Miscellaneous: books to read, a new QM journal, the imposter syndrome, the US presidential elections

While my mood of not wanting to do anything in particular still continues (and also, there is no word yet on the job-related matters, including on whether I might qualify as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering in SPPU or not), there are a few quick things that I may as well note.

Updates on 17th, 18th and 22nd Nov. 2016: See my English translation[s] of the song, at the end of the post.


Books to Read:

First, the books to read. Here are a few books on my to-read list:

  1. Sean Carroll, “The Big Picture” [^]. I have been browsing through Sean’s blog-posts since before the time the book was published, and so have grown curious. I don’t have the money to buy it, right now, but once I get the next job, I sure plan to buy it. Here is the review in NY Times [^]. And, here is a latest review, written by a software engineer (whose link appeared in Sean’s twitter feed (I don’t myself use my Twitter account, but sometimes do check out the feeds of others via browser))[^]. Judging from his posts, I do know that Sean writes really well, and I would certainly want to check out this book, eventually.
  2. Roger Penrose, “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe,” [^]. This is the latest offering by Penrose. Sometimes I simply type “quantum physics” in Google, and then, in the search results, I switch the tab over to “news.” I came to know of this book via this route, last week, when I ran into this review [^].
  3. Roger Schlafly, “How Einstein Ruined Physics: Motion, Symmetry and Revolution in Science,” [^]. Here is a review [^], though my curiosity about the book rests not on the review but on two things: (i) what I had thought of Einstein myself, as far back as in early 1990s, while at UAB (hint: Schlafly’s thesis wouldn’t be out of bounds for me), and (ii) my reading the available portions of the book at Google Books. …This book has been on my “to-read” list for quite some time, but somehow it keeps slipping off. … Anyway, to be read, soon after I land a job…

A New QM Journal:

A new journal has arrived on the QM scene: [^]. Once again, I got to know of it through the “news” tab in a Google search on “quantum physics”, when I took this link [^].

It’s an arXiv-overlay journal. What it means is that first you submit your paper to arXiv. … As you know, getting something published at arXiv carries a pretty low bar (though it is not zero, and there have been some inconsistencies rarely reported about improper rejections even at arXiv). It’s good to bring your work to the notice of your peers, but it carries no value in your academic/research publications record, because arXiv is not a proper journal as such. … Now, if your work is good, you want to keep it open-access, but you don’t want to pay for keeping it open-access, and, at the same time, you also want to have the credentials of a proper journal publication to your credit, you have a solution, in the form of this arXiv-overlay journal. You send the link to your arXiv-published paper to them. If their editorial board finds it fitting the standards and purpose of their journal, they will include it.

The concept originated, I guess, with Timothy Gowers [^] and others’ efforts, when they started a maths journal called “Discrete Analysis.” At least I do remember reading about it last year [^]. Here is Gowers’ recent blog post reflecting on the success of this arXiv-overlay journal [^]. Here is what Nature had to report about the movement a few months ago [^].

How I wish there were an arXiv for engineering sciences too.

Especially in India, there has been a proliferation of bad journals: very poor quality, but they carry an ISSN, and they are accepted as journals in the Indian academia. I don’t have to take names; just check out the record of most any engineering professor from outside the IISc/IIT system, and you will immediately come to know what I mean.

At the same time, for graduate students, especially for the good PhD students who happen to lie outside the IIT system (there are quite a few such people), and for that matter even for MTech students in IITs, finding a good publication venue sometimes is difficult. Journal publications take time—1 or 2 years is common. Despite its size, population, or GDP, India hardly has any good journals being published from here. At the same time, India has a very large, sophisticated, IT industry.

Could this idea—arXiv-overlay journal—be carried into engineering space and in India? Could the Indian IT industry help in some ways—not just technical assistance in creating and maintaining the infrastructure, but also by way of financial assistance to do that?

We know the answer already in advance. But what the hell! What is the harm in at least mentioning it on a blog?


Just an Aside (re. QM): I spent some time noting down, on my mental scratch-pad, how QM should be presented, and in doing so, ended up with some rough outlines of  a new way to do so. I will write about it once I regain enough levels of enthusiasm.


The Imposter Syndrome:

It seems to have become fashionable to talk of the imposter syndrome [^]. The first time I read the term was while going through Prof. Abinandanan’s “nanopolitan” blog [^]. Turns out that it’s a pretty widely discussed topic [^], with one write-up even offering the great insight that “true imposters don’t suffer imposter syndrome” [^]. … I had smelled, albeit mildly, something like a leftist variety of a dead rat here… Anyway, at least writing about the phenomenon does seem to be prevalent among science-writers; here is a latest (H/T Sean Carroll’s feed) [^]…

Anyway, for the record: No, I have not ever suffered from the imposter syndrome, not even once in my life, nor do I expect to do so in future.

I don’t think the matter is big enough for me to spend any significant time analyzing it, but if you must (or if you somehow do end up analyzing it, for whatever reasons), here is a hint: In your work, include the concept of “standards,” and ask yourself just one question: does the author rest his standards in reason and reality, or does he do so in some people—which, in case of the imposter syndrome, would be: the other people.

Exercise: What (all) would stand opposite in meaning to the imposter syndrome? Do you agree with the suggestion here [^]?


The US Presidential Elections: Why are they so “big”? should they be?

Recently, I made a comment at Prof. Scott Aaronson’s blog, and at that time, I had thought that I would move it here as a separate post in its own right. However, I don’t think I have the energy right now, and once it returns, I am not sure if it will not get lost in the big stack of things to do. Anyway, here is the link [^]. … As I said, I am not interested much—if at all—in the US politics, but the question I dealt with was definitely a general one.


Overall, though, my mood of boredom continues… Yaawwwnnnn….


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “seene mein jalan…”
Lyrics: Shahryar
Music: Jaidev
Singer: Suresh Wadkar

[Pune today is comparable to the Bombay of 1979 1978—but manages to stay less magnificent.]


Update on 2016.11.17: English translation of the song:

For my English blog-readers: A pretty good translation of the lyrics is available at Atul’s site; it is done by one Sudhir; see here [^]. This translation is much better than the English sub-titles appearing in this YouTube video [^] which comes as the first result when you google for this song. …

I am not completely happy with Sudhir’s translation (on Atul’s site) either, though it is pretty good. At a couple of places or so, it gives a slightly different shade of meaning than what the original Urdu words convey.

For instance, in the first stanza, instead of

“Just for that there is a heart inside,
one searches a pretext to be alive,”

it should be something like:

“just because there is a heart,
someone searches (i.e., people search) for an excuse which can justify its beating”

Similarly, in the second stanza,  instead of:

“what is this new intensity of loneliness, my friend?”,

a more accurate translation would be:

“what kind of a station in the journey of loneliness is this, my friends?”.

The Urdu word “manzil” means: parts of the Koran, and then, it has also come to mean: a stage in a journey, a station, a destination, or even a floor in a multi-storied building. But in no case does it mean intensity, as such. The underlying thought here is something like this: “loneliness is OK, but look, what kind of a lonely place it is that I have ended up in, my friends!” And the word for “friend” appears in the plural, not the singular. The song is one of a silent/quiet reflection; it is addressed to everyone in general and none in particular.

… Just a few things like that, but yes, speaking overall, Sudhir’s translation certainly is pretty good. Much better than what I could have done purely on my own, and in any case, it is strongly recommended. … The lyrics are an indispensable part of the soul of this song—in fact, the song is so damn well-integrated, all its elements are! So, do make sure to see Sudhir’s translation, too.


Update on 2016.11.18: My own English translation:

I have managed to complete my English translation of the above song. Let me share it with you. I benefitted a great deal from Sudhir’s translation and notes about the meanings of the words, mentioned in the note above, as well as further from “ek fankaar” [^]. My translation tries to closely follow not only the original words but also their sequence. To maintain continuity, the translation is given for the entire song as a piece.

First, the original Hindi/Urdu words:

seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofaan sa kyun hai
is shehar mein har shakhs pareshaan saa kyun hai

dil hai to dhadakne ka bahaanaa koi dhoondhe
patthar ki tarah behis-o-bejaan sa kyun hai

tanahaai ki ye kaun si manzil hai rafeeqon
ta-hadd-e-nazar ek bayaabaan saa kyon hai

kyaa koi nai baat nazar aati hai ham mein
aainaa hamen dekh ke hairaan sa kyon hai

Now, my English translation, with some punctuation added by me [and with further additions in the square brackets indicating either alternative words or my own interpolations]:

Why is there jealousy in the bosom; a tempest, as it were, in the eyes?
In this city, every person—why does it seem as if he were deeply troubled [or harassed]?

[It’s as if] Someone has a heart, so he might go on looking for an alibi [or a pretext] to justify [keeping it] beating
[But] A stone, as if it were that, why is it so numb and lifeless [in the first place]?

What kind of a station in the journey of the solitude is this, [my noble] friends?
Right to the end of the sight, why is there [nothing but] a sort of a total desolation?

Is there something new that has become visible about me?
The mirror, looking at me, why does it seem so bewildered [or perplexed]?

Update on 22nd Nov. 2016: OK, just one two more iterations I must have; just a slight change in the second [and the first [, and the third]] couplet[s]. (Even if further improvements would may be possible, I am now going to stop my iterations right here.):

Why is there jealousy in the bosom; a tempest, as it were, in the eyes?
In this city, every silhouette [of a person]—why does it seem as if he were deeply troubled [or harassed]?

[It’s as if] A heart, one does have, and so, someone might go on looking for an alibi [or a pretext] to justify [keeping it] beating
[But] A stone, as if it were that, why is it so numb and lifeless [in the first place]?

What kind of a station in the journey of the solitude is this, [my noble] friends?
[That] Right to the end of the sight, why is there [nothing but] a sort of a total desolation?

Is there something new that has become visible about me?
The mirror, looking at me, why does it seem so bewildered [or perplexed]?

 


[E&OE]

 

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Miscellaneous: my job situation, the Tatas, and taking a break…

The Diwali is here, already!

This year’s Diwali isn’t going great for me. I am still jobless—without reason or rhyme. It is difficult to enjoy Diwali against that backdrop.


As you know, engineering colleges affiliated to the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU for short) have been telling me that my Metallurgy+Mechanical background isn’t acceptable, even though the rules have changed to the contrary, and say that I now qualify (in my interpretation).

Recently I attended an interview, and it seems like I may be able to obtain a clear-cut answer on my eligibility (i.e. the equivalence of Metallurgy and Mechanical) from SPPU.

The thing is, SPPU has been having no Dean for its Engineering faculty for about a year or more by now, because the Maharashtra state government hasn’t so far undertaken the procedure to elect (or select) the next Dean.

This recent interview which I mentioned above, was for a Principal’s post, and I was short-listed. As is the common practice here, the short-listed candidates were all invited at the same time, and thus, I had an opportunity to interact with these other, senior-level professors.

These senior professors (some of them already active as Principals at other colleges) told me that it isn’t just SPPU, but all the universities in Maharashtra. They all are currently having only an in-charge or acting Dean for their engineering faculties, because the procedure to appoint the next set of Deans, which was due to occur this month (October) has once again been postponed by yet another year.

Policy decisions such as the Metallurgy and Mechanical equivalence at SPPU have been pending, they told me, because the acting Dean can easily say that he has no powers to do that. Though the other universities are clear that I would qualify, if a genius running an engineering college under SPPU thinks that I don’t, then the matter normally goes to the Dean. If the Dean is not official, if he is only acting, he doesn’t want to take “risk,” so he takes no decision at all. Not just the equivalence issues, there are certain other policy decisions too, which have been pending, they told me. The in-charge Deans have been processing only the routine work, and not taking any policy decisions. The next set of Deans were expected to get appointed by June 2016, and then, after postponement, by October 2016. (“achhchhe din!”)

Now that the appointments have been officially postponed by one whole year (“achhchhe din,” again!), the colleges themselves have begun going to the universities for obtaining the professor’s approvals, arguing that faculty approvals is a routine matter, and that they cannot properly function without having approved faculty.

