Katharsis

There is a saying in Kannada, “Jeevana, Nintha Neeragirabaaradhu, Adhu Hariyuva ‘Jhari’ yaagirabeku”. Which translates in English to, “Life should never be a water in a pond, but be a steady stream”. Some how I had that feeling, my life has become that water in a pond. I was not doing anything great. Life is just as usual. Nothing fascinating about it.

I am Santhosh, I live in Bengaluru. And I spend half of my life on the streets of Bengaluru, not because I’m a begger, but a software Engineer by profession who works for a company in Outer ring road. I love travelling. I travel a lot, not to places around the globe. But to office and home. It takes two and half hour to reach office. And an epic three and a half hour back home. Some times even more. I start from home by 7 AM in the morning and reach office by 9:30 to 10 AM, some times as early as 8:30 AM. Depending on the climate/rain/holidays/schools/truck break down or some sh**t head who drove in the wrong side to avoid the jam on other side of the road. So, there was/is no control in my life. Everything is controlled by some elements beyond my control.

That is when it stuck to me, I was living in that pond. I was spending time watching Netflix/you tube videos, just for time pass. Some times I even, got the feeling that, I wanted the traffic jam to stay little longer, so that I could finish the series I am watching on Netflix! My life has become that pathetic.

I was never lost in my life so much. Life has become very mechanical and utterly monotonous. I tried to keep my mind sharp by playing chess and solving puzzles and games on my phone, to forget about the traffic jams and the total chaos which is happening around me. Nothing worked.

From my childhood days, one thing which my parents and teachers taught me was, to never waste your time, never keep your mind idle. But when I look back, I realized I am wasting lot of time on road. And my mind is idle watching the videos. Not that watching videos is bad but you know that half dead brain feeling, slowly, but surely was creeping in.

I am a technology enthusiast and love to learn the latest and greatest technologies. I do read lot online and try to keep myself updated with current affairs. I am passionate about the Image processing, did takeup a subject as optional course, back in my BTech days. But that is it, it never went beyond that. I do subscribe to some blogs to keep myself updated, LearnOpencv.com was one such example. There were couple of half-hearted attempts here and there to learn about ML and Image processing. But nothing solid came out of it.

Few months back, there was a small theft in my home, cooking gas cylinder got stolen. And the image was captured by the surveillance camera. But image was not clear enough and it was difficult to identify the thief’s face.

So, in a way I felt responsible for that. Even though I had the image of the thief, I couldn’t identify or bring him to justice. I tried to do some image processing on the thief’s video and images, by googling here and there, nothing worked. I almost left the hope. Till I got an email from Satya Mallick from LearnOpencv.com about the up-coming course, which you can take up with $300. I was little hesitant. Because, if you convert it to Indian currency (62/63 Rs at that time), was coming close to 20K. Which I felt was little expensive. And dropped the idea of taking up the course. This was back in Dec 2017.

Once I missed the bus, there is no going back and my life was back on the streets of Bengaluru. Now and then, I used to get some emails about the new blogs from LearnOpencv.com , I would religiously read, download the code and try to build and understand. This attempt/process worked to some extent. But I was not happy with the results. Mainly because there was a fundamental gap of where to start and which dots to connect. It was like blind trying to explain how the elephants look. One day I accidentally bumped in to the course again and found that there are trial lectures available! my joy knew no bounds. It was a seven-day free trial course, each day you get some set of concepts which were explained and solutions given to use it in real life application. I could follow the lectures and got better results, than by just following the blog. I was really happy with the results I was getting. And came to know the course has been reopened and I had a week’s time to decide before that enrollment gets closed. I wanted to take it badly. But I wanted to take a second opinion from my wife. When I asked her, if I can take up the course. She asked about the course and the cost. I replied $300 and I want to take it. She was like, there are N number of free course available why don’t you try out them? Why you have to spend $300? What is so special about this course? I said I don’t know, what is special about it, but I know for sure I need to take it. I took the trial course material and it felt good to solve those things. Then she said, why don’t you go and finish that one week course first. I was like, yeah why didn’t I do that? Why am I jumping to pay immediately and get started?

