Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On A Starry Night

There is something about shadows cast by moonlight that makes you wonder if the night really is the opposite of day.

It took 1600 miles of travel, some forceful mind-shut, handful of friends and a starry night to make me realize that I need to change something about the way I live. Recently I had the privilege to walk on sand sparkling under moonlight, laughing among friends while the great arid expanse of earth watched. I stared in calmness at the stars while they seemed to be peeping into my soul. It struck me that the time is now, that life had to be lived daily and not on walks with friends on starry nights twice in a year.

Smelling hydrogen sulfide is not a pleasant experience in most situations. It certainly was not back when I was still actively learning chemistry. Smelling it on top of a mountain with colored crystals and thermal micro-organisms around was not unpleasant. I think it was wide blue sky and the laughter that really made the difference.

Attending meetings, sitting on a chair for most of the day, walking on human contrived spaces makes you forget how it feels to walk on sand, on mud, on twigs and on mountains. It takes water spraying out from the bare ground below your feet to really make you realize that you walk upon an alive ecosystem. 

I spend most of my time on things I do really like doing; called ‘work’. It is enriching and intellectually satisfying for the most parts. I am achieving my goal of learning. Except that lately, I have begun to learn the harder lessons of life – having to say No, not overworking, setting the correct expectations et al. These are difficult and boring lessons to teach and I think that’s why I never learnt them like I learnt TCP. But like most difficult and boring things, they are of immense importance. 

I traveled 1600 miles, touched and explored 5 states in 4 days with a few folks who form my family here. It made me realize that I’m not entirely wrong in the way I live my life, just that I have strayed a few units on the spectrum. A few units that seem like they will quickly catapult into me running off the line very quickly.

As I write this, I feel like a sportsman who goes into a practice session after a long injury. The limbs ache, the words are not as good as they can be. But I think I will get there if I keep living daily and not during walks on sparkling sand under starry nights, laughing and crying.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012



(Occlumency - The ability to close off your mind to outsiders.. )

I'll give you an exercise. Just try to think about how many pictures you took since last year were for the sake of recording memories? How many were taken along with the thought of a cool caption to be uploaded on facebook? How many of us spend most of our time thinking of our next status update? How many of us spend time photo-shopping our pictures to create the best touch!

All along, Entropy was time variable

There's a major difference between the world in which one's parents spent their formative years and the world in which one is spending his. Other than the fact that you can call your girlfriend 1000 miles away anytime you want, I am talking about 'change' in those times. It was slow. It had the inertia of a tortoise.

The world used to change slowly. Personal change still had to take express permission of one's conscience. Merry-go-rounds were joyful rides and not metaphors for mental instability. Thinking and spending time on one's own self was punctuated by work pressure and not the other way round. Views and opinions were taken from book authors and journalists. The latter did actual research for their work and not become shameful entertainers mongering for gossip. Interaction between strangers still needed to cross the barrier of formality and eye contact. Make-up has been taken over by Photoshop. 

Social Networks have pervaded the abstract dimensions of our lives too, our relationships, our thoughts. In that, is a measure of its success.

Concepts about life were still learnt during long walks with Grandpa. Tradition did not need UNESCO's certificate to be kept alive. The news paper was the kaleidoscope looking out to the outer world. There was a sentiment of exploration in visiting new cities. Decisions were based on personal calculation and the umpire was still the final authority on the cricket field.

I could go on. But Information Revolution has become a boring term. Boring not in the sense of saturated, but in the sense of a restless teen shifting hobbies without exploring the full potential of each. Its like solving crossword puzzles (Those horrible things evoke so much guilt for procrastination). One hasn't mastered it yet, but one is repelled by it. Similarly, Information Revolution is so much talked about that I skip an article as soon as I see those words in the headline. This article is *not* about Information Revolution. It is about how in 'connecting' with others, one has learnt to lose himself.

Will someone please decide 'whats the time' for me?

What we read on the internet shapes our thoughts. Earlier, your own living experiences shaped your thoughts. Experience, it seems, has lost its touch as a teacher. Mind you, I do not consider information networks hostile. I am merely marking on the weak immune system of our character.