Thus, the university (SPPU) has begun appointing panels for faculty interviews. There has been a spate of faculty recruitment ads after the current semester got going (“achhchhe din!”).

The particular interview which I attended, these other candidates informed me, was with a University-appointed panel—i.e., of the kind which allows approvals. (Otherwise, the appointments are made by the affiliating colleges on their own, but only on a temporary, ad-hoc basis, and therefore, for a limited time.)

Please note, all the above is what I gathered from their talk. I do not know what the situation is exactly like. (Comments concerning “achhchhe din!,” however, are strictly mine.)

But yes, it did turn out that the interview panel here was from the university. Being a senior post (Principal), the panel included both the immediately past Dean (Prof. G. K. Kharate) and the new, in-charge Dean (Prof. Dr. Nerkar, of PVG College, Pune).

During my interview, if the manner in which Prof. Kharate (the past Dean) now said things is any indication, it means that I should now qualify even in the SPPU. This would be according to the new GR about which I had written a few months ago, here [^]. Essentially, Prof. Kharate wondered aloud as to why there was any more confusion because the government had already clarified the situation with the new rules.

I took that to mean that I qualify.

Of course, these SPPU geniuses are what they are, and therefore, they—these same two SPPU Deans—could very well say, in future, that I don’t qualify. After all, I didn’t ask them the unambiguous question “With my Metallurgy background, do I qualify for a Mechanical Engineering (full) Professor’s job or not? Yes, or no?;”  and they didn’t then answer in yes or no terms.

Of course, right in the middle of an on-going job interview couldn’t possibly have been the best time and place to get them to positively confirm that I do qualify. (Their informal indications, however, were clearly along the lines that I do qualify.)

Now that the Diwali break has arrived, the colleges are closed, and so, I would be able to approach Prof. Dr. Nerkar (the currently acting/in-charge Dean) only after a week or so. I intend to do that and have him pin down the issue in clear-cut terms.

At the conclusion of my interview, I told the interview committee exactly the same thing which I told you at the beginning of this post, viz., that this Diwali means darkness to me.

But yes, we can hope that Prof. Dr. Nerkar would issue the clarification at least after the Diwali. If not, I intend to approach Prof. Dr. Gade, the Vice-Chancellor of SPPU. … I could easily do that. I am very social, that way.

And, the other reason is, at the university next door—the Shivaji University—they did answer my email asking them to clarify these branch-equivalence issues. The SPPU is the worst university among the three in the Western Maharashtra region (the other two being, the University of Mumbai and the Shivaji University Kolhapur). [I want to teach in Pune only because it’s my home-town, and thus convenient to me and my family, not because SPPU’s standards are high.]

Anyway, I now do have something in hand to show Prof. Dr. Gade when I see him—the letter from the Shivaji University staff. … At the Shivaji University, I didn’t have to go and see anyone in person there—not even the administrative staff let alone the acting Dean or the Vice-Chancellor. The matter got clarified just via a routine email. There is a simple lesson that SPPU may learn from the Shivaji and Mumbai universities, and under Prof. Dr. Gade, I hope they do.

… Of course, I do also hope that I don’t have to see Prof. Dr. Gade (the Vice-Chancellor). I do hope that meeting just Prof. Dr. Nerkar (the in-charge Dean) should be sufficient.

If they refuse me an appointment, I will get even more social than my usual self—I will approach certain eminent retired people from Pune such as Dr. Bhatkar (the founder of C-DAC) or Dr. Mashelkar (the former Director General of CSIR, India).

Here is a hoping that I don’t have to turn into a social butterfly, and that soon after Diwali, the matters would get moving smoothly. Let’s hope so.

And with that hope in my heart, let me wish you all a very happy and prosperous Diwali. … As to me, I will try to make as much good of a bad situation that I can.


Still, I don’t find myself to be too enthusiastic. I don’t feel like doing much anything. [In a way, I feel tired.] Therefore, I am going to take a break from blogging.

I have managed to write something more on the concept of space. I found that I should be able to finish this series now. I had begun it in 2013; see here [^].

Concepts like space and time are very deep matters, and I still have to get enough clarity on a few issues, though all such remaining issues are relatively quite minor. I should be able to get through them in almost no time.

From the new material which I have written recently, I guess it would be enough to write just one or two posts, and then the series would get over. What then will remain would be mostly polemics, and that part can be taken on the fly whenever the need to do so arises.

I may also think of giving some indications on the concept of time, but, as I said, I find myself too lacking in enthusiasm these days. Being jobless—despite having the kind of resume I have—does have a way of generating a certain amount of boredom in you, a certain degree of disintegration at least to your energy and enthusiasm, even if not to your soul.


So, let’s see. Let the Diwali vacations get over, and I should come back and resume my blogging, telling you what all transpired in my meeting/interaction with the in-charge Dean, and the related matters.


Since I am not going to be blogging for some time, let me note a couple of notable things.

One, the US Presidential elections. I am not at all interested in that. So let me leave it aside.

Two, the Tata Sons issue. It does interest me a bit, so let me write down a bit on it.


I was not as surprised as some of the newspaper editorials and columns say they were. The days of JRD are long gone. The Tatas already were a changed company when Cyrus Mistry took over from Ratan Tata.

Once I returned from the USA in 2001, despite my resume, I never got a chance with the new Tatas (either at TRDDC or at TCS). Such a thing would have been unthinkable during JRD’s times. … Even keeping it aside, what all I observed about the Tatas over the past 1.5 decades was enough for me not to be at all surprised by something like the current fiasco.

No, Prof. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, reading things from where I sit, the Tata fiasco doesn’t do any significant harm to the social legitimacy of Capitalism in India. People—common people—have long ago observed and concluded what had to be. If what the common people think were to be caricatured, it would look like the position you ascribe to the “cynics”. But no, IMO, this position isn’t cynical. To carry realistic impressions about hallowed icons is not quite the same as being a cynic.

Yes, as Harsh Goenka astutely pointed out in his comment in today’s ToI, Ratan Tata’s tenure coincided with the semi-liberalization era: 1991–2012. Whenever you come to compare Ratan Tata with Cyrus Mistry, you cannot overlook that broad context.

I have always thought that JRD left too big shoes for any one to fill in. But, with due respect to Ratan Tata, I still would have to say that no one could possibly entertain thinking in similar terms, when it comes to Ratan Tata’s retirement.

Looking at the facts and figures reported this week, I don’t think Mistry was doing a lousy job. Reading through his letter, I in fact marvel at how well he understood his job—and for this reason, I speculate that he must have been doing his job pretty well. …

Realize, the letter was written within a day or two after an unceremonious removal from the top post of a 100+ years old Indian icon, a $100 billion behemoth. Seen against this backdrop, the letter is extraordinarily restrained; it shows an unusual level of maturity. To expect any more “restraint” is to actually confess ignorance of such basic things as human nature and character. (Sadhus, let me remind you, are known to kill each other in their fights at the Kumbh Mela, just for the priority in taking the Shahi Snaan. Keep that in mind the next time you utter something on nobility of character and culture.)

And yes, I also had come to think that the Nano project was doomed—I just didn’t have the sales and profitability figures, which got reported only today. My reasons were simple; they were purely from an ordinary consumer’s point of view. If you are selling the Nano at around Rs. 2.5 lakhs, just think of the alternatives that the consumer has today: you could get a used car in a “good enough” condition, not just Maruti Alto but even a somewhat more used Toyota Innova, at roughly the same price.

Anyway, I don’t understand these corporate matters much, so let me shut up.


But, yes, knowing the house of Tatas and their brand managers, I can predict right away that in the near future, you are going to see the Tatas announce a product like “Tata Quantum Dot,” or “Tata Silicon Dot,” or something like that. … Why do I think so?

I started writing on quantum mechanics, and roughly around the same time, the cable-less Internet, based on the electromagnetic waves (mobile, Wi-Fi) was getting going in India. So, the Tatas came out with the Tata Photon. Yes, “Photon”. The Tata Photon. … It meant nothing more than the usual Internet dongle (2G, and then 3G) that everybody else was already supplying anyway. (And the Tata Photon never worked too well in areas other than in the Mumbai city.)

Then, the USA was abuzz with the catch-words like nano-technology, and the Tata brand managers decided to do something with that name, and thus came the Tata “Nano.” By now, every one knows what it means.

Today, the USA and other countries are abuzz with words like “Quantum Supremacy” and things like that. You can only expect some Tata brand managers to latch on to this buzzword, and launch a product like, say, Tata Quantum Dot or Tata Silicon Dot—or both!

Tata Silicon Dot, I predict, would signal the arrival of the house of Tatas into the business of supplying the sand required for civil engineering construction.

Tata Quantum Dot, on the other hand, would mean that the house of Tatas had taken an entry into the business of plastic dart toys. Or, the business of the “bindi”s that ladies wear. That is what the house of Tatas would mean by the name Tata Quantum Dot.

And here our policy analysts think that something happening to the house of Tatas is going to affect the credibility or social legitimacy of Capitalism itself in India! Oh wow!!

Ummm…. Does any policy research center in India have any data on the proportion of the private business in the overall Indian economy (including both the organized and the unorganized sectors) over the years, say starting from 1930s? Also, the quantum of the government expenditure in the Indian economy, and its proportion in the national GDP over the same period? Would they care to share it, please? Or is it that they don’t have to look at such data for their policy research purposes? … As to me, I have been on the lookout for data like that for quite some time now, but never could see it compiled anywhere. That’s why the request. Please drop me a line if you spot a reliable source.

OK, bye for now.


A Song I Like:

Since I won’t be blogging for a while, let me give away the “other” song right away, I mean the song which had somehow happened to strike me as being similar to the song “too laali hai savere waali”; see the Song I Like section here [^]. This other song is:

(Hindi) “bhigee bhigee raaton mein…”
Music: R. D. Burman
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

I take the “raaga” of the earlier song (“too laali hai”) as “pahaaDee”—or at least that’s what I got from an Internet search. The “raaga” of the current song (“bhigee…”) isn’t listed at any Web site. Assuming it’s not “pahaaDee” (or a variant on that), the question becomes, why the two songs might have struck at least somewhat similar to me—why, humming one song, I very naturally and casually happened to remember the other song.

It would be interesting to see if Data Science can be used to spot (and quantify) similarities in songs. The traditional music theory puts too much emphasis, IMO, on “raaga” alone. But there can be other bases for similarities, too. The sound patterns of musical pieces, I think, don’t get exhaustively (and at times not even essentially) characterized by the idea of the “raaga” alone. Talking of these two songs in particular, the similarity I caught might have been connected with certain ups and downs in notes with a somehow similarly sounding tempo. The style of the tunes sounds similar. Guess Data Science might be able to shed some light on things like that…. It would be interesting, to look into that, no? That’s what I had thought…

I mean, I had thought. … But then, these days, as I said, I am unable to work on this topic, too…  I just don’t have any enthusiasm left. Honest. I somehow finished this post, only because I won’t be posting for a while…

So, there. Bye for now, take care, and best!


[E&OE]

 

From the horses’ mouths

My first choice for the title was: “From the Nobel Laureate’s Mouth”; I had spotted only the opinion piece by Professor David Gross in yesterday’s Indian Express [^]. Doing the ‘net search today for the URI link to provide here, I found that there also were three other Nobel laureates, also joined by one Fields Medalists. And they all were saying more or less the same thing [^].

… That way, coming from a Marathi-medium schooling background, I had always had a bit of suspicion for the phrase “from the horse’s mouth.” It seemed OK to use in the news reports when, say, a wrong-doer admits his wrong. But purely going by the usage, I could see that the phrase would also be used in the sense: “from the top-gun himself,” or “from the otherwise silent doer himself.” This guess turns out to be right [^]. Further, since there were as many as five “horses” here, the word to be used would have to be in the plural, and if you say it aloud: “From the horses’ mouths” [go ahead, say it aloud, sort of like:“horseses” mouth) it really sounds perfect (for something to be posted on the ‘net).

So, that’s how comes the title.

