedgerows,
Pitches screech;
For a circadian convulsion.
Talk in air is elixir, they deem,
Nay, I say, not to me.
Rare so not, the heads remark,
An overture to blend,they bring.
Shimmering, it is, for a wee minute,
But never winsome,that is to me.
Gleeful horde, cloy me though,
Splintering within, the ease and order.
The matter here, smooth it may seem,
Still, hard to act, for the soul underneath.
Shroud me not in voices and cry,
For, I see no joy in large company.
A lull so deep, is what I ask.
One sparse request,to all around me.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Waves, Mirrors and a Discovery

An Optics student's charm about the latest discovery !
Arms of LIGO
The world of Science is celebrating the detection of a certain kind of ripple- Gravitational waves ! The waves were predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 while he was working on one of the most beautiful theories in Physics called the General Theory of Relativity. Almost 100 years later, the waves were recently detected thus opening a new window to the universe. While the whole prediction and discovery is amazing, what enchants me the most is the core idea of the experimental setup.

The whole experimental setup at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory), U.S.A. equipped with the best in technology spans over a radius of 4 km. The setup is a grand and a giant version of the humble Michelson interferometer. Any student of Physics should be familiar with the term and anyone with a sense of how light reflects and combines should understand the idea pretty well.
Fringes from M.I
I came across the concept of the Michelson interferometer during an Optics demonstration at College and it has impressed me at different levels ever since. Till then, nothing had been more beautiful than white light splitting into seven colours, but that holy experiment changed everything. The setup is simple yet elegant- A beam of light is split into two, allowed to travel and bounce from two mirrors at right angles to each other and recombined. A detector is then used to see how the recombined light looks like. As the mirrors get adjusted/disturbed, the pattern keeps evolving. For the first time, I saw streaks of bright and dark fringes that seemed to magically emerge out of a couple of mirrors illuminated by a laser beam. They looked just spectacular!

A good long time ago, when I was still in high school, my mother bought me a laser pointer and I spent an entire summer playing with it. I observed two things- the light reached farther and the beam spot was small compared to the light from a torch. Ten years later, as a masters student, I had to send a slightly high powered laser beam into an M.I and understand the reason behind those observations. It took a couple of more years for me to appreciate the technical beauty of Holograms which remained a fantasy for long. We did an M.I experiment at the dead of night in a pitch dark room on a vibration free surface to produce a hologram. A number of trials failed miserably but the end result was aces. We widened our tired eyes to see if the hologram was actually there and it was. Another sight worth witnessing! Later, during one of the classes on Special Relativity, M.I again came into picture and this time, it had incarnated itself as a tool to measure the speed of light-A humongous number and a prodigious upper limit in space-time.

Setup at LIGO
Fast forward another couple of years, 2015 arrived with royalty. The year was special for two reasons. It was declared the International Year of Light by UNESCO and it also marked the 100th anniversary of the General Theory of Relativity. On one side, Science folks were celebrating the importance of light and light based technologies and on the other side, a remarkable discovery was being anticipated that would make Einstein's speculation into reality. On September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) , the signal was finally detected at LIGO observatories in Louisiana and Washington, U.S.A.

The signal, which is essentially a disturbance in the space time fabric came from the collision of two black holes that took place 1.3 billion years ago. According to General Relativity, two black holes lose energy as they spin around each other and eventually merge together to form a single massive black hole. The process which happens at half the speed of light is highlighted by the conversion of a portion of the combined mass into energy. This energy travels through the cosmic fabric as gravitational waves.

The LIGO interferometer at the core is a Michelson interferometer that has arms 4 km in length and suspension mirrors that weigh 40 kg each. More mirrors are placed along the arms to efficiently recycle power in the cavity to enhance the sensitivity. Light beam emerging from a 200 W near infrared laser travels a whopping distance of 1600 km (due to the cavity effects) before reaching the detector.This setup is about 144,000 times bigger than the M.I that was used to measure the speed of light in 1887. Just like the original M.I, the interference pattern would change if the mirror moves because of any disturbance.

Colliding Black holes
The radiation from the collided black holes hit the mirror and moved it by a distance as small as the width of an atomic nucleus. The resulting interference is at excellent agreement with the simulations and calculations of the General Theory of Relativity thereby confirming the genius' prediction. Though it was Einstein's contemplation, a whole bunch of scientists and engineers had been instrumental in the development of the idea over the past few decades. The discovery is certainly a big leap pushing science to a new era.

There it goes, a favourite experimental setup, BIGGER and BETTER !

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The good, bad and ugly of a broken foot

Falling down and breaking my bones is an art that I have been practising over the years with no dedication but with supreme success. All thanks to the way I walk- sloppy frog jumps, drunken duck walk, mad mouse hops and so on. Add to it my eyeballs which can shuttle back and forth, up and down at the speed of light. This should tell how the art form comes so naturally to me. Every time I fall down, my poor bones would beg for an extra week of rest but my mind is too ambitious to let them stay in bed. I would give discourses on how my will power wins over physical fatigue and illness, but the truth is staying indoors for more than a day is dead boring.