One of the most important traits of life is to keep learning. It saddens me as to how malleable our learning curves have become. Perhaps, we need to see the negative side of easy information and the positive side of the lack of it.

Just the other day my 12 year old sister sent me an email which said that 'electricity can travel through light so please do not click pictures with flash near electric poles'. I was horrified portending what all had she already read and believed and what will she read, believe and help spread in the future. If you think you're more confident about making correct decisions than a 12 year old, please check your 'likes' on your facebook account. I'm serious, do it and come back and email me how many of them were rational? 

Caricatures R.I.P

Consider Memes. Mr. R. K. Laxman, it is sad to see what caricatures have evolved into. It is like a bad sequel. You have my condolences. 

If you are one of those idiots who shares political memes derogating Politicians, here's a question. Did you verify whether that information came from an authenticated source? Consider how your biases have catapulted into jealousy. All the infiltration that is happening in our mind, is taking its toll on us.  

I've been mingling with these thoughts for a long time. It was a certain poll that went viral which convinced me that these thoughts are not novice. A certain online youth outfit / magazine conducted a poll asking 'Which is the best institute in India'. And to my horror I found people actually going and voting on it. People did not stop and think, one will surely vote for one's own institute. The oldest institute, statistically, will win. Either that, or if I'm a loser, I'l just go and vote 10 times. It was sad to see people actually not wanting to see light.


You see, facebook is like TV. Yes, it helps you stay connected. But it also has the addictive and passive nature that makes the TV an idiot box. A more intelligent way to use it would be to actively use the 'unsubscribe' button. 

Let the internet be used actively as a tool. In that, I want to outline two things. One, a conscious distinction between the ends to which the tool is supposed to be a means and the means themselves. Do not lose this distinction. Let the means not shape your ends. Let the internet not determine what you learn. Be discreet. Two, use the tool actively in all its grace. A hammer needs to be held and struck at a certain angle, power and base to yield maximum result. USE the internet and not drag away in it. 

Mow Your Lawn Regularly

Shape the way you use your internet. Unsubscribe idiots, subscribe Calvin n Hobbes. Clear the litter on your feed. Look out for the © symbol. This will mean that someone is ready to take name for what is written. Otherwise, don't trust blokes who experiment with idiotism. Remember to check for the source of information before you start 'like'ing the Prime Minister amassed so much wealth that he was going to buy the whole of Sri Lanka. Ask the Why? Answer the Why Not's. Don't leave your brains at the coffee machine while you log into the Internet. 

Look at opinions for what they are. Only Opinions. Not the Gospel of Truth! (btw, check out this guy for opinions: The Oatmeal.) Check with your own 'Habits-I-Can't-afford-to-Lose' chart before you imbibe something cool you read on the internet. Email back authors of articles citing your criticism. If he's a true author, he'l appreciate your difference of opinion and debate. Argue, don't blindly accept. Read, evaluate, imbibe. NOT read, like, move-on. 

Take a moment and try to comprehend what you just read. Can you see how the Internet has infiltrated your decision making capabilities? Technology, is a tool. The internet should, no doubt, be used to enhance one's life. Enhance, not shape. It is your mind that needs to shape your lives. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The best advice I have ever given and will ever give is, "I have no tips for you. Not because I have not learnt anything, but because I want you to learn your share yourself! It'll only ruin the fun".

I am writing this piece, as learnings from my four life changing years! What follows are a few things I've learnt at DAIICT. Some of them are deductions of events that have shaped me. Others are general ideas about DAIICT that I am glad to have sculpted. It is a highly opinionated account and I don't expect everyone to relate with it. But I hope those who do, will benefit.

Rise and Rise again till Lambs become Lions! 

I was told repeatedly by my seniors that the final year is the best time you'll spend at this place. It turned out to be true for more than one reason. Of course, the academic pressure is light. Three hours of examination in the whole year will testify for that. Yet, surprisingly, the fun part is not this.

Freedom and discipline are like Yin and Yang. One leads to another, just like the two sides of a mountain. If you've been working hard, learning, rest assured, you are in for everything that is worth it. The intellectual freedom you get in the fourth year makes you feel relieved, more than proud, that you put faith in learning. More relieveing is the fact that you get to do things you've always wanted to do. Chase mad thoughts, build crazy shit, choose to say NO to stupid subjects. Its like living naked on a mountain, rearing sheep and writing songs.

