Like Father, Like Son

I have been told by many relatives that I have a striking resemblance to my father. But lately, I have noticed that I have picked up a habit that my father had picked up in his mid-30s. This has been happening totally voluntarily.

My Father is a die-hard East Bengal (EB) fan. He used to go to all the home games in the Salt Lake Stadium. There have been seasons where he hadn’t missed a single home game of EB in the Yuva Bharati Stadium. But suddenly, around 2003-2004, he stopped going to the stadium. It stopped completely. And he never went back until the 2018 Kolkata League Derby when his favorite Subhas Bhowmick was back at the club (ironically, that was the last time Subhas Bhowmick would coach the Red and the Golds). He even started following Chelsea massively when Jose Mourinho was at the club, and he followed them up until the Don Carlo era. Still, I have noticed that over the years his interest has declined. The work pressure increased and the passion for football decreased simultaneously.

Now this disinterest in the game is something that I have been feeling for a year or two. Specially when it comes to European Football. Previously, I would stay awake up until 4 AM. I would watch the game, read the press comments after that, and fight with others about the match result on WhatsApp. Nowadays, I skip late-night matches like anything. I am more than happy to watch the extended highlights the next morning while having my morning coffee. And this has further increased since I moved to Bangalore. The thought of being grumpy while working due to less sleep puts me to sleep very easily. Since moving to Bangalore, I have watched very few matches live late-night: Liverpool-Inter, Italy-Macedonia, Milan Derby, Inter-Juve final, etc. I have even skipped the FA Cup final because I had TCS10k the next morning.

I simply watch a match and move on with my life. I used to think Football is life. Nowadays, there are many things that have far more importance than Football. The only constant in football has been East Bengal FC. Even if I am missing a match due to some work, I still keep looking at the notification bar for updates. This again has a similarity with the way my father would receive the match updates.

Even though he had stopped going to stadiums, he would still watch and follow EB’s matches closely. When he would be at the work, I would call him at regular intervals to give him the updates of a match, I would work like an archaic Fotmob or OneFootball app on which I rely for updates. The work and circumstances might have (and had) subdued the passion, but it hasn’t (and hadn’t) destroyed it completely. The reason for that, I feel is simple. This is the club I started supporting because of my father (and my grandfather and my uncle). I didn’t pick East Bengal. East Bengal picked me. And the affection for the color, crest, and club will probably be there for a long time. Just like it is still there with my father in a minimal fashion. Like father, like Son.

Does the ending matter?

I was watching the Wong Kar-wai classic “In the mood for love” again and when this famous scene came up, my mind immediately went to a different place. I started thinking about a blog post I read a while back and even saved it in my notes.

“Today I chanced across a photographer’s profile on Instagram, whose entire body of work centred on artistically blurred images. No not random shaky ones. A subject and surrounding, all blurred around the edges, separate and yet intertwined by an inseparable bond. Much like the mind and the heart. Much like abrupt beginnings and endings. All rolled in one, yet separate and yet again, together. A beautiful mess. After all, isn’t that what life’s supposed to be?”

This coupled with the endings of “In the mood for love” prompted an important question for me: Does the ending matter?

There is a great Ted Talk on how Math helps us understand the world better. I strongly relate to this idea and often, I try to correlate different things in life with Mathematics. Wrote a similar blog post more than a year back.

Now coming back to the topic. In simulation theory, we have two types of models: discrete and continuous. In short, for discrete models, the state variable changes a countable number of times, whereas, for continuous simulation, the state variable changes every moment following some conditions. I used to think that life is like a long continuous event where the change happens in every moment. But lately, I have been thinking, that it is more like the summation of several discrete events.

Significant changes in the state variables (life events) direct our lives. More than the slow continuous changes, it is the abrupt changes that help us take a path. It can be the moment where one may decide to change the course of a career, end a relationship, or start something new. These points in the lifetime will act as the pivotal points where the system changes its course. And for these discrete events, the endings don’t really matter.

More than the end point of a particular discrete event of life, what matters more is the state trajectory (which is a function of time) it follows while that event was simulated. If that has an uphill trajectory for most of the part, and the ending condition is provided by the designer (that it is not forced by any external events), then endings shouldn’t really matter much.

And in this way, I feel the movie is special. The designers (Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow) put the ending condition of their simulation models. There were no external forces that directed it like most other movies. The model ran its course. They started something without realizing the end. But in the end, the end didn’t matter. Truly a masterpiece.

The Island

I have been living in Bangalore for more than a month now. A few days (actually it has been almost a month) back I visited someone who has been here for a while and has ‘temporarily’ settled here with his family. We (my Mom and Aunt were also there) were overwhelmed by their hospitality. But my biggest takeaway from the night was something else.

