- Taken from Transcendence by Dr. Abdul Kalam (with Arun Tiwari)
Post your answer(s) in the comments 🙂
An email shows up in my mailbox last week:
My university teacher, also my dear friend passed away recently. I received many books from his collection and they are placed on the third floor. Please feel free to take as many as you want.
Recently, I have developed a keen interest in reading, though my domain is very limited. Still, I went on the third floor to find two cartons of books lying on a table near the elevator. Mostly, they were about mathematics, general science, evolution, astronomy and later on artificial intelligence, computer science. Being curious about space and stuff, I picked up a few and left for my office. On the way, something clicked inside me. I somehow felt connected to the owner of those books. I realised that he must have been a very active reader throughout his life, wondering things about the past (evolution) to that of future (AI, computers, astronomy). Even though he is not here, but the books that I’ve taken along will always remind me that they were unintentionally given by him. What he must have cherished all through his life is still going to make a difference in lives of people like me. Unfortunately, I can not thank him, but it goes without saying. It makes me question myself: what can I give? What can I give selflessly when I’m alive and even beyond?
Books are definitely the first thing that pops into my head, but the question is more important, and deep. The more I ponder on it, the more I question myself. I am not a giver I think, but I wish to spread what I know, maybe that’s an act of giving? We might think that if we keep on giving, then we may not get what we want at the end. But the experience and wisdom of many old (and wise) men have always pointed to the fact that we feel most fulfilled during this act of giving (This has been beautifully portrayed in the book “What can I give” about the former Indian President and Missile Man, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, I can not cite anything better). If you’re reading this, I want you to ask yourself the same thing and if any answers come your way, please, I really mean it, please share with all of us.
On a dark lost path
My light shone over you
Yet that is not who I am
During these happy days
you couldn’t find me around
But I was smiling there
On those coldest nights
when you wanted me the most
And I turned my face away
I am meant to be like this
to come and to go,
to shine that is not mine,
to love yet to stay far.
During this entire life
for as long as you live
I would look over you
This article is meant to be included in my college’s magazine so the examples given here are more relevant to a college student, however, you’ll still get an idea of what I am trying to say once you make your way through these three paragraphs.
Being a Mechanical Engineer in the making, I feel it irresistible to correlate what I see to what I experience. From what I have learnt so far in life, if one do anything with passion, then the similar principles can be used to lead a better life. Sports develop your character, arts develop your creativity. Even a chain-smoker, at some point, develops the awareness that lung cancer and blindness are not too far behind. But usually, he/she neglects it. My experiences with fluid dynamics have provided me an insight to a better day-to-day life and you do not need to be an engineer to understand what I have to say.
There are two kinds of flow that we usually work with: laminar and turbulent. Laminar is a very structured sort of flow in which layers of fluids flow over one another. Think of your classmate who when given a certain condition, will always respond the same. Class bunk karte hain? NAHI! (Let’s bunk the class today? NO!) Bhai aaj class mat ja please? NAHI! (Don’t go to the class bro? NO!) That is what laminar flow is. If you do an experiment over and over again, you will get exactly the same results. Quite a good-boy kind of flow. On the other hand, turbulent flow is characterised by its chaotic nature. No matter how accurately you try to experiment, you can never get two exactly same turbulent flows. Fluctuations are what makes it unique. Though there exists a constant mean value of almost every parameter (like the laminar case), but once the fluctuations come into the picture, the whole story changes. It’s like your attendance at the end of the semester. On an average, it would be somewhere around 70-75%, but if you plot it on a graph for all of your classmates, you know how terribly fluctuating that thing would look like.
