"You live on - in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."
Friday, December 26, 2008
"You live on - in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The Ice Limit falls under the category of sci-fi that won't require you to keep your brains in the shoe stand while reading it.
Here is the gist:
The few that recover hear news reports of earth quakes and tsunamis occuring and all of them point to where the meteorite sank.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
History for Indian children, Ramachandra Guha aptly remarks in India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, runs right out of content in 1947.
All that has happened during the last 55 years may filter through the measly civics syllabus, popular cinema and television; history as formally constituted knowledge of the past does not cover it.But even this overestimates how much recent history Indian children manage to encounter. Images of the past through civics, popular cinema and television? Bah. My civics textbooks were BORING and they had NO context: every aspect of Indian democracy seemed to have emerged in a vacuum. Hindi films may be a treasure trove for sociologists interested in examining the structures of Indian society but someone hoping to glean a narrative of India's 55 democratic years will have to have superhuman cognitive powers if they rely only on our movies alone.
History after 1947 plays no part in our high school history curriculum. And the history syllabus for schools is crucial since it is probably the only time where history is studied systematically. For glimpses of the more recent past, Indian children have only their newspapers to rely on since newspapers will always include a cursory paragraph or two about the related past, even has they report on current events. The paragraph is usually very cursory. ("The Kashmir dispute started in 1947" or "The roots of the current issue go back to the 1975 Emergency"). But enough to at least know what happened and when (well, roughly). But read enough news articles and one could conceivably learn an impoverished sketch of India's recent past.
Why do history textbooks give not even a cursory narrative after 1947? Guha offers one interesting reason:
If, for Indian children, history comes to an end with independence and partition, this is because Indian adults have mandated it that way.There is definitely some truth here. I once asked my father why we only had the first 4 volumes (covering the events until 1940) of Y. D. Phadke's Veesavya Shatakatil Maharashtra (Maharashtra in the 20th century: Phadke planned to write 8 volumes, each covering a decade until 1980, and finished 6 before he died this year.) My Dad replied that he didn't really need books for the decades after 1940 since he'd actually lived through it!
The gerontocracy of our history-writers (and readers!) is hardly the reason why no narratives of the last 50 years makes it into our history textbooks though. A bigger reason is that there is no consensus on how we view what has happened in the last sixty years -- things are too "controversial" to be discussed with children. Why and how this is so is hardly the topic for a blog-post -- although one can get an understanding of it after reading Guha's book.
So has nothing been written on India about the past 55 years? Well, there is, but it's not history. Here's Guha again:
In the academy, the discipline of history deals with the past, while the disciplines of political science and sociology deal with the present. This is a conventional and in many ways logical division. The difficulty is that in the Indian academy the past is defined as a single, immovable date: 15 August 1947. Thus when the clock struck midnight and India became independent, history ended, and political science and sociology began.To remedy this, Guha has dug through the "present": through newspaper and magazine archives, through academic and popular books on sociology and anthropology (and of course, his own experience) and crafted a narrative that takes us through India's post-independence years -- all in a cool 800 pages. As as summary of the recent past, I think it's pretty good.
I have a couple of minor quibbles with the book. I wish Guha hadn't crammed 50 years of about films and music into one last chapter called "The People's Entertainments", rather than interweaving it with the tale that occupies the rest of the book. And I would have liked a more detailed narrative of India's economic policies. But in his primary task, that of writing a history of Indian democracy, he does very well.
And along the way, he sprung some surprises on me as well. I had always thought that the Allahabad Court Ruling against Mrs. Gandhi that led to the actual imposition of the Emergency in 1975 was about some substantial electoral malpractices. Instead did you know that 12 out of the 14 charges against her were dismissed? And that out of the two counts on which she was convicted, one had to do with her constructing a dias that allowed her to address people from a dominating position when she gaves speeches, and the other was that her campaign manager was still in government employment when the campaign began! Trivial? I mean Indian politicians do this all the time! The mind boggles. Now I am probably underestimating the symbolic importance of the ruling -- plus the fact that those were turbulent times. All good points. But when one gets one's history from one-paragraph summaries in newspaper articles, (smaller) points like these are invariably left out. (Notice the Wikipedia paragraph I linked to before mentions nothing about the charges on which Mrs. Gandhi was actually convicted).
