Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting it Wright!

Creativity has come a long way with us. In fact, it is impossible to determine who it was who first envisioned human beings flying. What we do know is that the first sustained, powered and controlled heavier-than-air human flight was achieved only in 1903.

Towards the end of the 19th century, working on a sustainable model for human flight was the in-thing. With hordes of scientists channelising their efforts towards this, it soon became a race to find out who will get there first.

At the forefront of that list was Samuel Pierpont Langley, founder of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Following his success with unpiloted models, Langley received a War Department grant of $50,000 to develop a piloted version of the same. He utilised his connections in the Smithsonian Institution and assembled a team with some of the best brains in the business.

Away from all the limelight and working out of a modest establishment were the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur. Using the proceeds from their bicycle shop and with a team in which not a single person had completed college education, they set out to employ the expertise gained from working with bicycles, motors and printing presses to build a stable flying machine.

While Langley sought to become rich and famous, the Wright brothers were driven by the fact that if they could figure out how to design a controllable aircraft, they would in turn change the course of mankind. And it was exactly that that they did!

So much for the history and what happened back then. But how is it that a Boeing 747-8, having a weight of over 4,42,000 kg, is able to take-off and fly in the air?

There are four aerodynamic forces acting on any aircraft: thrust, drag, lift and weight.

Thrust is the propelling force that enables forward movement in space. Drag is the opposing force that acts as friction and resists motion. Thrust must therefore be greater than or equal to drag for flight to take place.

Weight, the product of mass and gravity, is the force with which the earth pulls down the flight. The opposing force, lift, is hence necessary for both take-off and to sustain in the air. This is achieved with the help of the wings.

When the wings cut through the atmosphere, air moving over the wings is faster than that moving below. As pressure exerted decreases with increase in air speed, an upward push or lift is created from under the wing (Bernoulli’s principle).

While this does seem to be a satisfactory, it does not explain all situations (plane flying upside down, plane’s speed reduced, etc.). A better understanding of certain aspects like angle of attack (angle made by wing with oncoming air), shapes of wings (altered in real time using flaps and slats), velocities and amount of air diverted would allow us to completely realise the science of flight.

When we look at the sky to see a passing flight, we don’t stop to think what makes it fly. Even on December 17, 1903, when Wright brothers achieved controlled flight for the first time in human history, there were only a handful of observers to behold the sight. But then, if you are driven by a cause and accomplish it, your deeds are talked about even after more than a hundred years!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

My First Cartoon...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Vish...

Thurday, 10th June, 2010. 8.15 P.M.

My thoughts wandered as I drove my bike towards the airport. “When was it that I had last been outside to see the sunset on a weekday?” I thought. By the time I reached, I realised I could not recollect that fateful day and blamed it on being a software professional.

I was here, yet again, to send off a friend. I called him to know where he was and found out that it was going to be a long wait. I looked around and my eyes fell on a board that read “Work in progress, inconvenience regretted”. I wondered when the supposed renovation was scheduled to get over and slowly started to take in my surroundings. Within seconds, I was confused. I was not sure if I was at the international departure terminal of the Chennai airport, its railway station, or worse still, its market. The buzz of human activity silenced the drone of the construction work. People were everywhere. Men going around in lungis, women squatting and serving food to their families as they were waiting, and people lying down on the roads made it almost certain that I had to be at the central station. Alas, it was not to be. A wry smile and then I merged to be a part of them.

Left with no choice, I stood cross-legged in a corner and immersed myself into a book. The next time I raised my head, I was pleasantly surprised. I could make out the silhouette of a prominent figure. I watched from the side as a tall, broad, bespectacled person pulled his trolley along. No securities, no clicking cameras, not even a sign of recognition among the majority of the crowd, and a somewhat protruding belly left me in doubt (it was always the face that I got to see in the televisions and newspapers). I followed my intuition and tailed them (he was with his wife who is his emotional bedrock), ever so tentatively. They came to a halt in the middle of the road, and she made a call (probably to their driver). I knew it was to be now, or never. I walked past his wife and approached him gingerly. The moment I was face-to-face with him, I threw away my caution.

“May I have your autograph?” I asked, and I made sure that there was no trace of hesitation.
“Sure!” he said with a reassuring smile. Maybe I was not that good at hiding my hesitancy.
I rummaged into my bag and got out a notebook. In those fleeting few seconds I also had to decide in which colour I wanted him to sign. I had a choice of black, blue, red and green. I went ahead with green. With my notebook in his left hand and the green pen in his right, he was about to sign when I noticed that the cap had not yet been removed. While he still held the pen in his hand, I offered to remove the cap for him. Once we were done with that, he signed with a flourish and returned my things.
“Thanks!” I murmured, as he collected his baggage, walked towards his car and gave me one more of his reassuring smiles.