For everyone who's finding it tough and confusing right now, hang in there! The final year is worth the hardwork.

Sail away! You'll find land soon.

DAIICT is a small University. For a Computer Science and Information Technology university, we work in a cave. Often, you'll find that work you're interested in is not pursued by anyone at DAIICT. When that happens, know that the road is difficult, but not non-existant. Do NOT stop and leave your field. Find other places in the world where your subject is pursued. The good thing about DAIICT is, it is open minded to students wanting to explore avenues outside DAIICT.

I wrote a piece on how important it is to be agile, to tune in to current happenings in technology. One needs to keep a vigilant eye for more of your kind. Once you spot them, have a dialogue. People outside are generally very welcoming. If you are ready to learn, they are ready to help. Interact with them, work and increase your levels.

Our Alumnus are everywhere. Use the Alumni network. They are only eager for more of DAIICT students to ask them for guidance.

DAIICT is only a miniscule entity in the ecosystem, yet open to growth. What matters is how determined you are to follow your passions.

Diversify early, Hit The Nail later

Most importantly, PLEASE STOP taking courses for easy grades. Take ones that you are interested in and find that getting grades is easy. 

We are not an ICT institute for nothing. We have respectable faculties in Computer Science, Electronics and Communications. Unless you are the exceptional ones who were born with light, do not close yourself early in your life. There is a reason to the philosophy that DAIICT follows. Newer Interdisciplinary fields are breeding like bacteria. If your niche ain't homogenous enough, you'll miss out on a lot of fun. Build your basics in more than one subject. But later in life, pursue only one.
Once, you know your calling, do NOT look at anything else. Dig deeper and deeper. Going beyond the DAIICT limit is the first goal.

There is no moment of epiphany where suddenly it will dawn on you that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Don't wait for it, don't go looking for it. Instead, dabble in different fields, persist with them. Don't give up on things just because they don't work. Perseverence is always rewarded. The best things will be the ones that you will engage in without any incentives.

For people who have attained light: Passions are like girl friends. They demand time. One must be in touch with them daily. They will demand sacrifices and wreak havoc in your head if they aren't given enough importance. 


Stop doing ten things at a time.  You are not Superman, don't aspire to emulate one. This comes from firsthand experience. This is a delicate thought that I want to convey. Here, I must admit, I have been majorly flawed.

In my four years, I have been involved in a lot of things. From organization, to sports, academic projects, extra-curricular internships and lately, Technical Projects and Teaching. Your undergraduate years are for you to do new things, experience various aspects of life. But, the way in which you go about doing it is crucial. Doing it one after another will help you focus on one thing. Sequential execution, for once, is better than parallel! Dividing your thought energy in ten different places will not only torture your brains, destroy your living experience but also result into unsatisfactory performance on all fronts.

Now, I filter my work. One must channelize one's energies well. It is better to nurture and let one particular dream bloom rather than have five mediocre performances.

Research @ DAIICT

When we started, we were going at an unbelievable pace. We had a research culture of the highest quality. I've been told that we had an army of excellent Professors, who not only encouraged the students to do research but also dived head on themselves. Over the years, it has diffused. 

My batch has seen such a lot of international success that one tends to feel DAIICT is on a roll! We have people going over for silicon valley jobs, research labs, MNCs of the highest callibre, Universities in the top 10. But there's a catch.

Why are the students not working INSIDE the college? I find the labs empty.  Only M Techs remove the dust off the instruments, a select few that. Very few fields, I can count them, in which we are trying to move ahead of the state-of-art. You can see remnants in the form of dormant labs, rusty infrastructure, kernels < 2.6.2 etc. I can virtually see how the swords, once shining, are now rusting in the shed. 

It seems as if, the thriving ecosystem has been punctured. The turning gears are creeking. There ain't enough incentives for Professors to pursue research inside DAIICT. Heck, there ain't enough incentives for Professors to stay here! This inturn is leading students to look for avenues outside.