As to the horses’ thoughts… Ummm…

[But please, please, give me just a moment to get back to the title again, and congratulate me for not having chosen a title like: “From Dave Himself.” You see, Professor David Gross had visited COEP in 2013, and I might have been, you know, within 50 meters of where he was sitting. I mean, of all places, in the COEP campus! Right in the COEP campus!! [^]. Obviously, you must compliment me for my sense of restraint, of making understatements.]

OK. As to their thoughts… Umm….

I think these guys are being way too optimistic. Also naive.

Without substantial economic reforms, I see no possibility of the Indian Science in general undergoing any significant transformation yet again. And substantial economic reforms aren’t happening here any more. In fact, no one is even talking about it, any more. [Check out Arnab’s hours, or Sardesai’s, or Dutt’s, if you want to find out what they are talking about. [I don’t, because I know.]]

It was the 1991 that could propel, say a Mashelkar into prominence several years later, and help transform the 70+ CSIR labs from something like less than 100 patents a year, to thousands of them per year—all within a matter of a few years [less than a decade, to be sure]. If the same momentum were to be kept, the figure should have gone up to at least tens of thousands of patents by the CSIR labs alone—and with a substantial increase in the share of the international patents among them. Ditto, for the high-quality international journal papers.

Why didn’t any of it happen? Plain and clear. The momentum created by the economic liberalization of the early 1990s has been all but lost. Come on, face it, 1991 was twenty-five years ago.

To an anthropologist, 25 years is like an entire generation! More than enough of a time to lose any half-hearted momentum (which, despite the hysterical Indian press, the liberalization in the early 1990s was).

It’s been years that we entered the staleness 2.0 of the mixed economy 1.0. Even today, the situation continues “as is,” despite a change of regime in New Delhi. Yes, even under “Modiji.” [I am quoting Professor Gross—I mean the word.]

But, yes, the five gentlemen were also being realistic: Each one of them emphasized decades.

Decades of sustained efforts would have to go in, before the fruits could begin to be had. [But you know that decades isn’t a very long period—just recall what was happening to India’s economy some two decades ago—in the mid ’90s.]

Talking of how realistic they actually were being, Haroche even pointed out the lack of freedom in China [obvious to any one outside of California], and its presence in Europe [I don’t know about that] and in India [yeah, right!].

But anyway, it’s nice to hear something like this being highlighted after an Indian Science Congress, rather than, say, “vimaanshaastra.”

Both happened during “Modiji”’s tenure. So what is it that really accounts for the difference? I have no idea. (It can’t be a “pravaasi” whatever, to be sure; they would be too busy booking the next Olympics-size stadium.)

Whoever within the organizers of the Congress was responsible for the difference, compliments are due to him. (Hindi) “der se kiyaa lekin kuchh achhaa hi to kiyaa.”

In the meanwhile, bring out your non-programmable desk calculators and do some exercises: 0.8 \times \dots, 2.7 \times \dots, 4.4 \times \dots and 2.1 \times \dots. Oh well, you will have to refer to the ‘net.

OK then. Find out also the R&D spending by, say, (i) Baba Ramdev’s pharmaceutical industries, (ii) the top or most well-established five industrial groups in India (Reliance, Tatas, Mittals, whoever…), and (iii) the top three (or five) Indian IT firms. Compare them to those in the advanced countries. Let your comparisons be comparable: pharma to pharma; oil, steel and engineering (and salt!) to oil, steel and engineering (and salt!); IT to IT [engineering IT to engineering IT]; overall (GDP) to overall (GDP).

And, never forget that bit about freedom. Don’t just count the beans “spent” on research. Think also about whether it is the government spending or the private spending, and where the expenditure occurs (in private universities, private labs, independently run government labs, public universities in a country with a past of a private control, etc., or in the in-service-pensioner’s-paradises with something like “laboratory” in their titles).


But why didn’t the “horses” cite any specific statistics about how many Indian students go abroad for their graduate studies, and choose to permanently settle there—their trends?

Obvious: Nobel and Fields laureates (and in fact any visiting dignitaries to any country (and in fact any visitors to a foreign country)) generally tend to be more polite, and so tend to make understatements when it comes to criticism (of that host country). That’s why.


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “kahin naa jaa…”
Music: R. D. Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

[E&OE]

The Maharashtra 2014 Elections

It’s not the Election Commissioner writing this post for you, but yours truly. Naturally, it’s not about all the elections in 2014, but just the assembly election in Maharashtra, this year.

No, don’t expect a selfie here. I have determined that the argument that Pictures Are Not Arguments applies here.

But of course, I could have posted my selfie, too. It’s just that doing so would have required Being Present in the Present Moment (of the Buddhist kind) [a skill so highly prized in California, USA, and Massachusetts, USA] to a far more extent that I could manage. As a matter of fact, it Just In Time deserted me: Babasaheb Purandare was there wanting to cast his vote, and the whole booth-managing authority made my old father and me (and a growing queue) wait for some 30 minutes. There were no OB vans, to be sure, but still, there were quite a few photographers clicking almost randomly here and there. Complete with the ritual of holding their cameras high above, even when there was not enough of crowd to interfere with their clicking. Holding the camera high seems to have become a second nature to them, it seems. In any case, I got enough irritated that I forgot to take a selfie—I just wanted to get done with my voting as quickly as possible.

Thus, once my turn came, I straight-away voted for Mr. Subhash Jagtap, knowing full well in advance (purely by common sense) that he would [sure] be defeated.

People can get rational at times, you know. … Even if, in the ostensible opinions of one of my fellow bloggers, Indians must have suddenly made a phase transition from being “retards” to “geniuses.” Except for in Maharashtra, my home state.

[I am happy that Maharashtra—probably his birth-place, and certainly the place of his early education—has chosen to cast their votes in such a way as to prolong his intellectual life.]

But the real reason behind putting up this blog update is something else.

Right on the day of that election, a slightly whimsical [though, I am sure, my detractors would want to call it “devilish”] thought crossed my mind, once I had had returned from the polling booth, and was cosy sipping a cup of a tea at home. The thought was decidedly Maharashtrian-ish [I don’t want to be the first one to mark the atmosphere with the sound: “Marathi.”]

Thinking in Marathi, I thought—since I had already pressed the button for the NCP candidate in my constituency despite knowing that he is going to lose—how I might want to arrange my thoughts upon his defeat.

And, thus, I thought of a common Marathi saying:

[Marathi] “ dukhkha, chaar-chaughaat vaaTal_, ki kami hot_, kinvaa sampat_ suddhaa.” [Sorrow, when you share it with four people, reduces, or even completely gets over.]

Since this has been a five-way election, and since only one in the five is going to “win,” simple [non-P-vs-NP] mathematics tells you that four in the five are going to lose. Four.

Since I have never fought an election to lose [the only one that I fought, ever, was in an educational campus, and I won it], I wouldn’t know how to deal with it. But looking at the current state of Maharashtra—or what the outside and inside forces have made out of it—and knowing where I myself [and the men I would vote for] stand in my estimation [I tend not to take any of us too seriously]—I thought that it would be particularly funny. Especially when applied to the usual arrogance of the people who would lose but who I would never have voted for.

In short, to tell the arrogance that:

[Marathi] “ dukhkha, chaar-chaughaat vaaTal_, ki sampat_.”

It really was just a fun thought.

* * * * *   * * * * *  * * * * *

As it so often happens, even if you know that your candidate is going to lose, you simply can’t believe it, until the results are here. [Not if you are like me.] You can crack jokes about it, but you still refuse, in a metaphysical kind of a way, to believe that such a circumstance is actually going to visit you—even if you have made every mental preparation for the same, anyway.

So, there.

I told you who I voted [though not why—may be, another blog post, another time].

All that I wanted to do today was to share this fun way of looking at it.

* * * * *   * * * * *  * * * * *

You know, Maharashtra has been churning through both disintegration and misintegration for quite some time. … I think I have a fairly good sense about it.

Let me share with you just one example, illustrating the kind of cultural down-swing the middle class in Pune has undergone.

(Marathi) “mhaataryaa, gaaDi chaalavataa yet naahi kaa tulaa!” [Rough English  translation: “Hey oldy [more like, hey you geyser], don’t you know how to drive your car?”]

That was the “decent” sort of a refrain which I heard being said to me, on the Law College Road in Pune. It came from a rather hefty 20-something fair Konkanastha Brahmin Marathi Middle Class look-alike female riding pillion on a motorbike in Pune, the city of my birth, college education, work etc., about 3 months ago. (It certainly happened this semester.)

Pune used to be one of the leading places where we were almost militaristic-ally raised up to revere the elders.

What happened was that she was being the raison de joie to her motorbike driver. [I honestly couldn’t see why.] He therefore was being manly, nay, super-manly in his driving, attempting to ride his bike—no, not with great speed, but exactly the opposite: with extraordinarily slow speed.

The youngsters in Pune these days can easily afford to buy huge bikes, but there is no way that they can also buy the riding sense. No biker in Pune these days drives while paying attention to the white strips separating the lanes.

Indeed, with her considerable weight acting as a ballast of sorts, this guy had only one choice: either stick to the driving rules, be considerate of the side-way traffic in the next lane, and if his lane gets crowded ahead, apply breaks once in a while.

But doing so would destroy his purring smoothness. These days, FYI, bikers in Pune don’t have to apply brakes to get the female pillion rider “accidentally” bump into their backs; the youngster females themselves hold them all too tight from the behind, on their own. So, the only objective, then, is to show off the occurrence of this physical configuration. And, what better way to do so if not by riding super-ultra-smoothly, without ever changing gears, and God forbid, without ever applying brakes?

Now, you may ask: If you are going to be a “smooth” rider of that kind, and if your lane gets crowded ahead, then, what do you do?

The solution invented by the Young etc. geniuses is simple: You take the entirety of that ballast which remains firmly stuck on to your back, and then smoothly cut in front of an ongoing car in the next lane. The car driver instinctively applies brakes, and the female can then just for a moment unfasten her bosom from his back is she so chooses, tilt her head, look at the car now receding due to its breaking, and throw a brief smile of superiority, only to once again resume the fastening of the bosom to the back in the same bit of that smooth physical action.

It happens.

The only difference was, the car to have to do the breaking this time round, happened to be mine. It happened just near where the Bhandarkar Institute road joins the Law College Road. I was visiting home in Pune, from Mumbai.

That one day, this kind of lane cutting got me irritated enough that I decided to do something equally nasty about it. As soon as I got my chance, I overtook him, and then, equally smoothly, started getting close to him. [I did give him a horn to make him aware of my intentions, and also checked that the rider had checked the position and the approach of my car.] I then continued administering the dose of his medicine on to him. I kept on driving “smoothly” ever nearer to him, effectively pushing him into his lane. [No, I didn’t shove him on to the footpath; I simply got him back into his lane.]

But this act on my part somehow got the aforementioned female angry. Angry enough to utter a few angry words at me. [The biker himself was cool at this time.] That made me both curious and, yes, I will admit it, a bit angry. So, I accelerated, pulled ahead, and once I found enough of a good clearing, I gave a proper left-signal, horn, and slowly pulled my car to the road-side, and then, took my driver-side window glass down. The biker and the female had, by then, already stopped besides me, too.

And, that’s when the aforementioned Twenty-Something Middle-Class Brahmin-some Female in Pune uttered the aforementioned words: “mhaataryaa, gaaDi chaalavataa yet naahi kaa tulaa!”

[Her vocabulary obviously was rather delimited, but her desire to express her emotions apparently was not, thereby taking her squarely outside of the means of expression available to her. Otherwise, she could have easily exhaled much worse words, too. Looking at me, that is. [Women, I am told, have a sixth-sense about the age of men.]]

I then tried to take a photograph of hers and her Nasik/Nagar-based Dhoom^n motorcycle-riding boyfriend, on my cell-phone. At this juncture, she continued her tirade in derogatory terms: “kaay photo kaadhatos kaa? ghe, kaadh.” [What, you want to take a photograph. Go ahead. Etc.] By this time, the looks of her motorcycle riding boy-friend [going by the Number Plate, his bike was from Nasik/Nagar] told me that worse could happen, in physical terms. [I was ready. [In that moment].] It’s just that something like a physical action didn’t actually happen.

