A Mathematician's Apology

I had the good fortune of reading G.H.Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology today. The moment I started it, I knew it was going to be one of those books I'd read in a single sitting; and it was. I enjoyed reading the foreword by Snow as much as I enjoyed reading Hardy.

If Hardy could pen prose that's so delightful, I can only imagine how pleasurable it would be to read his mathematics. Unfortunately, I'm not quite equipped to understand nor appreciate finer mathematics than what Hardy refers to as trivial problems.

It was interesting to get an insight into what he thought of mathematics, his work in it, and of himself. Like Snow mentions multiple times in the foreword, Hardy seems to be one of the most self aware of all people. He knows when to claim importance, and when to be humble, all without it being on your face. He seems to have regretted growing old and losing control of his faculties -- evident from the fact that he tried to kill himself -- which is very sad to read about. He seems like someone who would have loved to die doing what he loved - solving the next creative problem, or enjoying the day's cricket match. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The one thing he seems to hate more than growing old is war; which is completely justified. He hated that math was of assistance in war, rather than just helping society. But as he rightly claims, there is little beauty in an art that contributes to destruction.

Zero Days

I'm not a very disciplined person when it comes to working. Leisure, on the other hand, I'm very disciplined about. I have devised several ways to make myself feel adequately productive even on my most sloth-y days. One of which is the concept of zero days. It is not some new novel concept that I came up with one morning. It is practiced all over the world in various forms, and not necessarily known by the term 'zero-days' but in spirit, they're all the same. For instance, take Seinfeld's productivity routine, or the inspiring story on Reddit that received a lot of attention.

In my case, I try to make every day a non-zero day in terms of professional, or personal fulfillment. To avoid zero days I do things that help me progress with one or more of my goals. Of course, as a prerequisite, I should set goals for my life. But that's simple. I could do it on the day of. I don't need an elaborate new year's resolution master list to pick goals from. For instance, this post is a result of me trying to avoid a zero day.

Things that I consider goals are pretty simple to achieve.

  • Did I do something meaningful at work? Fixing a bug, making progress with a feature, or just doing a code review is enough for me to consider my workday as a non-zero day. It might seem like I put work above all else, but statistically, I am bound to work on any given day than not. So I like it or not, work plays a non-trivial role in determining how my day is spent. I like to be on the good side of the fence when it comes to work. The fence being, the call on whether or not one is supposed to love work. The good side being, it pays the bills and it keeps you happy, so it doesn't matter.
  • Did I have a meaningful conversation with someone I like? This could range from my parents to friends to anyone in between. It is very important that the person be someone I like. This is because I've had several meaningful conversations with strangers. For some reason, it is easy. There is no baggage. But with people I like, however, the conversations are mostly mundane. I try to somehow escape that grind. I find it very satisfying if I have conversations about life, or politics, or anything that doesn't involve me simply getting to know how their day went or them, mine.
  • Did I make progress with my hobby? Like The Joker says in the Dark Knight movie, I'm like a dog chasing cars. I just do things. I pursue several hobbies at any given point in time. I may not take significant strides toward getting better at any of those but I still consider them hobbies. Perhaps, my hobby is just pursuing hobbies. I digress. Right now, I try to write something coherent, learn to play something on the guitar, go out and shoot pictures, or simply read. Some of these are easy and others relatively hard, so I try not to fall back on the easy option frequently enough to hinder any progress I'm making with the harder ones.
  • Did I learn something new? This is hard but very rewarding. I've come to realize that there is so much noise in my life. I spend all my waking hours connected to the internet. I don't take social media breaks or go on tech-detoxes. So it is hard for me to learn new things or feel like I learned new things because the signal to noise ratio of the content I consume on a daily basis is so low. So, at the end of the day, if I remember something I learned that day I feel good about it. The frequency of such days is, alas, not so great.

Though this sounds like a self-help post, it is something I thought I should write about. This post, which started as something I planned to write to break out of my zero day, ended up being something I did on a non-zero day because I'd already made progress with one of the other things.

