Well, back in those days of childhood, in those cheap books brought from the wheel carts at the railway stations, and out of my curiosity about the inquisitveness of the men in general, I had read that name, Dr. Alan M Turing. The mention had come against the term “Computer”, in the juxtaposed column of the table headed under the section titled “Inventors and Inventions”. Another column along side, mentioned 1944 with the label at the top as ‘Year’.
It’s not that I remember all of those today, but for the ones that perceptually seem to be the marvels of human intellect, I do. Thomas Alva Edison to the Bulb, John Lougie Baird to the Television, Alexander Graham Bell to the Telephone, I remember even today. Computer was no less a miraculous human invention.
But there was always this question, what was supposed to be called a Computer? Was it the combination of the visual display unit, the cabinet with wires going in and out and the peripherals like keyboard and mouse, that I saw in the so called laboratory rooms in the school made up the computer. Was that the computer, Dr. Turing had built? No, definitely not. It is supposed to be called as Personal Computer and IBM, argumentatively, first released its designs, Microsoft built it and Apple as you see it today, revolutionized it.
From my earliest of lessons in Computers at the school(Standard 5, lucky enough), I had learnt about the Generations of Computers, transcending from big hefty mechanical boards to the use of vaccum tubes and upto the kill of silicon chips making it possible for information to be processed and communicated at lightning speeds and at microscopic levels of space. So I knew, it was not the computers we see today that Dr. Turing had invented. It was something else.
So what is a Computer? Technically, a machine that could compute. So, could Abacus, a kids toy seen until last few decades with beads embedded inside wooden rods. It was built by Egyptians in the ancient times and was used to solve problems on addition and multiplication. It is said that some Chinese even today make use of it and can perform calculations faster than most other humans would with the usual methods of long addition and multiplication taught in schools. Forget about the toys, Blaise Pascal’s Adding Machine could add Integral Numbers, John Napier’s crooked Bones could even have them multiplied, Herman Hollerith’s Analytical Engine did something more computational, I don’t remember. I remember all these from the books at school. And the last thing I should not forget to mention I remember, is the picture of that bald man, framed and hung close to the ceiling of the computer laboratory room, put beside that of another of a pokemon trying to eat up a computer, a mock of a virus. That man was called Charles Babbage, and to his name was entitled the designation of the Father of Computer. All these great men and their miraculaous inventions, bearing the potential to be termed a computer, passed through the timeline much before Dr. Turing and his device did. So, why did the cheap book from the railway station wheeler carts mentioned him as the inventor of Computer. Aah, why to worry so much about cheap books. They are no way reliable.
So, the school was finally over and I was lucky to major Computer Science at the college. In my further lessons in the discipline of the “Theory of Automaton”, I learnt about the first principles of the machines that could compute, the first principles of computation in general and the first principles of what qualifies to be called as a computing machine, or optimistically a Computer. All such principle machines conceptualised a physical prototype of a device that made mechanical changes in response to external input, processing it at the same time and halting it to provide the solution (although, not all such machines guaranteed to halt for all set of problem inputs).
All such machines were restricted by the kind of computations they can perform, the kind of problems they can solve and the kind of input they can process. All such machines catered to a specific subset of the universe of computational problems. All such machines coagulated together to form the basic fundamentals of formalising the computation of a problem, the modern day name of algorithm. But it was only his hypothesis, The Turing Machine, which could conceptually boast to solve any computational process(or any algorithm) within practical limitations of time and space.
So, it was something worth a contribution making him earn the title of the inventor of Computer.
But it was until I watched the movie, ‘The Imitation Game’, I never knew of his actual contribution to the world of Computer Science, and to the humanity itself. ‘Christopher’, the machine, the real physical one, capable of breaking the the ciphers generated by the machine ‘Enigma’ which Nazis used to encrypt their messages with, is supposed to have reduced the length of second world war by two years and saved millions of lives. His team, a bunch of cryptanalysts, was designated with the task of breaking the codes by manually inspecting each one of them. It was his foresight to think of a machine which could in real time process and break each and every message without the intervention of humans and their limitation of computational speed and capacity.