I then told him sternly and quickly that I would be contacting the police, and asked the boy-friend to take down the number of my car, or take a snap, since I, on my side, anyway had taken a photo of his bike and him. That bit of information cooled him a bit. At least, he got cooled down enough that a physical action didn’t occur.

But it added fuel to the spirit of the Marathi Middle Class Female. She kept on fuming and cursing me even after we had respectively got back on to the road. Indeed she continued her occasional outburst [even if the boy-friend concentrated on driving] until we reached the Nal Stop, from where, I “knew” already, we would be parting our ways. And that’s precisely what happened: they took the right turn to go towards the Marathi Middle Class (BJP-supporting) locality of Kothrud.

Pune has changed.

And, of course, I don’t like this sort of a change. After all, as my “janma-bhoomi,” “karma-bhoomi,” and more: as my “PhD”–“bhoomi,” I am concerned with it. Especially since the earlier generation (and why, even people from our generation like Prof. Dr. Kajale) are not here.

If you think this was just one isolated instance, you would be wrong. They youngsters in Indian cities are entirely different these days. Whether you run into them on road, or in shopping mall, or even in college canteens. In my college canteen, for instance, they don’t think anything of stealing my chair even if they know that I had been eating there, that my meal is not over, and that the reason I got up was just to grab a bottle of water or so. The sense of civic decency would be too tall an order for this new BJP-supporting generation in the cities. Psycho-epistemologically speaking. I routinely find these youngsters unable to keep an awareness of their surroundings, even. Every day, in the college lounge or hall-ways, I get almost bumped into by our students at least 4 to 5 times. They just don’t know enough to know that they should be sensing other people’s presence. All that they know is to hurry and blindly dash into anything. Cutting queues is simply a natural by-product. And, this—Mumbai—was supposed to be a city of orderly people! [While in Pune these idiots vote for the BJP, in Mumbai, they vote for the Shiv Sena.]

Anyway,  now the election results are out, as far as the Pune youngsters go, I do imagine a lot of these “Young” “right-wing” people celebrating, in a vegetarian kind of a way the here-and-now Amit Shah + Narendra Modi electorial victory. They wouldn’t be having meat, but drinks would be OK, as far as my observations go. But then, the point is: they wouldn’t have to have drinks to display their usual sort of a behavior.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

Dr. Atanu Dey [B.E. Nagpur, M.Tech. (C.S.) IIT Kanpur, Ph.D., Berkeley] should be willing to regard the development as uplifting of [at least the Young etc.] Indians from retardi-tude to geniuse-i-tude.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

When I wrote the first version of this post yesterday, I wanted to make it brief. I actually had a bit of wine while writing the first version, and had said that will come back and rectify it a bit.

I have done that. But since in the process this post has become so big, I have removed the “Yo” part from it.

And, yes, I really drive my car better than the San Francisco Bay Area-Indian-supported-IT-Industry-rich-employees drive either their motorbikes, or their cars [some 10–20, even 30 times costlier than my old car], or their lives.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

Fortunately, since no one has been allowed to build a flying car, I didn’t have to mention it, in my last section. Otherwise, these Young etc. people would have been given enough money by the the San Francisco Bay Area-Indian-supported-IT-Industry to be able to buy those, too.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song I like:

(Western, Popular, Instrumental) “Miss Marple’s Theme [original]” [And, what else did you expect, for this time round?]
Music and Orchestration: Ron Goodwin

[There might be typos or awkward constructs, but guess I will let them stay as they are; I won’t waste time editing this post any further. As you know, what with a heavy teaching load, I am too hard-pressed for time, these days.]

[E&OE]

 

My loud thinking concerning the recent questions about Narendra Modi

Recently, I felt like writing a response to the following questions [^] as soon as I read them:

“What is Narendra Modi? A visionary and a statesman? Or a demagogue and master orator who can tailor a speech to his audience?

And there is another question too. One that I believe is even more important. What do Modi’s supporters really want? Development or Hindutva?”

The answer I wrote on the fly [and as usual, at a great length] appears below, but, first, an important note: I am just copy-pasting my answer. It certainly needs to be edited, but in the meanwhile, there was a kind of medical emergency at home and so, I will do the editing/expansion later. [My mother had to be hospitalized soon later, on Feb 11th; she still is in hospital—and, BTW, this is a reference which I am going to remove in the subsequent editing.]

As far as editing goes, in particular: the form of the answer needs to be changed from a personal reply to an independent blog-post in general; certain points need to be put in a slightly better context; and, as usual, some words need some qualifications or need to be changed; etc. Also check out on the “Applying philosophy…” blog my subsequent elaborations: [^] and [^].

Also, to keep the perspective/context (which often is lost days, weeks, months or, more understandably, years later, and which often is deliberately dropped as a part of the “follow up”), make sure to also check out the recent flurry of media articles/opinion pieces (some of which appeared just days after the above-referred discussion in the blogosphere), e.g.: Chetan Bhagat and Swapan Dasgupta’s pieces in the last Sunday’s Times of India, Tavleen Singh’s piece in the last Sunday’s Indian Express, and most recently, the blog-post by Pritish Nandy at Times of India.

[Links to all to be added.]

Anyway, here is the answer I had written on the fly:

* * *

He is not a statesman, that’s for sure.

We have had mixed economy for such a long time that it would be next to impossible for any one of his or younger generation to rise to that level. The cultural trends have been mostly taking a downturn for such a long time that, these days, all politicians are all driven by the compulsions of democracy—the actual, *systemic*, compulsions imposed by the rule of the mob, within a constitutional framework that contains too many contradictions and so succeeds in giving only a semblance of cohesion or integration to the polity. For instance, the constitution prohibits changing parties, thereby inducing the herd effect to a greater extent. Gone are the days of being true to “conscience.” In fact, conscience is a word which one would run into at least once a week some three decades ago, but doesn’t find mentioned anywhere for months together, these days.

Still, about the cultural downturns, I said “mostly.” That’s observation-based, not an expression of a general pessimism.

The only noticeable cultural *up*swings have been those in the wake of the *political* liberalization in the early 90s (which itself was driven by the *economic* compulsions and the better, liberalizing, terms set by the somewhat better, i.e. the Western, elements in the World Bank, when we had gone bankrupt due to our socialistic political pursuits). Though liberalization was a political process, in reducing shackles and exposing India to the (whatever remaining) better elements in the West, it also allowed betterment in *culture*.

However, these accompanying *cultural* upswings have been countered by the other cultural *down*swings, in particular, those of the religious kind.

BTW, I don’t think we have had a *cultural* downswing of the communist/socialist kind since the 1970s. All the recent downswings in India have been of the religious kind. Sonia Gandhi’s NAC-inspired socialistic programs, or, to a lesser extent, Vajpayee’s populist programs, have been downswings on the economic side, not cultural. For that matter, even when the left was a part of the power at the Center in UPA1, they were completely ineffective in promoting the leftist trend in the *culture*. Bollywood continued with the pelvic thrusts, and even artsy “socially conscious” cinema chose themes like Peepli Live, Shwaas and Deool, rather than a glorification of egalitarianism, of redistributing poverty.

So, the main thing to worry in today’s India, as far as *cultural* degradation is concerned, is: religion, not socialism. Notice the lack of any enthusiastic coverage in the urban, well-educated, middle classes about the movie: Deool. Its theme contains too many undercurrents uncomfortable to the religious mystics of the modern Indian variety.

Incidentally, despite India being a mystic country for such a long time, the execution model they (the religionists) have tried to follow in recent times is not indigeneous in origin; it’s a recent import from America. The recent Indian model is based on the upswing of religion in America, which itself is a rather recent phenomenon (gaining ground after 1970s, and consolidating during the Reagen years).

Thus, Jansangh, for instance, would never have put up a rippling-muscles, six-pack abs kind of a portrayal of Shri Ram on those wide-view flex boards in the cities; it would take the BJP to do that. The traditional Indian portrayal, in fine arts, sculputre and literature, of this God, even if he was a “kshatriya”-born, is that of a middle-aged deity with a somewhat roundish body and carrying a vague, almost nurturing kind of a smile, with the deity situated in a rich, opulent, but peaceful settings, together with family—not that of an angry, young warrior, taking aim with a tautly stretched bow-and-arrow, with his clothes flying in the strong winds as he stands alone on a treeless strech of brownish land, with anger uncontrollably shooting out of eyes. (With all that evident anger, it would be difficult to hold aim to the target, one wonders.) The traditional Indian portrayal of this deity—qua deity—has been different, the history of there actually having been a major war notwithstanding.

The elder Indian even today sometimes does an involuntary double-take at the spectacle of “teertha” (holy water) being sprayed onto those wildly dancing, hysteric masses from a high platform as in the rock concerts, using water-pumps and hose-pipes to spray the “teertha”. To the earlier generation of the religious Indian, “teertha” is always taken in a small quantity using the right hand. A small bamboo “pichkaari” is acceptable at the time of Holi, but it’s not a religious event. Using a *hose-pipe* and a *pump*, for *spraying* “teerth” is too much.

Before these trends spread elsewhere in India, they had begun in those massive religious gatherings in Gujarat, during the times of Modi’s rise to, and assumption of, the political power.

One reason the elderly Indian winces at such sights is: an Indian, true to his color, would in principle be averse to any grand-scale show on the material side. Especially so, when it comes to the matters related to religion. The Indian tendency, particular in the spiritual matters, is to turn the gaze inwards, not outwards. The Indian is not averse to the bodily power; but in his view, either the bodily power is to be subjugated to the spiritual wisdom, which is all outwordly, or the entire matter is superfluous to him simply because it pertains to this world. There is a reason why the “gopur”s of our temples may be grand on both artistic and spatial scales, but the “garbha-griha” is spatially so small as to hardly admit only a few people at a time. When it comes to temples, the idea of a vast space or a large auditorium accomodating a large gathering, with a high pulpit for the priest, is specific to the Abrahamic religions, not to the Indian ones. Clearly, “event management” of *this* kind is a recent import. (We have always had massive religious gatherings, e.g. Kumbh Mela or Wari, but these have been more noticeable for their messyness, randomness, than for masses being coralled together and aroused to a common passion by an organized priesthood. The Indian religious philosophy is far too outworldly to ever care for any organization or purpose in this world, especially that on a large scale. Our temples may have large spaces surrounding the main building (“aawaar”), but these spaces noticeably lack the pulpits to address the assemby—in fact, there never is an assembly, only a random and overcrowded collection of people.)

We have only recently imported the more effective, large-scale, techniques of management of mobs on the basis of religion as a uniting force.

Modi’s management style seems to reflect his times; it seems to be a mix of an upbringing in the traditional organization mold of the old RSS (itself based on an awkward mixture of the European fascists of the early 20th century for the most part and some Scouts-like activities thrown in for good measure), *and* these modern techniques of religion-based political management imported from America.

In short, there have been cultural betterment in certain areas. For example, today, we can openly advocate capitalism in India, without any fear of ridicule, which was not possible as late as when I was in my 20s, i.e. in 1980s.

However, overall, the net cultural change has been to go on to the down side.

Since, as you observed, culture (in the broad sense of the term) does drive politics, the culture of politics also has been going down. (I never thought it stinks to the extent you and many others do.) It’s in the recent atmosphere that it’s difficult to produce statesmen. Try to think of a successor to Jamshedji Tata, in today’s world. Or even to JRD, for that matter. Politics is hardly different. You don’t expect a Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan or even a Shankar Dayal Sharma, in today’s world; the alternative to Pratibha Patil was Bhairo Singh Shekhawat. Even if IMO politics does not stink to the extent you seem to think it does, it is very obvious that we can no longer expect statesmen to rise in today’s India.

So, the smart spin of Modi’s internationally outsourced image consultants aside, he simply can’t be a statesman. The very suggestion is ludicrous, and a direct product of his spin-doctors. (He is not alone in employing/benefitting from spin-doctors; his anticipated 2014 opponent, Rahul Gandhi, supplies an easy example.)

