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Thursday, July 16, 2015

unBreakable

Prologue:

I hope you guys remember the wacky professor Nageshwar Rao, and his young roommate Vipin Das, whom I had introduced in one of my previous attempts, stupidly titled Chennai Tidbits. Here, I am trying to bring these two characters back. One may call this a sequel, but the relation between the two stories ends here. So it does not really matter if you have not read the Tidbits story. But, if you actually feel like reading that, the link is all there for you:


And to those who took time to read my previous attempt and gave me your opinions, a big thanks. Hoping you would enjoy this one too. Good luck!
Vishnu.


”it’s the quintessential urge to explore the unknown that has paved the way for humanity’s advancement from the very beginning.”

284. I had got that many ‘likes’ on my new profile picture on Facebook. That meant three new likes since the last time I checked my account, which was nearly a full five minutes ago. The digital clock on the right bottom corner of my laptop screen promptly announced the time as 9:30 in the morning, and for me the day had already turned boring. Since my shift at All India Radio began only by two in the afternoon, most mornings were uninspiring and dull. I had completed watching all the seasons of TV shows like Sherlock, Mentalist and Castle last week, and a sense of purposelessness seemed to surround me. I must admit my interactions with Dr. Nageshwar Rao had brought some changes within me. Instead of sit-coms, I seem to enjoy mind-bogging thrillers more. But now, all those had finished. I was bored to death, or even worse! I badly needed a new engagement.

I turned the computer off, and looked across the room. There sat Mr. Rao on his chair, holding the day’s daily, and completely lost in thoughts. He always has this expression while he thinks. The legs would cross each other, eyes tightly shut, and chin facing upward. Earlier I found this rather strange, now I am quite used to it. After a while, he was back to normality. Legs straight, eyes open, and as if nothing had happened, resumed reading his paper.

“Good morning, Mr. Rao”
“Morning. It’s Nageshwar, Vipin. How many times have I told you?”

I smiled. He went back to his paper. But I needed to continue the conversation.

“Well Nag, I was wondering…” I started rather uncertainly.
“What is it?”
I struggled for words. “Well, it’s just these days I get a lot of spare time…so…”
“I’m listening. Out with it, boy!”
“So...I was thinking on joining one of your psychological sessions at the college.”

This alerted him. He folded the paper, and threw it to his table.

“Seriously?” he sounded surprised, “Do you think psychology is something we pursue when we are bored? It’s the study of human mind, Vipin. Very deep business.”

“I am aware of the complexities involved, sir. But I am really interested in all those now. You know I am able to solve most cases they show on Sherlock”

“Oh really! Impressive.”

He pronounced the last word in such a way that it seemed to contain a mixture of emotions. Appreciation was not one among them. I felt slightly offended at my new found passion being so casually swept away by him.

“I did not mean to discourage you, Das. But you must not use TV shows to measure your prowess. Solving those is no mean achievement.”

I was about to say something in defense, but he cut me short.

“Those crime settings are not as complex as they seem. Basically what the creators do is to come up with a small, logical crime, and then build up the suspense with lots of sidetracks and creepy characters.”

His words sense to my brain, but not to my heart. It was not willing to give up, so early.

“Do you really think you have in you the ability to read minds and intercept thoughts?”
“Of course.”
“Very well, then. Tell me how my mind went from our discussion to Spain.”
“Your mind reached SPAIN! When?”
“Just right now. Please intercept my train of thoughts.”

Being an avid follower of Sherlock Holmes, I very well knew what train of thoughts meant. But I could not figure out on what made his mind fly from Chennai all the way to Europe. I sat there, thinking. After uncountable seconds,

“Well…so we were here in this room discussing my capability, then you wanted to check if I had the aptitude. So you started thinking of a suitable topic…then…”

I seemingly reached a dead-end. I thought hard, and then all of a sudden, it hit me. I continued enthusiastically,

“Then, you probably thought of the news articles you read in the paper. Yesterday was the finals of the UEFA Champions League, and it was played between the two Madrid clubs. And, Madrid is the capital city of Spain.”

My eyes twinkled with joy. I was waiting for his response, on my accuracy. To my dismay, he did not say a word, though I sensed a momentary flash of smile congratulating my effort. Then he pointed to my laptop and asked me abruptly,

“Could I use that computer for a moment? I would like to check my mail.”
I did not understand why he changed the topic completely.

