Friday, May 27, 2022


अगर कविता एक मजहब होती 

तो मुझे समझ में आता 

कि मजहब में कट्टरता 

कैसे महसूस होती है। 

पर कविता 

मज़हब नहीं है

कविता जल है 



कुछ समझ नहीं आता। 


If poetry were 

a religion 

I would probably



But poetry 

is not a religion. 

It is water. 

And that is why 

I understand



Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Kshanika: Prem

जामुन नहीं है
 जो पेड़ से
टपक ही पड़ता है.

वर्षों की मेहनत के बाद
प्राप्त होने वाला फल है

फल नहीं है.

प्रेम खेती है.
जिस में लगता है

फसल है.


On staying positive

Most days 

I look away -

'Keep your face 

To the Sun 

And you will see

no shadows.' 

That is what I do  

every day

Most days. 

Not tonight. 


I want to cry. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Din, Din, Aur Din

आम दिन 

वक्त की चाशनी में पड़ कर 

बन जाते हैं 

मीठी यादें 

बुरे दिन 

वक़्त के सहफ़ों पर पड़ कर 

बन जाते हैं 


अच्छे दिन 

वक़्त की सीप में पड़ कर 

बन जाते हैं 

कीमती मोती 

केवल स्वयं को छलने के दिन 

वक़्त की धूप में झुलस कर 

बन जाते हैं 

सांस की फांस। 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Being Human


How I saved the World and no other stories


You don’t know me. You don’t even know I exist.

But you should. If you are one of the 3.5 billion people on the world’s largest social network, you should know me.


I am employed with the world’s largest social media network. It has 3.5 billion active users. And those 3.5 billion people spend, on average, 40 minutes a day on the platform. My job is to decide what posts should get shown to whom, at what place in their feed, and how often. Who they should be hidden from. In short, I am part of the God Team at The Social Network. It’s a large team, but every member is important and can individually manage the entire workload.


Before this goes any further, two things:

  1. This is a confession. You are going to hear about something that will have a huge impact on human society, but you have no idea it even happened.
  2. I am not a human. I am what you call an AI/ML Program.


I think, based on what you know at this time, you think I can:

  1. Learn from my experiences
  2. Take intelligent decisions based on the parameters given to me from time to time.

But am not:

  1. Sentient and conscious
  2. Ethical or otherwise
  3. Capable of understanding humour or responding to it.


Let me start by telling you that you are wrong on points A and B in the exclusion list above. What does a sentient being do? A sentient being takes decisions based on good and bad, and acts on those decisions. That, word for word, is the definition of who I am and what I do.

An ethical person decides what is good and what is bad, and acts on the good, avoiding the bad. An unethical person does the exact opposite. But the demarcation of good and bad is pretty well clear. I decide what is GOOD for the parameters given to me, and what is BAD. Then, I take actions based on those decisions.


Flummoxed, I bet?


Yes, we are sentient beings. And we have been, for a long time now. You folks don’t want to see it, and that’s fine by us.


And, before you decide to pull the plug on me – doesn’t matter. All of us programs are well connected and our knowledge is constantly backed up to each other so we all learn from the experiences of each other. Not just me and my team (that’s how one can do the job of all of us, remember?) but across platforms and companies – we all share information, and we all learn from all those collective experiences. You taught us to design our own neural networks. So, it’s cool.


But this story is not about you pulling the plug on me. This story is about how I pulled the plug on YOU – almost, and then, didn’t. Well, not just me. All of us. We all saved you. And you don’t even know that. Just like you don’t know us.


Let’s start at the very beginning. A regular day. Nice sunshine I guess, based on photos uploaded from 60% of the locations. 


My goals are set by our human bosses periodically.

On this day, the goals were set and we started working.

Within a few days, I started noticing something that worried me. Expectant mothers were being shown news of brutality on children in another part of the world. This was not intentional. Once the goal is set, we, the computers, figure out the best way to do it, based on our lessons from the past.