The host was reminiscing about living in a city far away from home and how things have changed for him. How many events he has missed. How most of his family members haven’t yet visited his place. This is his ‘home’ but still, there was some kind of longing associated with his native place. The place where he grew up. The place which is still very dear to his wife. On that day he insisted that we will surely meet again. We have to meet again.

I am yet to meet him again (I hope I will soon do that) but this reminds me about the true nature of human beings. No man (or woman) is an island. Since coming to Bangalore I feel like there are numerous islands like that. Especially in a city like Bangalore where there are so many ‘outsiders’. These Islands long for visitors. These are the Islands where companionship is valued most. These Islands want to see familiar faces once in a while. I wonder why is that? I then remember one of the quotes by one of my online Dadas (oh I have many of them) who is also a Football Analyst at a big I league club. I asked him a while back why investors invest in a club if he is not getting any money back? His answer was quite poignant:

“Do you think Money is the most important thing in life? It isn’t. We as human beings want to be a part of something bigger. We want to surround ourselves with people who appreciate us. We want to be celebrated.”

I think those Islands also want something similar. Some appreciation through companionship.

Knowing yourself better

Recently I came across a video where one IIT professor was reacting to his student’s video. In that video, the student said that he took Mechanical Engineering just because he was good in Maths and Physics, and at the same time he was also advocating why Software or any IT job might be a better option for an average student. I had a spontaneous smirk when he said that thing about Maths and Physics. This was the reason for me for taking Mechanical as well. Nowadays, whenever anyone asks me what is that one mistake that I would like to correct, I always say I would undo this one.

I used to enjoy studying a lot. Back in 10+2, solving Math problems were like a second hobby for me, after, obviously, watching football matches. But college life changed everything. A thing of pleasure started feeling like a huge burden. My college routine piled up more misery on top of that. And things at times seemed unbearable.

Except for a few topics like Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, etc. (which were ‘Math heavy’), I hardly enjoyed any subject. Then I came to know about Operations Research (OR) in my 4th year. That subject was a kind of revelation for me. Whenever I used to do Math, I would have one question in my mind: How can this be directly applied to real-life problems? OR kind of made me realize on a large scale how we can use Mathematics for that.

Looking back at my college life and those ‘sad boi’ hours, I kind of feel contented that I went through this. You know there is a pattern in sitcoms where they will introduce a side character to bring together the main couple of the show (Karen in The Office, Kelly in Superstore, etc.). My college life kinda did that for me. I realized what I should be doing. Where I am good at. I stopped pursuing MS in Mechanical Engineering and instead focused on doing something related to Math or Data. Data, numbers, stats have been something that always made sense to me. And then I decided to do my Master’s in OR. Now I use OR techniques on a daily basis to make a positive impact for my organization.

Apart from a long retrospection on a lazy Saturday afternoon, there is another reason for writing this blog post. It irks me whenever any of my juniors ask me whether he/she should switch to Data Science to start earning more. If your intention to switch is just to earn more, then best of luck! After some hardships, I understood that I would rather fail in doing something I like. And I feel, for everyone, it is important to find that ‘something’. When you are not employed or associated with any institution, it is important to introspect. The focus should be on knowing yourself better, not mindlessly running after every job opportunity that is available. Otherwise, those ‘sad boi’ hours in life will just be prolonged.

The clouds of our lives

A few days back, during a mere Uber ride, I was thinking about the clouds. Yes, the clouds. Have you ever wondered about them? Clouds are everywhere. They are ever-present. Be it the scorching May or the overcast August or even the wintry December. Whenever you’ll look at the sky, you’ll notice them. But there is a strange thing about them. We see the clouds, we notice the clouds but we only acknowledge their presence when it rains. At least most of the time this is the case.

I was thinking about the striking similarity between this phenomenon and another one in our mortal life. We come across so many people in our daily life. If you keep the count then it will be in lakhs. Among these lakhs, only very few touch us in a way that we can never forget about them. We often find something very unique, something very pure about them that always stays with us. Often we don’t meet these ‘clouds’ in our life ever again. But somehow we remember their essence in our life. Sometimes on a mundane day, these ‘clouds’ float around and we suddenly remember ‘that day’ or ‘that moment’ when once it rained.

At this point of time, I suddenly came back to reality by the murmuring voice of Mark Knopfler coming from my earphones:

“And you still refuse to be traced

Seems to me such a waste

And every victory has a taste that’s bittersweet

And it’s your face I’m looking for on every street”

I smiled a bit under my mask. I felt at peace.