my friend, baburam

Dashain was here. Finally. I was excitedly packing my bags. I hated school by now. It happened every year. Return from a two months winter vacation to school. Stay there seven months. By the time seven months were up, I was itching to go home and eat with my bare hands, no utenils to deal with. Sleep late, no early morning drills. Yoohoo. The cycle went thus. Go home for a month for Dashain. Come back for a month and a half. Go home for winter vacations. Repeat. People returned home. We ended up returning to school.

Towing my hastily packed overweight bag, I piled into the bus that would take us to Martyr’s Memorial, the heart of the city. Our parents and guardians would be lined up there to take us home. The richer kids had their parents pick them up right at school. They got away from all this faster than we did, lucky bastards. We had our moments on the bus though. Singing memorized songs all the way along the 14km ride. They’d miss that later in life. We’d be singing memorized songs all through life and they’d be wondering how we remembered all those songs. It’s rote, I’d tell them later. You never rode the bus.

This Dashain, I’d be going to my mama-ghar. My mom grew up in a village several dozen kilometers north of Janakpur. There was no semblance of city life there. No electricity, no tap water, forget natural gas. No roads, just dusty tracks worn bare by oxcarts. I can’t believe there’s still no electricity there, to this day. There, I’d be treated like a prince by my mamas and maijus. I’d take gifts to my friends there, some of whom were amazed by the fact, in the cities, light came from glass covered things that you didn’t have to light up. You just flick a switch, I’d say. I would end up spending half an hour trying to describe what a switch was. I was eleven. I must’ve ended up describing it as some magical thing that only gods and magicians could figure out.

I would be meeting baburam. He was my age. We had become good friends over my successive visits to the village. He came from a family that owned a couple of acres of land and so could afford to send him to school in the next village for three four days a week. He still had to work, helping out his dad doing farming things that I still don’t understand or doing other house chores. Due to his having gone to school, and him being bright, he was thought of as a young man with a lot of promise. Other people, older people, came to him to have their letters read and written. He would happily oblige, patient that he was. Imagine that. Eleven years old and playing leader already. He indeed was a lad with a ton of promise. That was my friend baburam. My best friend.

I had already written a letter to him saying I would be there that year. I had been so enthusiastic while writing that letter that I had just ended up writing,

Dear Baburam,
I am going to be there in during Dashain this year. We can go
keshar-hunting at night in the next village.
I will see you soon.
Your loving friend,

Two sentences, properly formatted and spaced in an eight by eleven lined piece of paper with date, salutation, ending statement and everything. We were supposed to do it that way. We were supposed to scratch our mistakes, not erase them. In English too. We were only allowed to write letters in English, under the pretention that it would make us better writers and communicators some day. Baburam understood English though. He’d been to school.

… to be continued


life imitates art imitates life

Oscar Wilde once said Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life. I beg to differ. I think it’s more of a vicious circle (or a glorious circle, depending on how you look at it.) It’s an equal-opportunity borrowing situation. Life imitates art. Simultaneously art imitates life. Each feeds into the other, each repetition coming up with more complexity in the process.

Take movies for example. A certain movie may come up with a novel way of robbing a bank. The story writer did not come up with it in a vacuum. (S)he has access to volumes of prior art both fictional and biographical to base or build up the story on. (S)he just added a twist to it, albeit a novel one never encountered my anyone else before. Someone with a bank-robbin-itch sees the movie, thinks it’s a brilliant idea. Then (s)he proceeds to add a few of their own twists to it, maybe as simple as using different numbers of people, or something more advanced like adding a new technique to opening up the safe. The bank then proceeds to get robbed. (S)he may or may not end up getting caught. The story about the robbery then proceeds to get published. Thereby being consumed into the creative minds of millions of other people. Some of whom may be movie script-writers.

The movie “Firewall” was just released. I just read about a real-life robbery apparently inspired by the movie. I don’t know particulars about the actual robbery. What I am certain of is that someone will create another movie or a book, picking up particulars about that robbery and add details of their own. It would be fun to have this tracked and look at the results, like 20 years down the line. Maybe a good use of the cross-reference engine that I’ve been thinking about creating. More on that later.

This doesn’t just apply to movies though. It applies to all kinds of art. You just have to sit down and think through the art pieces you really like, read up on the history of that art or the biography of the artist. Eventually, I’m sure, you’ll find a link to something in real life that the art was inspired by. And eventually, you’ll find a link to something in real life that the art inspired. And so it goes.


relevance, classification and folksonomy

I recently attended a long now seminar by Clay Shirky on classification. He started with the difficulty of digital preservation and then went on to why prevalent categorization schemes don’t work in the long run. The recording of the seminar will probably be available at the long now site if you missed it. He posts his writings on his website as well.

The gist of his talk was that heirarchical classification as prevalently used today, in libraries, directories etc are a result of a core group of people modelling the usage behaviour of a larger group of people, which, in the long run messes up and miscategorizes things. The key to doing better classification is to have the larger group do the modelling itself, using degenerate linking between things, sort of like tags for flickr tags. In fact he actually proposed tags / folksonomy and free-text search engines as providing better value. You will have to view/listen to his talk to figure out the pitfalls of classification and the benefits of folksonomy. I’ll probably do a bad job of reporting it here.

I agree with all he says. However, I’d like to add that the primary purpose behind classification whether it’s heirarchical categories or folksonomy, is to be able to find and recall things easily later on. There are other benefits you can get but that’s beyond the scope of what I’m proposing. The desire or need to find things is driven by one key concept among many, the context you’re coming from and the relevancy of what you’re trying to find to that context. So, the question is what do we know about relevancy? Have studies been done on it to come up with theories of figuring out what relevancy is, how we understand it, how it works, how we can use it?

Google started on the right track with it’s page rank algorithm. That’s one kind of relevancy. Expanding on that, relationships between things/resources are more important to relevancy than the resources themselves. What about source of the resource, or the time it was created, or the context in which it was created. Context is harder to track though. That’s another science in itself. In fact, if we start tracking the value and composition of relevancy, it will feed into understanding context. And vice versa.

This article begs to be updated in the near future.


no more shall the morning see me
waiting for word from the lands beyond
that made the rays warm and the skies blue
intertwined with the chirping of the birds
for the birds now shout when i hear
the words and the heavens grow angry
and dark and swallow up the sun
leaving me in a darkness so dark
i cannot even see the tips of my own fingers
and so quiet the weeping of my heart sounds
like the mighty rush of a hundred waterfalls

no more will i trust your words
for they bring me memories and sorrow
no more will my ears ring
with the hollow sounds of denial
for they bounce around in my head
and cause me pain as great as
the sight of a thousand trees falling
down at once in protest of something they
hold so dear, as the air i breathe
and the earth that i walk on

i choose solitude as a better death than
the death that’s passed on to me by you
as if to say, here, pass it on to the
next one you think that deserves it
for i am done with it, i have found my peace
and i will call upon you when in doubt
and whenever i feel the need
no more will i cherish your laughter
that i put as the gatekeeper on my chest
to unlock the devils and the angels i hold
for i will leave the doors wide open to
everyone who wishes to see and share
the marvels that each of us have within

free of spirit and of health and of reason
that is where i came from that is where i go
somberly realize, the in-between may have been
just in passing, although it was aglow
with lights and fire and sounds so grand
it would put the birth of the sun to shame
for still, I know we’re each born alone
and each we lie on our deathbeds in solitude
and the void is all that remains,
forever the pillar, forever the strength, forever lasting.
-by Lex Lapax (07/09/2003)