Something funnily different happened this time confining me to bed for about a month. It was a breezy Friday evening and I was walking down the usual road in my usual way to catch a bus for dinner with a friend. Stepping over a small stone, I twisted my ankle and sensed a sharp pain but it was nothing compared to the torture of my hunger pangs. Note the point, I did not fall down. I hopped into the bus discarding the pain and started dreaming the sumptuous dinner I was about to have. As I delved into the crispy roasted chicken legs, a slight discomfort knocked my foot and then a chicken egg like structure developed on my foot. This was followed by an unwilling yet necessary visit to a nearby hospital. The doctor confirmed the pain to be from a fractured bone and my mom whom I had called by then confirmed that I am the most reckless kid ever. So there was a constant downpour of advice on one side and plain bashing from the other for the next few hours.

I had to keep my leg straight with constrained movement. The doctor's advice sounded like the starting line of a Physics problem. My calf bone had to be at an angle of 20 degrees from the bed and my foot perpendicular to the calf bone. I began my sedentary journey at home and for most days, there was incessant rainfall and gloomy weather outside. My worrisome granny kept shooting me with questions as to how exactly I broke my leg. She was not even close to accepting the reason I gave. I guess, it sounded too silly to her. 'Did you ride a hefty bike and fell down?', ' Did you jump down the stairs in five steps ?', ' Did you pick up fight with someone ?' were some of her thousand queries. God, I was furious in no time but that didn't stop her. She would pity me for a while and again start the full fledged enquiry. It still goes on.

One thing that pleased me beyond all expectations during the crummy period was the food. The aroma from the kitchen would dance through the air, tickle my senses and rub out the wobbliness from medicines. What could be better than piping hot food on a rainy day ? There was no denial when it came to food and by then my mom had understood the secret to keep my mouth shut from ranting. I had more ice creams than what I had the entire year.The bliss of good food kept my neurons from firing in random directions but the day came. 

My mind no longer wanted to agree with my leg. The battle had begun.

Suddenly, I wanted to walk, run, jump and play somersaults all at once. Tension kept building up my toes and my leg was no longer obedient to what was good. Once my mom leaves for office and my granny gets busy cleaning the garden, I would creep out of my bed in silence and spring to the nearby window. Cautiously, I would wander the room always at close vicinity to the bed with one foot always up. Oh, what relief ! The blood rushing down the legs felt like little fairies caressing the wounded with feathers-delightful. It was bad, I realised soon. Pain oozed up and down my feet every night I did the secret hopping.Nights were becoming nightmares with the extreme pain.

From then on, I had to entertain myself without hopping and started watching action packed movies religiously. That was the best part that helped me have the most vivid dreams- I did all that I couldn't do in reality. I was walking up the hills, being chased by animals and shooting down the zombies. The dreams were powerful, exuberant and projected me as a quirky ninja warrior. During one Jurassic park dream, I woke startled thinking a dinosaur had caught my leg but then it my mom who was patiently adjusting the posture of my foot.

I am marching (slightly crippled) towards the day when I will be able to jump and play gleefully again. As usual, I promise to be more careful from now on but does that even work ?

Thursday, 22 October 2015


Wax wriggles down,
Melting some time.
Far off, a train chugs,
Into the mountains.
Rupturing bark,erodes
itself. The storm withers,
A howl sets in.
Dull echoes of last
Goodbyes. Faint memories
of lost struggles.

Silver lines, fairy tales,
A flute plays far away.
Holy winds, misty dales,
Whitey doves fly and play.
Streaks of Prussian skies,
Paint the window panes.
Memories of coffee brew,and
Laughter down the lanes.
An epoch of happy feats,
Sound of elated heart beats.

Moments flee day by day,
Nothing to trap,
Nothing to nail.
Revive the days,
Put on a smile,
and just move on,
Living the day.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Kalam: A Tribute

Wafers of smile span across,
a face of easy harmony.
Gentle tones of advocacy,emerge
from roots of true modesty.
Embracing the soul of optimism,
you marched the road to scholarship.
You led a path of revelation,
lighting the minds of humanity.
We found an exuberant educator,
to tell us mind is over matter.
We earned a cordial commander,
who unveiled natural integrity.
Of unblemished grit and diplomacy,
you were an art of simplicity.
A personage of thousand dimensions,
and a phenomenon in our history.
The ethereal spring withered today,
but the fragrance will stay forever.

May your soul rest in peace.

Friday, 1 May 2015

A Nostalgic Fresco

On a Summer midday,I perch in a room,
Devoid of disciples yet full of vim.
Peeling paints reveal the depth of moil.
And,echoes of practice grease the walls.
Filling the envelope of air inside,
Dwindled tantrums dot the uptight decorum.
Musty smell leak from timeworn desks.
Mazes of cobweb creep to the alpine roof.
Long windows open to a flaring mud field.
Crumbs of chalk cuddle the podium beneath,
And, smudge the wash of a worn black board.
Fading words remind of days that blend-
Into the vanishing point.
A twisted smile, an array of gazes,
A flush of thoughts and a deep breath,
All together,paint a nostalgic Fresco.