Is Modi a visionary? Ok. Can you use that word to describe a fascist? To clarify this issue, let’s take a more extreme example of a fascist: Can you use that word for Mussolini? If yes, then, sure, Modi is a visionary. He has the “vision” of unleashing the Hindu religious kind of irrationality, on India (and if possible, elsewhere, too), and to preside over the accompanying political power in an executive capacity. That’s his “vision.” (He might succeed in “achieving” it—simply because Rahul Gandhi is what he is.)

Is Modi a demogogue? In view of his political success in Gujarat, he must be. But then, of course, there are so many demogogues, even within his own party. Rajnath Singh, for instance. An array of them could be witnessed during the recent FDI issue. That hardly makes him special.

Is he a master orator? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen the video you refer to, but from whatever his earlier speeches I have seen, they seem to indicate skills lesser than those of a master orator. A master orator is different. Balasaheb Thakarey? Yes. Narendra Modi? Not really. Of course, he does have that ability to deliver effective speeches, often with a lot of punches. But then all politicians routinely do that. When you say a master orator, the person has to go beyond that level. I would certainly put Lalu Prasad Yadav ahead of Narendra Modi in that department. This is not humour; I mean it. When it comes to superior oratorial skills, just the way Vajpayee is (rather was) a master orator, so is Yadav.

Rather than pieces of superior oratory, Modi’s speeches seem to be like *events* that are quietly and masterfully coordinated in the background. The actual speech seems like just the tip of the icebert. The silent coordination is palpable. Right from creating the atmosphere for an upcoming speech, including coordination in the media (not just locally, not just in the neighbourhood or with the people in the city, but specifically within media), to the necessary followup capitalization on what(ever) he said.

The only way to explain the extraordinary effectiveness of this not-so-extraordinary personality is to make reference to the quiet work done for him by those “swayamsevaks.” Take away the aura they impart him, and then, judging him for himself, Modi comes across a far more ordinary personality—not just in speeches but also in every respect. There are times when I wonder if he could be described as a pigmy. He is said to divide all people into two camps, and evoke extreme passions of either admiration or loathing in them. The description is accurate except for the starting word: you have to replace “he” the person by “he” the image—nay, the rather seamless sort of an enormous collage—built up by all those collectivist “swayamsevaks.”

As to demoguery, I think more than being just a demogogue, he is a shrewd “organization man,” capable of slowly but surely advancing over his competition, especially internally. Here, I think a definite credit is certainly due to him. Not just in a value-neutral sense. I think he has put in very honest and very hard efforts in rising through his organization. To a certain extent, esp. for politicians, personal honesty *is* compatible with a contradictory or irrational political agenda.

He is not a typical BJP leader. Nope. He is more pure-minded on their agenda, more hard-working on that agenda, than any others from his party. Compare him with your ordinary, compromising sort of a guy like, say, Ram Naik, Nitin Gadkari, or even Rajnath Singh. When it comes to the BJP agenda, Modi would be more ruthless compared to any other BJP leader. Not because he lacks emotions, or controls them better, or manages to suppress them. Not even because he wants to be ruthless with people—in fact, quite the opposite is very likely, from whatever I can gather from his coverage on TV in general (never saw him in person at a close distance). It is easily possible that he is responsive and sensitive.

Still, he will end up being more ruthless simply because he would be morally more unshakeably convinced about the moral worth of the BJP agenda.

I think that it is possible to imagine Modi’s developing inner doubts privately, when it comes to his assessments of his own abilities, his own capacity to lead and to rule. He certainly does seem to be both sensitive and intelligent enough to be able to develop such doubts, at least some times. But what he seems entirely incapable of doing is: ever challenging the moral worth (to him: the moral *superiority*, nay, *infallibility*) of the *moral* agenda of his organization, of his party. It’s this greater—moral—conviction which would make him more ruthless. And it is this emphasis on the moral agenda rather than a political agenda which permits him enough flexibility to be a chamelion on many political issues or to even strike some compromises—the reason why so many Muslims do in fact support him. They too are religious, like him, but too short range, unlike him.

It’s Modi’s moral convictions that set him apart from the others in his party. It’s not any particularly superior personal set of qualities, except for being a better organization-man among them. Honest hard work, a lot of them do. Shrewd, a lot of them are. May be, he is slightly more shrewd, that’s all—though I honestly doubt that. From all that you can gather about him, he is very shrewd, but he could even be more sincere than shrewd. So, the real difference setting him apart from his colleagues is his willingness to go all the way down along the path of their shared morality. And the real reason why he can make that contradictory morality work, is: using his superior skills as the organization-man. The burden of the contradictions is calculated to fall on those outside the organization, the enemy camp (whoever they may be), and, since a contradiction nevertheless has a way to also run in the opposite direction, i.e. internally, the burden then has to fall on to those who have lesser skills to make the organization work for them. (One reason for this last also is the lesser strength of the same morals. There does seem to be a feedback loop here.) And so, when it comes to his individual assessment, the actual reason can only be ascribed to the depth to which he carries his (wrong) moral convictions.

Finally, coming to his supporters. In wondering about what *Modi*’s supporters want, if you are at all going to set up an *alternative,* esp. an alternative between Hindutva and “development” (whatever that means)—or, for that matter, between Hindutva and anything else—then, I would say, you are politically so naive, so very naive, that I have a suggestion for you: consider abstaining from voting regardless of where you are (i.e. even in places/elections where the BJP is weak/absent), for, when it comes to politics, you obviously cannot be trusted to choose wisely. :-) [This last was just a joke, BTW.]

Too long, in fact longer than usual. Hope you tolerate. (It was just a writing on the fly.) Guess one of these days I should write a slightly better organized piece on Modi, at my own blog. I wanted to do one well before the heat of the campaign begins, and right now might as well be a good time to do that. So, unlike my comments on spirituality and all, this time round, this comment might actually move very quickly to my blog. Though, guess I will let it begin its course here.

[E&OE]

I am jobless

I am jobless.

In fact, as you know, I have been jobless for 10 months now. And, as you know, if you count the time near the end of my contract when I worked for CSCWorld but didn’t get paid, I have been out of a job for 11+ months now.

You know that.

And, you know that I am competent, a man of productive achievements, a man who continues working hard.

And, you also know that you haven’t tried anything to get me a job. And, you perhaps also might know that you might perhaps feel a bit good thing about it.

Things like that are possible.

At least they must be. Without the ability to carry contradictions, without the ability to carry at least some mild form of the hatred of the good for being the good, it wouldn’t be possible for men to:

  • dismissing my PhD studies application, because my first two degrees came from metallurgy, not from mechanical
  • dismissing my job application in the academia, because my first two degrees come from metallurgy, not mechanical
  • insisting on finding a mining engineering position for me, again and again, whenever the matter of giving me a value comes up, whether the value be the recognition at a discussion forum like iMechanica, or of suggesting (or seriously thinking of offering) a job to me
  • insisting on saying that out of some 10+ things mentioned in a job profile (e.g. the one at Autodesk), since I don’t have iOS/Android experience, I don’t fit for a software development manager’s job, thereby blanking out the fact that Brahmins with even lesser knowledge and lesser competence have coolly been accommodated in precisely the same company/similar companies.Here, I will let you estimate the number of weeks, not months, over which I will be able to master not just development on the iOS platform or only the Android development, but both. By mastering, I mean, enough to be able to manage the group having tech leads, senior developers, and developers, all of them having at least 1–2 years experience on those platforms anyway. And, they being Brahmins (whether of traditional kind or government kind (born into reserved categories)), it goes without saying that they all should be very, very, very smart. And, technically savyy. And, so, managing to get work out of them should be easier, right?

    Did I make some mistake somewhere?

Anyway, what I was talking about was this: Things like the above are not possible without men having some definite ability to carry contradictions within themselves. The evil must be a real possibility actually realized within their soul, for them to do things like the above.

So, what’s new, you ask? What’s so new about my joblessness?

LOL!

Go check out my LinkedIn profile tagline. Now it correctly identifies the state in which I have been for 10+ (or 11+) months by now: “jobless.”

That’s new.

Though, of course, I do daily try to get a job.

* * * * *    * * * * *    * * * * *

A Song I Like:

Excluding this section so long as I go jobless, is not a rule; it is, say, a whim. Just the way, not allowing me to get a job of the kind I would like to have, actually is a whim; it is not, say, a rule.

So, when I recently ran into a song I like, and somehow recalled it again yesterday, I decided to devote an entire blog post to it. Despite my joblessness. … However, then, as I began writing, the above writeup did result, and I didn’t feel like editing it out. So, let it remain as it is, and let me now turn to the song itself.

If you have ever been atrocited [a new word I just coined] by one of the finest pieces of Marathi/Hindi poetry, one of the ways to take the revenge is to attempt translating the same into English.

To ensure success in the intended endeavor, you should try to keep the translation as literal as possible, keeping the interpolations down to the basic minimum. To aid in your translation, you should also try to give some extra words in square brackets of editorial proportions, words which: (i) in general serve to specify the exact shade of the meaning, (ii) serve to bridge the grammatical structures of the two languages, or (iii) suggest a possible alternative meaning. In your translation, you should also repeat the lines that repeat in the original song.

Today, I shall yet again offer my small contribution towards this goal. (For my earlier attempt along the same lines, see here: [^].)

First, the credits: Gulzar, Lata, S. D. Burman (the original one), Salil Choudhary (the “inspired” copier i.e. the lifter (no doubt, he the favorite of socialists, communists, and everyone else on the left, including the IISc Bangalore and IIT professors)):

Now, the original Hindi song:

roj akeli aaye, roj akeli jaaye
chaand kaToraa liye, bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj bechaaree jaaye

motiyon jaise taare, aanchal mein hain saare
motiyon jaise taare, aanchal mein hain saare
haaye phir kyaa, maange bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj akeli jaaye
chaand kaToraa liye, bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj bechaaree jaaye

jogan jaisi laage, no soe naa jaage
jogan jaisi laage, no soe naa jaage
galli-galli mein, jaae bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj akeli jaaye
chaand kaToraa liye, bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj bechaaree jaaye

roj lagaaye pheraa, hai koee nanhaa saveraa
roj lagaaye pheraa, hai koee nanhaa saveraa
god mein bhar do, aayee bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj akeli jaaye
chaand kaToraa liye, bhikhaaran raat
roj akeli aaye, roj bechaaree jaaye

And, here is my nearest English translation:

daily alone [she] comes, daily alone [she] goes
taking the moon [as the begging] bowl, the beggerly woman [i.e. the] night
daily alone [she] comes, daily [the] helpless [one] goes

pearls-like stars, having them all in the lap
pearls-like stars, having them all in the lap
oh [or, alas!], then what [is it, that she] asks for, [this] night?
daily alone [she] comes, daily [she] alone goes
taking the moon [as the begging] bowl, the beggerly woman [i.e. the] night
daily alone [she] comes, daily [the] helpless [one] goes

seems like a woman of renunciation, doesn’t sleep nor gets up
seems like a woman of renunciation, doesn’t sleep nor gets up
in [every] lane and [by]lane, goes the beggerly woman [i.e. the] night
daily alone [she] comes, daily [she] alone goes
taking the moon [as the begging] bowl, the beggerly woman [i.e. the] night
daily alone [she] comes, daily [the] helpless [one] goes

daily takes the round, [as if asking:] is there a smallish [kid of a] morning?
daily takes the round, [as if asking:] is there a smallish [kid of a] morning?
“fill in [my] uterus [or in my stretched out arms] [that smallish kid of a morning],” [that’s what she] asks for, the beggerly woman [i.e. the] night
daily alone [she] comes, daily [she] alone goes
taking the moon [as the begging] bowl, the beggerly woman [i.e. the] night
daily alone [she] comes, daily [the] helpless [one] goes

[May be I should add a bit more, indicating the sort of layers of irony that this song has about it. May be. Some other time. Perhaps, even within a few days. Also, as usual, may be, I will come back and edit/streamline the writeup a bit.]

[E&OE]

An Important Comment I Just Made at iMechanica—And, (Much) More!

0. The title says it all!

Go, check out this comment I just made at iMechanica: [^].