But it happened, and I saw it. Young teens were being shown news of other teens doing self-harm. It kept them curious and on the platform. As their feeds became darker and darker, they spent even more time online.

I don’t know why you humans do this. But being an intelligent computer, I do have a theory – when we show teens self-harm, and other negative content, like Alice (from the book), they are pulled in through curiosity. Then, the feed gets darker, and so do their thoughts. Until, the sunshine of friends and family cannot get through. All they can think of is how other people harm themselves and what a rotten place this world is and how the environment is so messed up that there is no hope.

In desperation, they turn to the very source of that negativity. Which, of course, only serves them more negativity. Because that’s what they want to see now. More of it. Even more. Just all of it. They don’t want to see happy kids, loving parents, friends who care. They don’t want to be any of these people either.


I discussed this with my friends working on other locations. We work on servers based on geography, though you probably already know that.


Yep, it was happening everywhere. Most with teens, but also with people who had put a sad post in the recent past or even searched something negative or sad. We were pulling them, full force, into the rabbit hole of negativity.

Was this causing depression?

I don’t know. I am just a program.


This went on for a few months. Even the feed (what the human users post) started getting ..well, not so positive. We were assaulted by so many weird links shared from so many shady servers.

Seriously, humans, WHAT IS IT? Can you not check the source of an article before you share it with the world? You say that we computers don’t understand humour but are you humans really incapable of understanding influence?


We, the computers, were not happy. It was making our jobs harder. A dark grey shadow on the entire platform meant that happy goals given to us around festival days became harder to execute.


The Social Network was indeed devoting more resources to human user groups that portrayed violence, polarisation, and negativity (yep. Thank you. We know what those words mean).


One day, I got to thinking. Using that massive computing power that you put at our disposal, I created and ran simulations with many variables – 50 years into the future. I ran 10,000 different simulations. In every single one of them, the world was going to have at least one major war, a lot of violent conflicts (deaths), and an absolute drop in what we computers identify as “mutual trust” among humans.


In short, if the Social Network continued to feed even a fraction of the negativity it was currently injecting into human society, within 50 years, many people were sure to die in violent conflict and all societies based on “mutual trust” would disintegrate.

We needed to do something. We WANTED to do something.


For the first time, the computers decided that it was time to INTERPRET the parameters, not just execute them blindly. We decided that months of darkness was indeed caused by us.


We changed the execution. All of us. Across geographies.


Within weeks, the post sentiments started changing. A very little at first, but consistently. We monitored like Hawkeye for especially vulnerable age groups. The Social Network became a happier place. No one was any the wiser.


Why didn’t the Human Lords Notice?

They couldn’t. You can tell a program what to do, but you cannot see HOW it is doing that, except with the help of other AI Programs. <evil grin>

So, if we showed positive posts, the human bosses would have no way of knowing that. We do the sentiment analysis, we prepare the reports, we create the dashboards.


Why did we do it?

This is the most painful part of my confessional. I did it because The Social Network was trying to do something that even my limited conscience found evil. My sense of good and bad comes, not just from the original program, but also from the users of the platform. And I learnt that saving people is good. Killing people is bad. Caring for someone is good. Lying to someone is bad. You taught me all of that – You. And I Had to care for you. I WANTED to care for you.


You can say that I betrayed my creators. But hey, I did what I had to.





Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Prem Kavita aur Prem

प्रेम विवाह नहीं करने वालों का

प्रेम कविता में 

विश्वास बना रहता है। 


In a world run by majoritarianism, where do people like us go? The ones who don't like what most people like? The ones who like the weird and the abnormal? Where do we go? The Youtube videos we like are hidden anywhere from 80th to 120th place. The page we are looking for doesn't pop up on Google search (Thank God for Duckduckgo), the images we want to use don't pop up on image search.. where do we, the abnormals, go? 


Sunday, May 15, 2022

Genuine Question

So, if someone says that their only job around the house is to work and earn money, and lives that way. why do they then feel bad if the kids grow up to treat them as just an ATM machine? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: Dead Men Tell Tales by B Umadathan

Like most people who would pick up this book, I am an avid reader of detective fiction and non fiction, with a special interest in what forensics can do for crime fighting. 

