Monday, 11 February 2019

A Day in the Life of a Marshmallow

Who says school homework is boring! The assignment was to write a monologue, 'Daily life of ___'. Here's what I did; what do you think? Do let me know!

I remember the day when I was just a semi-solid goo being prepared into a sugary treat. I was being heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the final step in process. I was picked up tenderly by a little human girl, a bit too early. The heat made her drop me with a yelp, down to the kitchen floor, where I rolled under the space below a closet. Everything seemed dark, but then, suddenly, there were a hundred shining eyes boring into me. Upon closer inspection, they were fellow marshmallows who had been lucky to escape with their lives, like me. It heartened me to be with other melloes (the nickname for marshmallow), and I have lived with them since.

The day starts when a scout wakes up the other sleeping melloes from their slumber. Immediately, we get to work; I am also a scout, and I try and look for human activity in the vicinity. It is weird, but I seem to be an oddball; marshmallows normally detect predators by smell, but for me, everything is like a colourful world, every sound drifting towards me like a musical note from a child’s toy, a xylophone perhaps. Each footstep seems to have a rhythm and that makes my senses much more potent than all the others, making me ‘Captain Mello’. This takes up around 5 hours of my morning, as that is usually my shift.

Marshmallows have relatively quiet lives. We are not all that hardworking, and we loathe stress and pressure. You could say we enjoy the sweetness of life! Due to my ability, my favourite thing to do is to create music; simple rhythms, such as foot-tapping, snapping, clings and clangs of something metallic. After serving my duty, I run over the Sugarcoated Disco, which is near a vent and has cooling. It is where I switch from Captain to DJ Marshmello. I’m getting better at it, and the crowd also gets a wonderful and unique experience. They all fall in love with it, because their usual life is all about survival. That can be tiring, you know!

I think I’m forgetting something here. Why yes, food! It is asurprising fact that Marshmallows love, love, love food. In fact, we usually eat a cherry for breakfast (one serves a family of three) and cream for lunch. It is the night-time ‘snack’ that we adore the most is chocolate syrup, made by cocoa beans. Their silky, smooth nature is what delight us. Civilians usually raid the fridge to get the dry frozen cocoa, which must be left to warm, but the seniors, or melloes like me, get to have premium dark chocolate cocoa, extracted from the depths of the rain-forest. I do not know how they get, but considering the final product, I must learn!

At 11:00, our eyes begin to droop and our strength faltering. Some of us drag ourselves onto our beds, while other just awaken for their night shift. The poor soldiers, armed with their tiny forks, have to constantly be wary of other animals like rats, scurrying across the wooden floor. In the end, when the world of Marshmallows sleeps, there is deadpan silence and no fun in the world. There is a rural legend which says that melloes are the reason for fun in the universe. Most now don’t care for it, but I secretly believe it’s true. When all is done, I look up at the stars, thinking how other marshmallows across the world also look at it. After all, it is a magical and mysterious world, and a mello would be more than willing to forever explore it’s secrets.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Frederic Friedel - A Man of a Thousand Stories

Frederic Friedel is the Founder and ex-CEO of ChessBase GmbH, a widely famous Chess News Portal. Founded in 1985 with Garry Kasparov, he has carried the mantle for many years and is now retired at the age of 74. As a person, he is a perfect mix of humor and science, and has such a vast number of stories. Honestly, I could sit down and listen forever and ever. It was all even better when I met him in person in 2016, and now in 2019.

We had such a great time then...

When I first met him at Sagar sir’s house, I don’t believe I knew much about him at all. I did know that he was an important man, however, and I was nervous. I anticipated that it would be awkward and silent, but I was wrong. We got along just fine, and it was quite some time before I left. On the way back, I decided to check out the ‘biographical blog’ that Frederic had mentioned. It was a treasure trove of knowledge, and it got me hooked from the very first article.

...and such a great time now!

Fast forward to this year a week or two ago, when we met once again at Sagar sir’s house. We had been keeping in touch by mail for the duration of these years, and I have to admit there were some months-long gaps in our communication. It seemed strange, because at one moment, we had just greeted each other. The next, we were already talking in length about the evolution of computers, the people Frederic has met so far, and more. Uncanny!

I cannot understand it, and nor at times do I understand the true depth of something he talked about. He has a lot to say about every possible topic, and makes me realize the true vastness of the world and how we might or might not be truly alone in the universe. What I do know, is that it was great fun, and I await another such opportunity in earnest.