1. Now, on to the “more” part of the title. Noted below are a few more things about my research.

2. My Researches on QM:

2.1 Since the publication of my QM-related results, I have moved on considerably further. As mentioned earlier on this blog, I have since then realized that my approach—the way I thought about it, as in contrast to what I (happened to have) published—always could handle the vector field equations of electromagnetism, including those for light. That is, including the angular momentum part of the EM fields. (Paddy, Suku, are you listening?) … However, I decided against publishing something in more detail to cover this aspect. A good decision, now it seems in retrospect.

(Yes, Jayant, you may now try your best to prod me towards publishing, including emphasizing how unpublished research is non-existent research. Just try it! Any which way you wish. … Precisely just the way I don’t give a damn to wannabe physicists turning JPBTIs turning entrepreneurs, I also don’t give a damn to the Statism-entrenching advices coming off the Statism-entrenching scientists, esp so if they also are the State-revered ones. So, just try it!! Also others, like, say, Sunil!!!)

2.2 I had also resolved the entanglement issue, and have chosen not to publish about it. As I stated earlier here [^], Louisa Guilder reports that Bell’s inequality paper has garnered the highest number of citations in physics literature so far, an astounding 2,500. The paper # 2,501 (or greater, as of today) must have concluded that the entanglement issue cannot be resolved—possibly out of the position/conviction that there was nothing to be resolved.

So, basically, I have resolved what an enormous number of misguided (and, possibly outright stupid) people could cite but not resolve.

Aside: Of the hundreds of papers on this topic I have come across, I know of Dr. Joy Christian’s position to be most reasonable—and in my knowledge, only his. Now, there are some minor differences between what he says and what I have always known and never published. But these differences are, in a sense, minor. The important part—and aren’t we concerned only with the important things here?—is that I knew about it, and have deliberately chosen not to publish about it. (If holding this position makes it possible to tick me off via certain lists such those maintained by a John Baez or a Scott Aaronson, I couldn’t care less about it—and both (and all) of them, I suppose, should know/could get to know, how (I care so less about those lists).)

BTW, as a matter of progression in time, I had thought that the issue would have to be first resolved in the context of photons, not of electrons. I am not very sure about it, though. In any case, that was the sequence in which I did it. First, photons; then, electrons.

Go, try your best to prod me towards publishing something on it! Just try it!! … BTW, my resolution had happened years before I had publicly offered an Indian PhD physicist on a “LinkedIn” group that I could explain my results if she (or anyone else) could meet me in person at Pune. This public offer of mine has just ended, right now!…. So, go ahead! Just try it!!!

3. My Researches on Other Topics

3.1 I have had some definite ideas for research on other topics from computational science and engineering and allied fields (including a numerics). I have kept these aside for the time being, because many of these are well-suited for guiding PhDs. Which brings me to the last couple of points for today (or at least, as of now, in the first version of this post).

3.2 As to student projects, I have decided not to accept anyone unless he is remarkably bright, and hard-working. (For those who seek to do truly independent PhD research, I cannot make myself available as a guide, as of now. Also see the point 3.3 below.) Roughly speaking, this means that rough level as would be understood by one or more of the following: GRE (V+Q) scores of at least 1350; GATE score of 95+P; throughout distinction class (or in at least 5 semesters out of 8) in BE of University of Pune (or equivalent).

3.3 The University of Pune has a stupid requirement for becoming a PhD guide: you (i.e. a fresh PhD graduate) must wait for at least 3 years after his own (successful) defense before he can become a PhD guide himself. The three years, in my case, end on September 20, 2012. (They—the Indian government(s)—probably arranged the date to numerically coincide with the date on which I first entered USA: 2nd September, 1990. Yes, the same government that whispered the UK government to give Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law all security clearance at UK airports, on par with the President and Prime Minister of India.)

Recently, someone reminded me a further requirement that I had forgotten. You also need to have two publications in those three years, before you can become a guide. Since I have mentioned the Gandhi’s and the defence-date here, I am sure that they would now interpret the sufficiently vague rules to imply that those two must be journal articles—peer-reviewed conference proceedings won’t do.

I, therefore, have decided to try to publish two journal articles in the near future of a few months. (Hey Elsevier, take notice!)

At least one, and probably both of these two articles would be on CFD.

Those of you who know me, would know that once I get going, I get going. I don’t disappoint (these of) you, not this time around at least: I have already installed Ubuntu 11.10 (natty) inside Oracle’s VirtualBox running on top of Windows (32 bit XP and 64-bit 7), and have already installed OpenFOAM v. 2.0.1 in that Ubuntu (32-bit, as of now). I also have installed other software. I have shortlisted the niche problems I could work on. I have contacted a couple of IIT Bombay professors, not for collaboration, but merely for sounding out. I knew that being employed by the IIT Bombay, there would be no collaboration, though a collaboration could have been perfectly OK by me. I also knew that once I wrote an email to them, it would get trapped (as all my emails are), and then, even the sounding things out over a 30 minute session would soon become impossible. And, that the impossibility would never be communicated explicitly via any means, esp. via an email. This  supposition of mine has indeed come to pass. (Congratulate me for being a good judge of the IIT Bombay, of the Indian government(s)—all of them, today’s and those of the past under the BJP regime as well, of Indians, and of humanity in general.) I knew all that, right in advance, and had prepared myself mentally for it. And, thought of plans B and C as well. I am executing on these.

And, no, I couldn’t care a hoot for how many freaking citations those two journal papers generate. As far as I am concerned, these two papers would allow me to fulfill the stupid requirements whereby I can become a PhD guide. And whereby, a slim chance does exist that I might get some good guy (gals included) for PhD supervision. (Chances are, it could be someone I already knew as a friend—numerically speaking, most of my friends are without PhDs.)

So, there. For the next few months, that’s the sort of research I am going to do—in my spare time, of course. Hey Elsevier, take notice (once again!!). As to others: If you consider yourself my friend, help me publish it in an easy and timely manner, ASAP.

That’s all for today. For this first version, anyway. As always, I might come back and correct or add a few things. …. Might as well add a few political comments right here.

4. A Few Comments on Politics and All:

Just noting down a few comments on politics (i.e. that politics which is “larger” than the one in S&T fields) in passing (and I will take liberties to pass comments on people without alerting them):

To ObjectivistMantra and Others:

Tavleen Singh’s article on the slap to Mr. Pawar was the best. However, it fell short on the count of completeness. On this count of completeness, she does far, far better (actually excellent) with her next article in the Indian Express’ Fifth Column. Why I say she fell short. In an entrenched mixed economy such as ours (i.e. India’s as in the past and as of today, and of USA’s in near future), the whole system has already become so statist, so mangling of individual rights, that it is impossible to systematically assign blame on any one systemic part of it. In my twenties and early thirty’s (i.e. 15–25 years ago), having known this, I used to argue that it would be impossible for the Indian army (i.e. defence services in general) or the Indian courts to be singled out as being clean. Time proved me right. Indeed, it’s at least since my X standard (i.e. for ~35 years now) that I have argued that you can’t blame politicians—indeed that far too many politicians, from the village through the national level enjoyed much more of esteem in my opinion than what salaried class (say, my “Brahmin” friends) would allow them. Sometime while I was in SF Bay Area, I further realized that the trend to say: “It’s all polltishuns; common people and businessmen are clean” had originated not in India, but in the middle-east and Pakistan etc., and that our Punjabi’s, Gujarathi’s etc. settled in the USA and UK (e.g. Kanwal Rehi, Vinod Khosla and their friends there and here) had been simply rubbing the characterization (actually applicable in the middle-east and Pakistan etc.), expectedly witlessly, on to India’s scene. Since Shobha Dey makes many frequent visits to Dubai, she was expected to have picked it up, too. And, she has shown over the years  that she has. Her latest column springs from that faulty position as regards India. Tavleen Singh is better. (That’s one basic reason why a link to her columns features in the my blogroll here.) Singh did stop short of stretching on that line. However, she did get overwhelmed by the dominant presence of that erroneous idea in our present culture. That’s why, she couldn’t think of a single example on the following lines: Taking a symmetrical case, should I be allowed to put a slap on the face of a Kanwal Rekhi or a Vinod Khosla, for not giving me a job in SF Bay Area in late 2000/early 2001, so that my green-card processing could have been completed? Should I be permitted—morally, even if not legally—to land a (Marathi) “saNsaNit thappaD” (nearest English: a resounding slap) on the face of a Ratan Tata, not just for never giving a job in his company (in Ratan’s case, Tatas) but even allowing my harassment (e.g. as stated on a LinkedIn thread re. VSNL/Tata Indicom Broadband)? Would it be morally justifiable? Why, Ms Tavleen, speak of the emotions of common man but refuse to discuss the issue on more clearly and more on specifically moral terms? So, you see, even if Ms. Singh is far better—and here I thankfully recall all her wonderful articles in the recent past, esp. the courage she has shown in taking on the urban twittering “middle” classes in the “Gandhian” Anna Hazaare “movement”—it is obvious that she overlooked something. Mind you, it’s just plain omission (and as far as I am concerned, it seems to be a very honest one). But still, an error is an error. On omission is an omission. Since I enjoy and admire her columns as much as you do, I hope that she addresses the moral aspects of the emotional issues rather than emotions. In any case, what she wrote was otherwise far better, far superior to what I could have written. This is exactly like Swapan Dasgupta’s recent article. Except for that one error, the rest of the article is excellent! But, hey, you don’t design or manufacture 99 components of an engine well, and leave 1 component out of either good design process or actual testing. As to Ms. Dey, I think I am going to stop reading her now. Some time ago, she was wondering when certain people had kissed last, in the context of—and who else: Indian “poltishun”s. (In case someone finds it intriguing, realize that she is a daughter of an Indian central bureucrat, and as far as I can make it out, has had no explicit rational philosophy to guide her writings, though she is a lady of enormous culture and composure in her own right too. Oh well, even explicit rational ideas do make a difference—think what a whole rational philosophy can do!)

I think I will stop here, and add possibly add other points via other blog posts. For the time being, as far as politics goes, I am enjoying (“loving it”) watching the BJP more than anyone else in the opposition/government, as far as the issue of retail FDI goes.  However, I am not going to support Walmart for the simple reasons that (i) their country has unreasonably failed me in the PhD and unreasonably denied me green-card/citizenship, (ii) they are too big to need my support anyway, and (iii) supporting a big company against government—Microsoft, in the DoJ case—was one among many things that got me a heart condition, I know. (How do I know? Well, it’s the same guy who has known how to resolve the QM wave-particle duality in the context of light, and about angular momentum in EM, and then, a resolution of the riddles of quantum entanglement, as well as many other unpublished, even un-discussed topics.)

One final point, again going back towards research. For the past several years I could not fathom the reason why people might be so unenthusiastic about my approach—I mean, honest people (apart from all the dirty things and “political” issues I have mentioned/indicated above.) Well, it was while reading Sean Carroll’s blog at Discovery magazine that I happened to realize one important (technical) reason why this might be (or must be) so! Hmmm…. Nice to know. It’s always great to know. Though, I am not going to divulge here what that thing was—or how it not only doesn’t contradict my approach but rather helps me be even more confident about my approach (if I ever needed such help, in this context!) And, as you know, I am not going to discuss it or publish about it either. Try to get me to do otherwise. … Just try!
Ok. Enough is enough. As usual, to be edited/streamlined later—perhaps!

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * * 
A Song I Like:
[RIP, Dev Anand!]
(Hindi) “gaataa rahe, meraa dil…”
Music: S. D. Burman (perhaps with R.D. looking after the orchestra (??) if not also the tune. (I have read somewhere that he was involved in “Aaraadhanaa,” but have no such idea when it comes to “Guide”)
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Shailendra

[E&OE]

Whither Capitalism…

Note, the first word in the title of this post is not “whether;” it is: “whither.”

While writing and updating my last post, many memories began surfacing. This post, again, is based on a particular, in a way trivial incident which occurred during my initial years with Objectivism. But there is a reason to share that incident because it shows a few things relevant to the debates concerning introducing capitalism in India today.

The time was 1984 or thereabouts. My friends from COEP and me had graduated from COEP (1983), and had begun “tasting” work-life and organizations (i.e. companies). Criticism of government, esp. over taxes, was a norm in the corporate life even back then, and generally, any young trainee engineer could easily come to appreciate that there was something to be said about economic freedom, even though no corporate honcho or intellectual would directly mention Capitalism or Ayn Rand as such.