Research can never be done alone. It is done in groups. Students and Professors need to be nurtured. There has to be an ecosystem in place. Someone needs to clear out the clutter. Ideas need a lot of space to run wild!

Coming of Age


I am nearing my end of term here. I've passed on my Cricket Captainship. I haven't completed my dream project as much as I would have wanted. But I would like to imagine there are people who will take it forward after me. I have had my share of fairwell wishes. One does not judge life by the desert but by appreciating the oasis!

Do what makes you happy. It is of paramount importance. Choose to do only those things that you do without incentives. 

Finally, I'd like to quote from a recent blog that I read. It has gone viral. 

Find that pursuit that will energize you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don't, you are working
        - Adrian Tan 

(This article first appeared in the April edition of Entelechy, DA-IICT's college magazine.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Outlook Engineer

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'"

—Isaac Asimov

Some time back, Nikhil Marathe wrote an article on how even after being in an IT environment, we still are oblivious to its full meaning. I would like to rant further. He poked with ideas of efficient bookkeeping, wielding technology as a weapon to win the war against everyday life. I would like to join his crusade against mediocrity and ignorance.

Avoid The Inertia Trap

For some time now I have come to believe the final year of your undergraduate studies is a fun phase. Other then the fact that you do only 3 hours of examination in the whole year, you get a lot of epiphanies. One of which is how being an engineer, one needs to be more like a possum. If you ain't peeping in tunnels and digging further, you ain't looking to improvise. Hence not fitting in the definition of an engineer. You need to be nimble and avoid the inertia trap.

I am about to complete four years in an engineering institute, one of the elite, as some proudly put it. Here, we have a decent environment. I pity the regional institutes where kids have to go home after study hours. They deal, innocently and ignorantly, with the perils of dividing energies in two worlds. Here, there is an element of consistency, a homogeneity where one can merge academia and personal development. It is not two networks, it is an integrated ecosystem. Free 24 hours internet is the single greatest advantage that this place has over others. Good laboratories, infrastructure and the like are synonymous to the inventory shop. The blacksmith can work as hard as he wants and produce the finest of weapons. Alas! They will only hang on his walls for he does not find soldiers worthy enough to wield them.
We Need to be Less Like Blondes Basking in the Sun and More Like the Solar Panel.

My words are aimed at the slugs sitting in the room; for whom internet and Facebook are synonymous. When you get to learn about a new technologies in a lecture, know that something is seriously wrong with you. Wake up, read more. Google got invented. 

Once a certain technology is widely accepted, it is for the world to settle into it and use it till they are fed another technology. But the line is cut out a lot more asymmetric for the engineer. Shaping the technologies might seem astronomical expectations, but looking out for new ones, being vigilant should be a given.

For example, Greplin allows you to search through your social network accounts. Daniel Gross, the founder of greplin, was only 18 when he started working on it. So blindly using google is not a great habit.

Recently, Google opened its new service for Researchers, Professors and students, Google Scholar. Till now, researchers used to find it cumbersome to sift through all the pages that google showed up while searching. Now, they are indexed by author, date of publish and place. 

Subscribe to Good People

A good thing that happened early after the birth of Information Technology is that some people stood up and said, "We won't let Internet become like Printed Text. It will be like spoken language, free and open; only that you will have to take the effort to learn it". A few good men write and spread technology even as they shape it. Open Source Developers, Open Source Entrepreneurs maintain excellent blogs. This blogpost by Brett Victor earned me a AA on a course on Modernity, Modernism and Art. (Please appreciate the man's vision). Google Talks like this one (on git by Linus Torvalds) and  Cory Doctorow's address at SIGGRAPH '11 are legendary pieces of public exposition.

Computer World is an excellent place for digging. Linuxgazette is a fantastic place where totally cool experiences are shared. Linuxwireless is an organization who delve into everything wireless for linux. FreifunkNinux et. al are people actively involved in furthering mesh networks. Pardon me for  my examples are biased to networks. But I am sure, people in different fields will find like minded enthusiasts if they search for it.

