Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My jab at sketching!

First of all, survive a new year.

Sketching, or in general, any form of art is not my cup of tea. All my life, everyone else has done that on my behalf. My sister drew birthday and anniversary cards for my parents, and all I had to do was to go cry in front of my mom to have my name written in the 'from' section of the card. In school, all my journal diagrams were done by friends or mom. I think, I am just too lazy to write or draw. Lucky for me, I can just get away with typing for weeks at stretch now.

Anyway, back to the point. God hasn't really given me much of a right brain, hence, I'm horrible at drawing, to say the least. But by the virtue of my left brain, and hours and hours of training, there is one thing which I can make really well. The Scenery. If you have taken a single art class in Indian Education System, I'm sure you know what I am talking about. Biswa explains it perfectly -

It's so true to the core. It's so deeply ingrained in me, that I can literally whip up a 'scenery' in less than 2 minutes. Just like this one -

But this got me thinking. That it's about time to try something new. So, one fine Saturday morning, I head of to National Portrait Gallery, to sketch something. First 15 minutes was spent in figuring out the most easiest painting I can sketch. Finally, I landed on this - 

It's been a while since I last wrote something, let alone draw anything. So I thought, lemme do a quick 2 min sketch of the portrait, something on the lines of warm up. It didn't look pretty, but at least it will make you appreciate my final sketch more. ;)

Next, I spent an hour trying to sketch my chosen portrait. Mainly, I tried using a technique taught by my geography teacher back in high school. Basically, you divide the original painting in a grid of equal sized squares, and just concentrate and copy the things in each square one by one, rather than thinking about the big picture. The only problem with that is, since I cannot draw the grid on the original painting here, I tried to do it mentally, as much as I could.

Another trick that helped me with my proportions of things, was to measure them relatively with the length of the pencil, when it is kept at a fixed distance from my eye. This made sure that the ratio of horse's height to the length of its leg is 1.618. No, it is remotely not close to that, I am not Da Vinci.

Anyway, after an hour of sketching, erasing, eye squinting, and "almost giving up", I produced this -

Comments (aka appreciation :p) welcomed.

Monday, 23 November 2015

What is it like to grow up in a typical Gujarati household?

(Cross posted on my Quora profile)

I have written this post from a general Gujarati household perspective. However, there is a huge bias towards how I was brought up. So, please don't generalize it to all Gujjus.

And comments are welcome! :)


  • Breakfast or school tiffin includes thepla, khakhra, fafda-jalebi, poha and upma. My mom would rarely give me something which is not homemade (bread, etc).
  • Lunch has a typical north Indian meal but has its own unique taste and texture. Thin rotis, sweet daal, a couple of vegetable curries, curd / buttermilk, and a farsan (Gujarati snack, generally fried). Farsan can include patra, dhokla, bhajiya, gota, etc.
  • Evening snacks can have either of the farsan.
  • Dinner is usually light, and depends on the household. Some might have lunch menu all over again, or otherwise simple stuff like khichdi, vesan, etc or non-gujju food like pav bhaji, idli, dosa, etc.
  • Mango is given supreme importance in summers. A Gujju must eat mango properly for those two months of the year. So much that my grandmom won't let me go to a summer camp just because I would miss on the Aamras. It's so popular that they have mango winning contests on radio and mall shows.

Business and Education

  • Mostly your father would be involved in business of some kind, and mother would be a housewife.
  • I learnt a lot of things from my dad. Basic taxation rules, how to write accounts, what's a turnover, GP, how to save taxes legally, basic stock market practices, etc.
  • Education is given importance, but not to the extent I have seen in southern states. You would rarely find a Gujju doing a PhD. Many people opt for commerce and CA. This is because there will be some joint business or the other, where your father will 'set' you in for your livelihood. This is in sharp contrast to other states where securing a government or private job is the dream goal for most of the parents.
  • My father is more likely to fund my new startup than spending a crore on my MS. He thinks it's every bania's duty to feed the stomach of at least five people under him! This business risk taking ability is kind of in our blood.
  • Gujjus account for >20% of stock and bullion trading. So naturally, one would find people glued to business channels.

Patels, US contacts and cousins

  • We all will have at least one relative who owns a motel in US. Patel is a very famous community who own multiple chains of motels and hotels in the US. So if we want something cheap from US, we will always have someone flying back to India at any point of time.
  • No matter which part of the world you are in, you will be able to manage to find some third-cousin's-best friend's-uncle who will be more than happy to receive you at the airport of an estranged city, and will make you feel home till you get settled!


