Free fall.
The ecstasy of free fall.

On a wonderful day of 15th June, after a lovely night of camping in Hickory Run State Park (PA)…

Our camping site, Hickory Run State Park, PA
…I jumped off a perfectly good plane from a height of 10,000 feet. And flared a parachute 6000 feet later. Like I was already not livin’ on the edge doing my doctoral studies.

Hazleton, PA. Above the Poconos skydivers. Taking along 13 other people, it was an exhilarating experience for everyone. Falling at speeds of over 120 mph (close to 200 kmph) makes your ears go deaf. Really deaf.

Words cannot describe it. You have to be there. Trust me.

It started with a basic training exercise as to what do do when we are airborne. After a slew of papers to sign and places to write our initials, the legal stuff (which basically relieves them of liabilities in case of accidents). Next thing, we are being sorted into flight numbers. Gaurav went first, and quite the ride of his life, making complete flips at 10,000 feet. Beautiful landing. He then talks of possibly undone zippers at 10,000 feet. Saumya has some real nice tips for skydiving, that involve flying kisses and flying boeings. Soon, lots of people were flying up and falling down 25 minutes later… all happy and smiling and extremely excited. Some said they were doing it again. Some said, never again. By the time it was my turn, I had no clue how it is going to be.

The plane was crammed with 7 of us, one of who was the pilot (and the owner of the place). Who needs a comfortable plane anyway? Why the other six? Two of us, me and my friend. Two tandem jumpers, guys “harnessed” onto our backs. Two photographers, who jumped with us.

After 30 seconds of deafening falling and flipping stomachs, there was a sudden jerk and absolute silence. The parachute opened. The contrast in sound was astounding. Five minutes of peaceful sailing in the serene quietness watching over the Poconos mountains.

A day before my jump-off, I informed my sister-in-law. (And thereby my brother). After the jump, I told my parents. Guess what my dad’s fist question was…
“Was it cold up there?”
“That’s the last of my worries up there, Dad!”

The Free Fall. Soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen – Long Walk Home

Was I terrified? Yes. When you are at 10,000 feet, and the door of the plane opens the same deafening sound with a spectacular view of the earth below. That’s terrifying. My smile vanished for a second. Then it was back.
Free fall.
The ecstasy of free fall.

Wah… Tag boliye!

A therapeutic tag. I volunteered myself into this. Thanks to Amrita, though. 🙂 As Amrita says, it is not therapeutic in the real sense, but Jawahara’s calling it that, hence she’s calling it one too. And thereby I call it a therapeutic tag. A list of 10 things I miss in my life right now and another list of 10 things I would like to achieve within a decade from now.

10 things I miss in my life.
1. I miss a fully functional right foot. I miss all the sports fun I could be having if only this right foot had not been hopelessly sprained more than two years back. It’s yet to recover. 🙁
2. I miss the beaches in Chennai. In fact I miss any beach. But Thiruvanmayur (Besant Nagar) Beach, Chennai in particular. I miss the times I used to go to the beach at midnight, sit there watching the waves. I used to watch sunrise, have steaming sambhar-idli at Murugan’s Idli shop in the morning and come back to the hostel to sleep. Some of the brightest ideas of my life I got sitting at the beach, e.g. wearing floaters to the beach and not shoes.
3. I miss having a younger sister. I have always wanted one. Always. Someone to take care of and pamper and spoil. And always have gifts for. I envied my friends with little sisters. A kid brother would do too, but then, I am the kid brother.
4. I miss my days at school. By all standards they were carefree. Mischief was fun. I miss my old friends with whom I am barely in touch with…
5. I miss the time I used to have nice conversations with complete strangers at Barista or Cafe Coffee Day or even in the college fest. The best part was that I never met these people again in my life! I just have not had the opportunity to do that here in the US. Sigh.
6. Summer vacations during college days when I went home. I used to wake up regularly at 10:30ish. And sleep late.
7. I miss eating pani-puri at 4 pieces a rupee in Baroda. I used to hog, and even converted my parents into pani-puri fans. It’s close to impossible to get pani-puri at that rate and taste here in the US.
8. I miss some of the daily food my mom used to cook. In fact I miss them so much that I don’t even want to try to cook them. Reason? The last memory of my eating that must be a good one. 🙂
9. I wish I had a more eventful life or a better memory to jot down 9 and 10. Deep sigh.