The Customized Way

All of today's information technology effort can be divided into sections. One, developing new technologies. Two, making intelligent use of current technologies. Engineers should make good housewives. An engineer must always be on the look out to reduce effort and in the process use cool new technologies. Bookkeeping, Organization, Planning are everyday concepts in everyone's lives. For engineers, the job is made even easy with a google account. A google account will give you everything you want, from a calendar to an event planner, to a storage space. Some time, sit down and try to click the 'more' button on the top on google homepage.
The single greatest reason why Linux has overtaken Windows (in the world where people use brains) is that Linux lets you customize. Let the computer function the way you want it to. That, is pro-active engineering. Living life the same way makes sense. 

For the Ignorant Ones - VOIP 

Just to end, I would like to introduce a new wave of communication technology. Everything has become packetized now. GPRS, 3G, 4G, LTE and every single term you hear in Telecom and Networking circles is to do with packetized digital communication. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the technology that lets you talk to people over the internet. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) will be the world's next most important protocol. People, please go and have a look at the software coming out for VOIP.

Here's a head start: 

Linphone - is a SIP client. Install it on your system and use it as a telephone.
Use case: When you are sitting in your room and you want to call someone who is also sitting with an internet connection. Please do NOT use your cell phone., Use this. Imagine room service.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Winning Way..

"The sad part in life is NOT the absence of background music as much as the failure to recognize times deserving it!"

- Me


On January 26th, 2012 I played one of the most awesome cricket match ever! 

PDPU vs DAIICT- 2nd group stage match. 

We had already broken a record of winning first time after 2007 outside DA-IICT against Institute of Hotel Management inside PDPU. We were up against the home team. Small ground. Without practice for the last 3 months. 

Team News

I lost the toss and we field first. I have always been proud of my team, my men. Even though my opener, pace-head and vice captain were donated to Software Development, the team still looked good in shape. Bowling has been our strength since the start of the year. With more bowlers and all rounders than batsmen.

Spiral Model vs Sequential Model

I normally don't set full innings targets. I believe a game is won in spells. Its very much like accurate incremental steps are better than one big leap of faith. The pitch was new to us still and nobody had ever played against PDPU. I hadn't set a target in mind.

The Dip

Fielding turned out to an unpleasant ordeal. Yash provided a couple of early breaks, but we never seemed to trouble the batsmen. They stuck. Neelim's swing wasn't helping much. Assisted by the short boundaries and the almost cement pitch, they hit our bowlers all over. Getting in a skidder, Shivan, in the middle overs seemed to slow them down for an over or two, but that proved to be an oasis. Moreover, my trusted first changes Kapil and Udit chose to disappoint me that day itself. The mat over hard ground only made Kapil's wides look all the more devilish.

The 5 fielders on one side rule restricted the fielding changes. no kind of bowling changes or field placement seemed to help. The flat and skidding wicket just sucked up all the variations. A simple flick of the bat was enough to send the commentator bellowing, the crowd jumping. Finally, it ended. We needed 143 in 15 overs.

The Chase

We started the chase well. Om, Shivan and Prakhar played well to make a quick 40 odd runs but they fell to the pressure of making quick runs.

The Forte

I come at number 5. Its one thing that I have learnt from the best cricketer I have played with, Rahul Jain. You need experienced people for others to rally around in the middle. The middle order is essentially a forte. You need either of the middle order batsmen to stick, to stand there. Partnerships are what win you games. Just like spells, partnerships are the intervals where the game is won.

A Boring Game Is Better Than A Lost One!

Whenever the game is getting too heated, doesn't matter you are holding the ball or the bat, making the game boring is your best option. After quick three wickets, the wicket was heated up on that prolonged winter day.

The bowlers charged up, the ball zooming and swaying in and out, the fielders chirpy, the crowd shouting.

The ball was coming too fast. My bat swing was too late. I hadn't batted in the last 3 months. Prakhar left, in came Soham.


I forget the exact figures now, but i think we needed 103 in 11 overs when me and Soham had just come in. It was looking bleak. The bowlers were all charged up. One pitched short, rose and moved away so gracefully, almost kissing my glove. The bowler came down and.. .. .. we had a small chat!

