Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Policy making - my thoughts, mine and mine alone.

Eat full roti, work for 100 days and vote.  This is the new mantra, the so called young leader has coined.  So called young leader because I thought 15 - 35 is young given the country age of our countrymen as well as the social scenario.

I know what I am going to tell will make me look insensitive and be termed blasphemous.  That I do not think of the starving, the incapable, the don't haves.  I must say here that I would rather have people eating the food our farmers produce than have in rotting in the FCI godowns, run over by rodents.  

However, what will a person do the rest of the days ?  The food bill, if it comes into effect will ensure that people do not go hungry.  Again, this is dependent on the quality of food grains.  Many a time, stinking food grains land up in the fair price shop only to be thrown away after it lands at home.  However, the Food Bill is good in one way - maybe we can make compulsory education really compulsory.  No parent can say that they can't send their children to school because they need an extra hand.  Also, we can ensure that child labour is totally routed out.   If this happens, then yes it makes sense.  Otherwise, the bill becomes another way for whoever wants to become rich the easy way, to do so.

I however am wondering about the other side.  A human being is driven to work by the need to provide for one's family.  It is also a sense of honour, of dignity and pride.  Are we killing it ?  There is a sizable population who are unable to work due to health and other reasons.  For them, the Food Bill is a must.  However, for the rest, how is this going to affect their lifestyle ?  I am not a sociologist or a psychologist who understand what motivates the people of India.  However, an average Indian is happy if he has the means to three meals a day and can provide a decent living for his family.  That is what motivates him.  And that is what keeps his health up.  If you say that the food bill ensures food, and hence the person can concentrate on providing other amenities for his/her family, then the question is, where are the jobs ?  

So, looking at the health angle, is this a right step.  Also, when money comes to the bank, will it be used to provide food for the family ?  If you have one drunkard in the family, then where will this money go is no one's guess.  Even today, many of us know families that do earn a decent living but are stuck in the rut because one member in the family is a drunkard or a spendthrift.  So, how does this help the family ?

So, question is, can this be done differently ?  Can I ensure work for a person who is a beneficiary of this scheme ?  Accountability is what you may call it, but I call it, keep him healthy, body and mind.  Pay him his daily wages - thus, making it a double bonus.  That way, there is food for the body and the mind.   

Note :  I am also against the subsidy for cooking gas - there must be a cutoff.  People who earn beyond a particular amount should not be granted subsidy.  Subsidize for those who need, for those whose life it will make a difference.  Use the money better - provide security, provide good roads, clean drinking water, better environment, more parks, better public amenities, drainage systems, .......  don't subsidize the wealthy. It does not make sense.  Make those who have feel responsible to the society around them.  So, make the Aadhar card common, but suit your policy based on the type of people who are being served.  

Again, this may be again called insensitive and irrelevant.

Note :  The above is not meant to hurt anybody.  All of the opinion is mine and mine alone.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Teacher

There are some teachers who make you wonder how they have the passion for what they do ?  Here is one such story.

At 9 am on a weekday, Abdul Mallik is busy wading through neck-high water, a tyre-tube around his waist, his tiffin box and shoes held in one hand above the muddy river.    

It's hardly the average morning commute, but for this 40-year-old teacher, it's all in a day's work.

Read the rest here :

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Who is Nikolai Vavilov ?

This weekend, I went to a salon.  I dread the time that I have to wait at a salon for the simple reason that I don't have anything to do and a salon with people cutting their hair and doing makeup and pedicures and manicures amuse me only for so much time.  Besides, the magazines available in a salon are those on fashion which do not interest me much.  So, the last time I accompanied Arun, I took along with me a novel.  This time however, I forgot to do that and when they asked me to wait for twenty minutes, I dreaded it.  

Sitting there, I turned to look for the magazine rack expecting to find the same pedagogy of magazines. However, one was different.  It was titled 'Geo'.  The issue looked at various customs connecting to religion. One article stood out.  It was about Nikolai Vavilov - a biologist, geneticist, geographer and above all, a man who thought of the future.  

Long ago, in the newspaper, I had read an article about a seed bank being created somewhere in the world. The objective is to keep the seeds being collected from all over the world for future use.  Made me wonder then about the brilliant brain who came up with such an ingenuous idea given the fast rate at which flora and fauna are disappearing from the world.  I left the matter at that and didn't pursue it.  

This weekend, I found the answer in Nikolai Vavilov's life.  He was a great traveller, but a traveller with a purpose.  He traveled to collect seeds from all over the world to create a seed bank in Leningrad, Russia for he believed in bio-diversity.  Given the Russia of the Czar's where famine and drought occurred once in eight years, his idea was to use bio-diversity to overcome this problem.  His work spanned from the period of the Czar's through Lenin's death to Stalin's arrival.  And from there it went down.  

Stalin imprisoned him believing him to be against Russia for he had no immediate solution to the food problem.  Besides, he had a dishonest opponent.  He died in prison impoverished - imagine, a man who thought up a solution to world's hunger problem died hungry and impoverished.  