Next couple of days I started reading and started to work on all the things, while I was travelling in BMTC bus to office and back home, all I did was to read the blogs and lectures and find out more about the concepts which were taught in the lectures and learn more about it. I was at 17% completion phase and the time to get the early bird discount was running out. While coming back home, I was explaining my wife what I learnt today from the course, how I changed few things to get my result etc. She kind of knew I wanted to take that course badly. As soon as I reached home, I did go to the course payment page and paid the course’s first installment! (without telling my wife!). I knew she will yell at me at first, but she’ll be okay with it. To my surprise, she did not yell and told me to take it up seriously and learn what I wanted to learn.

So, the journey begins. I knew, I’m not going to get any free time to study any of the material given to me in the course. Not to mention the amount of workload I had in office and the deadlines associated with the work. All I have is 5 hours of my commute time and need to squeeze out every bit of time available to me over weekdays and weekends to finish the course. Success or failure of my learning greed was hinging on the fact that, how effectively I’ll make use of my travel time. I was confident that, I’ll be able to finish the course. First week of the course passes easily, there is nothing much than the installation and some basic stuff. As the next weeks approach, I realized that, it was getting tougher to handle the material(at least to me). It is more than 10 years since I sat firmly at one place and studied. On top of it, the math, calculus and statistics part of it; which I’ve forgotten to the bare bones. I knew, it is not enough to just to read the material provided in the course. If I need to master something, I need to understand the basics, to understand the basics, I need to know and refresh my Algebra and Calculus basics. It was not an easy task. Thanks to 3blue1brown youtube channel. A mammoth task of refreshing the basics of math became a breeze. That boosted my confidence level. Then I started to dig deeper and started to understand the materials in a better way. A lot of googling to get better grasp on the concept was required. I did skim through few course material and I was following their blog, which helped me to stay one step ahead all the time. When I was in week-3 I was already looking at the ML/AI tensorflow and other related material. I did not understand them much at that time. But that led me in the right direction. While reading about ML and AI; I found the MIT opencourse about the AI by Prof. Patrick. I fell in love with his lectures. The way he explains concepts, it feels like music, you get the beats of his teaching without knowing that you are trying to solve a mathematically complex problem. There were around 24 video lectures each spanning an hour long. But, worth every min of your time you spend on it. Apart from that there were followup lectures by TA, those followup lectures were gem! They just solidify my understanding on the concepts. Complete list of resource can be found here.

If you look at it, even now in my travel I am watching the videos. But the only difference is I am learning something new every minute. My mind is not idle as before. More importantly I am enjoying what I am doing.

I started finding great videos and lectures one after another, each one with its own value add to my knowledge and learning. All I do in my travel is to watch these great videos one after another and learn something out it. I learnt statistics, python, ML concepts like SVM, K-nearest neighbours, CNN, DNN, Tensorflow, Scikit-learn, pandas, matplotlib, HTML, HTML5, CSS, Bootstrap, Javascript, Angular Js, node JS, Web development etc all of it between my commute time. Yes it was a difficult journey both physically and mentally. But it was worth every minute of my life. I did finish the course by completing a project, which was required to get the certificate of completion. Here is a quick demo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpEc33XGWqQ

I feel my life went through “Katharsis". And I’m very happy about it.

Was it worth spending $300? Definitely, my answer will be yes. It was not an easy task to shell out $300 when you run on pay check to pay check basis every month. But I am happy that I spent it on myself to enhance my knowledge, than spending it on some gadget. I found my worth again. My life will never be the same. Thanks to my wife, who is always supportive to me, and helped me to find what was missing in my life back again!

Now, the big question is.. Did I find the thief?

Answer is No. Sometimes it is better to let things go. Because, when you let things go, life becomes a stream, if you still try to contain it, you are creating a pond.