I scanned the pages to the one in which he had signed. I could make out a ‘V’ and an ‘A’ which was dragged to the end to form a ‘d’. Vishwanath Anand. The number one in world chess. I was still in awe as I watched the man load his luggage, get inside the car and whoosh past me.

I came back to my senses, sent off my friend and drove back home. All along, there was again one question that was nagging me: “Why is it that he does not receive the same amount of attention as an ordinary cricketer or movie star gets?”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Cause driving in traffic sucks.."

It it not often that one stumbles upon a case where public transport is preferred over everything else. Fewer still are those when the cyberspace is consulted to decide the mode of public transport that is going to be used.

Be it love for the environment, animosity towards driving, or just the resolve to take to public transport on occasions that are not time bound, I decided to go ahead with it. It was then that I was confronted with the harsh truth that twenty years in Chennai had almost entirely revolved around Mylapore, walking and cycling to most of my destinations when left on my own. I had to face up to the task of asking around every time or find that treasure-trove of information.

This led to what has been explained earlier, a case where internet, that vast ocean of information, was put to test to identify the ideal means of commuting. And as it always does, the answers were there and it was only a matter of sifting through for the right match.

Chennai, as it happens to be, is considered to be among the World's 10 Best commutes(as of 2008), in terms of reliability, efficiency and cost effectiveness. The rankings were measured based on criteria that included the cost to the consumer and the government, overall investments in improvements and the speed and safety with which people reach their destinations. While trains do provide good connectivity in this city, it is buses that are considered as the lifeline.

"" was the best "find", for it gave the solutions in the most simplest and effective manner. With a tagline "Cause driving in traffic sucks..", the site surely is a product of like minded fellows with an urge to get out of this maze of traffic that Chennai is also coming to be. Initially giving only the routes for selected buses, listing stages and marking stops in a map; it has gone on to evolve, and it now offers the bus or buses that need to be taken given the starting and ending points.

Irrespective of their motive for developing this idea, it does go someway in aiding to bring back the charm of travelling by buses. Insignificant though it may seem, travelling by public means does bring down the per capita emission of pollution and aids us in our efforts to save planet Earth.

Chennai being their initial target, they wish to move on to Bangalore once they have covered every route in Chennai. And maybe, with time, even the most remote locations in India might just be a click away!     

Saturday, March 20, 2010

For the love of what was lost...

The eyes finally tuned to the news
And then the brain slowly followed the cues
With a jolt was brought reality
I heard myself say "What a pity!"
 I wished to get under a hood
As a thumbs down best summed up my mood

Quivering legs took me out to the road
Somehow had to get rid of the load
Tried to speak to seek solace
A lump in the throat made it a thicker maze
The heat was on me and the ears went red
Everything had gone against what was said

Back to the eyes that were now brimming with tears
Symbolically confirming the worst of my fears
I was crying more than ever before
And then something more compelling came to the fore
The search for the target ended for my dart
For I was staring, not at the ending, but at the start!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

From a Sneeze to a Hunt....

As I sit down to write once again, wondering what has kept me away for so long, a quote from LOTR is crawling into my head. "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost...". So goes one of my all time favourites, the latter part here reflecting what I have in mind now.....

I was wandering about aimlessly. Ahem. Not in the real sense, but in the cyber world. And then I came across this article, mentioning something like giving out books in exchange for a review. A click here, and I was there!

"BookSneeze" - that was the name of the site I had landed upon. A queer name for what I felt had a great idea to back itself. An idea so simple, it just gets you thinking as to how one can sustain doing this. Here is how it works. Any blogger can register themselves with the site. Once done, they get a book of their choice from the BookSneeze collection for yourself! What next? You read it, review it, and post it in your blog and a consumer website. You provide BookSneeze the link to your review posted in a consumer website like Amazon, BarnesAndNoble,etcetra and the cycle starts all over again.

Agreed, the collection does not give you the choice that you would look forward to from a bookstore. But if you've entered the stage where you are willing to brave any book, and if you would like to write a review stating what you felt reading it, there should be nothing to stop you! Available to all bloggers at the US, they are willing to send over abroad as well, provided you have an established blog which they believe would help favourably to cover their shipping and product costs(yes, I'd asked them....and in fact, as I write this, I've got a mail from them saying my application has been accepted!!!! whoa!!! :D ).

