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!



Yo—9: The lost song

[Update on 2015.01.29 appears at the end.]

This will really, really be a Yo post—short and sweet.

As I had mentioned in the “A Song I Like” section of my past blog post of 2009.09.06 [^], there was a certain song whose words I simply could not remember well, and so, I had also failed to locate the song anywhere on the ‘net. (I had asked `n’ number of “songs-knowing” friends, family members, and also acquaintances in general, before doing those extensive Google searches I mentioned in that post.)

Now some five+ years later, I am happy to let you know that I have found the song! … Via a search on the ‘net, of course. [On 2015.01.24, if you must know.]

Locating the song now became possible only thanks to this popular (and impressively extensive) blog maintained by one Atul (and a few pals); the blog is named “Atul’s Bollywood Song A Day” [^]. [Back in 2009, the song had not yet been listed on Atul’s site/blog.]

There are some reasons why I could not get to this song any time earlier (despite very extensive Google searches on several occasions).

First, there is this feature of many old Hindi film songs whereby the song does not begin immediately. Instead, there is this yawningly long spoken “preamble” of sorts at the beginning, which then is followed by a sleep-inducing piece of a “subdued” kind of a music. People with extreme cases of amnesia insomnia[see update at the end] report that this piece is always very efficient in generating pathos of sorts. Here, the music directors of those olden golden days could accomplish their goal by using just a single violin or a flute, they then add. Even then, the song itself still does not show any sign of beginning.  The aforementioned delivery is further followed by a veeeery loooooooong silence. (In some songs, the combination repeats a couple of times or so.)

And then, if any one around is still left awake, he then becomes qualified to listen to the actual song. Which is a very different tune, of course.

The trouble is, it is this latter part which can be quite hummable and likeable.

More to the present point, as a rule, even the words used in that “preamble” have nothing [or almost nothing] to do with the subsequent (Hindi) “mukhaDaa” itself. [For my Western readers: A (Hindi) “mukhaDaa” or a  (Marathi, Sanskrit) “dhrupad” is more or less the same as the refrain in the Western pop songs.]

Now, what Google did was to index this song by its “preamble,” but not by the “mukhaDaa”. … Not their fault, actually. Even back in 2009, there existed a few sites that would tell you which Hindi song is based on what (Hindi, Sanskrit) “raag.” [Such sites are supposedly very useful for instantaneous acquisition of IQ + MQ + EQ.] A couple of these sites had chosen to be very faithful to their tradition, and so, they had done their listing using only the “preamble.” [OK. Drop that IQ part.]

In contrast, Atul, being a layman, did the right thing: in 2012, he listed the song by the “mukhaDaa,” thereby making it possible for me to locate it in my recent search.

Another reason, as I had indicated in my above-mentioned post, was that I had only a vague recollection of the words.

Anyway, let me not stretch your patience any more. On Atul’s blog, the entry for this song can be found here: [^].

[Feel free to check out my earlier post, and then write an ink-blot sort of a psychoanalysis of mine, based on what I had remembered right, what I had forgotten, and what I had distorted. Just one request: do share your psycho-analysis with me. […No, you don’t have to hesitate at all!… I also read newspaper astrology columns.]]

And, if it is not a (Hindi, Sanskrit) “bhairavi,” then please do drop me a line. (And, BTW, should the spelling be “bhairavee,” and not “bhairavi”? In Hindi? in Marathi? in Sanskrit?)

Anyway, hope you like this song.

[Though once again this post has grown a bit too long, at least I managed to keep it restricted to just one section, and at less than 1000 words. Yo!]

[Update on 2015.01.29: Edited the post to substitute “insomnia” in place of “amnesia.”Also, changed the order of the two paragraphs near where I write something about psycho-analysis. Also, cut out some erroneous portion in entirety.

