“I have been in love, and in debt, and in drink, this many and many a year.”

I haven’t done the drink part. Hopefully, I won’t have to.

Mostly, I want to find someplace quiet and begin to get out of being in the red, on so many fronts. There will be an autobiography, if only to let innocent, idealistic young kids know what not to do.

Where do I begin? It all seemed like a good idea. Perhaps it had been.

I had forgotten how crushing the sadness of inevitability can be. There are different kinds of sadness, you see, and while I know many of them, I was foolish enough to hope that I’d be spared this sort. One would think that I’ve read enough Victor Hugo to know otherwise.

Life goes, windwards, as it must.

Poor Cromwell is too clever to make the mistake Wolsey or Boleyn made. He is still fated to the Tower. Yet, his awareness came across. At no point did he assign more importance to steeples than to what actually made churches.

I think I have made the mistake, often, of assuming that the steeple makes the church. When it is all hunky-dory, I suppose this is an easy mistake to make.

Small graces abound. I am spared the Eastern winter. I might wind up on the East coast in April, to greet a dear lady fresh from her travels.

A quarter-life crisis is how I wryly refer to the current state of affairs when discussing it with friends. There is thinking going on these days, of a different sort than the usual, because life requires me now to step outside and think.

Sometimes, I feel that I am in Melville’s land, though I am not sure whether I am Ahab or Moby Dick. Time will tell.

Spent an evening trying to navigate the wretchedness of Hayes Valley to get to the Symphony. Had been looking forward to an evening with Brahms. It is high time I figured out the city’s public transport to avoid this hassle of parking, or getting to the parking. It seems a very long time ago that I walked up the dirty stairs of the Market Street BART station to see the skyscrapers, the fog, and a girl bundled up against the evening’s cold winds.

This week has had unusual helpings of Pink Floyd. It must be the weather.

BBC has been broadcasting Wolf Hall. The series is an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction that goes by the same name.

I deplore the state of acting in most films and tele series. Wolf Hall stands out as a remarkable gem in the midst of so much chaff.

The acting, particularly that of the actor playing Cromwell, is done exceedingly well. Watch it, if you get the chance.

I saw the Imitation Game yesterday. I had known how the story ended. Very few educated people with the same predilections as mine can’t have known it. It is one of those innumerable lessons that you learn, directly or indirectly, when you grow up liking something different, when you grow up into someone differing significantly from society’s expectations.

Life was difficult. I did not possess as a child the temperament which lent itself to the mores of my society. Nor was I particularly good at effectively faking societal moulds. The family environment was not conducive, to say the least, to learn anything useful from elders. I was told that growing up would make everything easier. My mother hoped for it. So I grew up, out-of-sorts with the world I was placed in, and learning to mask sensitivity with blankness (I took particular relish in marking X on the Karnaugh Maps), and learning to replace people with books.

Growing up made nothing easier. I hit puberty late, but long before that I had already known. I had seen beauty where only men were supposed to have noticed. I had not particularly felt drawn to any cricketeer, film-hero or heart-throb that my friends and acquaintances felt drawn to and raved about. I had no interest in teen romances, unless they were of a very different sort.

“Was it better in your home state?” someone asked me recently.

I suppose it had been. At least, I remember that it had been so (though nostalgia is a rose-tinted beast). My mother was supportive. Most of those who knew me well knew and let it be. My father is progressive, though I believe the limits were stretched by the time I had grown up into who I am now.

There had been harassment. There very often is, not just for predilections, but even for simply having a different opinion. Is bullying harassment? I have seen it all my life to the point where I don’t get affected by it any more when someone attempts it. It is rather difficult to say anything hurtful to me, because someone beat you to it years ago. There is still pain, of course. There is still pain in memories. There is still pain and surprise when someone intimate and trusted says something hurtful. That, though, is a human experience, and not punishment for daring to say something different, or do something different, or be something different (What if I can’t help it? I had asked that when I had been a child and still wanting to know, when I had still wanted there to be as many candles for Joseph as there had been for the Virgin).