I happen to have a theory which I would like to put before you. Our daily lives are just like this turbulent flow: chaotic, non-repeatable and unpredictable. At least for the human beings, I don’t think you can have any two days exactly the same in your entire lifetime. Can you? Fluctuations make up the problems we face, big and small. For someone not taking in the bigger picture, these fluctuations may never seem to fade and could occur endlessly. Have you not seen people complaining about their lives all the time? How about that friend of yours who cries “yaar kuch nahi padha (Hey I didn’t study a thing)” before every exam? Maybe, he’s just creating a pseudo-fluctuation to fool you! Or maybe not. However, as one zooms out, you might start to notice that constant happiness-line hiding behind these problems. You won’t realise it until you are brave enough to look outside the fluctuation box. Happiness does always exist, you don’t even have to ask for it. Once you make your way through the problems, one at a time, you’ll feel it growing inside. It’s like a friend who saves a desk for you despite you getting late in every other class. It’s like that friend who carries you through all of your break-ups. My message here is simple: problems are inevitable, suffering is optional. Think about it!
I’d like to hear your thoughts on my theory. Feel free to complement, amend and criticise it 🙂
I started running and training myself seriously in October, 2015 when I started to train for a 9k run which was scheduled in January, 2016. The training continued for my next run that was scheduled in April, and it turned out brilliant. In the meantime, I thought I had prepared myself enough to compete and complete a half marathon i.e. a run comprising straight 21 kilometers. My lab mates told me that I should focus on my thesis as the date of this HM was not very far from my oral presentation, but I was not an easy fellow either. I registered for it and continued my training amidst my research.
There were nights when I would work up to 5 or 6 in the morning and would head to the track to train myself for this HM before getting a well deserved sleep. There were times when I would go to lab in my running attire so that I could save some time before heading to the track. All this continued for a month and half during which I made sure that I am not taking either my research or this run for granted.
On the race day, my roommate was kind enough to accompany me, to cheer me, to motivate me and to fill me up with some pre-run boosters. I told him to pin my BIB and I was very happy that he was there. Before the run, I warmed myself up by running/jogging for around 1.5k and stretched out enough to get my muscles geared.
The race started.
For a minute or two, I was barely standing at my place among a crowd of more than 3000. I started slowly as I had planned to. I knew I had this habit of starting out faster which later would wear me out earlier than usual. After a couple of kilometers, I started passing by some slow runners and joggers. Water stations passed by. It was a riverside run. People were riding bicycles on the same track. It was silent and beautiful. I was checking my watch after every passing kilometer to check on my progress.
Long distance running is a lot of time for you to think about a variety of things. The mind thinks about running, running slower and faster, about others who are running ahead and behind, about the sky above, about the earth below, about the training, about friends, about life.
After some 17 kilometers, my bipolar brain started its activity. It thought about taking a break, it thought about slowing down. Few runners who passed me by during this conversation encouraged my brain to let go off the flow. It is then I understood how a strong willpower is required for running such long distances. I had trained myself enough and I held on to that. I held on to the efforts I had done on the track, on the roads for the past couple of months. I maintained my running form, forgetting about the pace I was at. Remembering the things I have read, watched and felt, I put that experience into the moment and kept running. I was getting eager to cross the finish line. My roommate had challenged me to be in the top 200 and I told him that I will do my best. It is my race against me and there is no way I can monitor my rank in real time.
With every falling step, I was able to see the stadium more clearly from where we all had started. I passed by a couple of runners which further encouraged me not to slow down. I could now remember the track because now I was at the road where I was jogging before. I knew I was nearing the end. Excitement kept on rising. It was a now or never kind of feeling. We took the last turn and I could see the finish line. I heard my roommate shouting as I was 20 meters away. Someone was behind me. I took on at that moment making longer strides and crossing the finish line without letting anyone else pass me by.
I was embraced with the finish medal instantly and I looked for the water stations and I gulped down nearly a liter of water and I laid down on the ground looking at the sky, thanking it. I laid there for sometime and got up. My shoes were burning. It had gone considerably hot in there. I took my shoes off and throw a couple of water drops on my feet. With my shoes in one hand, I met my roommate and I handed him my result. I had ranked 114 with the chip time of 1:57. He was happy, I was happier. I had set a decent timing which I would look forward to break in my next HM.
It has been a great journey so far! I have not been doing it from a long time. I have not done as much as I should, but this short span of training and sharing has been awesome. It motivated me, helped me to train better and it kept my momentum up during the entire last month. And here we are, very near to the final showdown. Wings for life World Run starts this Sunday and I am all geared up with my shoes on.
Here is my last video before I go and run it all: