Category Archive: Comic

The incident of the final t-shirt

There are some incidents in life which you just cannot flush out ever. You keep brooding over them trying to make sense as to why they happened and what curious logic lay behind the actions of those who were involved. There was one such incident which I have never been able to make sense of and it involved a close friend. I never really shied away from asking him, in all earnestness, what motivated him to do what he did but he never gave me a direct answer, leaving me with a constant sense of doubt about my own powers of logic and rationality.

Graduate housing in UCSD has community washing and drying facilities. You have to take your clothes, stuff them in a washing machine, come back after some time to transfer them to a dryer and then come back again in some time to take them back. It's pretty routine generally but every now and then, sheer probability dictates that some poor grad student's clothes will get stolen during the time that he's not there to watch over them. That it would happen to a friend of mine whose complete disregard for conventional niceties meant that his wardrobe was perhaps the poorest of them all is just another indication that God likes to have his little pleasures and enjoys his little cosmic ironies. I can picture  him drawing from his big brown bag of half-folded slips, the monthly names of the students whose clothes would be stolen, and I can picture him disregarding those names until he got to my friend for whom the loss of his faded blackbrowngray unironed clothes would be that much more ironical. So it happened and his clothes did get stolen and that incident, by itself, had the humor equivalent of a conventional humor hand-grenade but what made it positively nuclear was what my friend chose to do. Perhaps he was taking decisions under unreasonable psychological stress which must surely accompany a sudden disappearance of most of one's clothes, perhaps he really understood something that I haven't been able to, but he took one of his last remaining T-shirts, one of those sorry little pieces of garment which after years of use crosses the line of presentability into that vague murky zone where it becomes indistinguishable from a dust cloth and lies in a corner with no further hope of being washed again, put it in a plastic bag, went to the laundry room and hung it there in the hope that the rest of his clothes would be returned. The next day he went to the laundry room only to discover that his T-shirt had also been stolen! He may have gotten the plastic bag back but we have to agree that in the face of such a massive disaster the loss or gain of a puny little plastic bag is of little consequence.

Obviously this is one of those sequence of events which are all too rare in this world and which must be savored for all their comedic potential and my friend who is a great sport when it comes to these things went along with all the mirthmaking that accompanied the subsequent divulging of the details. But he never quite explained the incident of the final T-shirt and I have racked my brain trying to figure out why he did what he did, only to raise my hands in exasperation and accept defeat. I haven't been able to fathom the motive behind that final T-shirt. The only reasonable scenario which I can come up with where the sight of a lonely T-shirt would induce a return of the stolen clothes is one where this was a group job. In a situation where a bunch of thieves planned scrupulously and worked in unison to steal my friend's clothes, there is a possibility that the sight of the T-shirt might have invoked deep feelings of regret in a weaker member who could subsequently have gone against the other members and brought the clothes back. He/she may have had to overcome fierce resistance, dispose off a few bodies and make good his escape in the middle of the inky night by dressing like Robin Hood, but we shall not bother with wild conjectures here. The fact that it is only wild conjectures like this which seem to be logical enough to serve as possible solutions to the conundrum just goes on to indicate how deep the conundrum itself is. Perhaps I will figure it out one day when I am wiser than I am now, but I'm afraid that the unraveling of the incident of the final t-shirt would require wisdom which would forever be out of my reach.


If you were born in the eighties in the northern part of India it would be unlikely for you to not have come in contact with the rich tradition of Hindi comic books. I remember them with a fondness which I reserve for only a select few memories. Those comic books now appear to be an exclusive experience to me because they seem to have really picked up steam by the beginning of the eighties and waned by the end of the nineties. In essence, the best of them, the ones which were the most naively drawn and had the most amateur dialogues, exactly coincided with that phase of my life which for most people is slightly ridiculous, moderately impressionable and very gullible. With their wannabe-scientific bent and easy coincidences, those comic books still represent to me a bygone era which had the simple charm of innocence. The superheroes that my generation remembers as being often lanky and generally disproportional have since morphed into buffed up bodybuilders and while my heroes had to contend with 32 or 64 pages of rough paper, their modern avatars, driven by digital perfection, prance around on laminated sheets of super-digests. I don't necessarily rue their current manifestations. I just feel that what may have been gained in better drawings and tauter stories is probably lost in quirkiness.