Hope you have more non-zero days than zero days in your life. If you feel you start seeing more zero days, then come up with new things that would make your day non-zero.

 

Nineteen Years Later

Whether or not I like it, the Harry Potter books and movies have been a significant part of my life since my early teens. I got into the series later than many of my friends; considering the number of people I've had the chance to discuss Harry Potter with, I got into the series much later than most people. However, I was all caught up by the time book six came out so I was there, with everyone else, to experience the magic of waiting for a release and reading the newly released book on day 1. Don't even get me started on the number of fan-fictions I read before book seven came out. Let's just say it's an uncomfortably large number. The book ends at a point of time that marks nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts, with Harry's child getting ready for his first day at Hogwarts. That day was September 1st, 2017. That part of the world that still hangs on to Harry Potter celebrated this in a hundred different ways. That said, this post isn't about Harry Potter. In fact, this is like every other post of mine -- about nothing in particular.


This day, to the six-year-old me, would have been nineteen years later.  I would be lying if I said I remember what it was like back then. What I can say with certainty is that to the six-year-old me, nineteen years later looked nothing like what it actually ended up looking like. I'm in a country I hadn't figured out much about back then. I'm employed doing things that weren't invented when I was six. The company I work for was four years old when I was six. Due to the fact that our body's bone cells are constantly replacing themselves, every twelve years, the human body gets a completely new skeleton. Akin to that, nineteen years later, I'm living a life that a six-year-old me was not even aware of. If I met that kid on the road today, I would not recognize him. That kid may not find me interesting or cool, or worth noticing even.

A few years pass, and that six-year-old is a teenager. The life that I live today has some vague similarities to what the teenager had in mind. The kid had learned to use a computer, knew what software engineering was, and just because he knew Bill Gates and Microsoft, he wanted to become a Computer Engineer. The kid made his dad's job easier by teaching him to use Excel Sheets and amazed his mother by looking up grammar rules on the internet. They, however, did not like the fact that he was deeming the phone unusable while he used the dial up connection to leave scraps to his friends on Orkut (what an archaic sequence of words!). To that kid, nineteen years later was a life in America. Because he had figured thanks to his cousin that one could go to this fantasy land that is America for higher studies. What's sadly not true is that the teenager believed that nineteen years later, he'd be a few inches taller than what I am today. Sorry to have disappointed you. Also, that girl you were with? Nope, not anymore.

A few years pass -- late teens. College. New friends. America seems more real. Another girl -- only this time, I know for sure, she does too. To this young lad, nineteen years later was a life that had no geographical constraints like the teenager had. Somewhere with a job and a roof over the head. Nineteen years didn't seem like a long term to plan for. The fact that nineteen years and some chump change was all that he had seen in his entire life notwithstanding. Perhaps all teenage dreams follow the theme of Chekov's 'Lottery Ticket'.

A few years and a few thousand miles later, some of the dreams come true. First flight, second, third, and even the tenth soon followed. Grad school, not higher studies. Starbucks. English with an American accent. An American education. Large classrooms. Cars. National Parks. Arizona sun. The west coast. These things featured in none of the nineteen-year plans. The twelve-year human skeleton cycle I'd mentioned starts to look very believable. For this young man in his early twenties, nineteen years later involves a lot of unknowns. This young man doesn't know which city to dream about or which job. He doesn't know who is going to be around. He's been told who isn't.

A few more years later, another new city. New friends, on and off. Summer is a thing to look forward to, and not just a label. It actually looks different from the other times of the year. Lots of new music. Beer. Trivia nights. Hiking. The six-year-old kid didn't know hiking was a thing, neither did the teenager. The undergrad would have laughed if he thought the future involved reading more books in a day than the number of people he'd talk to. The grad student thanks time for keeping him afloat and carrying him off to the shore. This exercise was more for me than it was for you to read. Through this, I now know that none of the nineteen-year dreams resembled the reality when the day actually came by.

For this guy, nineteen years later looks no different than today. Perhaps some more certainty would be nice.