10 things I want to achieve within a decade from now.
1. Learn that fancy keyboard lying in my room for a year, gathering dust.
2. Take formal lessons in movie editing and in advertising.
3. Take some fabulous, really fabulous shots using my camera. And get recognized for it. 🙂
4. Tour Europe. Go to every country on that land. Spend good time there. Tour New Zealand and Egypt too!
5. Stay in a Dubai hotel at no expense of mine.
6. Sky dive. That should be done next summer, though. 😀
7. Visit (not just drive through) all 50 states of United States. 9 and counting. Visit Canada too.
8. Fly an aircraft. (Ha! Yeah right.)
9. Learn at least three social dances completely, tango being one of them.
10. Play with a tiger/lion/leopard cub with the mother tiger/lion/leopard nearby. In the wild. And not chicken out.

I tag: Devashree, Amit, Gaurav, Sunando, DreamCatcher, Charumani

Cirque du Soleil

Thanks to my research colleague, I got to go to a show by Cirque du soleil. And boy oh boy, I DID NOT REGRET IT. They had come to my university for a show named: Saltimbanco.
Cirque du Soleil (French for “Circus of the Sun“) is an entertainment empire based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier. Acclaimed by more than 30 million people worldwide, Cirque du Soleil has reinvented and revolutionized the circus arts.


Stunning human acrobatics. No ring and no animals helped make Cirque du Soleil what it is today. Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world and has its own central theme, soundtrack and storyline which enthralls the audience into the performance by having no curtains, no pauses whatsoever, continuous live music and performers seamlessly from one scene to another. The stages are majestic, huge and their show is not limited to the stage in front of the spectators. It is spectacular, and sprawls from above the audience to water pools. The Cirque du soleil have shows all over the US, and if you ever have a chance to go for one, definitely go for it. It’s like 3 hours of perpetual goosebumps. Ooohs, aaahs and acrobats flying out and in so smoothly – like clockwork. The best (and outright scary) part is that they do not use safety nets… and if one person falters even by an inch, the whole stage collapses… it’s amazing how they manage it.

YouTube video: From their website (3:25 min)

YouTube video: Promo for Cirque du soleil (0:50 min)

Makes me wanna go to a Riverdance show too.

Which should be sometime in the coming Spring hopefully.


KOKIPEDIA finally launched!!
by Gaurav Bhardwaj


STATE COLLEGE, PA. The much awaited “Kokipedia” was finally launched in early hours of morning today at a function organized at this knowledge capital of Central Pennsylvania. The new ‘know it all interactive knowledgebase’ derives its name from Latin word ‘Kokos’ meaning Kokonad Sinha and ‘Pedious’ meaning knowledge. The crowd went berserk when the name of knowledgebase was released. People think it could not have come at a much better time.

The crowd was upbeat and believes that it may be answer to all the confusion in the world due to Wikipedia and all and this knew knowledgebase may hold answers to all the people’s problems. It’s just a matter of meeting or calling Koke now. As D said, “Koke knows it all” and frankly this has been the general perception for a decade or so now. When questioned about his huge knowledgebase, Kokonad Sinha modestly said, “It’s all due to instruction manuals!!” Koke’s affection towards instruction manuals is a well known fact. He holds the record for reading most number of instruction manuals in a year. Another related record that Koke holds is for assembling maximum number of furniture items in a year. Earlier this year, Koke also raised the issue of making the instruction manuals of APOLLO 11 public. The issue generated lot of public attention and had caused quite a storm in senate.

There was no need for a Beta version, we all agree about the soundness of our knowledgebase” replied the Kokipedia Team when asked about the need of releasing a beta version first.

None of us can actually fathom the depths of this knowledgebase as of now but one thing is sure that this day will be remembered as the day when attrition of Wikipedia started.