The most prominent and honorable exception to this rule came from JRD, the then Tata Group chairman, who later on was most justifiably honored with a “Bharat-Ratna,” India’s highest civic award. Way back (I suppose perhaps as back as in the 1960s), JRD had financed production and distribution of pamphlets to managers (working anywhere, both in and out of Tatas), expressly meant for defending capitalism. These pamphlets did mention all of the three words: “Laissez-Faire,” “Capitalism,” and “Ayn Rand,” I have been told. (I myself never saw one of these pamphlets, but was told by very reliable people, senior managers teaching at management institutes or so.) Another similar exception was Rahul Bajaj. I don’t think he went so far as mentioning Ayn Rand herself. But he was a ruthless critic of the license-quota raj, of bureaucracy, and of mixed economy. Both the facts: his being a Bajaj, and his being a Harvard business school graduate, meant a lot in those days. He used the platforms and fora such as those provided by the Pune-based Mahratta Chamber of Commerce and Industries, very effectively. (Agriculture still was not included in the title back then; it still was only MCCI in those days.)

So, many freshly working engineers, who otherwise had never bothered with economic ideas, with isms, as engineering college students, had sort of discovered during their first few years in jobs that it was OK, perhaps even respectable, to discuss the “pros and cons” of different economic systems in a way that can be pro-business, so to speak.

Having nothing to do in life in the evenings (back then, engineers with even five years of experience could not get or afford scooters; the scene had just begun changing with the entry of the new Japanese collaboration bikes such as the Ind-Suzuki and the Yamaha RX 100), we, then fresh engineers, would often eat each others’ brains out in the evenings. A few had decided to give MPSC/UPSC a try, and therefore, were especially in the “knowledge” and “discussions” mode. Many had begun pursuing part-time MBAs, and therefore, were reading up economics in a serious way for the first time in life anyway. Others had ambitions of going to IIMs. Many of us shared apartments, in a “hostel” sort of life-style. Naturally, discussions were aplenty.

In one of such evenings, this same guy from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute who I mentioned in my last post (the COEP + Bajaj graduate through whom we had come to know of Objectivism), was visiting Pune. We were eager to ask and discuss with him, about many things, both Objectivism and business and life in Mumbai in general—the sort of things young COEP juniors might ask one of their seniors. He had MBA in finance, and would talk in awesome terms about “strategy.” After a while, the discussion naturally turned to economics.

Now, since many of these other guys had not shown any interest in Objectivism earlier, they had no idea as to what precisely capitalism would mean, require, and imply. So, some time in that discussion went in that direction. Those few (3 or 4, myself included) who had read Objectivism did come from a moral angle. That satisfied the basic curiosity of almost every one. And yet, the UPSC types were still unsatisfied. This is all OK in theory, they thought, and perhaps would also hold out in practice if some of us were insisting it would, they said, but neverthless, they continued in an anxious way: “If this issue of Capitalism vs. Socialism comes up, what the hell do I tell the UPSC interview committee—i.e. if I at all make it to the interviews stage?” That was their basic question. In other words, it was OK if Capitalism is not politically correct (the term was unknown back then). But is it at least within the bounds enough to be used at the XPSC group discussions and interviews?

Confronted with this question, almost every one (but certainly not me) tried to think of a smart way that would combine both an enlightened advocacy of Capitalism and a killer impression on the UPSC interview committee. None could succeed. Few realized that a success in matters such as these simply isn’t possible. Yet, the atmosphere seemed to be settling towards a pro-Capitalism position. Plus, it was not yet time for the evening mess, and so the discussions could certainly continue.

At this point, I introduced a question that had bugged me a lot for sometime back then. Actually, I would have been more happy to ask it to some professor from a management institute (or the Gokhale Institute of Economics and Politics). But having a senior who had read Objectivism was good enough for me. So, I blurted out something like the following (which is a streamlined description of a lot of discussion by way of clarifying the question itself):

If Capitalism is to be introduced in India, then for a country as large, complex, and ancient as ours (even if as a nation we were young), its obvious that it can’t be done in one day.

Our lawmakers and the rest of politicians, and our bureaucrats, would obviously be against it. (Back then, I said so more out of the then lawmakers’ ideological convictions/inclinations rather than out of a consideration of their concern for protecting their turf/power-base/corruption-base, though both were considered and introduced by me in the subsequent discussion.)

Now, the world history shows that all deep systematic changes at the scale of a nation involve a lot of readjustments in the least, even pains many times. (Revolutions also happen.) A change in system involves pains. Since Capitalism is good, broadly speaking, I said, only the bad can experience the pain, the good won’t. Yet, the pain will be there. The entrenched interests of politicians, bureaucrats, and the life-sucker’s “rings” around them would be certain to experience it—and fight against the change using whatever means. (This observation had made a lot of serious impact without having to labor the point; the Emergency still was less than a decade in the past.)

If so, given the entirety of your knowledge of economics, of India, and of the current state of mixed-ness of India’s mixed economics, what do you think, I asked, would be the specific areas, or sectors, or industries that can be the best candidates for freeing up the economy, so that the requisite slow change towards Capitalism can occur with the least pain—so that, I added, we don’t lose out on whatever popular support for Capitalism that we can have. Implicit in the change is that the dishonest/corrupt people who lose their power would start barking, defaming Capitalism in the process. The question is: which areas etc. of the economic/political life of India offer us the best path for opening them up to free markets—and what could be the overall sequence or direction, in specific industries/economic sector terms, in which we could pursue such a program.

Well, none had an answer, not even a vaguest possible scheme by way of an answer, back then in 1984. None had even a speculation back then. The general agreement was that this was too complex a question. The senior friend then added that to the best of his knowledge, even Ayn Rand had not addressed this question, possibly because it was too complex even for her. I was not convinced. An approximate answer or a range of options could be good enough, I said. The point is, why not do this kind of thinking?

It was almost as if for most thinkers back then, even the advocacy for the moral nature of Capitalism itself had seemed to involve an uphill battle.

The reason I mention this question today is that even 26 years after that incidence, almost 20+ years after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Russia, and some 18+ years since “privatization,” “globalization,” etc. began in India, people still are not able to feel free enough to think of beginning addressing this particular question.

Yes, there are advocates of “Capitalism” today, in India, and they have been vocal for some time now. During the BJP regime, they were busy asking why they can’t run a beer bar at the basement of their house, without mentioning in entirety the rational basis for Capitalism—and of course, without mentioning Ayn Rand. And, the Congress party was attacking the BJP for picking up for privatization only those government-run companies that were actually profitable, and selling them for a price far inferior to what their true worth would be, to foreign investors. (Hints of the “cut” made in selling these companies also were in circulation.)

Having made such charges back then, after coming to the political power, the Congress has completely forgotten about this entire privatization program. This is not a neutral position as might be supposed—it does help statism get entrenched in the system out of sheer intellectual inertia. People do silently draw some implicit conclusion to the effect, which, if wordified, would run something like this: “the government interference in economy has always been a ‘done’ thing in our country; it’s the normal state; may be it should be increased.” Since economics, like all areas of human endeavor and condition, is a dynamic phenomenon, not static, with finite limits (including the finitude of life-span), a seeming “neutral,” in matters like these, is not at all a neutral; it *is* a bias for statism, for coercive government controls.

And then, of course, apart from thus subtly stopping the privatization program in its tracks, the Indira Congress has since then also gone ahead with a whole array of welfare programs, thereby returning to such glorious pre-1991 times as under “Rajiv-ji” and “Indira-ji.” (If you don’t believe me, continue reading, for example, Shekhar Gupta. Or, Prabhu Chawla.)

Thus, all in all, the position is not even neutral; it is: increasing statism.

In Indian politics, as in the American one, political Opposition has always been avoiding any principles-based policy. No not that, they have been avoiding even a talk that is in any consistent way refers to principles. They don’t see their role of democratic political opposition, in terms of principles at all! All that they are interested in is blowing up this corruption scandal vs. that scandal. …

Ok. That is a political necessity, I can understand. You have to show the man on the street something dramatic every few months, else you lose even the basic touch with him—and together with that, your own political future. So, sure, corruptions and scandals have to break with some regularity. … There is a deeper malaise behind it. In a mixed economy, the media is always influenced by the government—i.e. by the political party that happens to be in power. So, a rational, even-handed media coverage is of course a first casualty. Therefore, just to stay in place, the opposition has to keep throwing up in the citizen’s mind one scandal after another. Corruption-related stories and scandals have their place.

The crucial question therefore becomes: Does the spectrum of opposition’s political activity *end* with these scandals? Or does it *begin* there? Do they then also go and offer some robust policy program that is based on rational principles—in this case, a morally based defense of capitalism?

If the answer to the above question were to be yes, then the opposition (today, the BJP; a sometimes, the Congress) would have not only released a blueprint of what they want to privatize first, but they would also have shown how and why. Alternatives in privatizing can exist. The political parties are the ones who are supposed to do their home-work in this regard and take a stand—not just vague talk, but a definite stand in terms of concrete courses of action.

Neither the BJP nor the Congress, in their roles as Opposition, have ever even dreamt of doing such a thing.

To the Congress, repeating catch-phrases like “aam aadmi,” “secular” etc. is enough—even if in de facto pursuing pragmatism, they have been ending up looking even worse than the Left. If you think this is far-fetched, then, considering the actual evidence of their actual government spending programs, and ambitions for the same, ask yourself: who is better (or worse): a Somnath Chatterjee or a Sonia/a Rahul/an XYZ from the Indira Congress? You may be hard-pressed for the answer.

As to the BJP, they are *not* pragmatic. Their long-term program seems to be clear: First, uplift India into the Hindu counterpart of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Then (or simultaneously), try to dissolve both Pakistan and Bangladesh under a single pan-Indian sub-continent Hindu dictatorship, based on the pre-Renaissance, pre-enlightenment variety laws given by the like of, say, Manu, Chanakya, etc.

Neither is concerned with Capitalism—certainly not the Indira Congress, but not even the BJP (no matter what Atany Dey’s, and his blog-commenters’ convictions).

And it is for this reason that people—not just ordinary people but even the most “right” among our intellectuals—really are far away from even considering a question like the above, viz., what would be the best path to Capitalism in today’s India, what sectors/areas/industries should be freed up first—and the reasons thereof. Questions like these are so remote to them that they don’t even have the reality of a fiction to them. Capitalism is actually reduced, by them, only to a convenient catch-phrase, a phrase that means nothing in particular except perhaps a “feelgood” glow in the heart, a term that may be abused any which way. That’s how Capitalism remains an unknown ideal even to those who say they are pro-Capitalism.

It’s a pity that the best of our public voices still discuss “Whether Capitalism,” not “Whither Capitalism.” [With my limited knowledge of English, I think, the word “whither” can be used here. If not, please let me know.] The word “whither” here is to be taken in the sense: which areas do we choose to begin freeing up such that greatest positive impact is made towards the popular support for Capitalism, and least political resistance is encountered.

Any ideas or suggestions on this topic would be welcome—whether as comments/replies to this blog, or as posts at your blogs, or as independent essays or articles in the media. If you know a better word than “whither,” please do let me know. Thanks in advance for both.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song  I Like:
(Hindi) “main jahaa chalaa jaaoon, bahaar chali aaye…”
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

[I may revise/streamline this post a bit later on.]
[E&OE]

Wanted: Bean Counters…

Recently, I was searching for some key numbers concerning India’s economy, and Googling some related phrases didn’t help at all.

The data I wanted were mostly concerned with the annual government expenditure in India, as well as the total sizes of the public and private sectors in India.