Now, a few words about amnesia and insomnia:

When I first wrote that line, I knew what I wanted was “insomnia” (i.e. sleep deprivation or difficulty to go to sleep) . But I still wrote “amnesia” (forgetfulness). And, while writing the wrong word, I did actually pause and think twice, and even confirmed to myself, what I was writing was the correct word (“amnesia, of course, is sleep deprivation”), even though on the second reading (but only after the final publishing) I myself figure out that what I wrote was wrong…

Why does it always happen with me? I have no idea.

… In my entire primary and secondary school, I never got cent-percent marks in maths. And that wasn’t because I found maths difficult to follow or because I failed to “get” it, but simply because I made so many silly mistakes—before, during and after examinations. I mean, I could easily analyse some difficult sum, find the correct approach to solve it, and then, when it came to an intermediate simplifying step like, say: x + 4 = 6, I would explicitly write it down. But still, right in the next step, I could then easily write: x = -2! I would go on to use this wrong value in all my further steps, in a problem that others wouldn’t even choose to tackle.  Why would I do that—randomly picking up problems to solve, in the process picking up even a more difficult sum, and then introducing silly mistakes in it? I have no idea.

… Neither do I any longer care.

So, as the last word, let me say, I could at least do enough sums write to get through my engineering education, and now, I can at least ex post “publisho” catch my posting errors. … Hey, I must be doing some thing right, right?]



Copying It Right…

As a young student at IIT Madras, I made many friends. One of them had a very neat collection of a variety of songs: Hindi, English, and Bengali. The collections wasn’t very large, not at that time anyway, but it was neat. For instance, I had heard the version of Evita as rendered at a Broadway stage, right back then, in 1985–87, i.e. way before Madonna cut her own version of the songs. … I am sure as we go along, some of the songs I heard back then certainly are going to make it in this blog, in the usual “A Song I Like” section.

In case you have joined late: I thought of adding such a section following Jean Moroney-Binswanger’s writeup suggesting that you make it a practice to write down, at the end of each day, a few (say 5) good things—major or minor—that happened to you on that day. The practice would go towards a better enjoyment of life, that was her general idea. Given my irregular nature, writing down 5 good things each every day would be too much, I thought. (Irregular nature, and, of course, the kind of life I have, too! :)) But then, I also thought that it might not be a bad idea to add a few songs to every blog post. That makes it like one good thing every week or so—and it seems to fit in very nicely with my average “feel good” rate!

Anyway, to come back to those songs I heard some 25 years ago in that IIT Madras hostel. There was one Bengali song that I particularly loved. However, I forgot to get its details before I left the IIT. I anyway didn’t know the words of the song any particularly well. But the tune? That was extraordinary. Even heavenly. I hummed it sometimes. … A few years went by, and I found myself in one of my darkest patch of life in Alabama. The overall situation of my life at that time was such that moods like sadness, of betrayal, even of depression were unavoidable. It was a situation in which you want to be with your near and dear ones, with your close, dependable friends, and with your family—and it was a situation in which I didn’t have enough money that I could afford a ticket for a trip to India. I was a student, and further, in heavy debt due to some personal situation in my life (divorce, breaking of prior friendship, no other already known friends and certainly no family-member in the USA). … When the mood became particularly bad, I would find myself prolonging the shower, singing some tunes. Some expressed some pain so well, that in the act of singing them, the present pain/sorrow would ease sheer due to venting out. Call it a catharsis, if you wish. Some others lifted the spirit. This tune I mentioned above was one of the songs in the latter category.

A few more years passed by, and I would find myself humming this tune, more or less absent-mindedly, while riding my famous M80 to work at Viman Nagar in Pune—my very first job in software engineering. (The M80 was bought second-hand because I had no money to buy anything better. It became famous at CDAC because once its pillion rider’s seat cushion crumbled away due to aging and cuts, I didn’t replace it, because there was none to ride with me—and so, none of my friends at CDAC’s diploma could ever ride with me anyway. Anyway, the point is: I would definitely be riding it alone!)