Impressed with what I had come across, I decided to go ahead in my search to find more "ideas" with respect to books. A host of search strings, a million results, and at the end of it all I managed to find one another result really worth talking about.

"BookCrossing" - Ballycumber C. BookCrossing is the name of the little running book mascot of the site (the way it seems to be running free, without a care in the world does convey what they have in mind). So whats special here. This site, which has users of the order of hundreds of thousands, and books registered going up to millions, is striving to make the whole world a library! Makes no sense? On the contrary, it is quite simple. Registered users can register books that are rotting at home, which they've read/not read, and its journey begins there. Every registered book is associated with an unique BCID which becomes its identity for life. Next, the book is left alone in the open world, with perhaps a note stating that its part of the BookCrossing mission. The next person who comes across it, if he/she gives the slightest thought, will know what their part of. They can go to the site, enter the BCID and state that the book is in their possession. In this manner, the trace of the book can be followed. Once they are done with it, they can release it back to the "library" and its voyage continues. Whats more, users can go hunting for books, with those releasing the book being given the option of stating where they are releasing it. It does tend to bring a feel of adventure over something as simple as reading a book! They've certainly brought a new dimension to the phrase "hunting for that book!" :D

So what is the bottomline...

Release more books to this world to aid the process of making it an ever-growing library.
And how do we go about this....
By writing, and writing, and writing! (govi style)

P.S. Am I a die-hard Harry Potter fan? Or has everyone who has reached this point of the article realised that the first letter of the last three lines adds up to R.A.B ?? :P

Saturday, December 12, 2009

3 idiots - The Truth Unveiled

Disclaimer : All characters and incidents appearing in this story are purely fictional. Resemblance to any person is purely coincidental.

Before we begin the journey with them, let me first take the privilege of introducing them to you in as few words as is possible...
Rancho - The irrepressible free thinker who lets life decide its path for him.
Farhan Qureshi - The nerd.
Raju Rastogi - The dreamer!
I shall endeavour to tell this story from Raju's perspective, as it is his character that I find closest to my heart.

CHAPTER I : The Myth

We were in our first year of college. We'd made it to NIT Trichy. Well yes, it is not "IIT", but still, we'd made it here and it was time for us to let ourselves loose. So we thought (Rancho and myself), and we let ourselves laze about the campus while Farhan continued to devote his time to the books.....

"Did you know??" asked Rancho, for the umpteenth time that evening.
"What is it now Rancho?" I shot back, wondering how he manages to "know it all".
"About Raam! You know him right? Our senior in second year. "Dude". "NRI"....."
"Yes yes I do!" I said, interrupting him from feeding me yet again of all the cock and bull that I'd already got fed up with. Of course, it was impossible to not know Raam, for he was the role model for almost every fresher in college. What with his "cool dude" looks, his juggling skills in the football field, his strong silent manner,.... The list just seemed endless.
"Well, I thought you'd wanna know this one....."
Rancho did have this excellent capability of pausing at the right points of the conversation to arouse one's curiousity.
"If its something new Ranch, I'm all ears!" I injected, for fear of not being up-to-date with all thats "news" while at college.
"Indeed it is! It seems Raam is the only guy in the history of our college to have ever made it to OPAL!!!"
"What??!!" I said, more out of shock than anything else.
"I know what you are thinking. I am not making this up. I have no reason to!! All the seniors seem to know about it. It is news only for us. Seems he did it when he was in his first year. Sounds cool na?"
"Sounds cool?? I'm still not able to digest the fact that he actually entered the GIRLS HOSTEL! What with a 5k fine for walking along Opal street, wonder how he managed to get anywhere near that place to get in!"
"Hmmm. Yes. Interesting. What do you say, we'll give it a shot?"
"You mean WE get inside OPAL? You got to be kidding!"
"In fact, I'm not. Are you in this,Raj, or am I on my own?"
A semester with Rancho had taught me this : to know when he meant it and when he did not, from the tone of his voice. And this time, I was sure, he was DEAD serious.
"I'm in," I put in,"but lets not rush into this Ranch. Let us chalk out a plan. We shouldn't get caught mind you."
"Deal!!" he said, and the walk back to the mess, the dinner there and then to the hostel, all seemed to fly in a haze as our brains were swarming with ideas to put in place to accomplish our mission, Operation Opal(OpOp)....


