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]?




What are the rules for hiring?—2

Last year in August, I had written a post of the title: “What are the rules for hiring?” [^]. In that post, I had pointed out that historically, the University of Pune (now called Savitribai Phule Pune University, or SPPU for short), in fact didn’t have this “Mechanical-vs-Metallurgy `Branch-Jumping’ Issue.” Though I have a BE in Metallurgy, I myself had taken admission, right in COEP, for an ME program in Mechanical Engineering.

In that post, I had also traced in some detail how COEP had thrown obstacles in my path at the time of my admission to the PhD program in Mechanical Engineering. (If you found (or now find) reading through all those details exasperating, then take a moment to realize what it might have been like for me to live through those artificially created struggles.)

Today, in this post, I once again return to the issue of the hiring rules. I want to provide the reader with copies of the relevant official documents, together with some discussion of the issues as well as my comments.

(I) The AICTE Norms:

If you do ‘net searches to find the AICTE norms document which governs the hiring of professors in the engineering colleges in this country, then you will find many documents floated by different colleges or universities. Most of the matter in such documents are similar to the actual AICTE document, though there often are some small and subtle differences. I don’t mind if different colleges/universities wish to follow policies that are at a slight variance from the norms issued by the AICTE. After all, these are norms, not hard-and-fast rules. To me, trouble begins only when they don’t explicitly note the points of departure. Go ahead, do ‘net searches, and you will find that not a single one of these unofficial documents has bothered to explicitly identify the changes they made from the original AICTE document.

For my purposes, I was looking for the original and authentic AICTE document. I found it faithfully uploaded at SPPU’s Web site, here [^]. Since the college/university Web sites sometimes fail to maintain all the documents or links in order, I have decided to keep a copy of this same document also on my Google Drive, here [^].

See Serial Number 3 on page 2 for Professor’s position in this document. It states:

“Ph.D  degree  with  first  class  degree  at  Bachelor’s  or  Master’s  level  in  the appropriate  branch  of  Engineering  /  Technology  with  10  years  experience in Teaching / Industry / Research out of which 5 years must be at the level of  Assistant  Professor  and  /  or  equivalent.”

True to the khaki register-style dumbness (or the (Marathi) “khaa kee!” type of “smart”ness), this wording is vague on multiple counts. (If there is someone intending to get bribes, let me state it, publicly, that I am refusing to give them any.)

You can interpret this wording in several different ways. The different interpretations can be had by mentally inserting braces “{}” to isolate the different blocks of the text together, and then working out whether these blocks of text apply multiplicatively (as in the Cartesian product) or not.

The two relevant and entirely different ways in which the wording can be interpreted is this:

Interpretation 1.0:

This interpretation says that: you should have a PhD degree in the appropriate branch + you should have a first class either at bachelor’s level or at the master’s level, but both the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees must have come only in the appropriate branch.

According to this interpretation, you are allowed to be dumb (you have to somehow manage a first class only once), so long as you have been conforming to the same branch throughout your life.

With this interpretation, the following issue arises: What does constitute an appropriate branch?

1.1 One sub-interpretation is: Only the Mechanical branch is the appropriate branch for the position of Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

1.2 The other sub-interpretation is: You may have the Mechanical branch either at the bachelor’s or the master’s level (just the way you can have a first class either at bachelor’s or master’s level) but not necessarily at both.

Since I didn’t have a Mechanical degree at either bachelor’s or master’s level, I couldn’t qualify, according to this interpretation 1.0 (whether you follow 1.1 or 1.2).

Interpretation 2.0:

This interpretation says that: You should have a PhD degree in the appropriate branch + you should have a first class either at bachelor’s level or at the master’s level, and further, that either bachelor’s or master’s degrees should have come from an appropriate branch.

Once again, you have to decide what constitutes an appropriate branch.

