Pl read

1. Why o Why?

If you are visiting these writings for the first time, or have not read the entry "Why o Why",

may I suggest you read that first and then read the rest in numerical order?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

9. Silver linings

Good or bad, “this too shall pass”. This truism can be unnerving to people who prefer some constancy around them, something they can cling on to, something like a buoy, in a turbulent ocean.

But, at the end of April 2009, we were looking ahead at a roller coaster ride whose only promise was that each day would be different from the previous one.
What would it be for someone in a busy hospital bed? Something that will take one’s mind off from the troubling anxiety of the probable to the solace that one has experienced in the past and, if lucky, could be experienced again? I felt a sense of relief when I told myself that one should continue to do what one had been doing the last 20 or so years - teaching and doing research.
Fortunately, I was on sabbatical leave during the period of my initial rounds of chemotherapy in India and the subsequent continuation of treatment at MDA. So for people back home I was just on sabbatical. This also made it easy to remain in the hospital without worrying about the day to day commitments that I would have had to take care of if I were at IITB.
So much so, many of the students I was guiding - Masters and Ph.D students - were unaware of my exact whereabouts. That was a blessing in disguise - because their expectations - in terms of timely response to their queries and worries demanded that I devote my attention to their needs; I was too busy with that to worry about my own problems!
Even now I count myself as being very lucky to have had such a nice diversion during my treatment days. To top it all, I even managed to give a set of (guest) lectures in the course on “Embedded Systems” during this period not once but several times.
In terms of research, those were exciting, even heady, days. Prior to the unravelling of all the La related events - in the first 3 months of my sabbatical - SK and I visited Saarbrucken, working at MPI and collaborating with Prof. GW and his research team. Along with them I started work on a new problem - tracking and detecting dynamic events from postings in news sites (and later in social media like Twitter). MPI’s wonderful research atmosphere and the many winding paths through the surrounding forests helped recharge my batteries in a short time. The many discussions I had with researchers there and the visitors that passed through were invigorating. These interactions continued even after our stay at Saarbrucken came to an end, culminating in two highly cited pieces of work.
I will share with you another, brand new, line of thinking triggered during the rather trying treatment days at MDA as a result of my interactions with colleagues and well wishers at UMAss. I have begun to call it, "A computational approach to energy management", and is the mainstay of the work in progress at "Smart Energy Management Laboratory" at IITB, established after my return to campus. The excitement in this area will be reflected in my future columns.