I started talking to myself. I was not giving this one up. We were NOT going to lose this time. These are among few times when I have been proud of the way I thought!

Me and Soham have had a lot of innings, for the college as well as our batch, where we have built partnerships. We walked down to the middle of the pitch after every ball and exchanged thoughts, bumped fists. I told him, We were NOT losing this one. Hang in there. Make it boring. Keep on taking singles.

The Silver Linning

In came the chatty bowler again. By this time, a couple of overs had passed with us making 6 odd runs.

The ground was small. The boundary behind the keeper was hardly twice the size of the pitch. These are times when the craziest ideas the most awesome ones!

The bowler was steaming down. Again tried to bounce me. Short pitch. I step one side. Loosen and change my grip. Wait for the ball to rise, lift my bat, duck a bit and help the ball in the air right behind the keeper. SIX!

Few things give you more satisfaction than a perfectly executed Marilliar's shot! :D

The Dam Break

Before the semi-finals started, one of the cricket co-ordinators, also their team member came up to me during the toss and said "You were excellent down there mate! That six behind was the turning point" !

I gave the strike to Soham. SMACK! SIX! Standing right there in the crease, he blasted the  bowler straight down the ground. Next ball, SMACK! FOUR! This time he came down the ground, over the covers! Once bounce over the boundary.

The over finished and me and soham rammed our fists! We kept on reminding each other to be calm and not loose wicket.

The Slaughter

We needed 86 from 8 overs. 58 from 5. 33 from 3.
I remember Shirali, our newly appointed Coach, coming to me after the match and saying "Hum log idhar pagal ho rhe the ye sochke ki tumpe kitna pressure hoga!"

Came out a flurry of fours and sixes. Soham destroyed everything that was bowled to him. He put the bouncers straight down the ground for sixes. He bludgeoned a good length ball so hard, it was hardly higher than my own height and still went for a six.

I on the other side, was regularly getting boundaries and sixes myself. I remember a fantastic straight six and two consecutive boundaries on mid-wicket! The small ground was helping us too!

The Rest.. is History!

24 from 2. 12 from 1.
My scoop down the mid wicket, and the straight six off Prakhar's marvellous bat was enough!

We ran like mad! Shouted like mad!
Soham - 49* (22)
Me -       30* (20)

Moral Of The Story Is..

It takes guts. I am proud of the innings I played. Sticking in during that early time and not accepting defeat was all that had made the difference! We both had kept our nerves.

More importantly, I want to highlight all the small things that made a difference.
Cricket, for good reasons, is NOT a boring game. It takes more thinking than most games. It takes understanding, wit and composure. It is a sport that truly deserves to be one.

I've faced this questions loads of times and I can only smile in pity at the people who say "I play football because I found Cricket too boring". Its not their fault, they never saw Cricket the way I do.

They never played Cricket the way WE did ..

Friday, December 23, 2011

A GREat Experience

I think I will beat the Government in a race of procrastination. Its been quite some time since I have been planning to write this post, about my GRE experience. I believe I have a good few things to say. This post is my advice for preparation for the Graduate Record Examination and also some things I learnt that transcend the gruesomeness of those 5 hours.

The GRE has taught me a lot of things which, otherwise, I am pretty sure would have remained painfully ignorant of. I am normally happy with my planning skills, but somehow I screwed up with GRE. Formally, I prepared for GRE for only 20 days. Now, that I look back, I realize that may be that pressure of less time is what gave me the whack on the side of the head. I might have scored more had I studied for a proper 1-2 months, but then there are a lot of things I should have done and didn't.


I took the Graduate Record Examination on 7th September, 2011.
I scored 327/340 with 158/170 (84 %ile) in Verbal and 169/170 (96%ile) in Math section.

(Not the best guy to be shelling out advice on preparation for GRE. Yet, I feel the things I learnt are more that just about the exam)

A Few Things You Must Do

Step 1. Any GRE aspirant must lick up the GRE website. Read every single word.
Step 2. Buy a good book. I took Princeton Review and found it totally worth the extra bucks compared to the Barrons version.
Step 3. Decide the field of study for your Graduate Studies. Actually, this step is supposed to be done a couple of years before you take GRE. Spend a couple of years gaining experience.
Step 4. Research into Universities considered excellent in your field of study. Chose 4 most basic ones for ETS  to send the scores to.