My mother often says that I am better off here than where I had been. I ask why. She reminds me of all the occasions where she had to run interference (neighbours, acquaintances, teachers, friends, family – all asking the same question ‘Why doesn’t your daughter do this? All the other girls do.’, ‘Why can’t she adjust?’, ‘Why can’t she understand that boys will be boys?’, ‘She’s too arrogant – why doesn’t she mingle enough?’, ‘Why does she read so much?’, ‘Why doesn’t she talk with enough respect to elders?’). Nobody asked the chemical castration question. Of course, they didn’t know. Perhaps it is easier to not attract attention on the matter when you are already attracting negative attention over everything else.

It was a society that favoured men. It was a society that understood only heterosexuals. I was unfortunate enough to not fall into either category. I had no patience for the insipid courting techniques of the men of my age, or any tolerance for the women who tried to make me take interest in the institution of marriage. Despite trying sincerely, I did not get into a socially acceptable career for women. I loved my Kalman Filters and robots, I loved my unsystematic exploration of mathematics, I loved my pen and the writing that flowed, and I loved my hyacinth. It was then sadly inevitable that I grew up and away from the friends of my childhood, having little in common. I thought that I’d make new friends someday, friends who had more in common with me, and I hoped. I hoped for that until very recently.

It was a society that favoured groups. There were groups of people bullying a loner. I had never had anyone to hide behind. It was good training, in a way, preparing me for the industry I am in today. If you can’t have individual opinions, if you can’t defend your opinions by yourself, you hide behind the wall of groups. Most men and women I have had the misfortune to fall afoul of placed great value on groups coming to aid in petty quarrels. This proved to be difficult to deal with for the child I had been, when I had thought better of people (everyone is kind, inherently; why aren’t they acting so? why are they so cruel?).

It was a society that didn’t understand loyalty. The most difficult times of my life were brought about by defending someone I cared for. I can’t stop to think when rushing to help someone I love. I can’t stop giving chances to people I trust. It often brought me great grief. It was considered weakness (you are too emotional, you are too weak).

A great deal is made of ‘outing’ yourself. To me, it seems as if there is a societal expectation that everyone will be notified if you are different. ‘Tell us, tell us everything about you that we can judge,’ the crowds clamour. I don’t think that being a friend or being family gives anyone the right to demand (guilt-trip) someone into spilling information.

There’s the all-embracing, tolerant friend, who says ‘It is just a phase (and you have my support during the phase)’, ‘Now that you have tried the real stuff, you’ve grown out of the other thing’. How long can you justify calling it a phase?

“So they came up with the bright idea of using KNN for building tailored models.”

“Scipy + Apache Mahout. 52 hours for training.”

“We should maybe help.”

“No, we shouldn’t,” my very wise colleague tells me.

I still want to help. So I go to them. It is someone from India. It is a man from Bangalore. He looks at me with contempt and condescension. (I have seen this look very many times over the course of my life. How dare you be good at something you shouldn’t be good at?)

I try. I honestly try to draw him into conversation, so that we can speak about how to reduce the 52 hours (I know so many easier ways).

“That didn’t go well, did it?” my colleague asks later, when I return.

“No.”

“When will you learn?”

It is a difficult lesson to learn, and a more difficult one to accept.

~~~

Chemical castration is not something most people have to worry about, today, regardless of what their predilections are. Still, there were at least 49000 who had definitely suffered in a country that is considered progressive.

https://www.change.org/p/british-government-pardon-all-of-the-estimated-49-000-men-who-like-alan-turing-were-convicted-of-consenting-same-sex-relations-under-the-british-gross-indecency-law-only-repealed-in-2003-and-also-all-the-other-men-convicted-under-other-uk-anti-gay-la?just_created=true

And perhaps the next time you speak to someone who doesn’t fit in with your ideas or values, you’ll be kinder. They are usually very eager to help you if you are only a little kind, you know.

~~~

“So are you or aren’t you?”

