Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Story of Tim and his email

Recently I attended a talk by some IBM employee in my university. He was narrating an incident about a person he knew let’s call him Tim, and how Tim’s unmarried daughters pregnancy news was known to a supermarket’s data-analytics engine (studying the buying patterns of that girl with other pregnant women of her age) months earlier compared to Tim. The IBM employee was boasting the power of Data-Analytics, Machine learning and how quickly machines and algorithms can predict real life events. Although it might appear a “+1” to the machine vs. human race, to me it sounded very disturbing. Coming to our topic, the fundamental problem with Electronic Commerce is the big time invasion of your privacy. All your buying patterns, items you click on, items you add to wish list, taboo sections you won’t normally dare visit in “traditional stores” all get recorded in one huge giant database. And it is bound to happen sooner or later, as happened with Tim, when he received a mail suggesting him to plan in advance a baby-shower, leaving him completely flabbergasted.
Moving on from privacy, it is common knowledge these days India has seven billion dollar valuation companies comprising the likes of Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon India and Myntra. While to a layman the word valuation might not appear in his dictionary as it may seem these companies must have skyrocketing profit margins. Well the reality is, Flipkart in the FY 2014 reported a 400 crore loss, with 321.5 crore loss and Snapdeal with 264.6 crore loss. Now these numbers might be arguable, let me hit the nail right in the coffin. Google “Snapdeal loss 2015” and you will come to know, Snapdeal has incurred a loss of Rs. 1350 crores this year. According to Techcircle, Flipkart is losing Rs. 2.23 for every Re 1 in net revenues. Research also goes on to predict, “It is highly unlikely any of these companies will start to profit in terms of revenue before the year 2020.” Now even a layman would understand the actual reality is in contrast to perceived reality. The companies are shelling out huge amount of money and incurring losses by providing attractive discounts, only for customer acquisition and brand value. To a common Gujarati, alarm bells would surely be ringing by now as this industry could be a ticking landmine waiting to burst.
In the final paragraph I would like to briefly go over some other alarming scenarios. In a quest to promote and acquire customers, Newspapers have taken an absolute beating. It is shambolic to see front pages ridiculed with “big billion sale” promotions. With the way things are progressing our progeny might never know the meaning of “long term customer loyalty” or “goodwill and trust” as our parents currently do. In the traditional commerce, prices were decided by the local market meanwhile in the electronic commerce they are decided by the global market. For a country like India, where domestic trading is a major occupation, the underlined is has turned to was, as they have received a severe beating and the local traders has been driven out of their livelihood by the world of E-Com.
I am not sure what sort of a world we are venturing into, where Snapdeal sells houses, Ola offers boat and cafe services and Mobile makers preferring to sell phones online in listings and invites. The world is changing, true. We have to change with changing times, true. But only a fool won’t be cautious, what price we are paying for those changes as the cost of privacy and human relations are not known to many. I am sure like Tim you too will understand the gravity of the situation from Erich Fromm’s saying, “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A home away from one

First Month at IIIT-B

Like every other freshman, I began my journey towards Bengaluru with anxiety. Having heard, “anything which is not South-India is North-India”, added to my woes. I could not decide what seemed the major worry - food or the language. Having resided in the “North India” for most part of my life; the (mis)conception of having to eat idli-dosa everyday seemed daunting and knowing only two words “kannada gotilla” simply added fuel to the fire of perplexity.

To ensure this does not become a C. Bhagat styled writing, I will skip forward past the melodrama of how I had a change of heart and mind on seeing the campus and blah blah. The first of the many memorable experiences I had begun with meeting the M.Tech seniors. The warmth in their conversation, and the sense of ensuring all juniors cozied in the campus was remarkable. In my mind, it definitely set a benchmark for an ideal senior. The experience with director sir and the professors struck my mind next. Never had I imagined, someone taking great lengths in conversing with students in person on WhatsApp. The respect for the college was there when I sat foot, but post interactions, it has reached a different orbit altogether. It feels like a privilege in becoming a junior again, and having so many people ensuring my well-being.

Late Night with Mafia Gang!