What The GRE Really Is

The Graduate Record Examination is NOT an examination of aptitude or intelligence. It is a test of your cognitive abilities pertaining to the English language as a medium. That's it. Do NOT judge yourself based on the scores that you get on GRE, except if you want to pursue English Literature.

The GRE is a gruesome test of how good you are at grasping English. Most people find the verbal section tough and rightly so. I pity the medicos who find the math section giving them goose bumps. The Math Section tests you for lower than 10th grade math.

The GRE deserves a sincere effort. It is a brain-taxing test of your will power. In those 4.5+ hours, your brain will have to read and process a tsunami of information decorated in almost alien like English. There will be words that you have never encountered before and can't make the head or tail of it. There will be words that you will be able to make meaning of only with the context. Most of all, what makes the GRE legit in demanding 1 to 2 months of serious effort is the way it scrutinizes your brain.

If I put it down in a metaphor, think of it as crossing a dessert. On the over view, its only walking. You've been walking since decades. Similarly, you've been absorbing information and processing it in English since decades. Yet, every single thought you think sitting on the chair before that computer is like the molecule of water in a dessert that you cling on to for your dear life.

Thought Energy

I am predominantly talking of the verbal section. The Math is easy and I leave it to you to do Step 2 nicely which will take care of the Math.

Each question in the verbal section is made up of long sentences with multiple subjects and objects. Sometimes, I used to think whether they were grammatically allowed to make such long sentences. Each question, except the text completion ones, will have 5 options each 3-4 sentence long. Unless you've spent the last 5 years in a den lapping up every novel that came your way, you will die keeping track of what each sentence means.

This is where, what I call, Thought Energy becomes important. Preserve your thought energy. Do not waste your precious thought power. Brain time is important. In all your strategies for solving questions, keep brain time a primary resource!

An Important Trick

The best tip I got from Princeton Review was to use the Scratch Paper as much as you can. I used it extensively. Whenever you finish reading the questions, write down A, B, C,D and E in a list on your scratch paper. As you complete reading option A:

put a tick-mark, if you are sure this will be the answer
a similar-to sign, if this can be the answer but want to check other options
a cross, if you know this can't be the answer
a question mark, if you don't have a clue what the option meant.

So, read the option, mark. Read the option, mark. You don't have to look down to the paper while marking. Your hands should be moving while your eyes are reading the options. Then when you have seen all  options, look at your scratch paper. Here are the advantages of this trick:

1. You won't have to now look at the ones with the Cross. Had you not done this, you would have repeatedly read the same option and eliminated it again and again. The amount of thought energy you waste in re-eliminating is stupid wastage.

2. Three [Similar-to] and One [Tick] and you won't have to think 1 sec more. The tick is your answer.

3. You will have read all the options and not worry about missing anything.

4. No silly mistakes. Save tons of Thought Energy.

Auxiliary Preparations

Here's how I prepared for the GRE. I had only 20 days. Working smart was a compulsion for me, not a choice. Now when I look back, I sometimes think maybe I wouldn't have done things so nicely had I not been under so much pressure.

I left everything for those 20 days. I did not attend lectures, did no homework, no assignments, quit on projects, did not go home, quit Cricket, no dinner / lunch outings. For those 20 days, my life was Library-room-Library.

Understand your body cycles. I am a day-bird. I never tried to stretch the night. The GRE preparation is NOT a time to be doing major decisions / changes in life like Job joining, Break-up, tours etc. Let things be normal. I doze off very early in the night if I eat heavy dinner, so a lot of times I used to eat fruits or skip dinner. Yet, I understood that nutrition is important if my brain has to function 14-15 hours a day and so I used to have heavy breakfast and lunch and a moderate evening snack. Planning your body is as important as planning your study.

Please keep in mind I had 20 days. You will have more, so you may not take so serious measures, yet don't live a roller-coaster life in those 1-2 months.