  • We tour a LOT. You can find 'Gujarati Bhavans' in all the major tourist places in India, and also abroad. But we like to carry our own food. We will always have theplas, khakhras and some other dry snacks in our luggage.

Marriage and festivals

  • Navratri, Uttarayan and Diwali are the most famous festivals. Even though these might be celebrated in other parts of India, each festival has it's own unique Gujarati flavour. For e.g., eating Undhiyu in UttarayanChopda Pujan (special puja for Accounting books) in Diwali, Garba-Dandia-Raas (folk dance) in Navratri.
  • However "educated" and "modern" you are, your parents still expect you to go the arranged marriage way, or at least marry within the same caste/religion.
  • Marriages are pompous and a three day affair in general. There is no prevalent dowry system in middle/upper-middle class weddings that I have seen, but people exchange a shit ton of gifts during marriage. AFAIK, there is no pressure in giving or taking. It's only dependent on your financial capability and willingness.

Status of women

  • Women in general are respected, but even the most so called "modern" families are not completely feminist. All the responsibilities of a home will still fall on the women in the house, even though she has her own job.
  • People would still prefer girls going into "women/home friendly jobs" like college professor, doctor, teacher, etc.
  • Due to the recent development in Gujarat and influx of other communities from all over the India in cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and Baroda, people are becoming more open minded about these things day by day.


  • Not all of us know English, but we sure as hell try to speak in it. We attach a social status for knowing English. Some of us, especially Kathyawadi, have a very sweet accent.
  • We don't frequent malls for shopping. Gujjus are very particular about value for money. You wouldn't find many Gujjus shopping for branded clothes. However he wouldn't mind spending 1000 per plate on a full Gujarati buffet.
  • Going out, or fun activities, usually means going out for nice food. Since it's a dry state, there is no culture of drinking, and those who do are frowned upon.
  • We love Narendra Modi, because most of the middle class has actually noticed change happening at ground zero.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Old poem

I was cleaning my Google Drive a couple of days back, and found this poem, which I wrote in VII grade. This doesn't necessarily mean that I write better now. :p

That was my first and last attempt at poetry. Here it goes.

The plight of Earth

Started with a blob of nebula
involving thousands of celestial phenomena
A gift of God to nature
which took long to mature

No land no sea only fire

I was like this, can you admire?
Full of lava and hot matter
Which left everything to shatter

This continued for millions of years

which wet God's eyes with tears
His tears were not in vain
As he sent them to me in the form of rain

As more time progressed

my surface got significantly improved
It became cooler
And contained inorganic minerals as proved by Miller

Life in the form of bacteria appeared

Followed by which, complex ones emerged
And then the grace of God and water
made more and more of them to appear

Ultimately the most dangerous one came

which only cared for their name and fame
Neither dino, nor chimpanzee nor any other living thing
he was the selfish human being.
I took care of them as my children
and supplied them every form of mineral
Also donated all sorts of energy
stored by me since my existence

But those heartless creatures

bared me from my green cover
And also my melting ice caps, for which they are responsible
Can they rejuvenate them again? Is it possible?

They shattered me to fulfill their needs

But I can't forgive them for their deeds
This is a clear betrayal from their side
which might result in their loss.

This is my message to all humans

that wake up and save me.
Because if my present is worse
How can your future be better?

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Other Side

First of all, Survive a new year :)

When I was young, one of the 'moral giving childhood stories' included a very simple story. You have got a white cloth. Make a noticeable black dot at the center of it and show it to people. Most of them will notice the black dot and ask questions about it. Not many will care about the white portion. All that matters is that small black dot which grabs the attention. It has been a long time since I posted last and there have been many events which tempted me to write about them, most of them bad / negative. The FB Comment Arrest, The Delhi Rape Case, subsequent mindless statements by Indian politicians and religious leaders, etc (a lot of black dots, though :-/). There were numerous protests, media panel discussions on such topics. But today I am not gonna write about them. Today its about those stories which are missed by a large chunk of people. The positive ones. I am, by no means, saying that people are wrong in thinking about negative aspects of our society / country and protesting / trying to bring a change in it. This is not even a post to infuse some enthusiasm or positiveness amidst these times. This post is just an attempt to congratulate or thank those unsung heroes, those unnamed people who made these things possible.

Protecting us

We take some things for granted. Ever imagined how is it like to live in the snow clad terrain of the North, along the Line of Control, for an official on duty, keeping a constant vigil? Or tried to empathize the void created in hearts of those whose son or husband or more importantly father died in a combat saving us? Those are not even high paying jobs. The ratio of standards required to the pay they get is very high. I respect their bravery and chivalry. More importantly, I respect their dedication towards the nation while many citizens are ashamed of its law and order, politics, and the system as a whole.