2.1 One sub-interpretation is: Only the Mechanical branch is the appropriate branch for a position of Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

2.1 The other sub-interpretation is: There can be choices for the appropriate branch at any of the degrees. For instance, to become a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, all the following are OK:
BE (Mech) + ME (Mech) + PhD (Met.)
BE (Mech) + ME (Prod) + PhD (Prod)
BE (Prod) + ME (Prod) + PhD (Prod)
BE (Met) + MTech (Met) + PhD (Mech)—my combination
BE (Aero) + ME (Met) + PhD (Met.)

This was my interpretation. It makes sense, because: (i) the wording is: “Bachelor’s or Master’s level in the appropriate branch,” and (ii) the word used is: “the appropriate branch,” not “the same branch.”

The Malady: The interpretation 1.0 was what was adopted by the former Dean of Faculty of Engineering at SPPU, i.e., Dr. G. K. Kharate.

I, on the other had, had always argued in favor of the Interpretation 2.2. The Dean had snobbishly and condescendingly told me that it was not a valid interpretation. When I had pointed out that all reputed universities and institutes abroad and in India do follow the more abstract interpretation (2.2), e.g. IISc and IITs do that, he had asked me to go join an IIT, then! I was quick to point out that I had exceeded their maximum age limit. Regardless of the quality of the argument, he had taken an umbrage at the quickness of my answer—he didn’t say anything but froze icily, and then just looked at me menacingly.

End of (this part of the) story.

(II) The Mumbai University Norms (2012):

The Mumbai University historically had always followed the interpretation 2.2, and never had major issues.

However, in view of the tightening of the government controls, they had held detailed discussions, and then had arrived at an explicit document that clearly states what all constitute the appropriate branches. They published this decision via a document called “Circular No. CONCOL/ICC/04/ of 2012”. I once again link to a copy that I have stored on my Google Drive, here [^].

See page 2 of this document, for the statement qualifications for an Assistant Professor:

“BE/ B Tech and ME /M Tech in relevant subject with First Class or equivalent either in BE / B Tech or ME / M Tech OR ME/M TECH in relevant Subject with First Class”

See page 3 of the same document for additional qualifications for an Associate Professor:

“Qualification as above that is for the post of Assistant Professor, as applicable and PHD or equivalent, in appropriate Discipline”

On the same page, certain additional qualifications expected for a Professor’s position are noted.

See page 9, Serial No. 2 of this document. For a position of Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgy is included as an equivalent/relevant/appropriate branch, even though only at the master’s level.

However, the drafting is extraordinarily clear here—there are two “or”s—one in the lowercase letters, and another in the capitals. The existence of the capital “OR” makes it abundantly clear that having only a master’s in a relevant subject with First Class is good enough. [Little wonder that the University of Mumbai always cuts ahead of the SPPU on rankings.]

As such, Interpretation 2.2 applies, and I qualify.

I anyway met with their Dean, had it clarified that I indeed do qualify, and eventually, was offered jobs as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. See my resume regarding these jobs. (The particular link to my resume may change as I update the resume, but it is always accessible from the home page of my personal Web site [^].)

But then, of course, the University of Pune (now SPPU) believes that they are the best and the most conscientious (or least licentious) in the world. So, they were never going to be taken in by the mere fact that the University next door (one which has always been ranked higher by every agency in the world) did easily allow me to function as an employed Professor of Mechanical Engineering. (I anyway do function as a professor of engineering. The only question is: whether they allow me to get employed as one, or not. The lower-ranked SPPU’s geniuses don’t.)

III The Maharashtra State GR (May 2014):

Sorry, on two counts: (i) I cannot give you a direct link to this document at the Web sites of the Maharashtra State Government. I found this document at the Recruitments section of COEP’s Web site, in June 2015, but the document is no longer to be found even at the COEP Web site. (ii) The document is in Marathi, so, my English readers would have to trust me when it comes to the titles of the columns of the relevant table.