As a bonus, I would like to include a logical puzzle from one of Frederic’s articles, one of the other little things he is famous for. He says that half the people will get in a second, and the other half will agonize over it forever. I believe it is right, as I myself was part of the latter half. If you do get the answer, try not to give the answer away immediately, for it will ruin the true fun of the puzzle. Here goes:

Recently a friend told me the following story about the death of his grandfather: “My grandparents used to go to church on Sundays. One day during the sermon, which was long and dry, my grandfather fell asleep. That week he had been reading a novel about the French Revolution and began to dream that he was a rich aristocrat living in a beautiful chateau in France.

Suddenly there was a commotion outside. A mob of peasants appeared, stormed the house, grabbed him and tied him up, dragged him to the market square, where there was a platform with a guillotine set up. My grandfather was led up the stairs, a priest muttered a few words to him and then his head was placed in the cradle of the guillotine. A hooded executioner approached and reached up for the lever that releases the blade.

At that moment my grandfather was snoring loudly, so my grandmother reached out and pinched him on the back of his neck to wake him up. This was such a shock to my grandfather that he suffered a heart attack and died on the spot.”

If you did enjoy this riddle as much as I did, do check out Frederic's bio blog as well by clicking "here".

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Where Kindness has no Boundries

Kindness. The simple word has such a vast range of meanings and emotions. The act of being kind is a very important virtue, and yet there are so many people, such a large number of us that lack this virtue. We tend to ignore such petty things and over the years, forget the mere act of showing kindness. 'Do good and good will come to you' is one such true quote that partially conveys result of kindness. Those who really 'do good' will relate to this statement, and those that don't believe it as an utter lie and deception of the real world, where there is every man for himself. I believe in the former, that you will be re-payed for your actions in the same way you choose to perform them. 

Such acts may really be little, such as letting someone do something before you, or holding the lift/door for someone. It isn't as if such things go unnoticed either. Take for instance Robert James "Bobby" Fischer. Everyone knows he became World Chess Champion in 1972, his extreme skill in chess and his famous games against GM Boris Spassky, which at the time was considered an extension of the Cold War. In short, everyone knows him for his chess. However, if you were to ask anyone, "what was Fischer like as a person" a lot of people won't be able to give you an answer. Although he was possibly the finest chess player, he was arrogant and stubborn. He wouldn't co-operate until his whims were suited, and would rarely accept to a suggestion other than his own. His death, due to renal infection, could also have been prevented, had he allowed it to be examined, which he refused. No one remembers him for his character, simply because he didn't leave that kind of likeliness.

Skeptics may return, "what, then, is kindness?" It would be wrong to set a parameter of any sort to kindness, because there cannot be a limit to such things. When one person gets something in return for nothing, it is blackmail. When a person gets something in return for giving something of  his own, it is an exchange. However, when a person gives something and doesn't expect or want something  in return, that can be defined as kindness.

Kindness, to the right person, can be much more than what is seems like in passing. To the people, that need it, who have too less of it, such an act is more of a gift to them than anything money can buy.

To end, with a quote:

"...would it be asking too much to be kinder than is necessary?"- JM Barrie, The Little White Rose

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

An Open Letter to Sundar Pichai

Hi Sundar Pichai,

My name is Avathanshu Bhat. I am 13 years old and live in Mumbai, India. After a challenging set of assignments, I was privileged to be selected for #SummerCampWithGoogle Thanks to this wonderful opportunity, I traveled to Hyderabad on a full expenses-paid trip to visit the Google India Office. It is a great feeling to know what is behind the plain color logo which we all see every day! I got a chance to see where Google's services actually function. The Google Team handled the entire event excellently, from the airport to the stay to everything! Hats off to them!

 The thing I admire most about Google is how they introduce such vast ranges of products, all of which are extremely useful. Another is how products such as smart phones and smart speakers are all dominated by AI, Voice Control, Bio-metrics etc. all of which are giant leaps in the tech-world in quick succession. (I have seen all of the existing AI such as Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Bixby and I still think Google Assistant is smarter than them all by far. It is my personal favorite too!)

 What amazed me the most was the environment you provide to your employees; I haven't yet seen your HQ in Mountain View, but everything is so 'user-friendly'. Stressed out by work? Grab whatever you want at the cafeteria. Didn't get sleep? Take a nap at the Sleeping Quarters. Laptop forgotten or stopped working? Here's another one for you to use from the spare! What with the game room, gymnasium and much more, you make sure that no employee fails to work because of any of the reasons above. I admire that! I just want to thank you for creating something without which the world would stumble. I hope the Google Alphabet continues to expand and collaborate with other companies around the world.