Viman Nagar in those days (mid 1990s) certainly was under development, but nowhere nearly as developed as it is today. There was may be just one building per hundreds of meters, not per hundred feet. The road to the work went through a patch in the fields, an untarred road. The sky would be completely open to the eye from all sides. And when the monsoons arrived, one could watch miles and miles of clouds, unobstructed by buildings. There is a certain thing that had never happened before and only seldom after, but, somehow, during those years, in monsoons, many melodious—and unheard—tunes would seem to “come to” me—my mind would very easily synthesize them on the fly. I mean, while riding that moped, I would find myself turned into a music composer. Too bad that I didn’t know the music notation—so many tunes have been lost forever. (However, when I could manage it, I have taken care to memorize the tune and thereby keep it in mind through the day at the work, until I came back home, and then have taped a few such hummnigs.)

Another curious phenomenon then was, I could very easily imagine very grand orchestration schemes, particularly in the Western style (with tens, even hundreds, of violins, a complete rhythm section, etc.). And, more. I was moved to imagine such Western orchestration for even very simple Marathi songs. It all was simply in my imagination while I rode that M80, and some of it has remained there. For instance, a very grand, even royal kind of Western orchestration scheme—with some very easily imaginable but outright cheap frills eliminated from it—for this Marathi song is still with me: “soor sanaeet naadaawalaa… saang visaru kashee mee tulaa…” (Shanta Shelke, Usha, Hridaynath).

So, both new music would come to me, and some beautiful old music would get revived. That song—rather, that tune which I had heard in IIT—would come back to me unconsciously then. And, by this time, I had forgotten that it was a Bengali song—only the tune had remained with me.

Still many more years passed; I went back to the USA, and even came back to India, once again a failure in getting a green-card/citizenship. It was about 2002/3 times. My nephew, then in school, had come visiting us, and we were flicking through TV channels. Suddenly, on a Marathi TV channel (not DD Sahyadri), we heard a few college youths from Bombay sing that song. I was ecstatic. I started feverishly pacing the room, nay, almost dancing, almost everywhere in the house. The nephew didn’t understand why. It is a very well known song, he said. He could easily get it for me. But, no, he didn’t know any particulars such as who wrote, composed, etc. And, we had managed to catch only the last 10–15 seconds of it. But, yes, he would get it for me, he said. Ok.

A few months later, the nephew declared his inability to get it. He no longer even remembered the friends at whose place he had heard it.

A few more years passed by. Cut to the present.

Last month, we had a colleage visit us from Kolkota for an extended visit. He carried with him a few Marathi classical songs and many Bengali ones. I borrowed his Bengali collection for listening, and was listening to them at random and absent-mindedly going through the song listings.

And, suddenly, there it was. The Song. … I won’t stretch your curiousity. It had always been this song: “dhitang dhitang bole…” a part of Robindro Shongeet, with lyrics and composition by Ravindranath Tagore.

Indeed, the entire collection was nothing but Robindro Shongeet.

Initially, my condition was like a boy who has found a treasure (not coins, but colorful stones, feathers of birds, colorful insects). However, to be brutally honest, I found that I had begun to have this sense of repetitiveness as I went through those 200-odd songs. (The actual repertoire of Robindro Shongeet exceeds 2000 songs, all written and composed by that one man!)  Perhaps, as with all types of music, the ability to make finer distinctions comes later—and with it, a better appreciation.

Anyway, there still were a few songs I loved right at the first go. … I will introduce them slowly, one by one, in the usual last section on the songs I like. But, let me tell you one song right away. The reason is, it does have a bearing on the title of this post. (Yes, after expending 1300 words, we are getting at the title.)

The one song I particularly loved, on its own merits, was this:

“bhaalobaashee, bhaalobaashee..” (Robindro Shongeet; this rendition by Indrani Sen)

The song was so beautiful that I got enveloped in it—the complexity and the refinement of its melody, its rich and emotionally evocative structure, and the power this short piece of music derives through its specific form of being a lyric. Including that sense of incompleteness which you feel at the end due to the very form of the music—the terseness of a short lyric.