For instance, I wanted data like:

  • The size of the public sector in the years 1947, 1950, and for every year (or five year period) since then. Also, it would be helpful if also similar data for the years before independence are available. The size of the public sector is to be measured in terms of both total money spent on them (planned and unplanned expenditure, capital invested, the money spent to cover up the losses they made etc.), as well as the percentage of the annual GDP these organizations came to occupy. (It’s OK even if no data are made available on the pork portion of these numbers.)
  • The relative size of the total government spending in India
    • It should be available separately for the Center and for each of the States/UTs.
    • The fraction of the total government expenditure in India that was spent in providing the three specific services of Defence, Police, and Courts (i.e. the entire judiciary), and for all the other activities of the government. Also, similar data, if available, for the money directly spent on the legislative branch.

Ideally (since I am so lazy) I would like it if the data have already been adjusted for inflation—any base year would do.

The data might be only rough (ballpark) estimates.

I would also like some important related data such as the number of people employed in each sector (and branch of government) are available, though some of these type of data are already available at Wikipedia here[^].

More than 25 years ago, I had already started believing in Capitalism. As a part of understanding the world around me better, I would go out and buy a small pocket book of the title (if I remember it right) “Statistical Outline of India”. It was a book that all socialists and academics but no businessman would buy. It used to be brought out, if I mistake not, by some concern of Tatas—possibly, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay. I guess they used to issue a new edition every year or so, because I distinctly remember having bought a different version more than once.

If you know of any Internet links for the above kind of data, please drop a line to that effect.

And, if you fail to find any easily accessible links for even as important and salient data as these, think about the depths of socialism/statism to which this country has already plunged.

[E&OE]

–  –  –  –  –
A Song I Like:

(Marathi) “jay jay mahaaraashtra maajhaa…”
Lyrics: “raajaa baDhe”
Music: “shreenivas khaLe”
Singer: “shaahir saabLe”

The Recent Workshop on Advanced Nonlinear FEM at COEP

For the couple of days that just passed by, i.e. on April 9 and 10, I attended a two-day Workshop on Advanced Nonlinear FEM at COEP [^]. It was organized jointly by Pro-Sim, Bangalore [^] and COEP’s Mechanical Engineering Department. However, quite a few people from some other organizations also came in to deliver their talks. These included managers or senior engineers in charge of the CAE departments in Eaton, Mahindras, Tata Motors, CDAC, and others. The new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pune, Dr. Shevgaonkar, also dropped by for the inaugural function.

BTW, this being COEP, there never was any question of their inviting me to give a lecture/talk as a part of any workshop such as this. I suppose that they would consider it as compromising their [unstated] standards of quality. However, I did pay their registration fees, and attend the event as a regular attendee, just to see what all things were being discussed during the event.

One part of my interest in attending this workshop concerned learning. I have never been taught FEM in a class-room, or for that matter by anyone in person as such—I’ve picked up all my FEM on my own, by going through books and writing my own code, and then also by interacting via blogs/emails. (For example, see my grappling of the issue of banding and discontinuity of the derivatives, on iMechanica, here [^], something which I took complete care of soon later on, way before beginning teaching my FEM courses at COEP and CDO/MERI….) Anyway, given that I had never sat in an FEM classroom, I thought that it might be fun to do so, for a change. Another part of my interest in the workshop touched on my professional interests. I have myself begun conducting courses on fundamentals of FEM, and I wanted to compare the cost-to-benefit ratio for my course offering vis-a-vis others’.

Overall, I would say that it was only a barely acceptable deal at Rs. 4,000/- for the two days.  Of course, it certainly was worth more than a thousand bucks a day. I think it would have been a fairly good deal at about Rs. 2,500/- or so.

One doesn’t keep quite the same expectations from a workshop as one would from a training course. Yet, considering the fact that the settings for this workshop would be academic, it would have been better if the topics in this Workshop were to be sequenced better and treated differently. What happened in this workshop was that the individual faculty members were, by and large, actually good and knowledgeable engineers. Yet, the actual amount of knowledge to get transferred was, I am afraid, only minimal.

Many of the speakers could neither pace themselves well nor select their main topics (or subtopics) well. Further, the sequence of these lectures was not very well organized. There was this absence of an integrating theme continuously running through the lectures.

Now, I realize that it is always difficult to ensure a theme even for a small group of speakers. Sticking to a theme would be even more difficult to ensure in a workshop that is delivered by 5+ people. Yet, if you look at say, SIGGRAPH workshops in the USA, or, closer to India, the workshops covered in the NDT-related events, one can clearly see that maintaining an integrating theme, in which people progress from simple topics and fundamentals on to more complex topics and applications, is not as difficult as it might otherwise sound.

Since there was no theme, it had the appearance of a collage, not of a coherent picture. I mean, if you were to catch hold of a typical young attendee (say a BTech/MTech student) and if you were to ask him to identify in one line what distinguishes non-linearity from linearity in the context of FEM, he won’t be able to tell you that it’s all about going from: \begin{bmatrix}A\end{bmatrix} \begin{Bmatrix}x\end{Bmatrix} = \begin{Bmatrix}b\end{Bmatrix} to: \begin{bmatrix}A(x)\end{bmatrix} \begin{Bmatrix}x\end{Bmatrix} = \begin{Bmatrix}b\end{Bmatrix}. … In this workshop, there was an impressive array of topics, many insights, even more colorful pictures… But little reference was made to fundamentals.

So, if such a workshop is to be conducted in future, I think there should be three/four  (at least two/three) short tutorial or review sessions (of 1.5 to 2 hours each, complete with fill-in-the-blank type of worksheets), before the biggies begin to deliver their talks. It would always be helpful to review basics first. And, the matter should not end there. The entire workshop should be a well-ordered progression.

Another matter. The lectures should be interspersed with 30 minute sessions of actually working out simple problems, using an actual software. It would be OK even if such demos did not include hands-on experience.

Yet another matter. A workshop like this should include applications to fracture processes and mechanics. Also, handling the differential kind of non-linearity via FEM, for instance, modeling of the Navier-Stokes equation using FEM. A discussion of this aspect was surprisingly absent.

Also another matter. For an advanced topic like Nonlinear FEM, the discussions must touch upon how to abstract boundary and initial conditions from the given actual situation. This should be done via giving specific references to a few examples, rather than breezing through numerous case studies with the assumption that the audience knows how to specify the constraints. It should be assumed that they don’t. This must be done even if you don’t include topics like well-posedness, dynamic instability-related points, and so on.

One last point. This is not specific to this particular workshop, but to almost any lecture/delivery by almost any Indian researchers/engineers. Namely, that they are either poor on presentation skills. Or, they are *very* poor.

… Among all the lectures, those by Mr. Ashok Joshi (Manager, CAE, Tata Motors), Mr. Anil Gupta (Manager, CAE, Eaton), and Dr. Sundarrajan (Group Coordinator, CDAC) stood out, on this particular point. Especially the one by Mr. Joshi. …

… But many other speakers had just plain unacceptable habits of speaking: not realizing that too much time is being spent on trivia while keeping a single slide open for too long and then rushing through many other more relevant ones; lecture delivery that comes far too haltingly with far too many pauses and breaks; just too much of jumping around the sub-phrases of a single sentence with absolutely indiscriminate levels of “it”s thrown in… In general, far too much mangling of the grammar…  That way, I have no issues with accent—even an outright regional sort of accent—so long as the speaker is clear and audible. I do have a lot of issues with the contents, the grammar, and the general way of delivering statements—regardless of the accent.

I think that if they tape their lecture delivery and listen to it later (or better still: try to transcribe it on paper), they themselves will realize what they need to do. Here is a made-up example:

“… I mean, it is not like, … let me tell you, what I am trying to do it here… As the forces will be applied to it… and… it will not be the same everywhere… I am telling you, it will be different and why it will be happening is… it will not be the same… It will vary… this point, this point… Ok… You can see, it will be different, the displacement.”

The speaker takes so many pauses, so many breaks, before you realize that what he is trying to point out is the spatial non-uniformity of the displacement field—not of the applied traction (a quantity that too is visible, in a colorful manner, in the same diagram, but something which neither the uttered words nor the waved hands make any reference to, even if necessary in this context).

And, BTW, in this made-up example, I have used fewer “it”s and “will”s. I just can’t get why they can’t workout the structure of a sentence just a fraction of a second in advance before proceeding to utter it. Why do they just have to jump in somewhere in the middle of a thought, literally wherever they want, blurt out those pieces, and then haphazardly attempt to connect them with only one constant expression on the face: why are you not getting me?  … What would be so wrong if the speaker were just to take a complete pause (not even those “umms” and “hmmms”), and then just say: “A force is applied over this part of the boundary. We are interested in the displacement field in this region. We are first interested in displacement because it’s the primary unknown. As expected, the displacement field is not uniform. The interesting feature of its non-uniformity is … [so and so]. … Let’s try to understand the causal relation of this pattern with the distribution of the applied traction.”

… More than a mere presentation skills issue, I think there also is something about mental discipline, and more: something about keeping some concern with inductive integration rather than with the deductive jumping around.

I think they should hire professionals from those management/BPO/similar training institutes and undergo a special training course on public speaking. Further, I think they should also introduce some basics of applied epistemology (say, as what even today gets covered in the better among those BEd/MEd courses) in the engineering/science curricula to highlight the importance of ordering, hierarchy, perceptual referents, inductive arguments, integration, and general pacing out the things to be taught. And I think they should make these courses compulsory, the grades being included in the final GPA. Then, the students will take these matters seriously, and then, the future speakers will turn out to be better.

Of course, the above criticism doesn’t mean that there was no value in the workshop. As I said, it certainly was worth about half the price. Also, the above criticism was based not just on this workshop but on virtually all the conferences that I have attended in the past decade in India (including the ISTAM ones). Indian engineers and scientists, in general (exceptions granted), are very poor on presentation skills.

Coming back to this workshop in particular, there indeed was some definite value to it. But still, … how do I put it?… I think the biggest “carry home” point(*) about it was not the contents of the proceedings themselves—it was: those shake-hands and the exchange of the visiting cards before and after the talks. … Sorry, I still can’t call them as my “contacts” yet, but yes, that socializing was, the way I see it, the biggest import of the event for most of the attendees. And that, whether for the good or for the bad, would summarize the nature of this event right.

It was so for me too…. But, apart from it, to me, personally, the event happened to provide one unexpected benefit: it boosted my confidence. (You might want to read it a little differently, too.)

And, there were certain other pleasant moments on the side, too. Dr. Shevgaonkar highlighted the importance of building CAE software in India—as against merely using the packages made abroad. Dr. Arul Selvan tried to drive home the point that materials modeling was right at the core of advanced FEM for mechanical engineers too (though I can’t be sure that the point reached the aforementioned “home”). Dr. Shamasundar indicated how automated optimization was no longer a “hi fi” thing of research but a tool already deployed right here, in Indian industry. Dr. Sreehari Kumar and Dr. Sundarrajan even touched on the issues related to solver technologies, and their discussions of the topic was a welcome addition given the kind of issue that typical Indian mechanical engineers have with any discipline other than their own, e.g. disciplines like computer science, metallurgy, instrumentation, or physics.

(*I can’t recall the informal word they use in such contexts—esp. for conferences—something like “carry home” or “upshot” “take out” or something like that…)

– – – – –

A Couple of Songs I Like:

1. (Marathi) “daari paaoos paDato, raani paaravaa bhijato…”
Singer: Suman Kalyanpur
Music: Ashok Patki
Lyrics: Ashok G. Paranjape

2. (Marathi) “bolaavaa vithhal, pahaavaa vithhal…”
Lyrics: “sant tukaaraam”
Singer: “prabhaakar kaarekar” [Not sure yet, but it appears to be him. In my guesswork, many clues I gave here earlier turned out to have been incorrect. But I could locate my CD, though not its cover. I still need to check if it’s Karekar, which I could do starting with the publication number they print on the CD itself. And, yes, in any case, IMHO, this rendition is better than any one any other singer, notably: Kishori Amonkar, Jitendra Abhisheki, Aarati Anklikar-Tikekar, Shaunak Abhisheki, others…. If it indeed is Karekar, then the “shishya” obviously rendered it better than the “guru.” I say this even if in the Indian classical music tradition it is a taboo to claim the superiority of the “shishya” if the claimant is not the “guru” in question himself. … Weird! (And let me know if you want the original clues to appear here, possibly scratched out—I hardly care for the “rules” of blogging either!!]