 On a personal note, Google has been part of my life since as long as I can remember. When I grow up, I too want to contribute to society in the same way Google has been doing for the human race. To repeat what I put at the end of my fourth assignment, "Thank you Google, never stop to amaze us!"


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A letter from 2050

Hey everyone!
Sorry for the long gap. I know I haven't written in a long time. But look at the bright side! Your 'tapasya' is finally over. Here is one of my latest articles, called 'A Letter from 2050'. It's a fun and fictional one, for a change. I hope you all enjoy it!

A brief introduction follows:

The year 2017 came to an end and it was filled with some amazing moments for the Indian chess fans. But what will chess be like in 2050? 33 years from now will chess be the same? Would Pragg have become the World Champion? What would be the prize fund of Delhi Open and what would ChessBase India look like? In this amazingly fun article, our youngest author 12-year-old Avathanshu Bhat has predicted and constructed what the future holds for us. A fun-filled, light-hearted article. Enjoy!

Here is where you can read the full thing! The comments are still accepted here though :)

Side note: The reason why I haven't put it here is because it's been published in ChessBase India, and it's now has their copyright. And there is no way I'm going to plagiarize my own article from another website, right? I am allowed to put the introductory paragraph here and the link though, so that's what I'll be doing henceforth.

That's all guys! Have fun reading!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

"Colours of Black and White"- ChessBase India

Hello everybody,
Colours can tell stories. My six year-long chess journey has seen many of these colours. Some of the incidents still come to my mind after four whole years of it taking place. They are my treasures. I would like to share some truly memorable ones with you! Here's a preview of my latest article on ChessBase India, the colours of Black and White:

 "The last few days have been very special for all of us, particularly in the chess world. The top players spoke about colours in their chess world. It was fascinating to read it. I too have some colours in my chess journey. These are the some of the incidents, which may not be so great, but has always been close to me. Some of which are bright and beautiful, and some are dark and dull. After all, these colours make a beautiful rainbow! Isn’t it?"

Read the full article here!


Monday, 16 October 2017

My Top 10 Books!

Books are for me and I am for books!

 I vaguely remember my first reading ‘encounter’ with a book ‘Mickey Mouse: Clubhouse’ with me on my mother’s lap. Since that time to the present, I read hundreds of books which I cherish. I decided to narrow down my favourite top 10 and present a mini-review with it. What’s your pick? Read and find out!

10. Malgudi Schooldays (R.K. Narayan)

A classic Indian tale, probably set just after the Indian Independence. The story follows the days of Swami, the main character, and his friends Rajam and Mani. Something worth noting about this book is the innocence of the characters. The timid Swaminathan, the brave Rajam and the bold Mani make a great team. It is interesting to see what life was like in a typical Indian town. Also, their story of trying to become part of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is great as well. Connecting to their stories is not very difficult as my native place is in Mangalore, South India. Clearly, my reason for liking it is because of the simplicity with which it is narrated.

9.The Complete Adventures of Feluda (Satyajit Ray)
Crime-thrillers are always my favourite. What I really like about it is the change in depth of the crime; sometimes it seems obvious enough and you try to work it out yourself. Other times, instead of stopping to think, you just get on with the book anyway. It is a collection of stories, one better than the other. However, it is really great to see the Feluda equivalent of ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!' Satyajit Ray outdid himself on this one.

8. A Man Called Ove, (Fredrik Backman)
This book is about…well, a man called Ove. The book is narrated in two time sequences, one taking place in the past narrating Ove’s backstory, and one taking place in the present. The present narrative is interesting and especially good with people like Patrick “The Lanky One” and Parvaneh, always trying to get Ove to 'modernize'. But is the past time sequence which was enthralling. The very sad story about how Ove loses everyone in his life after his father and his wife and unborn child. It just brings tears to one’s eyes to read about it. It also explains Ove’s uncanny temper. A very tear-jerking book.

7. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
Thievery, violence, arguments, more thievery, makes a good book! It paints a very good picture of what times were like during World War II. 

The story begins with the life of Liesel, her mother and her brother. After her brother's death on a train, possibly due to tuberculosis, her mother leaves Liesel to Hans Hubberman and Rosa Hubberman. she also meets Rudy Steiner and makes friends. The story is beautifully narrated illustrating her journey and unquenchable thirst for book. It is also entertaining to read about how she gets along with neighbours, The bullies in her school, and most of all, how she would rather help another person for her own life.