Brilliant, I would say to end with, both the man and the movie. Hats off Dr. Alan Turing.
No wonder he’s termed as the Father of Theoretical Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.
On a dark cloudless night,
I saw a tiny little star,
Twinkling shiny and bright,
From its peers above par.
And dreamt if it I could touch,
Twirling my fingers roundabout,
To mock its grab as such.
I wished I had the wings,
To fly up in the sky,
To hold that distant star,
That miles away so high.
Gazing through the clouds,
I sought its flashing light,
It played me hide and seek,
All through the sleepless night.
I thought if they ever meet,
Laying modest, meek and coy,
The angels in the sky,
To a mere earthly boy.
I was just five, still fiddling around with putting up my shoe laces, packing my school bag, racking my books, doing my school tie, tidying up my hair and completing my homework on time. Still, my tiny little brain would be rather more amused by those fantasy cartoon shows, featuring a super hero flaunting a rugged muscular figure clad in garish bizarre outfits, running and flying over the cities and saving the world just in time. Still, reading the newspaper was no business for me, except for the Sunday magazine, that included those fancy fairy tales and the many a no-brainer puzzles like joining the dots to shape it into some figure, finding the way through the maze and discovering differences in the two almost identical pictures. Still, crosswords and the Sudokus made absolutely no sense to me.
So I was still a kid, a regular school going boy, devoid of any intellectual upbringing as yet. I scored good grades at the school but despite of that, like all the other kids on earth, I loved to play and utilise any opportunity to refrain from studies.
It was the summer vacation, the books were all racked up in the closet, and like past few years we were going to spend holidays at my father’s native, a small town spread within a few kilometers where our paternal ancestors had been living for more than a century. It was an overnight journey and with the light of the morning the pictures of the last few vacations were going to come to life again. I was excited.
It was eight in the morning we reached the place, an old house with battered walls, wooden creaky hinged doors. We spiralled through the narrow, almost standing, staircase to reach the dwelling of the progenitors of my progenitors. The uncles, aunties (bua), the grandmother, and the domestic help were all scattered around the narrow door to welcome us, as if we had returned from a foreign tour. Someone took the heavy bag from my father’s hands and the eldest of my uncles grabbed me and put over his shoulders, the aunts trying to snatch me from him, and after failing to do so attempting to pull and kiss my cheeks. Very soon the cheeks were all stretched and wet. We all went to sit in the living room. As soon as my uncle dropped me back to earth, I ran over to reach my grandfather’s room. But he was not there.
“Where’s Baba gone?”, I came querying back to the living room, looking at the grandmother. She told me he had been out of the city for some work and would return in the evening. I ran back to the porch adjoining his room. Pictures from the last vacation ran through my mind. I remembered him sitting on the wooden rocking chair lying there, savouring the fresh morning tea with the newspaper in his hands, and me sitting over his lap asking all kinds of silly questions looking at the images in the newspaper.
One of the aunties suddenly came running, finding the oppurtunity to pick me up in her arms, offering me biscuits and other stuff to eat, again kissing my cheeks all wet. I wiped the moisture and reconfirmed from her when Baba would return home. She had almost the same response.
The day went on with all kind of pampering done to me. Uncles took me to the market picking me up in their arms. Being five, it had been quite unusual since a couple of years that I would be raised up in the arms and be transported. I, rather, walked on my feet now. Moreover, I was allowed to choose stuff to be bought for me – the sweets, the candies, the chocolates, the soft drinks, the cakes, the ice-creams, the toys and what not – a luxury that my parents had not allowed to me, atleast not to the same measure. Somehow, I loved every bit of it.
Later the grandmother took me to the cow house at the backyard of the house to milk the cows. I loved the smell of fresh cow milk. She brought a glassful of fresh milk sweetened with jaggery for my consumption. I remembered Baba doing the same for me with I sticking to his back while he milked the cows. I gulped down the milk with the thought in my mind. We came back from the cow house and she filled the bucket full of milk into a huge traditional pot shaped vessel and put it over an earthen chulha. She sat near it for a while to air the flame, occasionally letting me do the activity, a rather playful one for me. At times she would wave her hand through my hair spilling them onto my face.