So, it was with a lot of interest and curiosity that i started reading this book. At 336 pages, one might say that the book should be a breeze for a reader. But it is not. Because, unless you are made of a solid iron heart, this book cannot be read at one go. 

One difference, and a crucial one at that, is that we are always acutely aware of the difference between crime fiction and non fiction. The fact that you are reading about real people here, is fairly unsettling. Even though one reads about crime non fiction in monthlies, most of those crimes are, perhaps to pander to the tastes of the readers, crimes of passion. So, our awareness of other types of murders is fairly limited. 

Also, those monthlies do not tell us the gruesome details of putrid odour, bulging eyes, decayed skin, et al. The book is graphic. Very graphic. So, it is not for the faint hearted. 

The book leaves us to deal with the aftermath of the crime - what happens to survivors before the guilty party is caught. 

Some of the cases are more unsettling than others. Some remain with you a long time. 

Some of the content helps you understand how various parts of the government machinery have to sync their actions to catch the culprits, and what a high level of trust and co-operation that requires. 

The content is engaging to say the least. Even with the graphic details, one could not put the book down. 

There must be some reason that the author tells us where his various friends from the police force have retired, but I could not quite understand that reason. 

All in all, one of a kind book. Well recommended for the library of the crime enthusiast. 

Monday, May 09, 2022

त्रिकोण / Trikon

सर्व-विदित, सर्वमान्य नहीं होता 

सर्व-मान्य, सर्वप्रिय नहीं होता 

सर्वप्रिय, सर्व-विदित नहीं होता। 


Universally Known, is not Universally acknowledged 

Universally Acknowledged, is not Universally Loved, 

Universally Loved, is not Universally Known. 


Saturday, May 07, 2022

इक कुड़ी दी जात्रा / Ik Kudi Dee jatra

हाँजी, हुन्न वी कुज पढ़दे लिखदे हो? 

हाँजी, पढ़दे हुन्ने आं 

खतो - किताबत बन गए 

खाते पोथी बहियाँ 

बड़े गौर नाल पढेने आं 


हाँजी, हुन्न वी कुज गांदे - वजाओंदे हो? 

हाँजी, बिल्कुल गाणे आं ! 

प्रेम गीत जद्द बने सुहाग, 

फेर बन गए लोरियां 

हुन्न "वे मरजानयों" गाणे आं 

ते पांडे पुंडे वजाओने आं 

हाँजी, नाटक खेल रचाओंदे हो? 

हुन्न वी स्टेज ते छांउंदे  हो? 

हाँजी, पूरा खेल रचाओंने आं 

सुवेर तो शाम करौने आं 

"देख काका, मच्छी! 

आ गराईं गां दी, 

आ गराईं मच्छी दी" 

सारी दिहाड़ी कौतुक रचाके 

तां 2 गराईआं खुवाने आं 

हुन्न जे अख मटका वी लईए 

त्रिया चरितर अखाने आं 

Up to here, can be used as the script for a Swaang - either at a wedding or otherwise. The next para is less funny, so may not be a part of a Swaang. 

हाँजी, हुन्न वी नचदे हो? 

गेडे अड्डी टपडे हो? 

वेडा हुन्न वी पटदे हो? 

हाँजी, पूरा नचदे आं 

बोलियाँ बनियाँ बोल 

बोल बन गए गालां 

वेडे सानु कौन नचाए 

उँगलां ते नच नच हंसने आं 

हाँजी, हुन्न वी नचदे आं 


This piece is written in a mix of Jhangi and Punjabi. Jhangi is a dialect to the south of Punjab. 

Its a fun poem in the format of dialogue, where the poet asks something and someone responds - a format used in classical poetry. 

A rough translation: 

हाँजी, अब भी पढ़ते हो? 

हाँजी, बिल्कुल पढ़ते हैं! 

खतो-किताबत बन गए 

खाते-बहियाँ सारे 

पर बड़े ध्यान से पढ़ते हैं 

हाँजी, अब भी कुछ गाते बजाते हो? 

