Compiler Design

As the soporific charm gets down to work in the classroom, random thoughts wander into the minds of those unfortunate enough to be rejected by sleep. As you may have guessed already, me being one of those, I chose to pen down those wisps of fancy; in all their randomness, in all their glory, in all their weirdness.

The futility of our bodies being where they were, with our minds being elsewhere should surely be one of the first thoughts to cross my mind. The design of compilers being the least of my priorities, one could always term my presence in this class as worthless. Couple that with the possibility of being somewhere else and doing something productive or even that of merely enjoying myself, the circumstances can be deemed almost criminal.

While getting babies to sleep may not be a dying art, with lullabies and cradles being still in fashion, I cannot help wonder if the stage is set for something new. A pathbreaking, novel way of getting the tykes to sleep. We could hit the market like a whirlwind, reaping money like mad. All we need to do is to bring a decent recorder to class. Easy enough, because almost all the modern mobiles come with decent recording capabilities. And then, capture the lecture we are subjected to. The recording should be flawless – the Gift of the voice etched into the immortality of digital memory, in all its glory. The nasal twang, the rise and fall of pitch, the uniformity of volume and the eerie silence which surrounds it.

student-sleeping

Image Credit: http://www.sdarts.org/features/sdclassroom/student%20sleeping.gif

Behold, we have a champion product. A lullaby which can put the most stubborn of little monsters to sleep. Patent it as iSleep or uSleep or whatever – the name is but irrelevant before the uniqueness of what we have here. A musical wonder with no background instruments at all, yet perfect and enthralling in its rise and ebb. Buy it, play it and forget it.

Okay, I’ve written two pages of nonsense. A look at the watch tells me it has hardly moved. I tap it twice. Could it be that the inherent magic of the voice can put even a thing of cogs and wheels to sleep? No, it moves. The moments are not stagnant, they are merely stretched. Fuck relativity.

The third page dawns and I’ve almost run out of ideas.Seems the dulcet tones can not push you into dreamland, but can also suck thoughts from you, like a blackhole. The lethargy lies heavy, not only on one’s mind, but even manages to crawl its way onto your limbs and smother them. Remarkable.

SNAP!! The spell is broken and the class scrambles to wary alertness as a question is directed at the last bench. The victim looks like a convict woken up roughly by the jailer in the early morning to be told he was going to hang. Except that jailers dont normally go on to hang the guys in the neighbouring cells if the first guy wasn’t ready. Whispers fly back and forth as to what the answer might be, and more commonly, what the question was.

The guy asked is unable to answer (Duh!!!) and the urgency for the answer becomes even more frenzied, though the mute blanket over it is miraculously maintained. The neighbour of the victim follows his friend. They now look like two shy mute children in their first day at a sign language class. The regions of the class where the answers haven’t filtered through yet, heave a sigh , resigned to their fate.

Luckily, the next guy asked is someone who collects his bearings well enough to give a passable answer. The Voice remarks drily about the necessity of paying attention in the class. How unfortunate it is that some people attend the class just for the sake of attendance. If you want to sleep, better do it in the comfort of your own homes. And you are NOT watching a movie here. Kindly raise your heads and straighten your backs. And returns to the lecture.

Normalcy is restored within minutes. The class returns to its usual state of languor and the muted whispers cease. Save the three or four supernaturals, located close to the origin of the epidemic, the dark magic has claimed the class again.

A look at some of the more interesting members of the class may be rewarding. The hulk of the class is beyond redemption. Sleep has so overpowered him that he looks like a tiny gust of wind may knock him down. Like the Giant redwood being knocked down by a feather. Alright, I’ll lay off any more of my laboured analogies. 😀

Glancing around at the rest of the class does not yield much information. I could attempt it, of course, but in how many ways would you have me describe someone sleeping?