What is all the fuss about Independence Day, anyway?

I'm unsure if it was 2005 or 2006. A childhood friend and I were going to attend some quiz competition we'd heard about from someone. We were refreshing our trivia prowess by asking each other questions. We came across what was an obscure fact to a bunch of 13-year-olds - "Adolf Hitler, son of a cobbler, tried to be a painter but was turned down by the Vienna art institute." A few hours later, inside Madras' very own Music Academy, a picture with two paintings was shown and the crowd was asked to guess the painter. Cheeky teenagers that we were, decided to let our newly acquired knowledge on the field. "Let's guess Hitler for this one!"

We were right. Still proud of that one, 11-12 years later.


Every year that followed, 2 pm on the 15th of August marked the moment when the Indian National Anthem reverberated around the majestic Music Academy main halls; brimming with people full of energy -- six-year-olds and sixty-year-olds alike - fiercely competing for the coveted stage at the Landmark Quiz.

The first year I attended it was my introduction to the bigwigs of the Indian quizzing circle. As a budding quizzer (who would remain a budding quizzer till retirement from all forms of quizzing...), my pride laid in identifying and identifying with the bigwigs. Swami, Samanth, Udupa, Arul, all of these became household names. This was followed by a decade and some years of being nearly good, and almost qualifying. But all the fun was in just being there, among that crowd. That was my crowd. I still remember one of those times when Kabbalah introduced himself as having come "all the way from Alwarpet" when there were people sitting next to him who'd come all the way from Mumbai and Delhi.


I'd grown from middle school to high school. First few facial hairs popped their heads out. First board exams. Plus one and plus two - senior years in school that went by as quickly as summer in Seattle. I started shaving. I entered college. I mixed and matched teams. I quizzed with a girl I liked. I progressed from taking the bus and train to taking a two-wheeler to Mylapore. I progressed from going back home and getting dinner to getting dinner on the way back. Progressed from "I should leave at 8 pm to get home on time", to, "It's only 10 pm and the quiz is nearly done?".

So many changes. So many faces. So many new teams, new people, but a few faces remained constant. My friends and I, those that were always only nearly qualified, we were the Barmy Army of Madras quizzing. Though we didn't go all the way to Lords to cheer for a cover drive, we traveled all the way from Madipakkam, and Guindy, and Nungambakkam to cheer for our teams.

All these changes, but what remained constant was the adrenalin rush that kicked in after the National Anthem was done echoing through the hall. The giant clock slides just past 2 pm and Dr. Navin would ask all the first timers to stand up. That rush, that never went away.

Landmark Quiz of my childhood is no more. But I have a lifetime of memories that I would keep revisiting; at least once every year, on the 15th of August at 2 pm.

 

 

 

Paul is dead

I picked When Breath Becomes Air up only because I’d seen it mentioned by a few of my friends. Not a single review had given it anything less than a perfect 5. Now I know why.

What is with the equanimity of those that have come to terms with death? I came to this after reading Oliver Sacks on death, and I expected to read something different; something with a sense of urgency in it. After all, time is what you should be stringent on, especially when you know for a fact that you’re running out of it.

The book started with Paul Kalanithi introducing himself, as if accompanying us on a train journey, now familiar because he’d taken it so many times; pointing at the various scenes outside the window, narrating a story behind each of those. It was as if he was blissfully unaware that the last station was fast approaching. It is a skill, to be aware of how much you have left to say even before you start saying something. It seemed like Paul possessed it in abundance. Either that, or it was enough no matter how little he said. For the most part, it felt like I was the one being convinced that it was going to be ok. He was a doctor after all.

I was told I was going to be weeping as I read the book. I didn’t deny that as I had a tendency to get emotionally invested too quickly for my own well being. But it didn’t happen right away. I read this in two sittings. I was halfway through and I had to remind myself that I’m reading the last words of a man whom I didn’t want to stop talking. He spoke so beautifully, knowing when to quote Eliot and when the Bible.