You begin to take an instant liking to the characters, especially Hans Hubberman. Rosa Hubberman just adds to the fun with her constant yelling and shouting. An astounding work of fiction if I may say so.

6. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)

What can I say? This prequel to the masterpiece of The Lord of The Rings is ground breaking in itself and adds spice to LoTR as well. What differentiates it from other novels is the amount of detailed description to each and every character, the way it never lingers and keeps moving on, and most importantly, giving almost every item and person their own backstory, and not introducing them to the story when the plot asks for it. Detailed description is why the LoTR movies were a huge success: because the readers were able to imagine the characters exactly as portrayed in the movies. One example for this is this song:
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates-
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat-
Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Put them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished, if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully! Carefully with the plates!

This book is worth your money. And your time. And my axe!

5.Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

The protagonist August is different and passes through love, anger, hatred and most of all kindness because of his facial deformity. Yet he stands tall and is remembered forever in my heart. In this book you begin to really feel for Auggie; you are just as shocked as him if he is insulted, you are just as upset when you learn about Daisy the
Dog’s fate and you too are joyous when he triumphs at the end of 5th grade. The books simple English made me feel like it really was a recorded diary by August, his sister Via, his friends Jack and Summer, Justin, Miranda and Julian. Although it seems like this book is nowhere in the crowd, it is one of the best I have ever read.
“If you had a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”
…is the essence of the book and touched my heart!

4.To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

The story is set in Alabama in around the 1930s. The book is about two kids, Jem and Jean-Louise who are brothers, living during a time when Alabama's racial laws still existed. The plot line is interesting as their father, Atticus Finch, is almost the only one in support of the blacks in a court case. It is nice to see him defend their side when the crowd gapes in disbelief.

Atticus Finch, is one amazing character. From the way he reasons with his kids to his court case later on in the book, truly spectacular. The way he keeps cool and calm in the craziest of situations is almost lovable. Really, he is the more gripping guy in the story, followed by Jem Finch. (The protagonist just feels like an active narrator in the book). A must read for all those who haven’t.

3. Surely your joking, Mr Feynman! (Richard Feynman)

The humour Feynman comes up with! Richard Feynman is a man into science ever since he was a child. He is associated with developing the Atomic Bomb, won the Nobel Prize and is known to have given talks to Einstein and Lord Kelvin. If you thought hat science books were boring, you might want to reconsider. In this autobiography, Feynman talks about varied subjects, from his childhood demand of fixing radios, to how unwillingly he accepts the Nobel prize and many more in a fun way.  Basically he likes to do a combined mixture of comedy and knowledge. He makes a joke out of every scene. How he does it is beyond me, but all I can do is sit and wonder. Truly, Feynman is one legend!

2. The Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

Bryson has made some amazing works of fiction. These include A Walk in the Woods and The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid. This book however, is completely different from the other two. The name suggesting it, The Short History of Nearly Everything talks about how you are lucky to be reading the very book (using atoms), that you are never alone (using microorganisms), and yet at the same time are alone in this Universe (using the vast emptiness of space).

There is something about the book which just makes it difficult to put down. Coming from an author who is into travel logs and travelling itself, you would be surprised to see this book. It is more of an encyclopaedia, when Bryson dedicated a couple of years of his life to this book.  Otherwise, I’m just a queer person for liking this. But it is more than just an encyclopaedia. Bryson can write good comedy. Just because the book only contains knowledge doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to use comedy in his book. Just like “The late but godlike Richard Feynman” in Bryson’s words. Although he was referring to something else then. But still! It is a great book and you should read it!

1.The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

Nothing ever comes close to beating the humour in this book no matter how much I try to find one. Truly remarkable book! The book is about two people on Earth, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who are actually from 'somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse'. Earth is destroyed by a Galactic race called the Vogons, but Arthur and Ford ‘hitch a lift’ and escape. After a series of events, they meet up with Trillian, a human who skipped the Earth’s demolition. They also meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy. Not to forget, another favourite of mine from Douglas’ creations is Marvin the Paranoid Android. What’s special about him is how he is always depressed. Some of the randomness just makes you want to think “What is going on?” An example for you:

“…back when men were real men, women were real women, and fuzzy creatures from Alpha Centauri were real fuzzy creatures from Alpha Centauri”

Excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, entry: Magrathea

Seriously, this book is something that is must read. It is “my precious”. Don’t you want to make it yours?

That's it then! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to rush to my kindle to add more books. Which one is your favourite? Answer in the comments section below! 

Till next time, goodbye!