Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Real Victory

This is my 11th Indie Ink Writing Challenge. The challenge I received is at the end of this post.

Jack threw his notebook down in frustration. Ten years ago if someone had told him he would be a researcher spending his nights and weekends at a lab, he would have laughed it off saying he was not mad scientist material. And yet here he was on a Saturday night, meddling with his numbers and trying to make his Matlab program give him the sinusoid graph he wanted. He banged the keys of the computer in frustration, but no graph yet.

It had been a long rocky road, the way to a PhD. Picking a research topic had proved a lot more difficult than picking a major in college. And the Professor he worked for did not make anything easier. He wouldn't let him defend his thesis and graduate, always wanting more proofs, more publications and more results. Jack had been an A student right from kindergarden and to have someone constantly criticizing did nothing to improve his attitude. He thought about quitting, for the hundredth time in the last few days. There was this symposium coming up in August and his professor expected him to present a paper on his research there. It was quite a prestigious convention, and he realized that making a good impression there would go a long way in improving his academic standing and help with his prospective career. But his Professor laughed it off when he said he wanted to include a section on his findings and had mocked him that he had nothing of value to show as yet. It became imperative to him that he needed to prove that his mettle not just to his advisor but to himself.

"Take a grenade for ya" his phone sang, with his sanity on the other end. Sweet sweet Ally always called every two hours to check on him. He answered the phone and mumbled some expletives in answer to how his research was going. Talking to her always calmed him down and he often discovered that a calm mind accomplished more.

Jack couldn't believe his eyes. The screen showed a perfect sinusoid curve. He leapt off his feet and screamed out in happiness. It worked, it actually worked. His first thought was not to call Ally and celebrate, but to fling that graph on the face of his snooty advisor. Of course he was right, he had been right all along. His near perfect GRE scores and his 4.0 GPA were not flukes like his Professor hinted. He called Ally and told her that they were going out for drinks to celebrate.

He gathered his papers, saved the program to his email and external harddisk before leaving the lab. Ally gave him a hero's welcome and bear hugged him in the driveway. This was another reason why he loved her so much. Ally was far from being an intellectual, she was a kindergarden teacher who loved simple things. But she understood the nature of his work and always encouraged him to talk about it at home.

They came back home at three in the morning and Jack was glad that it wasn't because of a late night at the lab. He kissed Ally goodnight and told her that he would come to bed after typing an email. He went to the tiny nook he called his office and loaded his program into his computer. He wanted to see that sinusoid again. He was absently going through his papers, when he noticed it. The miscalculation that had caused the sinusoid. He couldn't believe his eyes. He furiously scribbled on his notebook, desperately trying to prove that his miscalculation never existed. After an hour, the truth slowly sunk in. He had no results to show. He needed to retrace his steps and move his research in a different direction altogether. Tears threatened to moisten his eyes and a million thoughts crisscrossed in his mind - his two years of wasted effort, his advisor's face, the conference for which he had no paper. He cringed when he thought about the conference. And then a thought struck him.

Ally knew something was wrong when she heard Jack typing furiously. His ashen face was proof enough.

"Ally, I made a mistake, a tiny but fate changing mistake"

"Calm down, it's going to be alright. You will fix it before the symposium, you always do"

"Not this time. But the good thing is, only I know about this. My imbecile advisor will never find this out in a million years."

Ally looked at him, with her head bent and giving him the look she gave one of her kindergarden children when they did something naughty.

The next morning, Jack had an uncomfortable talk with his advisor. Like he expected, there were some jabs and he had to withdraw his paper from the symposium. But it was going to be alright. Wasn't it Albert Camus who said "An intellectual is someone whose mind watches himself" ?


My challenge this week was from Sir.

"An intellectual is someone whose mind watches himself" - Alber Camus. What does this mean to you.

I hope I have answered your question. I think the quote means intelligence without ethics does not make a man an intellectual. A sharp mind should watch itself and prevent it from going down the wrong path

I challenged Headant with "And then there were none" and she has a moving piece up here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls

This is my entry to this week's Indie Ink Challenge. The challenge I received is at the bottom of the post.


Ashley walked down the path to the church, a million thoughts thrashing around in her head. She was getting married the next day in that church. The caterer hadn't returned her calls and the florist said that the heat wave had killed the orchids that she wanted in her centerpieces. And of course James occupied a good chunk of her mind too.

James couldn't believe the day was so close. He closed his eyes and imagined her soft hands on his cheeks. He remembered the day they met like it was yesterday. He had just finished with grad school and was on a backpacking trip across Asia with his friends. India was the last country on their itinerary. One of his architect friends had refused to leave the country before seeing the famous Brihadeeswarar Temple. The temple was huge and the humongous arch blew him away while he walked in. And then he heard the loudest gong he had ever heard in his life. His hands clapped themselves to his ears instinctively and as he stumbled around in shock, he tripped on a step he didn't know was there, onto the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It was like the way it happened in the movies, having a beautiful woman fall into his arms, while the bells tolled and in a strange land to boot. James followed her around like a puppy, extending his trip for another two weeks. He called up his mother from India and told her that he had met the woman he was going to marry.

Ashley was relieved to see him that evening. Too many things were going wrong at the venue and she wanted someone to say that it was all going to be alright. "Sweetness, it's all going to be okay tomorrow. We have the bride, the groom and the ring and if you think about it, that's all that matters." She felt the tension melt away from her body and she looked at the face of the man she was going to marry. "You still aren't thinking about James aren't you?" And now the topic of James was out in the open. “Mikey, I was engaged to James once, but you know what happened after that. I want to marry you and NOT James”

James felt like time was slipping away from him. When Ashley broke the engagement after the incident, he thought he would be able to get her back. But he didn’t bank on her meeting Mike. Ashley stopped answering James’ calls. When a friend told him that she was getting married in West Virginia in a day, he nearly ran all the way there. How could Ashley marry someone else? They were fated to be together. He felt that if he could somehow remind her of the good times they had, she would surely be convinced to take him back. But he had to be careful, her family hated him after what had happened and if anyone of her Italian family saw him in that small village, they would be sure to give him the boot. Then he noticed the bell tower in the church. Of course, the bells! He would have a pretty good view of the churchyard from atop the tower and he would just ring the bell at the right time. The bells would flood memories of a good time in her mind. And then he would just have to show himself to her.

Ashley walked up to the church at sunrise. Mike had managed to get some orchids from the nearest city and she wanted to make sure the pews had some orchids in the decorations. She hadn’t been able to sleep through the night anyway, especially after the talk about James. And then she heard it, the toll of the church bells. She felt a strange exhilaration run through her body. It was ominous. The bells were signaling that she was meant to be with Mike after all. How else could you explain the toll of the bells at sunrise in an empty church? She smiled and hummed a tune while carefully placing the orchids. The bells have spoken.


I was challenged by the lovely Amanda who writes at myplaidpants. She asked me write about the toll of a bell at sunrise.

I challenged Manju this week - "Loneliness can make people do the strangest things"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Question of Territory

This is my entry to this week's Indie Ink Challenge. The challenge I received is at the bottom of the post.


To say Podin was tired when he came back home, was an understatement. Moving time was always tough. You pick a place to call home and get all settled in, and then you get the call. Podin's colony was ruled by a leader, who was quite capricious. She believed in superstition and at the slightest of reasons would want to move the colony of thousands to a new location. She had a band of workers that she called her scout pack. They would have to scour the regions and find a new place to set up home.

You might think that Podin's leader sounded like she thought of herself a queen bee. You are right. Podin was a bee and stayed in a hive ruled by a queen bee. It was not like she was a tyrant, but she had her whims and prejudices. Since Podin was one of the oldest in the pack, she valued his opinion and made him the leader of the scouts. Ever so often, they would set off on these expeditions to find a new place to setup their hive. Bees already have a reputation for being hard workers, but their limits were tested those few weeks, when they would travel mile after mile looking for a place that met all their needs.

It was smack in the middle of scouting time. Podin had had yet another unsuccessful day and was just about to retire, when he heard Rafersky calling out for him. He groaned inwardly. Rafersky was a young recruit who thought no end of himself. He had a good work ethic, but there was nothing else going for him.
"Mr Podin, I have found it, the place."
"Eh?" (Bees are known for their brevity)
"There is this beautiful place, about ten miles from here. It's a small lake in the middle of the woods. It looks so beautiful, you have to see it to believe it. I don't think humans know about this place, which means no disturbance. Shall we go tell the queen?"
"Pipe down boy. That's no good, we can't move there. Maybe you will have better luck tomorrow"

Rafersky bristled with anger. He hated Podin and all the older bees. They were slowing everyone down. There was a new generation of bees who still had to seek permission from these old fogies to live their lives. No, Rafersky was not going to stand for it. No siree! He was going to go straight to the queen. He had to do it, for the colony.

Podin saw Rafersky's eyes move towards the queen's chambers and guessed what was running in Rafersky's mind. So he thinks he can go over his head?
"Well, if you want to go to the queen, let's go. I don't think she will take kindly to being disturbed at this hour for such a silly thing."

The queen was obviously impatient. There were so many things to be done and she could do all of them tomorrow only if she got a good night's sleep today. But her mood lightened up when Rafersky told her he had found the place. In the hot summer, moving by the lake felt wonderful. Also the flowers by the lake were always sturdier than flowers inside the city. Which meant more pollen! And no human disturbance too? She giggled in an unqueenly manner upon hearing it.

"Your Majesty. I don't think we should move there. I am not saying that to spite Rafersky who found the place. It's because I don't think it's a good place for us to move to. Sure, living by a lake sounds heavenly, but have you considered water accidents? About half our population is terrified of water and the other half doesn't know how to swim. If one of our young ones fall into the water, what are we to do? Also, humans may seem like pests, but I think they have their use. Have we learned nothing from watching the Bee movie? There are good humans out there. I think that cutting away from civilization is not the way for us to go at this juncture."

The queen was nearly in tears after hearing Podin. She had never heard Podin speak more than two sentences together. Even Rafersky looked humbled and was nodding to what Podin had said. The queen announced that the search would go on and gave Podin a teary hug.

While walking back to their quarters, Podin smiled to himself. He hated humans and had not even watched the Bee movie. Podin had discovered the cove by the lake years ago. That had been his secret place to retire, when things got crazy around him. The thought of sharing that space with thousand other bees made him shudder. Sometimes a bee's got to do what a bee's got to do!


My challenge was from Shiv
You are a worker bee in charge, with 90 other bees, of finding a new hive ...

Somehow I couldn't really get inspired this week. My entry reads like a children's story and I apologize for that.

I challenged Jules- "Do seasons affect you mentally? Why or why not"