A glance at my watch surprises me.It’s almost 3. Somehow, the effort to write everything down has saved me from braindeath. As the minute hand draws closer to 12, an air of anticipation fills the class. Like a group of statues coming to life, heads begin to bob and hands start to move, legs stretch. As the sleepers wake up, they have a hopeful look in their bloodshot eyes.

The anticipation reaches a crescendo as the the teacher in the neighbouring class leaves. Suddenly, an unnamed fear is invoked as the possibility of another hour with the Voice looms.

However, to everyone’s immense relief, the Voice asks “Latecomers, anyone?”, grants them attendance and walks out. The class breaks into huge applause – Mentally.

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My Stepping Stone to Greatness

I’m sure you’d have heard umpteen times how Dr.Ambedkar(or was it someone else?) studied beneath streetlights since his home didn’t provide a conducive atmosphere to study. Seems like that is a prerequisite for becoming one of the truly great. There are numerous chaps who have utilized streetlight, candlelight, whatever frigging light they could lay their hands upon, to put one over us, the teeming millions of well-provided yet lazy buggers to come forth in the later centuries. They were  screwed by life, they battle life( Cliched, isn’t it?) and they emerge victorious , discovering things, proving theorems, founding nations, whatever they felt like doing!! So, there seems to be a notion among parents that those of us who study(or pretend to study) under tube light are going nowhere unlike the heroes in the stories they are fond of reciting at us, who used those other lights to read and turn overnight into Giants. Well, I am pleased to announce that I am destined to be a giant of our times, by this yardstick of using-other-lights. You’ll see how, soon . 😛

Engineering students among you will know that Kerala University‘s most brilliant money-making scam is named ‘Improvement’. Once the results are out and the usual round of head-shaking and incredulous glances are over, next comes the mad rush to apply to ‘Improve’. There are 4 kinds of applicants –

1) The guys who know they won’t appear, but are doing it just for the sake of applying.

2) The guys who are not sure, but might as well try and improve if lucky.

3) The guys with rather low marks due to lazing during the regular exam, and who are determined that THIS time, yes surely THIS time , they will study their asses off and bloody IMPROVE.

4) The guys who have good marks , but get low marks in 2-3 subjects and are looking to bolster their GPA by whitewashing those blots off their marklist.

Me, I might as well put a thumbnail pic of mine ,beside the third category. I am the perfect example for it, because I’ve gone through the exact phase , after two out of two results. And you know what, things never bloody improve.

The reason Kerala University loves Improvement exams is that out of the 100 guys who applied, less than 20 turn up. Apart from odd members of the third and fourth categories mentioned above, the others scoot. Reasons may range from engagements with higher priority, pure laziness and the delight of a free day, not to be ruined by flunking an exam, for which no one bothers to study anyway. So, the K.U saves money, a lot of it. And even more when the Improvement comes in proximity of a regular exam of the current semester. Next to no one turns up, then.

This time around, all improvement/supplementary exams were sandwiched between s4 papers for us. Which kept the improvement-hopefuls away and God save those who had a supply.

So, to cut a short-story-made-unnecessarily-long-by-me short, I had applied to improve Logic System Design. One of the high-scoring papers, I had messed up in the regular exams getting a meagre 44 while both of my roomies scored around 80. So, in one of the resolve-to-change-your-life bouts after the result, I had promised myself I’d improve it. And that’s why I stuck to my decision, while my co-applicants refused to touch LSD with a ten-foot-pole as the exam neared. And the reason? LSD fell the day before the dreaded DSPM – Data Structures and Programming Methodology – was scheduled.

DSPM is a bad-ass paper even by normal standards. To say that it’s toughness was compounded by absolutely inept teaching would be… erm, partially true. Coz, it’s toughness WAS compounded  thousandfold. Not by inept teaching though. Because we weren’t taught ANYfuckinTHING at all. So, here I was , or most of us were, 2 days before the exam, and ‘Tree‘ still brought to my mind Acacia and Banyan trees, and ‘Graph‘s were still only used in maths and ‘Linked List‘….. You get the picture. And the previous year’s questions might as well have been in Chinese, for all I understood.