Abraham Verghese in his foreword asks us to read Paul’s last words out loud, because it would have the same effect as when he read Religio Medici, written in the prose of 1642. I thought he was being dramatic. Thankfully, he wasn’t. I didn’t look ahead in the book. When I read the last paragraph that Paul had written, I didn’t know those were the last words of the book. There were a few dozen pages left, and just like I’d mentioned, the book was so gentle, so calm and lacked a sense of urgency that I didn’t see the end coming. I’d already read the last paragraph several times, not knowing this is what Verghese was talking about. When I turned the pages, the epilogue began with the words “Paul died..” Then it hit me. I went back to his last words, read them over and over again, unaware of whether it was a few times, or several.

I hadn’t cried yet. I raced through the epilogue. The irony strong in the fact that the sense of urgency had set in when the concept of time no longer applied to Paul, just like his words that were now timeless. I stopped when Lucy (Paul’s wife) mentioned an instance a few months after Elizabeth (their daughter) was born. Paul, while going through his everyday exercise of reading poetry out loud on video to track his deteriorating health, insists that he would recite that particular piece again, now from memory. With the family sitting around, his mom exclaims, “So like him!” That’s when the tears came.

By that point in the book, Paul was an old friend. I was grieving. The train had stopped and I’d gotten down, but the journey was far from being done. I had known Paul for a wonderful 200 pages, and it was quite the friendship. He would have turned 40 yesterday.

There are several people, living and dead, who have left behind so many lessons on how to live life. But Paul here taught me how to face death, as for a man, nothing is as sure as death. He was the third Peverell brother who “greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, as equals, they departed this life.”

Parts Known : #4 The Mountains are Calling

“If the gods lived somewhere, it’s probably here.”

Debris from airplane crashes, a border-crossing with armed guards, roads that are in such an enigmatic state making you wonder whether they were roads of the past, or of the future — these are some things that make up the boundaries of Goma, a small city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a stone’s throw away from Rwanda.

None of its boundaries are as interesting as the one in the North of Goma. A lava lake on its foothills, billowing smoke and fire to let everyone know that it’s still active, Mt. Nyiragongo stands oblivious to what’s happening around it. Wars, UN intervention, airplane raids, raids by local militia — Nyiragongo has seen it all. What are we humans, but fleeting glimpses, in the lives of the mountains? The people of Goma, who are no strangers to gunshots, and the sight of army tanks, have lived through multiple eruptions of this volcano; the most recent of which was in 1977. Look 9000 miles to the west, and in the relative comforts of the Pacific Northwest, living among people who look at gunshots and army tanks through a tinted glass, you can find a calm and composed Mt. Rainier.

 Mt. Rainier from Reflection Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

Mt. Rainier from Reflection Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

On a good day, by which I mean on a day when the clouds are forgiving, you can see Mt. Rainier from most places in Seattle. When I first moved to Seattle for the summer in 2015, Mt. Rainier was the first thing I saw of Washington. Visible from the windows of my airplane, it was as if the mountain was calling out to me — “come see what you’ve been missing.”

In the year and half since, I’ve visited the park a dozen times, I’ve looked at the mountain over a hundred times with an ever increasing admiration. I also moved to Seattle for good.

Rainier invades your life. If you’re in Seattle or the vicinity, it is always on your mind; like the girl you have a crush on, wearing different shades, showing just how many things about Rainier are beautiful. Are you taking a walk to Kerry Park at sunset? Rainier is right there, purple and pink competing with the Space Needle, asking you “watchu lookin’ at?” You avoid Kerry Park, and go to Olympic Sculpture Park instead? Rainier is right there, donning a brilliant shade of red-orange, slowly turning into pink as the sun sets. After having moved downtown, I can’t even look out my window without seeing Rainier blush at sunset.

 I’m not letting this apartment go.

I’m not letting this apartment go.

There are articles every few months warning people that Rainier might erupt any year now and the entire west coast seems to be in a constant state of earthquake paranoia. Setting all these aside, one cannot help but enjoy the mountains at every opportunity.