Reading Guha's book led to a lot of such small moments of revelation (most of which I don't even remember now). And -- which brings me to the real point of this post :-) -- Guha's book comes with an extensive set of footnotes., many of them pointing to notable books about post-independence India. What follows is a list of books (and perhaps an essay or two), about India's "present", topic-wise, culled from the notes, based on my own, somewhat idiosyncratic interests. Most of Guha's bibliography tilts towards books written in English or available translations of books in other languages. Still - something is better than nothing. To avoid making this post bigger than it already it, I have posted it in the comments. Enjoy.
UPDATE: Ha. The formatting gets messed up in the comments so I am posting it here itself.
Ashok Kapur, Pokhran and Beyond: India's Nuclear Behavior (Oxford).
Hillary Synnott, The Causes and Consequences of South Asia's Nuclear Tests
M. V. Ramanna and C. Ramamanohar Reddy, Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream
Hassan Abbas, Pakistan's Drift into Extremism
Aijaz Ahmad, The Many Roads to Kargil, Frontline, July 1999.
Praveen Swami, The Kargil War.
Rahul Bedi, Dismal Failure: Essays on the Kargil War.
Sanjoy Chowdhury, Dispatches from Kargil.
Guns and Roses: Essays on the Kargil War.
Rahul Mukherji, India's Aborted Liberalization: 1966, Pacific Affairs 73(3), Published in 2000.
Gurcharan Das, India Unbound (an fairly popular idiosyncratic account of the 1991 liberalization).
A Kochanek, Regulation and Liberalization in India, Asian Survey, Vol 26, No 12, 1986
Supriya Roychowdhury, State and Business in India: The Political Economy of Liberalization 1984-89, Unpublished Thesis, Dept. of Politics, Princeton University
Corruption in contemporary India:
Shiv Visvanathan and Harish Sethi (Eds), Foul Play: Chronicles of Corruption
Narmada Valley and Big Dams:
Amita Baskar, In the Belly of the River: Adivasi Battles over Development in the Narmada Valley
Jean Dreze, Meera Samson, Satyajit Singh (Eds) The Dam and the Nation
Manoj Joshi, The Lost Rebellion
Tavleen Singh, Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors
M. J. Akbar, India: The Seige Within
Michael Brecher, The Struggle for Kashmir
Sisir Gupta, Kashmir: A Study in India-Pakistan Relations
Anup Chand Kapur, The Punjab Crisis
Ram Narayan Kumar, The Sikh Unrest and the Indian State.
Mark Tully and Satish Jacob, Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle
Satinder Singh, Khalistan: An Academic Analysis
Hamish Telford, The Political Economy of Punjab: Creating Space for Sikh Militancy, Asian Survey Vol 32 No 11 November1992
Delhi Anti-Sikh Riots:
Uma Chakravarti, Nandita Haskar, The Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation
Anon, Who are the guilty: Report of a joint enquiry into the cuase and impact of the riots in Delhi from 31st October to 10th November (PUDR and PUCL, 1984)
D. R. Goyal, The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Dilip Padgaonkar (Ed) , When Bombay burned
Siddharth Varadarajan (Ed), Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy
Ashgar Ali Engineer, Communal Riots in post-independence India
M. J. Akbar, Riot After Riot.
Nilanjan Mukhopadhayay, The Demolition: India at the crossroads.
Christopher Jaffrelot, "The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s"
The Kaveri dispute:
Ramaswamy R. Iyer, Water: Perspectives, Issues, Concerns.