Disclaimer and fine print (MUST READ): The editor of this blog (Kokonad Sinha) has nothing, NOTHING to do with this post. Also, he has nothing to do with the picture of himself used in that obscure rubik’s cube. It was solely the idea of everyone but himself. Gaurav Bhardwaj, the author of The Antisense Strand, is going to attend to all comments on this post.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

This is what PhD does to people!


People photography

Catching people’s faces on film when they are doing anything but looking at the camera – this is one of my favorite forms of photography. And among people, I love taking photographs of strangers. Not people I know.
In the bus. The restaurant, talking animatedly to the one opposite them. The laugh at the end of a joke. Lost in thoughts. Browsing through clothes. Books. Smiling to oneself. Leaning on something. Holding hands. Swinging legs. Playing with their hair. Smiling at a text message.
And the liberal use of zoom.
But taking the photograph is not the toughest part. It’s the fact that you need the permission of the person before capturing the shot (or they can sue you or get you arrested for breach of privacy). Catching them at an exhibition or carnival or any public place is the easiest, because photographers are expected there. But other places it’s difficult. Also because of the fact that it’s a stranger tall guy who has taken a ‘liking’ to their kid and wants to take a picture. Ow. Or if it’s a girl whose picture I want to take. That’s the toughest – I break into a sweat and my tongue goes vaguely involuntary.

I had asked a friend – “How do you manage to take photographs of people you don’t know?”
“Well, you smile at them, and just hold up the camera. They smile back and continue what they were doing.”

Well, may be you have a cute smile. I don’t. 🙂 Cause when I smile, for most of them, it’s “Uh oh, strange brown man is taking my photograph.
Or “Uh oh, strange brown man has weird smile. Oh dear God he has a camera!!!

Here is an embed of shots I had taken when people didn’t know about it. Please don’t sue me, I am just a photography hobbyist.

4th of July

This was the first 4th of July for me in the United States and boy I loved it! State College may be a (really) small town but the fireworks are among the top 5 in the country. Hard to believe but true. And I would like to believe it. 🙂 The show was synchronized with music playing on the radio at a particular channel and lasted about 45 minutes. The last couple of minutes were spellbinding with about 40 shells being fired per second. Yes! Per second. Thousands of people had thronged to several areas around the Beaver Stadium and had brought with themselves patio chairs, blankets, beer, snacks etc. It was beautiful.
In this video here, we had captured the last couple of minutes (1:25 min) which were the best. Ignore us in the background. 🙂

Google Video, 1:25 min

8 random facts

I was tagged by Amit for this seemingly harmless activity. It has taken a LOT of my time to do this! So here are the rules for this game:

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
4. If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes.

I am pretty much a goner when it comes to #4, cause I am doing this five days late! So I am not reaching Third Series and will not be attaining my most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes. Not very different from what it is now…!

So here they are – 8 random facts about me.

  1. I love being busy. I am not a workaholic, and I love my weekends – but I must be doing something at all times.
  2. When it comes to organization, my friends tell me that I have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive *Delight*)
  3. I am supremely accident prone. A classical case of trouble-magnetism. And I have a natural flair of making a complete fool of myself in the most impossible of situations.
  4. I dig reading user manuals and safety manuals. That’s the reason whenever my friends buy something new, I am given the user manual! As a gift. 😀
  5. I hate my glasses, but I love my wristwatch. I never take it off. Never.
  6. I love watching movies of all possible genres. They could be foreign languages, limited edition movies, art movies, animation… but I choose what I want to watch.
  7. I like meeting people. I don’t care if my acquaintanceship lasts less than an hour – but if I end up having a nice rich conversation with this person, I feel great about it. But it’s really difficult to find people of the same wavelength, and more so when they are strangers.
  8. In my mind, I put things (people, activities etc.) in patterns. I don’t use it for making judgments, but I just enjoy doing it.

Hmmm. So these are 8 random facts about me. And to continue the chain, I tag Abheet, WhoDunIt, Shreya, Saurabh, Dimple, Gaurav, Deepika and Shreyasee. Have fun!

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