Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Random slices

I have ceased worrying about ceasing to write. At some level, I have grown more sure as days have gone that I would not cease to write, but at another level, I must confess, I have resigned to the feeling that if I do cease, it would be acceptable to me. It was never the case that I really knew why I wrote, or why I should write. It was never the case that writing gave me a sense of beautiful exhiliration. It provided me, mostly, a gentle resignation. I wrote, I wonder, in order to resign. To accept things I didn't want to accept, perhaps, I needed to write them down. And maybe I will need to do that forever, I think I will, but why should I be sad if I don't need to, someday.

I moved to US for graduate studies some months ago. A little over three months, now. When I came here I was impressed by the infrastructure, dammit I was mightily impressed. But such charms, or any charm for that matter, often last only as long as you take to get used to it. That is why I think seeking your life's joy from charms all and sundry is not as wise an idea as it seems. Recently, I went to New York city for three days, and nothing happened to me. I mean, from accounts of friends and acquaintances who had had something to do with New York city at some point in their lives, it was almost as if something was supposed to happen to you when you first go there. Everything was bigger than it usually is. The buildings, subways, bridge, road, the number of people - nothing was different, only magnified. If there was an "electricity in the atmosphere", I was unfortunately insulated. I would have liked it to move me, I really would. I seek things that might move me, mostly and increasingly in vain.

I remember reading about some people's almost lyrical accounts of how nothing happened to them when, for instance, they went to Amarnath or to Jerusalem. I haven't been to any of these places, but I do wonder if something happened to these people when they first went to New York city? That would embarrass their lyricism, if they were to admit it, anyway.

In contrast, I liked the serenity and some sort of filled emptiness of the village of Wilson quite a lot. The first thought that came to me as I reached there was that I could retire here. Better still, I could leave the rest of the humdrum and come here and sit in the sun under the vast open sky and write. Maybe, walk half a mile and get milk and bread every morning, waving at the odd morning-jogging person I came across on the way. Maybe, I'd jog down to the grocery store myself. With these thoughts I spent a day roaming about the village, a village, yes, but clean and tidy and equipped with everything one needs to live well. Living well, but then, is a pretty subjective thing. And discussion of this subjectivity a most depressing thing.

I'm now a graduate student here, training to become a quant. Quants do the more distinctly mathematical things in Finance. Usually, they are not a very popular lot, but people here do tend to stereotype them as very clever. And clever as you're aware always paves way for cunning. So far I've had one person explicitly tell me not to "screw up with their economy for your greed". That person's wife calmed him down and said sorry to me. She seemed a warm woman, friendly and of a welcoming disposition, and then she said she "likes to have smart people around herself". Both husband and wife were rather religious about their respective stereotypes of how quants are. It looked like the perfect occassion to excuse myself quickly.

As I write this, hurricane Sandy dances crazy outside the balcony. Winds blow like I have never seen, and as long as it doesn't hurt people, in and of itself it is beautiful. But reflecting on the beauty of winds and trees, even that of children and old people, or that of the commonplace and the exotic has sadly become a thing of the past. Beauty must now be sought and must, must also be found, in calculus equations, C++ code, and probabilistic models. They have beauty too, and as if with flickers of light, I see it sometimes and sometimes not.  But sooner or later you realise that it's all cool after watching a few comedy circus videos on youtube, especially those of Krishna & Sudesh, and of Kapil Sharma.

I was sitting on the window, you can't quite open the balcony door at this stage, before I came to this desk to write this post. When I stood up from the window the idea that had just struck me like a snakebite, the idea that made me want to get up and write, was that physical distance has a suspiciously low correlation with loneliness. If everybody I ever knew stood within a twenty feet radius of me, I would still feel alone, if I was otherwise feeling alone.

But then I came here to write a minute later and I wasn't feeling as alone anymore, so I let it go.