Friday, June 10, 2011

Dear dad

Dear dad,

I hope you'll be able to read this, wherever you are. You'll be glad to hear that we all are doing well here. Well, that's not exactly true. Rohan was down with pneumonia last week. We had to admit him to a hospital here. Thanks to God's grace, he is stable and getting better now.

However, there is something that happened then that has motivated me to write to you now. The day he was admitted, his condition was very bad. That night, I was standing outside his room, watching through the window. The doctor had advised us not to disturb him. I couldn't stand to see my son in such pain. Such a beautiful little life does not deserve to go through such a horrible experience. I stood there feeling helpless - I felt being his dad I ought to be doing more for him. But I felt very helpless. I don't know why.

This thought took me back to the day I had met with that accident. I don't really remember when it was; I think it was the day I passed my seventh grade exams. But I still remember the sight of the truck approaching me vividly. The next thing I remember seeing when I came to, was you looking through the window the exact same way as I was that night. And I saw tears in your eyes. I couldn't understand why you were crying. I always thought of you as a very strong man. I looked up to you, I always wanted to be like you. But those tears... they didn't seem right. You felt.... weak.

I was very upset with myself that night. I felt I did not deserve such a weak father. Someone who instead of doing something for me would just stand there crying. I felt angry. Very angry.

But last week, I suddenly realized how wrong I was. You weren't weak. You cried because you loved me. I now realize truly how very bad you must have felt that night. I mistook your tears of affection as weakness. I vowed to myself that night that I would never cry again in my life. I told myself I am strong. I'll be strong. But when I was feeling as helpless for Rohan last week, I felt weak. I felt helpless. There wasn't anything I could do for him. But I didn't cry. I tried to be strong for him. But I don't think it was because I am strong. I am starting to doubt my strength now. I think it was because I am incapable of showing any such emotions. I think the years of anger I had harbored in my heart have rendered me thus.

I would give anything to be half as good a man as you were dad. I hope, and pray, that some day I would have improved. And made you proud.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A memorable moment

She was nervous. It was quite evident from the worried look she had on her face. But deep inside her heart, she knew that she needed this. She had never had this before; this was to be her first time. She was waiting. The wait was long and she was getting more tense. She had made up her mind to get it done this time, and that is how she wanted it to be.

Then she saw him. His calm smile and his confidence soothed her. He told her not to worry. He had done this before. His reassuring talk convinced her. Yes, she would take this step. She had to, sooner or later. The pain inside her won't let her off so easily. He called her in and asked her to lie down. She did as was told. He was the boss, she would follow his directions. And he instructed her to open her mouth. She was unwilling, hesitant at first. But he was the one running the show here. She had to listen to him. And she trusted him. She would do as he would tell her to. And she obliged. He smiled and went about with his job. She was feeling the discomfort, she told him to stop. He didn't. She knew he wouldn't. A part of her didn't want him to. All this would end happily - she was sure of this. He had told her so. She had to go on.

And so it continued. The pain was getting unbearable for her. But the joy that came with it was far greater, and that was what she craved for more than anything else in the world right now. Pain is only short lived, the lasting relief is what is more important - she knew this well now; then she saw blood. She was scared, but he comforted her. He had been here before; he knew this was normal, and there was nothing to be afraid of. The trickle of blood was nothing compared to the ecstacy waiting for her in the end. How true was that! She forgot all that soon, and he carried on. Her anxiety was soon taken over by amazement - she wondered how in the world he could be so good. She had never expected this. He was so good at what he was doing, and she was more than happy that he was.

Now it was about to end. Been half an hour since that wait had ended. And then it was done. Oh how the pain magically left her! He looked up at her. He smiled. She had been good. He had had far worse before, the ones who could not take all this so well. She had been so co-operative. She understood that all this would bring her happiness like never before in the end. The pain was now long forgotten - it had become a thing of the past now. Now there was pure joy, which she had felt she could never ever experience ever since she had that terrible toothache. And thus it was; she thanked him, paid him and left. Surely this visit to the dentist had done the little girl a lot of good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mathematical elegance in nature

Sitting at one of the talks in the conference I am attending today, I was reminded of an idea back from my IIT days. I consulted my notes from back then and was surprised at not having shared my views on this blog. Well, I guess doing that now would perhaps be a good way to restart this blog.

This was when I was doing a course in bio-electricity, having decided that semiconductors is not for me (and well, here I am doing just that!). So we were learning about something called the I-V characteristics of Sodium channels in our cells. I was surprised to learn that the response of the sodium conductance (analogous to the permeability of the membrane to sodium) to an action potential (an extra refractory state that the conductance enters as a result of prolonged depolarization) is exactly like the behavior of power electronic circuits. In fact, what surprised me most was that the deactivation process for this conductance is exactly the principle on which our SMPSes are designed (if you are unaware of what an SMPS is, an example is the power supply in your desktop computers).

If you didn't get the technical aspect of what I just wrote above, don't worry - it's not that important. What I found interesting was that SMPS designs came in force in 1967 or so (history) whereas this behavior in cells was studied by Hodgkin and Huxley in around 1949 or so, this being one of their achievements that won them the Nobel prize. What fascinates me is that the SMPS is a very elegant design that came up independent of these studies (and I have found no other reference which has talked of a comparison of the two, so I assume I am making a first attempt of sorts here. In case anyone finds something that I may have inadvertently missed out, please do tell me).

This course that I talk about has presented me with a different perspective of the world that we see and feel. The Nernst equation that I studied in the course also made me think of why nature chose to go for a 'logarithmic' design for our cells - besides, the origin of the logarithmic function is a totally independent incident. I now ask you that question asked by the Professor conducting this course - if you believe in either God or evolution, tell me this - why did God design the world as it is now, or why did evolution choose this path that we are all following? To quote another natural observation that is in tune with what I am saying here - a Hexagonal close packing of spheres is known now to be the most dense of all packings possible for a collection of spherical objects - however this is the principle that is central to the design of bee hives - something that the bees have been doing for over a million years I believe. The mathematical elegance of the whole design of this world, leave alone the cells - take for instance, even the motion of the heavenly bodies - the whole mathematical rule-set that the design of the universe follows - isn't it something magical - doesn't all this force you to think why it all is the way it is? I am happy that I chose this course before I graduated from this place - as it surely has helped me look at the world that I live in in a different light. Could we take a leaf out of the universe's book and actually develop our engineering practices to follow natural designs?