S. Guhan, The CAuvery River Water Dispute: Towards Conciliation
Chitra Subramaniam, Bofors: The story behind the news
Mahi Pal, Panchayati Raj and Rural Governance: Experiences of a Decade, Economic and Political Weekly 10th Jan 2004
M. K. A. Siddiqui (Ed), Muslims in Free India: Their social life and problems.
W. C. Smith, Modern Islam in India
W. C. Smith, Islam in Modern History. (both famous books but they only go up to the 1940s).
Recent Dalit politics/caste/Dr Ambedkar/Dalit literature:
Jayashree Gokhale, From concessions to confrontation: The politics of an Indian untouchable community.
Eleanor Zelliot, Untouchable to Dalit: Essays on the Ambedkar movement
Valenan Rodrigues (Ed), B. R. Ambedkar: Essential Writings
Arjun Dangle (Ed), Poisoned Bread: Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit Literature
Narendra Jadhav, Outcaste: a memoir (translated from Marathi)
Vasant Moon, Growing up Untouchable in India, translated from Marathi by Gail Omvedt
Vasant Moon, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, translated from Marathi by Asha Damle
M. N. Srinivas, Caste in Modern India, Jan 1957, Address delivered to the Science Congress in Calcutta
Chistopher Jaffrelot, India's Silent Revolution: The Rise of the low castes in North Indian Politics.
Sudha Pai, Dalit Assertion and teh Unfinished Democratic Revolution: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh.
Kanchan Chandra, Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic head counts in India.
Rao and Rao (Eds) The Press she could not whip
Rural Life and Democracy:
Ashutosh Varshney, Democracy Development and the Countryside: Urban Rural Struggles in India
Ramachandra Guha, How much should a person consume? Environmentalism in India and the U.S.
Bombay 1980s (the mill worker's strike):
Rajni Bakshi, The Long Haul: The Bombay Textile Worker's Strike.
Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar, One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices, The Millworkers of Goregaon: an Oral History
Early conflicts of the Indian Republic (primarily the reorganization of states along linguistic lines):
Robert Stein, "The Process of Opposition in India"
The China conflict:
Steven A. Hoffmann, "India and the China crisis"
J. P. Dalvi, Himalayan Blunder
Neville Maxwell, India's China War (seen from the Chinese perspective).
On the making of India's constitution:
Granville Austin, The Indian Constitution: The Cornerstone of a Nation
Erik Barnouw and K. Krishnaswamy, Indian Film (2nd Edition)
B. D. Garga, So Many Cinemas: The Motion Picture in India
Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willeman (Eds), Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema
Nasreen Munni Kabir, Bollywood: The Indian Cinema Story
Panna Shah, The Indian Film
Agehananda Bharti, Anthropology of Indian Films, Illustrated Weekly 30th Jan, 6th Feb 1977
N. M. Kabir, Playback Time: A brief history of Bollywood film songs, Film Comment May-June 2002.
Manek Premchand, Yesterday's Melodies, Today's Memories
Bonnie C. Wade, Music in India: The Classical Traditions
Television in India:
Arvind Rajgopal, Politics After Television: Religious Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Indian Public
Sevati Ninan, Through the Magic Window: Television and Change in India
Sri Lankan Conflict:
A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: It's origins and Developments in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Sankaran Krishna, Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka and the Question of Nationhood.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
For those who are new to Shashi Tharoor's non-fiction work this might be a good start. It is a collection of essays covering a wide range of subjects from politics, ailing sports except for cricket, the rising economy and pluralistic Indian society. It is a good collection of facts, analysis, sprinkled with sometimes subtle but otherwise straight humor. Dr. Tharoor talks about Indianness in the emerging world of globalization. He touches on oddities such as India being at the forefront in adopting technologies like cell phone but still believing strongly in theories of numerology/astrology may be even while choosing a cell number. This is a serious piece of work one might want to read to get in touch with issues, conflicts, advantages and sometimes plain facts about India in the past 10 years.
Here is Shashi Tharoor on his book..
Sunday, March 9, 2008
The book is Bill's humorous (not always the laugh-out-loud kind of humor, but the amused-grin-evoking kind) recounts of his travel around various cities in Europe.