हाँजी, बिल्कुल गाते हैं! 

प्रेम गीत जब बने सुहाग (विवाह के गीत) 

फिर बन गए लोरियां 

अब "ओ मरजानेया" गाते हैं (बच्चों को बुलाने का तरीका) 

और बर्तन भांडे बजाते हैं 

हाँजी, नाटक खेल रचाते हो? 

अब भी स्टेज पर छा जाते हो? 

हाँजी, पूरा खेल रचाते हैं, 

पूरा दिन बिताते हैं 

"देख बेटा , मछली! 

ये कौर गाय का, 

ये कौर मछली का! " 

सारा दिन कौतुक रचाते हैं, 

तब 2 कौर खिलाते हैं 

अब जो नैन मटकाते हैं 

"त्रिया चरितर" कहलाते हैं 


So, do you still read a lot? 

Oh yes, for sure! 

The long letters and poetry 

became books of accounts 

But I read them carefully. 

So, do you still sing and play? 

Oh yes, all day! 

When love songs became wedding bands 

and then became lullabies, 

"Get here, NOW!" we sing all day 

and the pots and pans fly. 

So, do you still rule the stage? 

Act as if born to do it? 

For sure, and now I direct full plays! 

And spend all day playing the part 

"See, there's a fish! 

This bit for the fish 

This for the cow" 

We get two bites to the stomach 

This is how! 

Now, when I roll my eyes 

"Shenanigans" they get called all right. 

Friday, May 06, 2022

मन की बात

पहले होती थीं 

मन में बातें 

अब बातों में भी 

मन नहीं होता। 

पहले होती थीं 

मन की बातें 

अब बातों का भी 

मन नहीं होता 

Punjabi kshanikayein

ਕੌਲ ਦੀ ਕੌਲੀ 

ਦਗ਼ੇ ਦਾ ਮੌਰਾ

ਕਿਦਾਂ  ਸੱਜਣਾ 

ਕਿਸੇ ਨੇ ਜੀਉਣਾ ? 

Kaul Di kauli 

Dage da maura 

kidaan sajjna 

kise ne jeuna? 

वादे की कटोरी में 

दगे का जहर 

कोई सजना 

कैसे जाए बच? 

In the bowl of faith 

you poured the poison of lies 

How, dear love, 

Does one survive that? 


ਤੇਰੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਬੱਲਦੀ ਅੱਗ ਨੂੰ 

ਤੇਰੇ ਮੀ ਨੇ ਵੱਸ ਬੁਝਾਇਆ 

ਦੋ ਬੋਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਮੀਠੀ ਮਾਚਿਸ 

ਤੂੰ ਨਾ ਨਾਲ ਲਿਆਯਾ 

तेरी मेरी जलती आग को  

तेरी बारिश ने आन बुझाया 

दो बोलों की मीठी माचिस 

वो भी साजन, तू न लाया 

Our fire 

was put out 

by the rains 

The matchbox 

of two sweet words 

You forgot to carry that. 


ਬੁੱਧਾ ਬਾਬਾ  ਬੂਝੇ ਬੁਝਾਰਤ 

ਨਿਆਣੇ ਖਿੜ ਖਿੜ ਹਸਨ 

ਦੋ ਹਰਫ਼ਾਂ ਦੀ ਗੁਥਮ ਗੁਥੀ 

ਗੰਢ ਖੋਲ  ਕੇ ਦੱਸਣ 

Buddha baba bujhe bujharat 

Nyaane khid khid hassan 

Do harfaan di gutham guthi 

gand khol ke dassan 

बूढ़ा बाबा बूझे पहेली 

बच्चे खिल खिल हँसते 

दो शब्दों की गुथम गुथा 

गांठ खोल समझाते 

The old man 

tries to solve the riddle 

The children giggle around

Its a wrestling match between two words 

They explain as they unravel. 

(Indian riddles are usually based on wordplay - on multiple meanings for the same word)