Leaving Maryland



Eleven years ago, I moved to Maryland. In that eleven years, a lot has happened. I had a little daughter. I wrote five books (three published, two in the pipeline), This blog became big. I learned a lot and grew, as a Computer Scientist and as a human being.

And now, I am leaving Maryland. The bags have been packed, the house is empty, and all we need now is to surrender the keys, and take the plane out.

It’s shocking to discover new things about yourself, specially when you are forty years old, but the whole experience of moving from one state to another has left me emotionally drained in a way I could never have imagined.

When I left “home” to do my PhD in ’99, to be honest, I didn’t feel this sad. There was of course tears when my parents waved me away, but when you are leaving the shadow of the great Indian family to make it on your own in a foreign land, the sadness is but fleeting, overwhelmed as you are by this sensation of nervous excitement. And honestly, at that age, you don’t think that much.

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A Birthday Story: The Sequel



[On December 30, 2005, when I turned thirty, I had written a post called “A Birthday Story”, an imaginary conversation between a 20 and a 30-year old me. Now, exactly ten years later when I turn forty, is the sequel. A Birthday Story-Part 2]

Late night. A glass of diet coke and rum by my side, because I no longer have normal Coke. Not because it is better for my health, but because it is better for my conscience.Surfing the net when all of a sudden my messenger window pops up. There’s a message:

BirthdayBoy_at_30: Hi. I know this sounds kind of weird. I am you , when you were 30. I just wanted to see if you are online….had some questions to ask you.

BirthdayBoy_at_40: I think we did this before. And nothing much good came from it.

BB30: Whoa. I sure turned out to be a cranky old man.

BB40: I just turned forty. Of course I am a bit….emotional.

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On Marks and Board Exams and Life



It was called agoge in ancient Sparta, the inhuman education and training regimen that little boys were subject to in order to make them  impervious to hunger, fear and pain, a regimen that included having boys fight boys to death so that the weak may be weeded out.

Or as anyone who went to school in the late 80s and early 90s in Bengal would say, school life.

Suicides were common, and so were heart-attacks and nervous breakdowns. Four successive days of two papers of a hundred each was considered to be perfectly humane because, how else, were children going to handle “the real world”? I came from a school, particularly notorious for what was just known as “The Pressure”, where most of us were made to fail in our maths half-yearly in class eleven, because and this was the stated reason, the class ten scores had given us whippersnappers an inflated idea of our intelligence and we needed to be cut down to size.

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About My Writing Habits And Some Other Stuff


Yesterday, my friend Ritwam Sen, as part of a comment thread on Facebook, asked me about my writing habits. Since I had been asked that question a few times before, in different contexts, I thought of writing a Facebook note. A few of you commented on that note wanting to know more. So here is a full blogpost on the subject, arranged listicle-style.

1. I write all the time. When I am out on a walk, sitting on my potty seat, driving to work, watching a cricket game right after my Fantasy Power Player gets out, utilizing any idle CPU cycles of my brain to think about my story.The biggest part of writing, I have found out, happens when you are not writing.

2. I practice active reading. That is when I am reading a book, I am just not only drinking in the story. I am also taking time to think about its structure, flow, and the way characters develop and speak.  Why do some sections drag? Why do I like this part? How does the author transition between events? Understanding this allows me in turn to write better. Also, based on the genre I am writing in, I do some genre-specific reading before I put finger to keyboard. It gets my brain into the pace and mood of what I am to write. Kind of like net-practice before a game.

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Some Advice For My Daughter


Dear daughter,

Dads are only good for two things. Buying ice-cream and dispensing advice. Since the day I can buy you ice-cream is yet some distance in the future, let me start with the advice part. Not that you will listen to, far less understand, anything I am going to say (you are yet to be six months), but then again I tell myself, this not-listening-to-me and not-understanding-a-word-I-say is not likely to get better as you grow older. So why not I say it now when the worst you can do to me is to pull my hair or yank off my glasses ?

So here it is, as simple as I can make it.

Pause. And reflect.

Yes. Pause. And reflect.

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On Becoming A Dad


Sometime in my very late 20s or perhaps even very early 30s, I came to the realization that most of my most critical life decisions had never truly been taken after considered deliberation, at least nothing remotely resembling the  “should I this or should I that” decision-paralysis that I find myself being afflicted by before every purchase of a fairly expensive consumer durable. I studied engineering, not because I particularly wanted to or felt it was a good fit for my skill sets, but because that’s what “all the good boys do” (There was medical also, but then I found cutting toads yucky). When it came time to do a PhD in the US, I again went with the flow. All my smart friends had taken the same decision and well, all of them couldn’t be wrong. Whether five-years of poorly-paid slogging away at impossible problems aligned well with how I defined the concept of “reward”, I never gave a second’s thought. Getting married at the age of twenty-five was also something very impulsive,  how impulsive  I realized a few years later when the rest of the curve caught up with me and I heard stories, perhaps apocryphal, of “arranged-marriage-tours”, meeting one prospective match for lunch and one for dinner, and Excel sheets with SWOT analysis of matrimonial candidates.

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The Birthday Post


His birth-star glittered in the night sky. That day again.

The sell-sword felt his years. Every one of them. They had removed the arrows and dressed the wounds. Yet they still burned his flesh, more deeply tonight than on any other. As an old crone once said “A warrior carries his battles with him.”

He did.

Each scar. Each blow.

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