 A sense of calm fills you when its just you and the mountain, with the snow silencing every sound there is. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

A sense of calm fills you when its just you and the mountain, with the snow silencing every sound there is. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

It isn’t just Rainier. My favorite hike this season was in Mt. Baker when I went snowshoeing all by myself — a foolish idea in retrospect. The weather was projected to get worse but I’d driven for four hours nearly all the way to the Canadian border up north. I wasn’t going to go back without doing the 2 hour hike. I was on the slopes of Baker but I couldn’t see the mountain. That was the state of visibility on the day. However, I did manage to climb as far as I could. Only now, descending was a problem. The snowshoe trail isn’t a maintained trail in the Mt. Baker area. It is backcountry and the trail is essentially you following the footprints of the person who went ahead of you.

 Visibility wasn’t the best. The trees provided enough contrast to help stop me from walking in circles. Artist Point at Mt. Baker, Washington.

Visibility wasn’t the best. The trees provided enough contrast to help stop me from walking in circles. Artist Point at Mt. Baker, Washington.

A blizzard had started, and there was no trail thanks to snow filling up at a pace faster than people were making footprints. It was an amusing 45 minute detour where I was following what I thought were footprints of people, dogs, and the occasional dog poop. There were points at which I was thankful for having brought hiking poles with me because I was stuck in snow that was well above my knee. I’m not tall but I’m not short either. Let’s just say that you couldn’t have guessed whether or not I had my pants on. I was wading through a good 2–3 feet of snow, and I managed to keep myself distracted from the reality which was that I was lost. It was quite a while before which I could spot the ski trails that were close by, and I managed to descend without taking my eyes off the ski trails. It was silly, what I did, but now I have a story to tell.

 “The mountains are calling, and I must go”— John Muir. Artist Point at Mt. Baker, Washington.

“The mountains are calling, and I must go”— John Muir. Artist Point at Mt. Baker, Washington.

When you’re up there, you don’t think about the small things — that looming deadline or the student loan, that break up or the identity crisis, taxes or the fact that you should take out the trash when you get home — you’re one with the mountain and it calms you down. The mountains are there to tell you that they’ve seen it all and no problem is new or one of a kind. The mountains are there to tell you it’s going to be alright, and it doesn’t matter even if it isn’t. They’re there to tell you to live in the moment and become one with it.

 Mountains as far as the eye can see. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

Mountains as far as the eye can see. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

It was the 4th of July 2016. As the entire nation was preparing to light the sky on fire with beautiful pyrotechnics, several thousand people across the country were preparing to be propelled from wherever they wanted to be, to wherever they had to be the next day — from family, a friend, a loved one’s arms, to work, school, a different family. The long weekend had come to an end.

It was Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Outside security checkpoint-2. I was among the several hundreds giving and receiving hugs, kissing amidst tears. Goodbyes are hard. I remember standing there, till I was doubly sure my hand wave was no longer visible; walking back slowly, trying to capture every detail of this moment. I was turning back every couple of seconds as if someone from the airline would come out and say “we’re not flying today, go spend time with the people you love” and I can go back to where I was, just a few moments back. Goodbyes are hard.

The next time a goodbye was that hard, the next time I walked backwards without being able to take my eyes off the moment, was when I watched the sun set over the mountains at Mount Rainier National Park, almost four months later, in October. This time, there were no tears.

  How is it that everything that’s dangerous is also so beautiful?

How is it that everything that’s dangerous is also so beautiful?

Parts Known : #3 Cross Country Trains

At my philosophical best, I sometimes find myself asserting that the best way to experience a country is through rains and trains.

Back in the Winter of 2014, which was my first proper break after moving to the United States, I was looking up things to do and places to see. I learnt about the California-Zephyr Express which connects Emeryville, a tiny city across the bridge to the east of San Francisco, with Chicago. I thought to myself I should certainly take that train. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible right then as I was a broke student in Arizona who really didn’t have a reason to go to Chicago.