The most admirable part was how his staff who continued to run his seed bank protected it.  The article speaks about one staff who was found dead on his desk with a handful of groundnuts which he was preparing to mark and sow.  They used to sow the seeds and keep replenishing the seed bank.  None of the staff used the seeds in the seed bank and ensured that it was well protected from the population outside who were starving because of the seige of Leningrad by Hitler.  The staff could have taken the tons of seeds and nuts available and lived off it for months - but no one did.  The self was minuscule to the larger purpose for them.  How and from where did they have so much integrity and selflessness ?

Today, seed banks are being set all over the world to preserve seeds for future use.  One is in Norway - the Svalbard Global Seed Vault located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. But the man who thought of this originally was Nikolai Vavilov in the 19th century - a man with a great vision.

Usually, the process of threading is a painful one for me.  My eyebrows - I curse myself for doing it the first time, grow unwieldy.  They told me that over a period of time, it will fall into place but no chance.  I have to stop my tears every time I go through it because of the pain.  However, this time, my mind was all on Nikolai Vavilov as they called me halfway through my reading.   All I could think off was the life of Nikolai Vavilov.  I got back to the reception and completed reading the article.  Time well spent in a salon. :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Anti-Ragging Law - Just so that we can say we have a law too.

The news about four students who ragged Aman Kachroo to death will be freed on good conduct even before the only four years of rigorous imprisonment they got is a shock.  Why have a law then and go through the motions of running a case ?  It is an utter waste of time.  Like what happened in the Navarasu case.  The accused went free for lack of evidence, despite the fact that he had killed and chopped his juniors body to pieces for resisting being ragged.

If people after committing a crime as serious can get back their lives (here, go back to med school and complete the course) then, where is the deterrent ?  The only problem is that they cannot go for a government job.  How many doctors, especially those from affluent families go for a government job and are willing to be posted in remote areas ?  So, is this a criteria at all.

When a student copies in an exam, they are debarred for a semester.  When the same activity is repeated, they can get debarred from the course and out of the college/university and never study there again.  So, comparatively, does the Ragging Law have any teeth ?  Is it a strong enough deterrent to stop people from ragging fellow students ?  Just signing an affidavit (as is required now) is no strong deterrent.  What might be a deterrent I am not sure.

Many argue that forgiveness is a virtue.  But can I tell that to the parents of the kid who died ?  Even if they in their largeness of heart, forgive, can the law do so ? If yes, will it be able to stop a repetition of such a crime.

So, can we as a system allow perpetrators of a crime go free and reclaim their old lives just because they stayed quiet in jail.  Besides, Indian jails are known for all kind of luxury if you know where to give and who to give as demonstrated so many times in news reports.

Only questions, no answers.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Research Training Fellowship for Developing Country Scientists

Centre for Science & Technology of the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries (NAM S&T Centre) has called for applications.  Applicable if you are interested to work in a research establishment in India.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is debugging ?

I had asked the below question for a test, and this is what I got !!!
'Represent the process of debugging diagramatically'.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dhyan Chand - the Wizard of Hockey !

I started reading about Dhyan Chand wanting to know about who is this man and why is he held in such high esteem.  I have heard about him from my Dad but then, this (written by Rajesh Kalra) makes me want to see his game.  

  • At Berlin Olympics in 1936, when India played its first game, word went around that a wizard was at work on the hockey field and it drew spectators from other venues. A German newspaper carried a headline: The Olympic complex now has a magic show too. Posters were put up all over Berlin asking people to watch a show like never seen before.
  • At one occasion, a lady spectator said if he was such a wizard, could he play with her walking stick. Dhyan Chand did, and scored goals, with the walking stick.
  • Apparently in 1935 at Adelaide, Australia’s hockey capital, Dhyan Chand and cricket great Donald Bradman came face to face. After watching him play, the Don remarked: He scores goals like runs in cricket.
  • And of course, the most celebrated story of how Hitler, after watching his stupendous performance at Berlin Olympics, offered him the German citizenship and also a promotion in the German army. Of course, Dhyan Chand refused.
How I wish we had such stalwarts today, who talked through their work.  I wouldn't have had to look around so much for heroes and inspiration..... No will the current generation have to.

Law in India Vs World

There is a difference in the way law is implemented in India Vs the World.  This is a classic example.

What about the right of the child to a safe and secure life ?  How about parental responsibility  ?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When the hunter becomes the hunted

This shows how the hunter becomes the hunted.  If animals of the forest unite, we will have to run.  Time we learnt not to test their patience.

Go tigers Go !!!  Hope our tigers, leopards, bears, lions, panthers, elephants, rhinos, .....   do the same.  It is high time they fight back and we learn to respect their place in this world. It belongs to them too, just like it belongs to us.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sabarmati Ashram - Gandhiji's Home at Ahmedabad

The one above is Gandhiji's room.  It was highly guarded with an iron mesh.  Found it ironical - he lived most of his life behind bars and continues even today at his own home.  Maybe a strong glass would be better if the idea is security. One way it is better - he wouldn't be able to understand the goings on in our country.  Have we lived up to his ideas and ideals ?