The thing I liked most about his potrayals of these various places was how he pays so much attention to the people and the culture itself as opposed to the palaces and the museums and the gardens. Personally to me, that is what is most intriguing about a new place.
The narration has the lighthearted tone of a relaxed back-packer taking his time to soak up the essence of a new place. Facts have clearly been exagerrated here and there to achieve a part-comical, part-acerbic flavor - but that is a humorist's license, is it not?
The Romans park their cars the way I would if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid on my lap.
The problem is that [in Paris] the pedestrian crossing lights have been designed with the clear purpose of leaving the foreign visitor confused, humiliated, and, if all goes according to plan, dead.
Now, for the nit-picking: on the whole, the book gave me the impression that there were more places that displeased him than delighted. A little more cribbing than I would generally choose to hear :).
Otherwise, an apt book for a travel enthusiast in a very ironical way - it leaves you with the feeling that you've had enough reading about it and you just need to take the next flight.
Thanks to Sandeep for lending me the book! :)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The story -- of genius found, and lost -- hardly needs re-telling. In January 1913, G. H. Hardy, already famous, and at the height of his powers, received a letter from a man called Ramanujan, a clerk living in Madras, asking for suppport. With the letter are several pages full of mathematics. Hardy, to his credit, a genuine mathematician in those pages. He, and J. E. Littlewood, his collaborator, arranged to have Ramanujan come over to Cambridge. Ramanujan had little formal education, having dropped out of college because losing his scholarship, his obsessive interest in mathematics leading him to neglect all his other subjects. The mathematics he knew was almost all self-taught -- and his lack of knowledge combined with his genius meant that he rediscovered independently many important theorems that others had already discovered before. The collaboration between Hardy and Ramanujan, with Hardy doing his best to channel Ramanujan's genius, was enormously productive although Ramanujan never really adapted to England. Distressed with the food, hampered by the cold, worried about his family back in India -- he left immediately after the war was over. Within the next year, he was dead. He was only 32.
Leavitt tells this story from different perspectives, often in confusing succession. Mostly it is through Hardy, who collaborated closely with Ramanujan but never really took the effort of making him feel at home. Even here, Leavitt switches disconcertingly between telling the story in the third person (with access to Hardy's innermost thoughts) and in the first (as "the lecture Hardy never gave"). We also get the perspective of some other characters: Alice Neville (the wife of the Cambridge Fellow Eric Neville, who, in the book's most overwrought portion, thinks she's in love with Ramanujan), Hardy's sister Gertrude, and G E. Littlewood.
The central theme, the weave that holds these narratives together is the strange effect the arrival of Ramanujan had on these individuals. Leavitt has certainly done a prodigious amount of research and it is a testament to his skill as a writer that he is able to novelize incidents and facts that he has culled from various sources. He is successful in giving a portrait of G. H. Hardy, richly imagining his innermost thoughts. But, and somewhat puzzling, Leavitt leaves Ramanujan alone, and does not even try giving us Ramanujan's version of events. He remains a strange figure, inscrutable, unknown, mysterious. Perhaps that is our duty to genius: novelists may choose to analyze them from the outside, but imagining their inner life is off-limits.
I may perhaps be guilty of wanting Leavitt to write a novel he had no intention of writing. But The Indian Clerk, with its the recycling of events, both true and fictitious, is fun too. What it isn't is transcendent.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The twists begin when the CIA lets him loose with a presidential pardon, so that he can be bait. The CIA wants to know who will come after / kill him. They throw him in Italy in a totally foreign environment and leak his presence.
The real fun begins when the FBI and the CBI get into loggerheads, trying to one-up each other. Backman's cunningness comes to the fore, when he escapes multiple assassins, comes back to Washington and plays the political establishment to clean his life.
An engrossing read, left me on a high. I found it funny though, how Grisham calls it 'hacking', when a user uses an internet cafe to send email. The other references to technology like the smart phones, encrypted email etc all sound quite realistic though.