In fact, so powerful was the effect of “bhaalobashee” that it took a while before I fully became conscious of that mild deja vu feeling I had been having right in the middle of listening to it for the first time.

Some time later, I realized that Rabindranath Tagore, apparently, had copied an element or two from a very wonderful film song. (Forgive me if I don’t get it right as to who copied to what extent and in what way from whom—can’t you see I am so deep in music?)

That film song, so beautiful and wonderful on its own merits, is this:

(Hindi) “koi door se, aawaaz de, chale aao…”
Lyrics: Shaqeel Badaayuni
Music: Hemant Kumar

Ok. So here is one difficult aspect of anything such as copyrights. Go ahead, listen to both “bhaalobashee” and “koi door se” and come back and tell me on the following:

Is it right for us to say that Hemant Da had lifted something off Gurudeb (i.e. Tagore)?

That is to say, is it right to say that copyrights have been violated in this instance?

The second question is important. The critics of copyrights (and of IPRs in general) often like to bring forth what epistemologically are borderline cases, then erect some strawman out of them, then beat the strawman to its unnatural (i.e. floatingly abstract) death, then garner sympathy for their intellectual standpoint, and finally declare victory for their “simple” and  “commonsense” position.

One of the tactical defense against them to go ahead and ask the rightness of assuming whether copyrights were indeed violated—whether in the moral sense or the legal sense—in examples such as that pertaining to the above.

In this case, to me, it is obvious that Robindronath’s music was a deep, formative influence on Hemant Da (just the way it is on any Bengali kid). It is only to be expected that at certain elementary level of composition, esp. at the level of phrases, the heard music would exert some indirect influence on you—as is clear in this case. But such things do not qualify for “lifting,” or “stealing.” For that matter, I am not even sure whether a composer would be morally obliged to declare even “inspiration” in such a case. I mean, which Bengali worth his salt is not going to acknowledge Gurudeb’s general influence on him?

Is it necessary for a scientist to add: “I am indebted to Aristotle, Newton, Gauss, Maxwell, [just to pick some names] et al.” at the end (or the beginning) of each paper he writes? Indeed, in applied mechanics, we do not expect that an author acknowledge a Griffith, or a Prandtl, even if directly relevant, except in the formal references section. If acknowledged otherwise, we would rather find it a curious, albeit innocent, error of commission.

I do not wish to encourage violations of IPRs—indeed, I have fought for them. Yet, I do think that there is a sense in which we can say B has copied A, but done it right. From the field of music, Hemant Da’s “koi door se,” is one apt example.

And, before closing, there is another beautiful twist to “koi door se.”

As everyone knows, this is one of Geeta Dutt’s finest songs. She indeed has rendered it superlatively. So much so that people thought none would be able to match or exceed her. Not even Lata.

And then, in a live music program (Royal Albert Hall), Lata chose to sing Geeta Dutt’s song. After listening to Lata’s rendition, there are left only two possibilities: either Lata matched Geeta, or Lata exceeded Geeta.

I am happy to leave it to you to decide whether Lata’s copy is better than Geeta’s original, or whether it only matches the original. And, while you are at it, do also listen to that “bhaalobashee” by Tagore in the meanwhile. And let me know which version by what singer of “bhaalobashee” really is the best—there are so many of them.

And, one final point. An article a few days ago in the newspaper DNA by R. Jagannathan [^] was pathetic, pathetic, pathetic. I am in no mood to intellectually analyze his position in detail. But let me make my stand clear. I am for IPRs in all their forms, for their protection, against plagiarism. And, I buy nothing of what Jagannathan said or motivated.