The lunch had been done; the sun was losing its ferocity; the evening tea was on the cards. Porridge, one of my favourite, was being cooked separately on the earthen chulha, the domestic help was sitting nearby and constantly stirring it through a ladle. I looked at the sun and it told me it was evening, but Baba had not arrived yet.
I went to stand at the iron grill at the balcony adjoining his room. It faced the market, and made the path to the home. I looked at the people passing by, examining each face if it was his, with the apprehension that the year-long mutations on his skin might have made it hard for me to recognise. Constant disappointment took toll of me and I came back to the living room. I felt as if he would never arrive, as if there was some conspiracy going on letting me know that he would be back by evening. The sun had died; the darkness was all around both outside and inside my heart and soul.
Baba did not arrive and the eyes, sleep deprived and desperation craved closed down for the night.
The next morning, I was in the bed, and I could feel tickles in my stomach. I opened my eyes to see a grey haired moustached broad face talking to me. My eyes were still closed. But, at an instant I could make out the familiar voice. “Baba!!!”, I cried out. “Myyy son..” he replied back mocking my tune. Instantly I stood up afresh.
He took me into his arms and hugged me tight. He was a broad shouldered strong man, and the clasp was tight enough to partially choke me. It sent me waves all through my body. I could feel the warmth of his skin. He held me for a while patting my back, clasping me again and I felt all those cuisines tasteless and worthless.
I felt a sudden emotion, deep and vivid, the very emotion written in the numerous sagas of literature, expressed in the eternal harmony of music, rendered in the picturesque portraits of nature, observed in deep alleys of philosophy, analysed in sophisticated realms of psychology and deemed universal in the undulating values of spirituality, and yet I was a mere five year kid, devoid of any intellectual upbringing as yet.
It was herculean for me to put the feelings into words at that age but deep inside, it was all penned down somewhere at a corner of my soul.
Through gloom and mourn.
Life goes on…
Through prick and thorn.
The green blot was flashing bright right against her name on the top header of the screen. ‘Hello’, I typed it out, after containing myself for long. It was just a matter of hitting a key through my pinkie, but inside, it was like pulling the trigger for a spacecraft launch at NASA, or dropping a bomb at the Gulf. The nerves in my head had turned into electrical wires, carrying alternating currents of a frequency of a million hertz, the brain into a supercomputer, processing millions of computations every microsecond, just to evaluate if it was the right moment that five lettered text should be sent out, as if it had the potential to blow the world out. The faculties opposing the motion, eventually, got the better of it. A long press at the backspace key made up for the manifestation.
The text box had been evacuated, the turbulence subdued. I peeped at the bubble again, and it still flashed the eternal green. I waited for a few seconds gazing at it, hoping to see the mark ‘typing…’ emerge at the screen, but it never showed up.
I scrolled through the window traversing through the texts all along our previous chats, those meaningless conversations at length, exchanging songs, good wishes, stories of past breakups, consolations, reminiscences of the old days at college, clips of my guitar stints, links to my blog posts, her appreciations, pictures of her photo shoots, my appreciations, and all the clutter of all sorts of coloured graphics – the smiles, the winks, tongues sticking out, the roses, the hearts – each making up for a different emotion everytime. It was a month back I had put my heart out to her and things had quite rolled over since then. The toasts went smaller, monosyllabic; conversations turned less frequent, folded and formalised.
Three days had passed and there was no communication. Every moment passing by was adding to my discomfiture. It had never been in the past few months that we hadn’t talked for so long (yes, three days was quite a long time considering the intimacy we shared in the past few months). Suddenly I was hit by a train of thoughts -Why had she been online all the time (although she had told me she was quiet busy at work and had limited access to internet)? Why was she never writing to me? Was she preventing herself not to provoke my sentiments to bloom into obsession? Or had she simply turned indifferent? What if she had found someone? The last one struck me deep. I remembered she had told me about an old friend and I could, feebly, remember his name. I went on to look for his profile. He appeared to be a decent face, possibly good enough to beat my looks, had a job that was likely to pay him way more than mine, and was definitely more stylish and fashionable than me. My heart was skipping the beats, but his pictures soon revealed that he was into a relationship with someone, making me heave a sigh of relief.