“Well yeah.” I got up, and handed the laptop over to him. He thanked me, and switched on the computer.

“You did quite a good job in tracing my mind-flow, friend” he continued, “but I am still not convinced. You should not take up a decision in haste and repent later.”

The system was ready. He opened the browser and went to the e-mail site.

“So here it is. I shall give you one more test, to see if you really can decipher mind. All you have to do is try to guess the password for my e-mail. If you find success, tomorrow you join me at the university. If not, consider other options. Are you ready?”

Wow. This was totally unexpected. It seemed as if this password guessing was my final hurdle before the goal. Strangely, his eyes had some kind of mischievous smile in them. It was as if he was sure that I would not succeed.

“Yes I am. Be ready to see me in your class tomorrow.”
“I am not really sure.”
“Do you not expect me to successfully guess out your password?”
“Oh I am quite sure my password is unbreakable.”
No passwords are impenetrable, I wished to say. “But what if I succeed?”
“Good luck, Vipin.”

He smiled, and got up from his seat. “I am going out, and would be back exactly after an hour. If you succeed by then, you win. Is that okay?”
“Deal.”


He left. Now I was in this room, with a password to crack in sixty minutes. This was exciting. On one article on general trends on password selection, I had read that most laymen normally chose passwords that could easily be remembered. Names, phone numbers, “password”, house name all were popular choices for passwords. But Nageshwar Rao was no ordinary man. He would not keep such ordinary passwords. Nevertheless, he too would choose passwords that are easy to remember. My task was cut out. The question was

‘What would I keep as password, if I were Nageshwar Rao?’

I had to think. So I started thinking. His area of work is psychology. That was a considerable candidate. But it was highly unlikely that he would choose something so obvious. What if he chose some words that are closely related to psychology!

What are the words that almost meant the same? I did not know, but I knew who to ask. I opened up google and started fishing for synonyms. A few words popped up. Behavior, Persona, Temperament…

But nothing seemed appropriate. Probably I was in the wrong direction. What are the other options? I thought again.

People also tend to keep words from their favorite novels, movies, beliefs etc as passwords. Yeah, that was probable. So now I had to look into his hobbies and the sort. I looked around the room for clues. There was this novel of Dan Brown, titled Inferno, lying on top of his table.
Inferno, that meant hell. Would anyone keep his password hell! I decided to try it out.

Eagerly I typed out Inferno, with a capitalized I. The email site replied, in red letters, that the entered password was incorrect.
I was not ready to give up. I believed I could find it out, only if I tried. I was back to thinking business. I know some of my friends who kept the names of their partners/ex-partners as passwords. Mr. Rao was not a married man, but I clearly remember him telling me few weeks ago about his youth days and his unfulfilled love. Her name was Malini. Well, there was no harm in trying.

I tried, and I failed again.
I continued thinking, and kept on arriving at new solutions.
Atheism, Chennai, Trinity…’ but found no luck. I compared myself to that famous spider who relentlessly tried to climb a rock. The only difference was that the spidey actually succeeded in one of those attempts.

By now, I was tired. I glanced at the watch, and was shocked to learn that my time had almost run out. Time has this amazing quality of turning its back at us when we need it the most.

There was a knock on the door. Professor psycho was back.

“So?”
I shook my head, accepting defeat.
He nodded, as if telling me ‘I knew this right from the beginning.’

“Do you wish to know what my password actually is?”
“Hell, yes!”

He came near to me, and whispered the password in my ears.
“What!! That is your password? How could you expect me to…”

I was shouting, when something hit me in my mind. I was silenced.  My jaws dropped in wonder. This was totally unexpected.

When he told me an hour ago that his password was unbreakable, I had no idea he was telling me the actual password.
Unbreakable…I spent a full hour searching for something I already knew! I made a dash to the laptop to check it out.

“Make sure you capitalize the first ‘b’.”

So I typed in ‘unBreakable’ in the password column. No error messages this time.
I looked at him. He smiled.

“Do you know why I capitalized b?”
“Well…probably because you believe that everything is breakable.”
“Yeah that, and also because the email guys wouldn’t accept a password with all small letters.”

We both laughed. “Life is not always complex, my dear Vipin. And remember one important fact, we may spend hours searching for clues in the dark, but in most cases the right answer may be smiling back at us from plain sight.”

I might have lost a course today, but I did gain a lesson of importance.

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