 The route taken by the California-Zephyr.

The route taken by the California-Zephyr.

After two years, in 2016, I figured this would be a great graduation present to myself so I decided to take the train from Chicago to Emeryville. By that time, a good friend had moved to Chicago as a result which I had ample reason to visit Chicago. It is one of the best decisions I made this year.

 Just a short while after pulling out of the Union Station in Chicago -- Leland, Illinois.

Just a short while after pulling out of the Union Station in Chicago -- Leland, Illinois.

There’s no assigned seating hence I was pretty anxious about finding a good window seat since I’d been looking forward to this journey for close to two years. Fortunately, not a lot of people got on at the Union Station in Chicago and I was able to find myself a good seat. Everything about this was just perfect. It was only going to get better. And it did.

For the first couple of hours there wasn’t much to do besides reading or listening to music. All that was visible through the windows was the steep gradient between the cities of the country and the rest of it. Houses no longer looked all the same, most had backyards and a driveway. Space was taken for granted which is a luxury elsewhere, especially in cities like Chicago and where I was headed towards, San Francisco.

 And that’s how we crossed into Iowa from Illinois.

And that’s how we crossed into Iowa from Illinois.

The first noticeable thing to catch my eye was when the train crossed into Iowa from Illinois across the Mississippi river. That was my very first sighting of this magnificent body of water. It was the first time I was crossing a state via a water border. It was a day for a lot of firsts, just like what this paragraph has turned into. I think it’s best if I let the photos do the talking.

 The mighty Mississippi between Gulf Port - Illinois, and Burlington - Iowa

The mighty Mississippi between Gulf Port - Illinois, and Burlington - Iowa

 A town by name of Mt. Pleasant in Iowa. I think the name does complete justice.

A town by name of Mt. Pleasant in Iowa. I think the name does complete justice.

After Iowa, Nebraska was a whisk. The train reached Lincoln, NE in the middle of the night and all I saw of Nebraska was the stadium of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Then we move to Colorado in the morning. Oh, Colorado, the place that breaks my heart. I can’t speak enough for and about Colorado. Although there’s a personal reason behind me falling in love with Colorado, every bit of it is justified. It makes me sad and happy at the same time whenever I think of the fact that I haven’t seen enough of Colorado, yet. Every time I see pictures of Colorado, read about it, or hear people talk about it, I have a lump in my throat. It is one of melancholy, that which you feel only when you miss someone. Colorado is as good a part of me as my arm or leg is. It made me appreciate beauty, miss places, miss people. Whenever I think of Colorado I am flooded with emotions — I’ve laughed till there were tears, I’ve cried my heart out, I’ve said goodbyes, far too many. It is almost as if I’d spent lifetimes there. Oh, Colorado.

 What summer? That’s what I love about Colorado. It is always Fall in Colorado. At least in my heart, it always is Fall in Colorado.

What summer? That’s what I love about Colorado. It is always Fall in Colorado. At least in my heart, it always is Fall in Colorado.

 Even the train stations are so pretty I could cry.

Even the train stations are so pretty I could cry.

 Tracing the route of the Colorado River. Am I allowed to have a favorite river?

Tracing the route of the Colorado River. Am I allowed to have a favorite river?

 What did I say about trains and rains? — Kremmling, Colorado.

What did I say about trains and rains? — Kremmling, Colorado.

A tiny stretch of the Colorado River near Bond, CO called the Moon River. It was fun to learn the story behind the name. As any naive tourist would, I assumed that this had something to do with the celestial body. Funnily, the name was given to this portion of the river because rafters along the river address the California-Zephyr with what’s appropriately called the Moon Salute. It is exactly what you think it is — pants are lowered and 5 second anatomy lessons are taught. By the time the guide aboard the train finished explaining the reason behind the name, those aboard did not need any further explanations as the rafters were visible at that point.

 Rafters on the Moon River. I was so enthralled when it actually happened that I couldn’t really catch anyone ‘in the act’.