Onam Celeberation
Over coding and projects, lunch and snacks, new hostel with its problems, and late night work with puffy red eyes, I got to interact with the so called “Mafia Gang!” Good friends in my dictionary are THE integral part to survival in a foreign land, and I am very pleased to find so many students as crazy and insane as I am. The late nights spent playing and singing on the basketball court is a memory I will always cherish. As it is well said, “Friends are siblings, God never gave us”, I am very happy with the fact my next two years with these insane people will be anything but commonplace!

The most happening thing in the last weeks was the SAC election! It turned out like a typical Bollywood film- the trailer and the movie had a null set intersection. The initial phase of the movie made little harmony with the later; and the climax happened so unexpectedly, it definitely made a mark for itself as the most dramatic scene in the annals of IIIT-B. Having said that, the entire week was fun (Dubsmash videos: Hilarious!), election night was an experience in itself and the worthy candidates got elected which I am very happy about.

Ducks: Beauty of the campus! 
Transitioning from one home (read B.Tech) is never an easy job and neither is the transaction ever atomic. It takes one packet at a time to find the right destination address and make a move. Over the last few weeks, a few packets have reached the destination, many are in the intermediate routers, and a few are stuck at the source waiting. I do not claim to have a solution to TSP but, the melodies in the quaking of the ducks and these last few weeks have ensured, in the smallest time all the packets will somehow reach the correct destination address. The correct destination address being “IIIT-B: A home away from one.”

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Gyne in Green

They were the halcyon days, I reminisce in time;
When the head was steady and mind sublime.
Alas, the anamnesis turned hazy in the current grime,
For her arrival was the reason prime.

The nerves pulsed, heart raced on her sight,
On the coiffed hair with the golden barrette; eyes reflected bright.
The prim green top and tailored red bottom shone in the light,
Espying her bight, I instantly knew it was to be a long long night.

Who is this preen gyne, creating chaos, an Egyptian Bast?
The though engulfed; not the time first nor the last.
“You ain't a fool, for she is some stranger”, mind cried in lambaste,
“Stranger for now, yet THE stranger”, replied the heart aghast.

Countless clocks must have ticked by I do not know,
Language and Distance separated me from saying hello.
The mind chimed, “She is out of your league bro, for all you know,”
And I understood, without a show I will simply remain a John Doe.

Days turned hazy, nights uneasy as despair grew,
Broken Fragments by the havoc inside all lay strew.
The eyes unperturbed, searched for her in the blue,
And time then stopped; her eyes ensnared my sight is all I knew.

Her gaze was magical, absolutely surreal, was she a mage?
The world around instantly disappeared, leaving me estrange.
In her eyes, language and distance weren't a barrier for exchange,
And in those eyes, my mind had its fill; How so strange.

I saw a glint in her eye, shattering me along with her spell,
A deluge of emotions erupted, returning me to my present hell.
The magic lasted a mere second yet I couldn't return from the quell,
As the grandeur from her spectacled eye, still, continued to dwell.

The plethora of emotions, were they cryptic or did she comprehend?
Was she aware the causatum of her spell or was I at dead-end.
After a long time, I longed for, to talk with a friend,
Yearning desperately to share my despair with someone to apprehend.

I pondered, surely my odds with her couldn't be infinity,
In a real world there must be some limit to her divinity.
With a newly discovered courage I decided to reduce the proximity,
But alas, even words had me stranded in sight of her femininity.

Have I reached the cusp, I wondered as night turned grey,
I concluded, “Its best few fantasies never see the light of day”.
Seemed the mind had its way, as I decided to call it a day,
But hey! Such is life, story did not end, as she decided to play.

The game of time commenced, she pushed a pawn forward,
Yet seven weeks of experience, made my king to remain cornered.
Both of us tangoed in sync, making things more awkward,
And the clock ticked on, reducing order in the game disordered.

Tired of the mental commotion I yielded my armour and shield,
For I knew, “Winner was the real looser”, such was the battlefield.
…When time elapsed, she did have the weapon to wield,
She sought victory, only to realize I had long ago chosen to yield.