Would recommend this.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Chandler offered a look at the technical, cultural and psychological dimension of making software, liberated from the exigencies of the business world. [pg 54]
In the post-war era, a project that took on a special meaning with the development of computing machines: the augmentation of human intellect. Here, many people thought, was a tool to rival language, and writing, a tool perhaps to re-invent man himself. The vision has been expressed eloquently: most notably by Vannevar Bush ("As We May Think") and Douglas Engelbart ("Augmenting Human Intellect"). Chandler, an open-ended open-source project, follows in that same tradition.
Mitchell Kapor, the owner of OSAF, and the hero of our story, was the designer behind Lotus 1-2-3, the first widely successful spreadsheet used in the business world. Lotus 1-2-3 made Kapor a millionaire several times over. His next product called "Agenda", was supposed to take personal information management to the next level and from the reviews, it did! -- but it never really took off and Lotus dropped it like a hot potato (see this review by James Fallows, that praises Agenda but also gives a good idea of its difficulties). But Agenda remained on Kapor's mind and in Chandler, he tried to go back to the same feeling that inspired him to build it.
What was this spirit? PIMs like Microsoft Outlook separate their content into silos: there's email, there are tasks, there are lists, there are action items, and so on. But of course there are no such neat categories in human activity where everything is also something else. My email is also a task (not the least because I actually have to type a reply to it), a task or a project involves emails, emails are parts of projects, emails are a way to store and access files, documents. In other words, the decomposition of the artifacts of human activity, while convenient, is also just that: an analytic convenience. Agenda aimed to go beyond silos -- as does Chandler. A personal tool that would not be caught into silos, something that could truly capture the way humans actually worked, and thereby help them do their tasks better.
I could go on and on but I'll stop now. Try Chandler out, I liked it, even if I don't quite visualize using it just yet. What did I take away from Dreaming in Code? Perhaps, if nothing else, this quote by Linus Torvalds, his advice for people starting large open-source projects, burned into my brain (pg 174):
"Nobody should start to undertake a large project, " Torvalds snapped. "You start with a small trivial project, and you should never expect it to get large. If you do, you'll just overdesign and generally think it is more important than it likely is at that stage. Or, worse, you might be scared away by the sheer size of the work you envision. So start small and think about the details. Don't think about some big picture and fancy design. If it doesn't solve some fairly immediate need, it's almost certainly overdesigned."Words from the wise, indeed.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Oysters can change sex according to the termperature of the water. I always knew there was something emasculating about warm baths.
A Russian nobleman patented a coffin that allowed the corpse-if he regained consciousness after burial-to summon help by ringing a bell. A good idea. Because that could really screw up your week-to wake up and fine yourself in an airless coffin. I guess nowadays they could put cell phones in there.
An encyclopedia with fun oddball facts. Would make for a nice coffee table book too, given you can turn to any page and spend just a couple minutes to be entertained and informed.
Tidbit: Some other people who have read the entire Britannica: Isaac Asimov, Richard Feynman, C. S. Forester and George Bernard Shaw.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
When Ian McEwan won the Booker prize for Amsterdam, I picked up his "First Love, Last Rites", his collection of eight short stories at the British Council Library in Mumbai. These macabre horror tales about sex made quite an impression on me (In the very first piece a 13-year old boy seduces his 12-year old sister and then, well, something happens). McEwan's style is clipped, almost clinical but the effect he achieves is vivid. Each of the stories was like a road full of ghosts: I'd start reading and finally emerge out of the tale bleary-eyed, confused, and more than a little disoriented, admiring the writing and trying to sort out what exactly the writer was trying to say.
What those stories lacked though was any kind of emotional accessibility -- you admired them, you admired the writer's sheer technical skill and always -- always! -- you ended up saying "Wow". But that was it. (McEwan's last two books, Atonement, and Saturday, are beautiful exceptions to this.)