Actually, Jagannathan’s position here is not what a typical socialist would take about it. His position—to the extent he manages to convey any position at all, what with his mediaman’s habit of encasing/padding that typical media-like noise around any position— seems more or less on the side of pragmatism. Which means, very possibly, some American friend or colleague of his is influencing him in writing the way he wrote on plagiarism. (In case you didn’t know, Pragmatism is an American contribution to philosophy—the only one coming from that land of honey and milk, i.e. USA.) Even otherwise, many of his other write-ups are, by comparison to this piece, much better. You too go ahead, tell him that—namely, that it is bad to even attempt to justify plagiarism.

That’s about it, for this post.

For obvious reasons, this post does not carry the usual “A Song I Like” section.

[At least one “finishing” touch to streamline English and to correct typos in this writeup, which was written purely on the fly, is required. May be later today]


Single-Point Agendas, Henceforth… + Invited Talks

0. Single-Point Agendas, Henceforth…

Recently, I happened to browse quite a few personal blogs. (Mostly, I was taking links off Churumuri and Nanopolitan and Atanu Dey’s blogs—including the blogs of the people posting comments at these blogs.) The two things I noticed were the following: (i) whereas most blogs carry categories and labels, my blog here doesn’t, and, (ii) when writing their own content (as in contrast to providing links), most blogs carry only one topic per post whereas I happen to throw all kinds of topics together in a single post.

As to the first (providing categories and labels to my posts here): It will take quite some time to go back and add categories and labels to all my previous posts. And unless I do that, any categories and labels that I add for the new posts will not give a “balanced” kind of picture of what all topics have been covered here thus far. But I don’t have as much time at hand right now… So, for the lack of time, I have no choice but to continue posting without categories and labels.

However, for the second part, I think I am going to have only single-topic posts henceforth… (I am not yet sure, hence the phrase “I think..”) … And, BTW, this note itself does not count as a topic in its own right.

1. Invited Talks

When it comes to higher education in India, Dr. Jayant Narlikar has been advocating involving working scientists in teaching university courses.

Separately, a lot of people have been commenting on the differences in the practices that are followed in higher education in India vs. those abroad, notably, in the US.

With the upcoming entry of foreign universities in India, all such matters are going to be under discussion for some time in the immediate future.

For the time being, I would like to make just a couple of observations here.

(1) Most US universities maintain, right on their official servers, elaborate personal Web pages/sites of not only their faculty members but also of their PhD students—sometimes, also their MS (and even their undergraduate) students.

In contrast, in India, outside of a few select institutions like IITs and IISc (and few others like TIFR, IMSc, JNCASR, IUCAA, etc.) not even university professors themselves maintain personal Web pages/sites. And here I mean the professors employed in the university departments—not those from the affiliated colleges.

When Web services are as cheap as Rs. 1000/year or even free, what stops these professors from maintaining Web pages? Or is there a fear of getting caught at work here?

(2) If you browse the Web pages/CVs of PhD students abroad, you will notice that many of them come to boast of numerous Invited Talks delivered right before their graduation. These invited talks are counted separate from (i.e. in addition to) their conference presentations. In contrast, in India, even Assistant/Associate Professors employed at IITs might find it hard to get invited—only the top handful professors would be.

In India, an Invited Talk mainly serves as a status symbol, not as a means for having a good scientific interaction—a serious kind of fun! The culture of informal interactions in the form of seminars, workshops, invited talks is almost non-existent in India. Science is a matter of duty here, not of personal interest or ambition.

It seems easy enough for people here (in India) to explicitly note, if not outright complain, that they don’t understand someone else’s research—e.g., mine. However, strangely enough, this observation does not translate into a very simple action: Invite that guy over for a couple of invited talk (or a half-day seminar) on his topic.

The usual scapegoat: Lack of Funds, is not the real issue here, apathy is. That, or even worse human motivations.