दो बूंद जिंदगी की

Everyone thought that India would be the last country to be completely polio free when ~50% of new polio cases in the world were reported in India in 2009. Yet in 2012, India achieved a major milestone by passing a full year without recording any new cases. From the official booklet of Global Polio Eradication Initiative, "The journey from 200,000 to zero has been long, hard and arduous. The progress is a credit to the tireless work of millions of frontline workers - vaccinators, social mobilizers, community workers, health workers, religious leaders, influencers and parents - in often difficult circumstances and environments"

One theory to explain them all

We have all heard the name of Sunita Williams. Not because she has some space walk record associated with her. Because she is an Indian-American. She wasn't even born and brought up here. This is not a dig against her, its against the general media or mass which makes people like her so famous that we tend to ignore the successes of the people working right here. Not many including myself, (before reading about him couple of days back ;) ) except a few in the physics world of India know about Ashoke Sen. Sen is considered one of the original contributors to string theory, a complex mathematical construct which is meant to resolve one of the science's biggest mysteries. He won the Fundamental Physics Prize in 2012. He is just an example. There are many more whose work goes unnoticed because of media's under attention to them.

ताला लगा दिया जाये ?

Kaun Banega Crorepati! The Indian version of 'Who wantes to be a millionaire?'. Over the various seasons, it has become much more than just a lottery reality show. It has become a wonderful platform for people to realize their aspirations and dreams. The most commendable thing about this show is that most of the contestants come from lower middle class categories, most of them with big dreams and those who want to solve their financial problems. This past few seasons started airing short documentaries about the lives of various contestants. Its a great way of understanding and connecting to their problems, their hopes and their lives. Yesterday only they aired a special episode on a very backward community called Musahar based in Bihar. This community has been wronged for ages, exploited to such an extent that they are in the lowest rank of Dalits and are forced to eat mice out of hunger (yes mice, and hence the name Musahar. Mus = Mouse, Ahar = Food). Yes, in one way, its all for gaining TRPs. But, calling a guy from such a community and making us aware that in some part of the country, people are living in the worst possible conditions, and thus giving them a ray of hope, is much better than watching dozen people fight with each other in a stupid secluded house for over a month on national television. And of course, the host, a great communicator and a person revered by the masses, Amitabh Bachhan has been instrumental in the success of the only sensible show on TV.

It's not all dirty

This was really a bad year for Indian Politics. String of corruption scandals, mindless politics by regional parties, idiotic statements after Delhi rape case, etc. On the other side, some good things (perceived good, atleast) also happened, like the rise of Arvind Kejrival, or reelection of Modi third time, and so on. But this all caught public's attention. But somewhere among all this, contribution of many good faces of Indian politics went unnoticed. Manohar Parikar. The only IITian to hold a Chief Minister's office (Goa). He was awarded the CNN-IBM person of the year in politics category this year. Other chief ministers include Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Dr. Raman Singh (Chattisgarh) who have done extraordinary work in their respective states. Both of the states have double digit GDP growth rate and did fairly well in HDI. They are famous at their state level, but no one has a national recognition like Modi. But they do deserve it.

Obviously there are many more stories, like reduction of fresh HIV cases in India by 57%, or P&G's support for educating rural children, etc.. These were just my top five choices for today. You can follow them more here on I See India.

Credits : Quora. From inspiration to content.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Great I(IT)ndian Dream

Disclaimer: This post is heavily biased towards IITs and IITians in general. Go ahead only if you are interested. Anyways I have already got your page view if you are reading this. ;)

    Another thing off my head. This post is inspired by a recently raised question on Quora about IITians' contributions. Btw if you are interested in something else than "aww.. so cute <3" pics and statuses on Facebook, and want to indulge / read good moderated discussions on all the topics you could imagine, Quora is the place to be. Anyways that's for another day, back to the topic. Here I go.

    When someone asks you, where do you study, and you say IIT, following are the major classes of responses you get.
- They dont give a fuck. They just treat you like a normal guy from a good college.
- They confuse it with ITI or some private institute located far away, where you unfortunately had to take admission (possibly with donation) because you didn't get it into a local college.
- They treat you with respect, envy, and awe. Classify you as a nerd / geek.
- They hate you because you are a non-performing investment made by government on tax payers' money.