My favorite was a guy called Super Commando Dhruv who actually did not have any superpowers apart from exceptional athleticism and a brilliant mind. He would patrol the streets of Rajnagar on his motorcycle at nights, preventing crimes and nabbing criminals. Now that I think about his character and about why I liked him so much, maybe it had something to do with his motorcycle. Also, unlike other superheroes who possessed superpowers I, in my naivete, perhaps thought Dhruv was someone I could emulate if only I tried hard enough! He was operating on principles which were coherent and understandable in my logical mind unlike someone like Nagaraj who would shoot snakes from his wrists. Even at that stupid age I realized, often with a mounting sense of resignation, that no matter how hard I tried, the singular talent of shooting snakes from wrists would continue to elude me. I would read Nagaraj's comics with an acute sense of derision which had its roots in a profound envy of those snakes. I would jeer at his victories and attribute them not to anything he had worked for but to the pure coincidence of his having been born with an unusual talent. My contempt was complete and Nagaraj's case wasn't helped with the poor quality of his initial drawings. I remember picking up his comic books and feeling a weird sense of happiness at how clumsy he looked compared to the highly agile and chiseled drawings of Dhruv. When the illustrator of Dhruv (Anupam Varma I think) decided to draw Nagaraj, I never really forgave him for doing that.

There was an entirely different genre of Hindi comics which doesn't really have an easy analogue in the Western canon. These were published by Diamond comics and featured such brilliant creations as 'Chacha Chaudhary', 'Billoo', 'Pinki', and 'Raman'. They were mostly drawn by this guy called 'Cartoonist Pran' whose biography has to be the most circulated one in the history of the world. His slightly plump face, as featured in every single one of those damn comic books, is forever etched in the pages of my memory. Diamond comics were characterized by hilariously bad drawings and mind-bogglingly ridiculous story-lines. Its world mostly consisted of green fields, awkwardly placed trees and criminally disproportional characters. They featured villains who, even at the worst, were merely naughty compared to Raj comics (Dhruv, Nagaraj etc.). I do think that Diamond comics, more than any other, derived its essence from the prevailing Indian sensibilities which implicitly stressed finding happiness and pleasure in the small things in life as the odds of achieving bigger targets were so small. I actually grew on to love those comics and now that I am thinking about it, I feel that that change was very analogous to how children, who begin by liking chocolate ice-cream, often go on to like vanilla as they grow old. There was something otherworldly and pure about their simple plots. An old affable uncle, a few kids up to no good, a dog, a family life dominated by a loving but overbearing female and a guy from Jupiter. How cozy!

Then there were all these other comic books which I never understood who read. Chief among these second raters were Manoj comics and Tulasi comics. I do not really have many memories of these since all my reading time was taken up by such superheroes as Dhruv, Nagaraj, Doga, Parmanu and the off-kilter characters of Diamond comics. There would be a thriving second-hand market for these and one often did not have to buy them as they could be rented for pretty cheap. I was fortunate to witness the essential progression of the Hindi comic. Beginning from what appeared like an isolated originality, it has now merged with the sophistication of the Western comic. I understand that I'm now dangerously close to sounding old and maudlin but I fear that despite the adaptations the era of the Hindi comic might have ended with my generation. Well, as they say, c'est la vie. I am sure that the current generation has its own preoccupations and that years from now it would look back at their demise with the same sense of bittersweet resignation that I have when I think of the surprisingly rich tradition of the Hindi comic (which, by the way, has no analogue in the Southern part of the country).

Oh the donutity!

The other day Himanshu said, 'a donut and a bagel were sitting side by side.' And I doubled up laughing! The possibilities are limitless.

Tim Burton's Doodlings

I came across this article from Wired and got fascinated by Tim Burton's sketches/drawings. I have included here the ones that I liked the most. If you want backgrounds on the images, better just go to the Wired article. But it's a hassle moving across pages to view all the images,

...and now that the gallery functionality seems to work, off to writing the wretched tome which seems to extend like the wings of the Gaussian distribution along its fringes!

Linear Least Squares Fit

photo(5)'s the stuff Ph.D. dissertations are made of, as I am in the process of realizing :). How little our world would have made sense if Least Squares fit wasn't around? It's philosopher's stone, panacea, and elixir, all ground into one Euripidean 'deus ex machina' incarnate for grad students.

Division by zero


...and it would be a crazy happy world. Truth would only be a matter of one's imagination. Fallacies would be the only consistencies and no professor would be smug. People would be generally confused and disoriented and no one would bat an eyelid when sold 5 oranges after paying for 6. It would be a chaotic world with its unsure zombie like citizens walking around on crazy Mobius strip shaped roads. The principle of mutually assured destruction would cease to exist because no one would be sure if 10,000 is greater than 1. Hence countries would stage preemptive nuclear strikes and finish off this stumbling, hobbling world and the rest of the universe wouldn't give a damn.

But there would be advantages, definitely. If somebody asks you what would you do if you had a million dollars, you can simply say that you don't even need a million dollars. And yes, quantum electrodynamics would probably have a believable premise.

Snail's Law


Self Reference


Oh my darling Clementine


'Oh my darling, Clementine' is an American folk song from the Gold Rush times. It's about a miner's daughter named Clementine who dies in a drowning accident while her lover couldn't save her. Hindi song 'Ae dil hai mushkil' was 'inspired' from it:

Gravity of the situation