The initial euphoria of working towards OpOp gradually seemed to die down. For we were meeting with dead ends, in every attempt that we made. We sneaked in to the school adjoining OPAL one night, only to realise that every bit of the common wall was so high, that we could possibly not even dream of getting up and over it. If this was disappointing, then the amount of bushes and shrubs surrounding other sides of the hostel, with all their thorns, provided better security than any personnel, making even approaching these walls unthinkable.

Our condition was deteriorating. Even Rancho seemed to be running out of ideas. We were in our room discussing our prospects with a feeling of grim defeat when we heard a third voice which nearly made me jump in surprise.

"I know what you guys have in mind. And I have an idea," said Farhan, looking up from his CEESAT textbook for the first time when we were discussing this.

Being our room mate, we had actually got along better than we expected, in spite of him being more mark minded than both of us put together. We got to know him better during the period of cycle tests and semester exams, when we tried to cram in as much as is permisssible in the last minute, with his aid. In fact, we realised that he was good company when he lets the books take a rest. So, we had taken to talking our plans openly in front of him, knowing fully well that we can trust him to tell no one about it. We were aware of the fact that he knew what we had in mind, but to think that he had an idea really jolted us.

"What is it, FQ?" said Rancho, recovering from the shock faster than I was able to. We'd started calling him FQ ever since his set of FAQ took us past the border line in every one of the first set of cycle tests. It was a title we had conferred upon him for his good will, though its pronunciation varied from anywhere like "F Q" to "f*** you" depending on the mood in which we were.

"Its really not a lot. But I thought you'll make more headway by consulting a girl about this than breaking your heads over it. After all, they'll surely know their hostels better!" Farhan said, with a smile on his face, realising that he had got his point through.

Over the next couple of hours the three of us thought of every girl we could possibly approach, the amount of trust we can place in each one of them and how could we possibly go about asking them without them realising that we were planning to get in. We'd zeroed in on Pia, my rakhi behen, when I finally gave up protesting that I'll never be able to do it.

The only consolation was that Rancho allowed me to do this at my own pace and didn't push me to do things immediately. I knew I could trust her, I knew she'd tell me if she knew anything that'd help us, but I just didn't know how to raise the topic.


The days spanned out and I was still not put under any pressure. For they were aware that I was pondering over the problem and how best to go about it. January ended, February came and with it came the fragrance of flowers. For it was time for "Rose Day" in college and we had a gala time sending proxies and making fun of guys who'd received their share of it. Amidst all this, I got a rose from Pia and a card which stated how much she looked up to me as a brother. I felt a pang and I was ashamed of having thought of only what I wanted of her. I sat down that night and wrote a poem for her and sent it to her through a message. She was so overwhelmed reading that one (though I had to point out to her what made it really special) that she called me back.

After talking about the poem I'd written, the card she'd sent, and anything and everything that we could possibly speak about, I finally realised that here was an opportunity staring right at my face.

"Hey Pia, do you think a guy can ever get into your hostel?" I posed, stirring in as much innocence as I could muster at that point of time.
"Actually yes! The front wall in our hostel, especially near the school, is rather low and I think even I can jump over it if pushed to my limits. But only a fool would want to risk that! What with all the securities around, and not to mention, the people in the quarters going hither and thither throughout the day. But why do you ask?" she said, maybe sensing for the first time that I might be up to something fishy and probably winding up to have a go at me.
"Oh nothing!" I rushed in, "We were just talking about Raam and you'll probably be knowing the story yourself," patting myself for unusual quick thinking.

We went on to talk for quite sometime, having attained what I had been after for so long now, getting it in the end with considerably less effort than expected.

CHAPTER IV : The Execution

After having told the other two as to what I had acquired, there was a period of lull. Nothing seemed to happen, no one seemed to take an initiative, and there seemed to be an unspoken promise that OpOp should not be raised.

And then, one day....

It was the 23rd of February, 2006.

As was customary, I was having my bath in the evening before dinner, after a long day full of classes. While I was bathing, it struck me that if OpOp ever had to be carried out, it ought to be today. A sense of excitement crept over me and I rushed to my room and told Farhan what I felt. I was halfway through it, when Rancho came inside our room in a hurry, back from a game of football at the grounds, and blurted out that he wanted it done today! I was left aghast. Here he was, telling exactly what I had in mind.

Farhan looked from one set face to another, and it was finally he who broke the silence that ensued.
"I'll come along," he said, "you two do need someone on the watch outside while you get in right?"