After the weird experience of reading McEwan's sexually charged horror stories, I am therefore happy to report that McEwan's latest book "On Chesil Beach" returns him to his preoccupations with sex -- but that, despite the horror, it is an emotionally accesible, wonderfully written piece of work. (You can read an extract that appeared in the New Yorker).
It begins like this:
They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. But it is never easy.
"On Chesil Beach" is the story of that wedding night and of its heart-breaking consequences. Edward and Florence are the quintessential couple. He, 23, is a working-class boy, who has just majored in history and has a fine career ahead of him. Florence, 22, is a promising musician, a gifted violinist. They met, fell in love, and got married. Their courtship, McEwan tells us:
... had been a pavane, a stately unfolding, bound by protocols never agreed upon or voiced but generally observed. Nothing was ever discussed—nor did they feel the lack of intimate talk. These were matters beyond words, beyond definition. The language and practice of therapy, the currency of feelings diligently shared, mutually analyzed, were not yet in general circulation. While one heard of wealthier people going in for psychoanalysis, it was not customary
to regard oneself in everyday terms as an enigma, as an exercise in narrative history, or as a problem waiting to be solved.
... not with the hot, moist passion she had read about but warmly, deeply, sometimes like a daughter, sometimes almost maternally. She loved cuddling him, and having his enormous arm around her shoulders, and being kissed by him, though she disliked his tongue in her mouth and had wordlessly made this clear. She thought that he was original, unlike anyone she had ever met. He always had a paperback book, usually history, in his jacket pocket in case he found himself in a queue or a waiting room. He marked what he read with a pencil stub. He was virtually the only man Florence had met who did not smoke. None of his socks matched. He had only one tie, narrow, knitted, dark blue, which he wore nearly all the time with a white shirt. She adored his curious mind, his mild country accent, the huge strength of his hands, the unpredictable swerves and drifts of his conversation, his kindness to her, and the way his soft brown eyes, resting on her when she spoke, made her feel enveloped in a friendly cloud of love. At the age of twenty-two, she had no doubt that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Edward Mayhew. How could she have dared risk losing him?
Friday, January 4, 2008
It was one of those days for me where you feel that your life sucks and so does your job (well this happens to me every second day I am in office) I picked up the phone and called my General Manager in India, and after one hour of complaining on phone on how my career was not moving anywhere. He very calmly asked me if I get posted in a new town will I not manage to find an apartment and settle down, irrespective of how much help I get from others in finding an apartment. I told him I know I will manage.
His perspective about my career was the same, in a nutshell he told me please don’t complain to others look for answers yourself and you will find what you want (If you know what you want). He dint leave me in the dark, before he hung up the phone he recommend this book 'The Secret'. It would be $10 well spend read the book is what he said. I picked up the book from Wal-Mart and for once managed to read through the entire book.
The book is written on "Law of Attraction" based on the working of the cosmos, your thoughts and feelings attract real things in life.
A very intriguing thought process, the book contains interviews from practitioners or teachers who believe or follow the principles of 'the secret' and have been successful.
The Secret is the law of attraction
Everything that's coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it's attracted to you by virtue of the images you're holding in your mind. it's what you're thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you.
"Every thought of yours is a real thing- a force."
The book focuses on positive thinking (asking, believing and receiving), think or ask from life what you want, believe in your asking and receive what you asked for (I know it sounds like another BS inspirational book).
But if I guess if you are positive and look forward for something in your life it becomes easier to grab an opportunity when it comes to you.
You are expecting things to come to you (Wait on the cricket ground expecting a catch to come to you, you stand a better chance to catch it than the one who is least expecting one)
I never believed in positive thinking being a pessimist myself, but since everything in your life is so much dependent on your thinking and how you perceive life it is worth giving this book a try.
I am not the right guy to explain how this stuff works, but personally life becomes a lot easier being positive and thinking good and looking forward for what you want from life, rather than sitting back and wining; even if you don’t receive what you want, you might probably end up having a better day.