All Smart Work And No Play Can Help Jack Do Decent On GRE

A good English background helps. If you are a novel reader since childhood, you are probably safer than the rest. If you are still 6 months or a year away from giving GRE, start reading novels. 2 news papers daily, 1 novel per month. If you are not already good at vocabulary, keeping a pocket dictionary will be a life-saver.

Although the pattern has changed. I find doing the word - lists still important. There's no point in answering if you don't have a fleeting clue of what the question means.

While you are doing the practice questions in the book, time them. I used to do the practice questions as half hour tests. It helped me to implement my strategies and also time myself. This way, ideally you should be able to complete 2-3 books. I did Princeton Review and Barrons. You can complete Kaplan too.

A week before the GRE is mock exam time. Give atleast 5 mock tests. Leave the ETS test in the CD-ROM for the last. Get comfortable with the UI. Don't panic if you scored bad on your last mock test. I scored 1050-1150 on my last mock test :P

A huge goal can be easily achieved if broken into smaller reachable goals.

Out of the 3500 words, an average English taught person will know 1200 and won't have to do them again. I divided the words into 350 words per day. I saw that reading from the book wasn't helping as there are too many words on a single page. So I decided to make my own flash-cards. I used to read the word from the book, if I did not know it or felt uncomfortable in remembering the meaning, write it down on a small paper piece with its meaning behind it along with a sentence using the word. I also wrote down words I had encountered previously that were similar in meaning to this one. This helped me revise all the words meaning the same thing!

Hierarchical Architecture At Its Best

A cumulative hierarchical approach worked wonders for me. Trust me, this is the coolest bit of practical psychological engineering I have every done. I am proud of it!

Make 8 flash cards. Memorize them. (keep them in your hands, like a pack of cards)
Make 8 new flash cards. Memorize them. Mix them with the previous 8. Memorize all the 16.
Make 8 new flash cards. Memorize them. Mix them with the previous 16. Memorize all the 24.
After you have done 64, keep this stack of 64 separate.

Start afresh.
Make a new separate pile of 64. Memorize them in the previous fashion. Mix them with the previous 64. Do the 128 together. Keep them aside.

Make another separate pile of 128 and mix them with the previous ones.
Continue to do so.

I chose 8 cards to do at one time. There are two reasons. Human mind can do things in chunk of 7 and remember at once easily, not more than that. Secondly, when I tore a page of paper, making 8 pieces out of one page gave me a comfortable size for each piece to be held in my hand. Important! Remember, you are going to be holding 128-256 of these in your hand. While cumulatively going from 64 to 128 to 256, you are going to be flipping these cards like mad. Holding them comfortably in your hand will increase your speed and cognitive abilities.

Make Your Own Fuckin' Awesome Plan

Malcolm Gladwell put his 10,000 hour rule. Sit back for a while and try to think, how many times do you think about yourselves? A lot. From 'liking chocolate' to 'hating Himesh Reshammiya', from walking to clothing. You think about what suits you extensively. Making choices also is exercising your knowledge about yourself. In other words, you have easily spent 10,000 hours analyzing yourself. That makes 'you' the best person to know about 'you'!!

So, what worked for me, might not work for you. Know what works for you. I analyzed my efficiency and devised my own ways. Do that for yourself.

The Exam

I took the examination at Ahmadabad center. I chose the 13:00 slot. I find the morning one too early, your brain isn't warmed up enough. The evening slot is too late.

All great events have countdowns. The countdowns are not fancy publicity stunts. There is a meaning to it. There are set-up procedures that will take a stipulated time before the event starts. Hypothetically, may be the fuels of rockets have to be left reacting for enough time to be able to burn efficiently, so they start that clock before the rocket takes off. Similarly, I had the 13:00 hours test, so my countdown consisted of a sequence of tasks to be completed in time. From sleeping early, to waking up, to breakfast. Even the time to 'brush teeth' was planned and had a time slot!

Don't eat too heavy before the exam, yet have enough to get your through the 4.5 hours. You will need your passport and Examination confirmation letter ONLY. Take your eyes off the computer whenever you can. It'll help GREATLY. Don't forget to ask the invigilators for ear-muffs, sometimes the neighbor typing frantically will disturb you!

Hope this helps!

Wishing you luck,