I tuned on to some songs on my phone, the default play list, my mind was far too occupied to create one. The music seemed to soothe my mind. I closed my eyes to let the stream of freshness suffuse into my nerves, but the lyrics from one of the songs let the flashes of past invade through them. I skipped to the next song – her favourite, the next – I played it for her on the guitar, the next – we heard it on one of the dates, the next – another story. I pulled the earphones out of my ears, looked up on my phone if something was there from her, but not yet. I dared not to look at the green bulb again.
I went to the kitchen to appease my starving belly, but more to distract my attention of that green spot. Looking for some bread in the refrigerator, it showed up, the green circle on the packet cover, and it reverberated the flash of that psyche for an instance, although the mark had meant to signify no harm to any mortal.
I moved out for a walk to a park close by, letting my phone at home. Sitting on a bench laid in for the purpose, I saw the people walk by, kids running haphazardly, school boys playing cricket, ladies chatting while circling around the park, possibly to revive their pre-marital anatomies, birds flying and chirping, and a bunch of dogs playing around. It seemed that the entire universe was gleeful, and nobody could ever assume a heart grieving in pain. I look at the green grass, the grasshopper chirping over, the leaves of the tree shading the bench, the tennis ball of the children playing cricket, the algae covering a puddle of water, the cucumbers and the water melons with a roadside vendor, everything so beautiful and vivacious and all painted in green, and yet I was grieving the green of a small dot, the dot that had ached my heart, blemished my soul, let my conscience stoop low,and left my brain brimmed with obsession.
Walking back home with the realisation, I thought, I would write to her, immaterial of how she would take it, of whether she would reply or not, of whether she wanted to talk to me or not. I took my phone off charging and opened the messenger, my fingers quivering to beat the keys and type out the yell of my heart. But to my surprise, the green had greyed out. I felt a sudden pang in my heart, my mind went berserk. I wanted to write to her desperately. It was as if the fall had arrived. I kept staring at the screen hoping the spring to return soon. After waiting for a few seconds, I closed my eyes, imagining going back in the past and sending out that ‘Hello’, the conversation picking up, things getting reconciled, jokes, teasers, smileys being exchanged.
I opened my eyes, and I saw the green was flashing again. My eyes widened, my hands trembled, my fingers went numb. I wanted to write, I wanted to type, but my mind was void of any thoughts. I typed at random, my fingers fumbling over the keys, the auto suggest messing around, and before I could weave a tiny piece of legitimate text, a toast came flashing on my screen. ‘Hello’, it said. And before I could type a reply I was bombarded by many more. ‘What’s up?’, ‘How are you doing?’, ‘Where have you been?’, all sorts of questions queued up on the tiny window. She sent me a link and urged to me have a look at it. I told her I would see it later as my internet was slow, but she insisted and I had to obey the commands.
It was a flash movie, with pictures and video clippings, all of mine and background scores from the better of my struggling attempts at the guitar. It was all sourced from my online account, and out of a sudden I went through a phantasmagoria of flickers of all I had been thinking of her online status. I sent her a smile, a wink, a heart, a kiss and she echoed the same to me. Things had started rolling over again. I looked at the window and it had started raining outside. The green was blooming all over again, but this time in its true very essence. :-) ;-) <3
Though the wind that blew was strong,
The sun was set and the journey was long,
Yet my lips never gave up that song,
O dear come along, come along.
You have been away, many a furlong,
I forgo the pain, never making a moan,
And I am still smiling, seeking you along,
For I do to you and you to me belong,
The time has been fleeting, chiming a gong,
I have been waiting, waiting for so long,
My heart might cease the beating, something has gone wrong,
Make me wait no more, just come along, come along.