I mean, I just can’t understand what stopped these folks from PRL or TIFR (or Narlikar’s own IUCAA) from asking a PhD student (say, from a nearby institution; say, from COEP’s Mechanical Department during 2004–2007; say, me) to go over their place and deliver a lecture or two on a topic from his research work which they claim they don’t understand? What stops (or stopped) them from doing something as simple as that?

And, what kind of a budget do you think is involved here? Not even Rs. 5000/- ($ 100/-) it it’s between Delhi and Bombay (or between Bangalore and Pune); or Rs. 1000/- ($20/-) if it’s between Bombay and Pune; or Rs. 200/- ($4/-) if it’s within the Pune city itself. All these institutions avail of enough funds from UGC (the same body that funds research on astrology), DST, DoD, and all other bodies—typically, they have lakhs or even millions of Rupees earmarked for their visitor programs. And, even more funds would be available upon asking. (For instance, in case you didn’t know, under a scheme that DST runs, any MTech guy can easily avail of one million Rupees for any reasonable project work, even if he is not employed with a public-sector organization—all that they ask is that he has to be be an Indian citizen with enough qualifications and experience, and that he should arrange for supervision from some public sector laboratory or so, for monitoring purposes. And I directly or indirectly know of people who have availed of funding under this scheme, with funds being sanctioned within a year or so.)

I am not advocating public sector R & D. Not at all. All that I am saying is: Obviously, funding is not at all an obstacle when it comes to invite a PhD student at an institution like TIFR or IIT Bombay or IUCAA etc.

Yet, these same stupids—those who cannot conceive or bear with the thought of inviting a mere PhD student over—hardly spare any opportunity to criticize politicians or bureaucrats, (or anyone else who falls outside of their small, narrow clique of scientists). Stupids! [And I delete a whole train of worse words here—not because this is supposed to be a kid-sister-friendly blog, but because one realizes that these sort of assholes are not even worth spitting at—that’s why!!]

That is the sort of culture you have of doing science, of higher education, in India, as of today! And, here, I was talking of only the science and engineering departments here, not humanities, where it’s obvious that the matters can only be worse!!

Hopefully, when foreign universities arrive, something as inexpensive (and as simple) as this aspect—inviting PhD students and junior researchers for talks on their research—would undergo a change!

– – – – –

A Few Songs I Like

Note: You must have noticed that I hardly list Western music here, in the section “Songs I Like”. The reason is personal. It so happens that for the most part of my early life, I hardly, if ever, had listened to any Western musical sounds at all—not even pop or rock English songs. I grew up in rural areas of Maharashtra, many different towns, and in none of the towns would anyone ever play any kind of Western music. When we relocated to Nasik during my 10th standard, I was overjoyed because, finally, I could call a “city” my hometown. My working criterion for a city (as against towns), back then, was that it had to have traffic signals. Nasik city had just come to have one traffic signal, at the CBS square, back then. So, it was a city. … To cut a long story short, I developed “tastes” for both beer and English songs almost simultaneously, once I went to COEP. (Beer came first.) Yet, for reasons I don’t quite understand, though I do like quite a few English songs/Western tracks, I still find myself hesitating a bit when it comes to calling them as the songs I like. I mean, I like these English songs, sometimes even in a deep way, but even that liking seems to belong to a somewhat different category. I appreciate it, even deeply, but in a different mode as it were. … Anyway, just note for the time being that there is a little difference here between those Marathi and Hindi songs I like on the one hand and the Western/English tracks/songs I like on the other… (And since this note has grown big enough to qualify to be a post, I will post it as a separate post in its own right, later on!!)

Ok. Here we go with a few songs I like, this time round, from Western/English side…

1. to 3. Most of the tracks of the movie “Flashdance,” though, of course, among them, it is the instrumental theme track which is the most favorite of mine, followed by certain others [to be looked up and filled in later on, say, within a day or two]. Update on March 28, 2010: Say, these songs (in no particular order): “What a feelin…” and “Manhunt.”

BTW, the order of listing songs isn’t at all significant in this blog even otherwise.