    Lets talk about the last one. I have personally and digitally (personally, but on internet) met two people who had the same response. Obviously my views are gonna be in favor of IITians, but I welcome your views in the comments section.

    The hottest category in this is that IITians generally tend to fly off to US or some other first world country. Lets look at the trends. One one side, where we are proud of these bigshots such as Vinod Khosla,Vinod Dham, Sabeer Bhatia, Vinod Gupta, Rajat Gupta, Raghuram Rajan who have become iconic international figures or many people working in Silicon Valley or NASA, the other side we think that it would have had been better if they had stayed in India. Well the hard fact is that they couldn't have done anything had they stayed here. In a scenario like 1980's, they just didn't have the infrastructure and opportunities to do so. I would rather say that it was a step well taken. When India had more pressing issues like poverty, illiteracy, etc. to cater to, these were the very people who were building the BRAND IIT which we are leveraging today. After early 1990s, the trend started to change, thanks to globalization. Companies like Infosys, NIIT were founded by them. They were hired as the top officials of any mulitinational's arm in India, because of the brand creation which happened due to the migration of Indian engineers 20 years back. Multinational Corporations like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, most automobile companies made (and is making) huge investments in our country increasing our revenues, our real estate values, our economy and our employment. Who do you think are leading them in India? And in addition to all this, they contributed to a significant Foreign Exchange (things which control oil prices ;) ) And now in late 2010s, things have only gone better. We have awesome success stories like Filipkart, Junglee, Zomato, etc. The concept of venture capitalism is also catching up. They have high paying jobs (in case money is everything) here in India only, again given on the premise of Brand IIT only. And the trend has been changing. From 70% of them going out of the country, the number has dropped to 30%. Why do you think petrol prices have gone up since late 2010's (:p). Jokes apart, guess what, moving to a developed country didnt hurt India after all. If at all, it has only helped her in the long run.

    Another point being made by various people is that IITians dont contribute enough to academia and governance / politics / NGO's or nation building as a whole. As a matter of fact, 60% of IIT's faculty are IITians who are mostly a PhD from one of the top 5 institutes in the world in their respective field. As far as nation building is concerned, first of all, not everyone who works in government wears an IIT badge. Its hard to count their contribution who aren't that famous. Secondly, the mentality of people that they are "expected" to work for their country, since 80 percent of the fees is out of taxpayers' kitty, is not fully correct. They worked their ass off for getting into this institute. Even they deserve to reap the benefits, in whatever way they like. Of course, IITians should, and some really do, feel grateful and they give back to the society. I have a classmate, one of those guys who reminds professors of pending assignment submission (ya he is a pain :p), but he is actively involved in all kinds of social services' activities that is supported by Institute. Then there is my wingmate, or my hostel senior, or hundreds of freshies who are involved in similar tasks. A feeling of "giving back" is cultivated among us in freshman year in NSS program, and some of us really pick it up and pursue it in later years as well. At a bigger level, there are various NGOs operated by IITians or which live on donations by them. Coming to politics / governance, there are many people working in it like Raju Narayana Swamy, Manohar Parikar, Jairam Ramesh, Nandan Nilekani, Raghuram Rajan, or the ones who became famous recently, Arvind Kejrival and Ashok Khemka. These people hold various key positions in IAS, IRS, Cabinet ministry, Chief advisory to PMO, etc. D. Subbarao, the guy who signs on our currency notes is also an IIT alumunus. In 2011, 85% of the people (sampled survey) who were UPSC aspirants were IITians. Talk about not giving back to the country.

    To summarize the post, in and all, I see the situation is pretty balanced. There are people who stay here and don't care about money and lucrative lifestyle and give back directly by contributing to academia or bureaucracy or take up jobs / start businesses in India itself, and those who go out, do cutting edge research with other country's money or get high paying jobs, earn loads of cash, send some of them to India and keep on building Brand IIT and Brand India. There is no reason to feel unjustified or angry over IITians wasting your money, because they aren't.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Religion 2025

"Religion is a collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values." "If one person has an imaginary friend, he is crazy, but if many people have the same imaginary friend, its called religion". Yes, both are kulted (copied). First one is from wikipedia and second one is from the dinosaur-asking-questions meme. I just needed a formal start before I can punch in my views. Here I go.