“Some of us are qubits.”

~~~

Everybody spoke of Convolutional Neural Networks. I was impressed. I have some rudimentary experience with deep learning, though my layers were only five-deep. These candidates had done so much more. So I asked them about the perceptron. I was disillusioned after the first few explanations. Then there was big-data, everywhere. Very few people did not look confused when I asked them about how they had chosen to initialize K-means. A lot of people told me about scipy’s k-means and k-means++ routines. There were many with strong programming backgrounds, but very few possessed mathematical intuition about the algorithms they worked with.

Still, the confidence they display is impressive.

I make a poor job candidate. I have very little to talk about, because I am comfortable speaking about only things I have done well by my standards. I shy away from buzzwords on my resume. I can’t describe myself as a ‘passionate go-getter who works well as a part of a team or alone’ or as a ‘generalist data-scientist rock-star who excels at shipping great products on time’. I leave the ‘career objective’ section blank on job sites and don’t have that on the resume. I don’t give myself more than average on most questionnaires for rating yourself. My hobbies have little to do with open-source projects on GitHub. I am introverted, shy, and not comfortable with speaking to strangers. Pimping my work is something I despise having to do. Come to think, I am surprised I can make a living in today’s world.

I happened upon The Once and Future King at our local bookstore. I had heard of it, had heard it was to do with Arthur and Merlin, and remembered that it had been recommended by friends in the writing circle. So I picked it up and settled down for a read.

The first book was a pleasure. It reminded me of my own childhood, not because of the quests or the forests, but because of the sheer simplicity of Wart’s life and the complexity of everything else surrounding him. There is Kay, quick to resent and to be jealous, though a decent chap when he wasn’t busy bullying. There is the stigma around Wart’s parentage, that he accepts but does not completely understand. There is Merlyn, living backwards, discussing the Boer War, and his clever owl, Archimedes. There are the ants, there are the fish, there are the geese, there are the falcons, and there is the wise badger with his thesis.

The second book strayed down darker paths. It made me resentful. My childhood had not been perfect, but compared to what had followed, it had been heaven. I had wanted Wart’s teenage years to be happier, and the rest of his life to be made of beauty and joy. That didn’t happen, and I felt cheated. Surely, at least on the pages of a book, a child begotten of misfortune could come to happiness?

The books after that were as expected. There could hardly be a happily forever ending after everything that had transpired. The wizard and the wart had wanted to harness might for the sake of the right. It had backfired on them. The tutor and the pupil had not accounted for the average human. They had their ideas, and there had been everyone else in their world. Arthur eventually thinks upon where it went wrong, and comes up with the idea of justice and civil law. It is too late for him, though. So one lies trapped in a cave for centuries while the other lies awake at night betrayed and awaiting betrayal, haunted by babies in the water. They meet their fates with equanimity, but that doesn’t make it more pleasant.

Perhaps it was for the best that I hadn’t read the books when I had been a child. I might have been disillusioned. Perhaps I should have read them earlier, for I might have learned to be more resilient and to not seek fortuity in the world’s embrace.

It is a new year. Flowers are blooming and they say it is spring come early. I need to hunt down some documents and fill some forms. Paper work. I have been putting that on the back-burner for two months now.

We have had a difficult month at work. Legions of executives and journalists had descended upon our little workplace, demanding to see more and more. We were six and we were an over-worked six. Others at work were sympathetic and did their best to ease our burden, but there was very little that they could do. We are done with all that now. The last two days have been for celebration. Yesterday, we attended a ‘victory’ party of sorts, at our director’s house in one of the quainter suburbs of the city.

I had volunteered to drive, since I did not want to indulge too much. I had expected it to be a quiet night. My coworkers are sensible and reserved. So I was rather taken aback to see the exuberant celebration. It was a very well-deserved night after the work, I should say, though I was surprised.

Stories came up. Some were pleasant, some were warming, and some were comical. Yet others were stories of adventure, or of romance. Then it was my turn. They were curious and I was unwilling. The moment skittered away, thankfully, for what I could have shared but mere trivia, all life pared away in the telling leaving behind the stereotype? Some lessons are learned early.

Perhaps, one day, we”ll craft the unsaid and write our lives out on neat, white pages.

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