Rafters on the Moon River. I was so enthralled when it actually happened that I couldn’t really catch anyone ‘in the act’.

The train was leaving Colorado for Utah. We weren’t losing sight of the Colorado River (we won’t for a very long time). Colors to canyon lands, I was saying goodbye to Colorado yet again.

 Did I mention this place has the most beautiful everything? — Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Did I mention this place has the most beautiful everything? — Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

 It was as if the clouds were trying so hard not to break into tears till I left — somewhere along the Colorado-Utah border.

It was as if the clouds were trying so hard not to break into tears till I left — somewhere along the Colorado-Utah border.

 Nevada was a vast stretch of barren lands.

Nevada was a vast stretch of barren lands.

And of course, the Colorado River was twisting and turning, but relentlessly following us (Or were we the ones following it?).

It started to get sunny was the train was moving into California. Before the train moved into civilization though, was Donner Pass which had water, greens, mountains, and snow all at once place. The train goes around the mountains, and there you see a reservoir. It is a pretty sight. But the stories about the place aren’t as pretty as the place seems. The place is named after a group (Donner Party) which en route to California on a train was stuck due to a snowstorm around these parts. The story is that they had to resort to Cannibalism to survive.

 Donner Pass, California.

Donner Pass, California.

Thus came my 52-hour solo journey to an end. I made a friend in my co-passenger who was a Swedish exchange student to Canada visiting the United States as a tourist. I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the train with a different set of people every day. It has been the most unique experience of my life till date. I had wonderful conversations with a ski instructor (who was the quickest to eat her lunch as she was scared of her luggage being stolen!), a professional poker player (he totally reminded me of New Zealand cricketer Ross Taylor), and a delightful couple from England who had retired and were traveling full time.

There are several more trains in America that I plan to take over the course of my life here, but the California-Zephyr will always remain close to my heart. Life has been so different and full of surprises ever since, but nothing quite as vivid and rich as the train journey. I moved to Seattle two days later. What did I say about rains? :)

Parts Known : Part 0

I moved. Again. This is the fourth apartment I’ve moved to in the last 6 months, across two states. I’m not a nomad, or a serial traveler. Every time I moved, it was out of necessity, though it was by choice. It has been a trying six month period — graduating, starting what’s my first full time job, taking what was my first ‘travel’ break, getting my heart broken, making my parents visit a new country, and moving, lots of it. I’m in Seattle, with rains going about with their pitter patter on my new, clean windows (which isn’t quite the unusual setting for Seattle, I’ve learnt), in my new, clean apartment, I got thinking I should do something new.

 Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

I recently started watching Anthony Bourdain’s Netflix series, Parts Unknown (yes yes that’s where the name of the post was obviously ripped off from) and have been fascinated by it. I thought to myself, unless something miraculous happens, I will likely never get to live a life of a story telling traveler like Tony does in the series. But I do explore the outdoors a fair amount. I don’t fly to Columbia to enjoy a stew, but I have taken a train from Chicago to San Francisco. I thought I have a fair share of pictures that I don’t really share anywhere, and ample time to make up stories that those pictures can corroborate. I also felt I should do something with serious discipline.

Through this post, and the series of posts that are to follow, I try to tell the stories of the parts of the world I have seen, parts of the world several others have been to, parts of the world thousands of people visit every year, parts of the world where people live and go to work in, parts of the world I have enough pictures of, parts of the world that don’t cost an arm and a leg for someone to visit over a long weekend, parts that are all too familiar but at the same time hold a lot of curiosity, parts that are not quite unknown.

By the time this is published, I will have written enough content to publish a few posts at the least. That’s the promise I make myself. A promise that will make me disciplined because, the stuff I write (as mediocre as it is compared to many, many wonderful things I have the fortune to read every day), I consider too precious to be left to die unshared. That’s the reward I get for being disciplined and writing enough, sharing the same. So read on, for a glimpse into what I’ve been seeing so far, what I’ll probably see in the coming years, and some gorgeous pictures that are all captured with the help of two devices in my possession — my phone, and my first camera.