Her head turned, annoying the sun playing with her cheek,
Conjuring words of initiation, at the pace of a magic trick.
Yet, somehow the resonance in her words weren't there to pick,
And I found an unknown territory, unsure which route to seek.

The eerie silence of the heart reverberated around, a cry of agitation,
The sun still enjoyed playing, yet now the reflection lacked a reception.
“Dearth of resonance, What on earth do you mean”, Heart in introspection,
The mind advised, “She aint a bast! And if a magician, then with imperfection”.

Definite chatter could be heard, yet the air lacked a magical symphony,
We did exchange odd pleasantries, but in absence of harmony.
There was a strange nonchalance this time; void of agony,
Two eyes met, hers might have lingered, but mine sought some other destiny.

We soon parted ways, time prohibiting a farewell rite,
With a clear head I wondered, “If she was a bakushan, I a hypocrite”.
Maybe the saga needn't taken place, had I not been a fool of sight,
“Or maybe not”, the future me might enjoy this reading in delight.

As the pen comes to an end, do not judge I declare,
The journey of life is such, someday you will have a similar despair.
In the current anamnesis this story was a bout a gyne having a debonair,
And at a time when my machine was infected with a malware.

Monday, May 5, 2014

UTOPIAN Wedding! Cheers!

If marriages were thought to be sacrosanct and superlunary, well, I will consider that a good one! I just recently heard, a DDU pass out had spent 4 years of his college haplessly after a girl; at the end turns out the girl had romance in the X direction and Marriage in the Y. From all the experience I have inherited so far from my seniors – “at the graveyard, Romance is for the zombies” or “It’s a fairyland as long as you stare, after coming to reality paisa padi jay” and many others, I think it’s a pretty clear analogy 75% attendance is to a semester, as marriage is to a girl. No matter how much try catch exceptions you implement, it finally ends with the mirage deal breaker - marriage.

What I personally have never understood is the concept of Indian marriages (just to name one. I also don’t understand why good guys get “friendzoned”, or how girls can multi-task several boys at THE same time.) Every marriage I see a bride, an unanswered question arises, why on earth she would undergo such a torture! - High heels, heavy really heavy sarees, a minimum few kilos of makeup, a ton of jewelry and hell lot of safety pins. The guy, well he arrives on a horse pretty much sums up his story, a scapegoat. This is merely the foundation of insanity. The next bewildering function() is to stand and smile for almost a quarter of the day. People will push and pop out of a queue, but the bride and the groom have to bear the brunt. Smiling throughout the day, as if a joker is enacting in front of them. I have a hunch, 99%grooms end up giving their bride a foot massage (Yes, on the very first night!) I for one always feel as if brought to an aquarium. Begin a circular event and check out all the fishes, I mean food. Meet various people. Prepare to smile at any and every question asked by the relatives similar to the practice followed in viva-voce and continue having the utter boring small talks. One default question I get to hear every time is “Oh god you have grown up so much. So Tall!” As if the relative has found some time travel and had returned back the same age! Well once the initial formalities are done, constructer variables are initialized, guys get to eating, and girls get to gossiping, I mean socializing. I wonder if instead of sending marriage invitations, why not send Hotel Vouchers?! Should cut the deal…

Why this tradition has continued for eternity and beyond beats me. My personal opinion is, the so called happiest day of your life should be enjoyed and one should not feel having arrived at a zoo. The bride and groom should have a statue created just for the queue to click photos. The audience list should be called up in batches! Yes like we have for labs. This way the couple can spend quality time with their friends and loved ones. There should be a dress code, a person weighing half kg more than her actual weight on a normal day, barred from entering. And yes, before you write me off saying it’s a thinking of a mad man, think about how cool it would be to propose on a roller coaster ride and get married in a roller coaster park, or well getting inspired from “ajab prem ki gajab kahani”, getting married while being mobile! Yes my search is still on for an equally resonating utopian girl, but till then humming Shakespeare's “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” listening to Lara Teasdales “…But the kiss in Colin’s eye haunts me night and day” and focusing on managing notes for the next sessional exams.

-Antriksh Shah