It is a small house as seen in the pictures with a small courtyard inside.  There is a kitchen, facing outside.  Kasturba Gandhi's room and a guest room look into the courtyard.  Gandhiji's room is outside.

Going there felt like a  pilgrimage.  I sat there and felt peace - tears rolled down.  I wondered what kind of men lived in India at that time.  What were they made of ? Being a leader is one thing, but having people see you and follow your ideals not questioning them and adhering to them is another.  Giving up all material wealth hearing one person's call, ready to give up your life without fear, without thinking of whether your will reap the benefits - how did we Indians loose that ?  How did we turn away from what our forefathers lived and died for ?  How did we become such big cowards ?  When did greed get coded into our DNA ?  I wonder !!!

We all follow the flow of things today, accepting it.  Fighting it makes you a loner many a time and people think you are trouble.  So, you keep quiet accepting that things have changed.  How did things change ?

The small house had a large heart - you will feel that when you go there.  When I came out, there was a man offering namaz just outside.  I saw that Gandhiji's as well as that of a generations ideals are very much alive - in the common man in India.     


Friday, March 1, 2013

Collaboration over Individualism

Graham Haylor says thus :

Robert Frost’s famous poem Mending Wall, an ode to individualism, celebrates the role of good fences in ensuring good neighbourliness, especially where fences protect crops from neighbour’s cattle. Whilst this may be true with forage, the opposite is true for information. Information is not depleted by use, but enriched and rendered more accurate. Research on a particular problem may require a wider range of skills than any single individual, or even a single institution, is likely to possess. Researchers working together to achieve the common goal of producing new knowledge can derive mutual intellectual benefits and social influence from their collaboration. ‘Breaking the fences’ that separate scientists, laboratories, institutes, countries, and disciplines can achieve greater research outcomes. We believe there may be a range of benefits from a Collaborative Research Approach. Such as: sharing of knowledge, skills and techniques; tacit knowledge transfer; learning social and team management skills; sourcing creativity; intellectual companionship; greater scientific visibility; and pooling equipment.

For the full talk go to :

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hoping against Hope

It has been ruminating in my mind for a few days in my mind.  My whole being is being churned - thinking of it.  I don't know why but I place a lot of hope on people, especially students.  I hope they will grow, they will see and they will learn.  I tell them often that the word 'success' and 'succeed' and 'achieve' are all relative - it is dependent on each individual.  You can't have one scale for everyone because we are all born with some inherent talent, and given our environment and background, we acquire a lot more that shapes each of us.  Also, this inherent talent is useless until you have discovered it and honed it.  Finally, nothing comes without hard work.  A person may be good at singing, but only practice makes perfection.  Instead, if she/he is going to think that talent will carry them far, it is only a heuristic (may succeed/may not succeed).

So, if you are in education especially, you will have a class that is mixed - some bright, some not so bright but very hardworking, some average, some below average.  In all this, there are quite a bunch who are technically sound or otherwise, scared to communicate for their background and environment did not give them that scope.  To overcome this, I try enforcing things in class.  One thing I do enforce is that 9 - 5 students try to talk in English.  Yes, it is not a native tongue.  However, for a student aspiring to be a Software Engineer, basic communication skills are essential to survive on the job. 

Mind you, I have nothing against Indian languages.  Emotions especially, I find it difficult to articulate in English for many a time I feel that the word is too light or too strong for what I wish to convey.  However, for survival we need to know to communicate in English.  With this focus in mind, I try to enforce it in class so that those who are disadvantaged can overcome it before they set foot on the threshold of placement.  In all this, what I find defeating is that the privileged (those with English education) don't walk their way in doing something for the larger good.  A little sensitivity, understanding and patience is all it needs to help their colleague's take a jump.  However, that is sometimes a major hurdle.  

So, I move, trying to work it out differently, hoping against hope and searching for a glimmer in that darkness.  I remember Srikanth, that boy who had it in him to try and did succeed and the class that stood with him.  He is the picture I remember when I feel like giving up.  I still hope against hope, for I have one success story and I know it can be replicated manifold.

You can be rich without being rich

This news affirms our faith in humanity, ethics and being rich - the right way.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Snow in Andhra

I lived in Hyderabad for four years, and one of the things I remember very well was the extreme weather - while it is extremely hot in summer (40 degrees + ), it is very cold in winter (7 degrees).  I had a sun stroke and it took a toll on my health.

However, the news of snow falling in Ranga Reddy district is suprising.

It is bizzard especially for a place that is so hot.  Imagine foot thick snow in Andhra - I would have laughed at it and even did so now till I saw the news and the pictures.

Nature controls us - not the other way around.