A list (which I intend to keep editing for ever) of events, moments, people, experiences which have resulted in lasting changes in me (mostly positive) and have shaped my life in a profound way. I don't claim to have arranged them in any particular order.
Learn to understand: When my father had said in my fourth class that I should try to understand the subjects rather than trying to score higher. It affected me deep and has a lot to do with my future attitude towards studies.
Tintin: When I first came across the first Tintin book in eighth class in my friend Sumantro's place, I had never seen a comic any better illustrated than Chacha Choudhary, Phantom, Amar Chitra Katha. I asked my friend what this thing was which did look like a comic but was also like a book. He said it was the best comic in the world. That day, my outlook to comics, cartooning, storytelling, everything changed. In the next 2 years I had read all Tintin books. My style of cartooning still is influenced by it. I finally succeeded to procure the complete series much later, in 2002.
R. K. Laxman: My father had brought home a calendar with one Laxman cartoon per page. I learned from it that cartoons can be drawn with basic instruments like pencil, sketch pens and water colour.
50 Classics: A thick book that Sumantro possessed which contained 46 classics and 4 epics, abridged and translated into Bangla. I came to know that there are so many books which are called classics: novels which are old, but evergreen. My fanciful mind immediately set out on the path of writing novels. In seventh class I had already written a story which ran to nearly 80 pages. In my ninth grade, I wrote a story running into nearly 120 pages. Of course, I gradually lost momentum. But the fascination with books and writing stayed on with me. I continued writing short-stories and essays.
बातचीत : The first chapter in our tenth class Hindi reader, an essay by Pt. Ramchandra Shukla. It had tough Hindi, arranged in thick paragraphs, all of almost equal length (each of nearly half a page). It analysed various aspects of talking. I found it very inspiring that a simple day to day topic could be picked and a deep analysis could be done on that. I also came to see essays as the purest form of intellectual expression unhindered by narrative forms or poetic rules. Essays are, for sure, my favourite form of serious communication.
अरे तू तो अच्छा गाता है यार! : My cousin, who I always used to think of as sort of a bully, who otherwise used to dismiss me as a studious moron, once remarked when I was casually humming something (a Kishore song). The experience of being thus noticed was so thrilling, I actually started attempting to do some serious singing. This has led to an heretofore unbroken association with music.
Water Colouring: Book by Milind Mulick inspired me to revive my love for water painting. As my juvenile attempts to paint failed, I was instigated to give up painting for 15 long years. I suffered with the idea that I had poor sense of colours. However, around 2005, my love for painting came back in all its glory after I came across the above work. Thereafter, I have continued to make small attempts. Slowly, but surely, I have made significant improvements.
Academic books: There are many academic books which have been major influences in shaping my academic interests. Resnick Halliday (Physics) probably is at the top. But there were others. William Hayt (Electromagnetic theory), D. V. Hall (Microprocessors), C by Ritchie and Kernighan (Programming), OOAD (Booch), Compilers (Aho, Ulman, Sethi), Economics by Samuelson (Economics).
Scientists: The earliest inspirations were Marie Curie, Addison, James Watt. I used to think then that scientists run the world. After you are too intelligent to become a prime-minister, you become a scientist. Therefore, I decided to become a scientist.
Rail Shunting: I always used to wonder how a train stays on a track, and how it jumps from one track to another. I had tried to observed both the make of train wheels and the design of shunting while travelling in trains. I had never been able to make a complete observation. In sixth class, I could work out a design on paper which seemed to work. I cycled several kilometres to the nearest rail-track to my house to verify my discovery. And to my great delight, I found that I had got it exactly right.
Philosophy: I first came across Swami Vivekananda's ideas in 1993 through my friend Abhijit, who, in his first year BTech in IITK had got involved in these things, and had shared with me his initial experiences. He had once said that it's possible not to feel cold by simply imagining that it's not cold. I had tried it, and had found it works. I then bought one of his books in a book fair. It costed me Rs. 55. My father called me mad. I read much of it, and was launched into the pursuit of philosophy. It also sowed the seeds of my interest in spirituality which I have kept veiled behind piles and piles of verbose philosophy.
Ancient Manuscripts: In some TV programme, I had come across images of ancient Indian manuscripts written on this leaflets which then were tied into little stacks with a string. That about around 1986. The idea of the painstaking effort with which ancient wise men had documented their knowledge, with crude writing instruments and surfaces, and no method of automatic copying, had a lasting influence on me. There was a period when I took to doing my homework using nib pens which needed me dip the pen in an ink-pot every now and then. That was probably in seventh standard. Well, I couldn't stick to that method of writing for long. But I managed never to let go of fountain pens. I still use one. I still struggle to write in a good handwriting. And the idea of a beautiful thought written in a beautiful hand still appears very beautiful to me. I still often find it more natural to make handwritten notes of my thoughts before I create an electronic version of my writings.