Being from an above-average religious family, this topic has always had a place in my head. I was also raised to have faith and belief in the concept of God and its worship. But as I grew up, started going to school / college and getting exposed to more than a home ecosystem, my faith kept on declining. This should be a case with almost everyone of my generation. Our parents were a part of older India, a closed one. Their definition of respect included not to argue / question their adults. But we were born in a different world. A globalized one, with more openness. Today, we ask questions. And technological advancement in making the world smaller just added to that. You can just google about stuff or ask a question on Quora and you can get supporters / answers / criticism from everywhere in the world.

As a kid, it starts with stuff which you aren't allowed to do in the name of religion / tradition / culture (i have always been confused between the boundaries of above three). Say you aren't allowed to touch food before bath if you just had a haircut, or cant trim your nails on some particular day of the week, or not allowed to wear black in a wedding / family function. And then you have stuff which you are supposed to do. Like, going to temple, or burn logs of wood on holi, or kill goats on Bakri-id. I am just quoting these examples from my neighborhood, which is primarily Hindus. I am sure, other religions will also have stuff like this.

The way I see, it is the problem is extrapolation. Most of the festivals, are an extrapolation of some mythological event. Holi, Dusshera, Ganesh / Durga / All types of visarjans, Bakri-id, etc. All were merely symbols of something good in respective religions, be it the burning of holika instead of prahlad, or the miraculous swap of prophet's son with a goat, or ram killing ravan. These were just supposed to be symbolic. That doesnt mean you have got to repeat them every year to remember / appreciate it! You dont drop out of the college just because Gates and Jobs (God-ly people?) did and they earned a fortune. They are just meant to be an inspiration. There is a huge difference in the 'era' from when all this started and today. We have shifted from burning a few logs of wood here and natural mud-made Ganesh idols to tons and tons of them and to the ones made by Plaster of Paris. There was no melting ice-cap, or energy-deficit or a polluted ocean then. We have now. Some people, including my best friends say, they get the "feel" watching holi burn or bursting crackers. Well, facts are more important than feel. If we continue doing this mindless business every year without even questioning or thinking about it, your next or next to next rebirth may not even have clean air or water to feel the feel.

Another level of extrapolation happens when someone tries to prove that their religious theories are correct. I always have this kind of arguments with my mom. She says "x" is true according to both, religious theory and common sense / logic / science, you should have faith and assume that "((x+y)%8)^2" is also true. Her argument, science didn't support "x" before 500 years, now it does, and so in future it will support this another complicated function also. But that's just not the way it works. You cant take things for granted. Not even in science also!

Many people say its the source of spirituality or inner peace (Skadoosh ;-) ). Well that's because you have been trained in that way. From childhood, if you had any problem or wanted a good luck charm, you were TAUGHT to remember the God and picturize him. You were taught to pray to him to make things better. And then the law of extrapolation works, and we name it spirituality. How about teaching them to hold a pencil or count from one to ten or plant a tree! When they grow old, they might start finding more solace by doing that.

And then there is money (gujju factor). From Pope to POP statue of Sai baba, all are insanely rich. Thirupathi, is supposed to be the richest God in India. It adds 1500+ crores to its coffers every year. The insurance cover of God's jewels is 50k crores. The money which grows every year, but you cant tax a single dime. And when tried to do so, people started protesting. Well do something with that money! God is not gonna do anything with it.

I hope we get this shift from practicing materialistic religion to a life governed by a simple set of logical rules someday. This could be well guided by the existing model of religion. I would say, religion need not always be adversary of science. So many religious theories, so many avenues for research. Anyways, any change, particularly change in the mindset, inevitably takes time. I think it should happen in a decade or so. Till then, ask questions and try the 'plant a tree' spiritual example with your kid. :)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

HelloWorld : Things in my head

Hello World

For the people who are too lazy to open my bio or if I havent updated it yet ;), I am Smit Mehta, a CS undergrad at IIT Madras, India. Besides many things, I really love typing. Yes, you read it correct. You can always invite me for a race in typeracer. Just ping me with the link to the race. Apart from sharing my views on stuff, blogging is just an another excuse to type more. My blogs can tend to have a bias towards IITs, IITians, Gujarati stuff and Computer Science.

I have been wanting to write a blog from last three months, but there is always a bunch of pending assignments (excuses?). Hence today, I swear an oath in the name of the Old Gods and the New that I will write a blog post every Monday, well except when my quizzes / endsems / very big assignment submission / some other excuse isn't there. Well it is already Tuesday now, but I can forgive myself for the first post.

This is the helloworld post for the coming series of blogposts of my Things in my head. Well generally people don't have an introductory post like this, and they just start writing stuff, but i don't have the enthu to write anything today. I will be posting stuff on every Monday from now on. You are welcome to comment / argue / discuss.