We tried protesting, we did not want him to get involved just in case we got caught, but he seemed to be as resolute as we were in doing it today. We knew he was talking sense, that we did need someone on the guard while we jumped in, and so finally, we gave in.

We took a couple of pens, went to the mess, and had dinner. We tried our best and avoided everyone, friends and foes alike, and once done with the rotten food, walked our way to the temple. The temple is some 100 m away from the Opal hostel, so once we were done with the temple, we inched towards our destination, hesitating to take every step forward.

We stopped near the end of D street, that runs parallel to Opal street. While Opal street makes way to Opal's entrance, D street faces the front wall, the wall that meant the world at present. We were counting down to 9pm, the time when the girls have their roll call, so that we could have the coast clear for.....

Seconds seemed to takes years, time seemed to stay still, and 9pm seemed to elude us forever. We were so preoccupied with ourselves and our watches, that we failed to notice an old female walking towards us. For a moment we thought she'd failed to notice us as well, and the moment was rather short lived.

"What be 3 guys like you doing here at this time in the night?" she asked.
"We were just walking back from the temple madam," said Farhan, " when I pulled a nerve and we just had to hold back for a while. We'll be off right away madam," he completed, and the way he said it, even I thought he had really pulled a nerve.
"Oh! Alright. Better get going. This isn't the right place to be right now" she said and walked away, while we pretended to move in the opposite direction, only to return to the same position in a couple of minutes.

This incident, to us, had two fold advantages. It brought in a rush of adrenaline, and also ticked the clock closer to 9, it was 8.59!

I looked left and right, walked across the road, closely followed by Rancho, while Farhan held his guard at the other side of the road. It had to be done, NOW!

I did not give it a second thought, I pulled myself up the wall, heaved myself over and "thump", I landed on the other side of the wall. I was inside Opal now! Two seconds later, I heard another "thump" and I knew Rancho had followed suit and there he was now, beside me. We had planned up to this, but not what to do beyond it. For we were in now, and the only thing left was to get back out without getting caught. I pulled out the two pens that I'd brought along with me and tried to scribble our names on the wall, only to find that the pen failed to write on the wall(we did not even think of a marker!). Fed up trying to write, I scratched harder than ever, using the pen as a chisel, to carve out our names, while Rancho egged me on. When a pattern that faintly resembled our names had been produced on the wall, Rancho told me its high time we were out. And he was right! He looked over the wall. Farhan, our faithful watch over, showed the thumbs up, which was the sign for us to complete what was left. I did not even wait for Rancho to get off the wall completely. I was up and at his heels in no time. "Thump", we jumped together, and "swish", we'd crossed the road and joined Farhan in a jiffy. We walked towards our hostel, slower than ever, legs quivering, heart beat racing, with a sense of having achieved, looking over our shoulders all the while, still not being able to believe that we'd pulled it through!

We were a considerable distance away from Opal, away from trouble, in the safety of snacky, giving a toast to ourselves, when Farhan said, "Congrats guys! You two were in there for exactly 58 seconds!!!"

Operation Opal was complete...

CHAPTER V : The Revelation

Over the next couple of weeks we revealed what we'd done to a select few(Pia was certainly one among them for she had played her part in it). Our intention was never to boast about it, so we applied all the restrain that we could and saw to it that it did not spread like a forest fire. We succeeded in this as well, but we thought that it would be incomplete without telling Raam, the guy who'd inspired us to it.

After a game of football one evening, Rancho and I saw him walking towards his cycle, alone. We knew we'll never get a better chance to speak to him.

We rushed up to him, pulled ourselves up, and said in chorus, "We did it!"
"Did what?" he snapped back, more than surprised to see two juniors tailing him and telling "We did it!" with their faces lit up.
"Well, we did what only you've done before. We broke into Opal," Rancho said, with that serious tone of his.
"Are you guys crazy? Its a rumour buddies! I'm no fool to try anything like that! And just cause you tell "We did it!" in that excited tone of yours, I'm in no way believing you. You two might be good at acting, but it takes a lot more than that to trick me. You two can maybe try your luck with the thespians. They'll be willing to take guys like you into their midst. Better luck next time boys!" he said, and was off on his cycle, not even turning once to look back.

I was gaping, open mouthed, when Rancho, as is always, recovered faster. He tapped me on my back and said, "You know what? He is right! I don't think he'd ever have the guts to do what we did. I can see it from his eyes! Makes it even better, does it not? We are the only guys to have ever done it!!!"

Realisation sinked in. I managed to stop gaping, and start smiling.