So, while everyone was panicking about DSPM, I did not back off from improving LSD because I thought the subject was easy and I knew it. I opened DSPM the day before LSD and ended up studying nearly nothing at all. As night neared , panic crept in, I had 2 exams in 2 days and I had no idea about the tougher subject and hadn’t studied the easier subject. I started reading LSD, but got sleepy pretty soon. Which was not a good thing coz I’m a night person. And I’d two and a half modules ( out of 3 :D) yet to finish .But there was no arguing against drooping eyelids and I hit the sack at ten, setting an alarm to wake me at 3:30.

I woke up at 3:30. Pitch black.Negotiated my way in between chairs and nasty-if-stepped-on oddities on the floor and reached the lights. Switched it on. Pitch black. Wait a minute. Panic started to rise. I pressed down harder on the switch. Still Pitch black. Realization dawns. The fan which I always leave on at full speed , was dead. And it was pitch black AND pin drop silence. I could hear the guys sleeping in the next room breathe. So, KSEB had screwed me. Royally. No current at three effing thirty in the morning. With the weather perfectly fine.

I thought, no big deal. Being the power-cut season, there was bound to be a set of candles somewhere. I searched in the dark, and sure enough , my hand struck wax. Thank God. No, wait. The candle was of no use without the lighter and it could be anywhere in a big dark house. Must have been ages since I saw the lighter, we always lighted our candles from the candle Aunty (Our house-owner who stays in another wing of the same house)  lighted and placed in the kitchen. So, I went lighter-hunting. No luck. Soon the ruckus I raised during the hunt, woke my friends up, who categorically declared that the lighter hadn’t been sighted in weeks and that I was screwed and that I’d better get back to sleep and that I was screwed, again.

I was in a tight corner. In CET slang, adichu kitti/ thechu kitti / thuppi kitti/… etc etc . College slangs are always rich in terms to describe messed up situations, aren’t they? Maybe that’s coz we’re perenially fucked up one way or the other in college. :D. Well, whatever, I was THE desp. I hadn’t touched DSPM to try and improve LSD, and now LSD was going down the drain. And I’d resolved that I WILL write this exam.

So, I was desperate. When you know what I did, you’ll know just HOW desperate. Ladies and Gentlemen, I studied under the backlight of my Nokia 6230i. Yeah, mobile phone backlight. :D. My faithful phone which had served me in many odd situations rose to the challenge with its life-saving sheen. The light was barely enough. It was arduous work,lighting each para of the Morris Mano with the phone ,the light moving with the eyes and pressing the red button every time the light died(after some time, I opened an mp3 file and kept the phone at low volume so that I wouldn’t have to keep on ‘refreshing’ the light).

So, the gravity of the situation and the thought of the extreme measure I took(You can’t sleep soundly, knowing your attention is capable of straying from a book when you’re trying to read it by mobile backlight)  kept me at it till 6.30, when it grew reasonably light outside . Then I went outside and read till 8.30. I was quite proud – oddly – to declare the extremes I would brave, to study. 😀 Roomies shook their head incredulously and declared I was a nutter. True.

Image courtesy: www.howardforums.com

So, I had crammed reasonably well, though I skipped some parts. And the exam turned out okay-ish, the kind of exam where you know things but still doesn’t feel very content upon exiting the hall. I believe I did reasonably well, to improve my marks by at least 10-12. Time will tell, with ample say for the university , of course.

So, hark, all you losers, make way for me, the true great of tomorrow’s world who braved the adversities life threw at me, by studying under mobilelight. I would bet, tomorrow would see your children learning how Abdul Raouf struggled in his childhood , before he reached the self-promised land of Greatness. 😉 Kidding? Time will tell. And again, with ample say for the university. 😀