Though the GR had come in effect in May 2014, I came to know of it only in June of 2015. The utmost benevolent Mechanical Engineering Professors (and the authorities) at SPPU are still napping dozing off, still getting annoyed when I mention the GR, and still asking me for a copy of this document (with a “knowing” certainty that they would be able to disqualify me in reference even to this GR).

I have once again uploaded my copy of the document to Google Drive, here [^].

Refer to page 13, Serial Number 2. (Fortunately, the Arabic numerals in English and in Marathi are quite similar, because the so-called Arabic numerals had originated in India anyway.)

At the master’s level, the GR expands on even the Mumbai Universities’ list of the equivalent/relevant/appropriate branches (though it cuts down on the Aerospace engineering at the bachelor’s level).

Showing this document, my last employers did offer me a position of Professor in Mechanical Engineering. (No, they didn’t give me the UGC scale. But they did offer me a full Professor’s position—and later on, treated me with full organizational respect that goes with a full Professor’s position.) I even uploaded the internal marks to SPPU’s BCUD Web site, using my own official account.)

Even then, even this year, the Mechanical Engineering geniuses and other employers at the utmost conscientious SPPU are still telling me that I don’t qualify.

As to my last employers, though their college is in Pune and is affiliated to SPPU, their headquarters are in Nagpur, not in Pune. But then, my point is, you don’t have to go so far away as to Nagpur. Go just 75 kms from this filthy place, and as soon as you climb down the Khandala ghat (and with that, also shed your obnoxious conformism of a mindless sort), and you reach a better place.

The Rules for the Maharashtra State Government’s Autonomous Institutes (November, 2014):

These are the latest rules. They apply only to the State Goverment’s Autonomous Institutes—not to the engineering colleges affiliated to SPPU.

But bear in mind that in the view of the State Government (and most every one else), these Autonomous Institutes are supposed to be in the leadership positions; they are supposed to be guide-lamps to the other colleges. It is in this context that their rules become relevant.

I found the document at COEP’s Web site, this year, here [^]. Once again, I have uploaded a copy at my Google Drive, here [^].

See page 3, Paragraph Serial Number 3.2. It says:

“PROFESSOR: Essential: (i)  Ph.D.  Degree  or  equivalent  in  the  concerned  discipline  from  a reputed  institution, preceded  by a UG/PG  Degree in the  relevant  discipline in First Class (or equivalent) with consistently good academic record; ” etc.

Much better (though not as good as the University of Mumbai’s).

Note that the PhD ought to come in the concerned discipline, whereas either the UG or the PG degree should have come from a relevant discipline.

This document thus settles the issue that the Interpretations 1.1 and 2.1 are NOT valid; only the Interpretations 1.2 and 2.2 can be. However, unlike the broadest interpretation in 2.2, here, the requirements are a bit restrictive: your PhD must be in the concerned discipline.

Thus, for the position of Professor in Mechanical Engineering, the following combination is allowed:

BE (Met) + M Tech (Met) + PhD (Mech).

On the other hand, as far as I can make it out (and I can be wrong here), both of the following come in doubt:

BE (Mech) + M Tech (Mech) + PhD (Aero)
BE (Mech) + M Tech (Mech) + PhD (Met)

Looks like they should hire people with better drafting abilities at both COEP as well as in the DTE—and most certainly, and first and foremost, at the AICTE. (Yeah, right. Keep hoping. (AICTE sits in New Delhi.))

I assert that the University of Mumbai’s draft is the best (among those considered above). If you differ, drop me a line.

For obvious reasons, for this post, there won’t be the usual section on a song I like.

I may come back and edit this post, but only for correcting typos/links, or to streamline the write-up.

Since the issues are both legal and important, I may also come back to edit this post any time in a distant future. If so, I will note those (more serious) updates explicitly. (In contrast, the immediate updates merely for streamlining and all, will not be noted explicitly.)

Update 1 on 2016.06.21: Added the detailed rules for Assistant and Associate Professor’s positions at the University of Mumbai. [The link to original document was given even earlier, but now the text of the main post also quotes the detailed requirements.]


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.]



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.