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

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

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


Books to Read:

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

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

A New QM Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Imposter Syndrome:

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


A Song I Like:

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

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


Update on 2016.11.17: English translation of the song:

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

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

For instance, in the first stanza, instead of

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

it should be something like:

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

Similarly, in the second stanza,  instead of:

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

a more accurate translation would be:

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

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

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


Update on 2016.11.18: My own English translation:

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

First, the original Hindi/Urdu words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


[E&OE]

 

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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.)
Etc.

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.]


[E&OE]

The Maharashtra 2014 Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, to tell the arrogance that:

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

It really was just a fun thought.

* * * * *   * * * * *  * * * * *

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

So, there.

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

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

* * * * *   * * * * *  * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It happens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pune has changed.

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

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

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

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

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

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

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

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

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

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

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

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song I like:

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

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

[E&OE]

 

My loud thinking concerning the recent questions about Narendra Modi

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Links to all to be added.]

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[E&OE]

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

0. The title says it all!

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

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

2. My Researches on QM:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. My Researches on Other Topics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. A Few Comments on Politics and All:

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

To ObjectivistMantra and Others:

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

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

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

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

[E&OE]

That’s One Farmer-Suicide One Couldn’t Care Less About!

The farmer in question, you must have guessed, is none other than Anna Hazare.

This is one guy about who I had wanted to write for a long time. However, for some very good reasons, it kept on getting out of my mind. His latest fast-unto-death episode just served to remind me. … Not that I have a lot to write about him—his persona just doesn’t permit one. But still, here we go.

First of all, let’s recognize that you cannot escape considerations of moral and political philosophy in this issue. A fast-unto-death is a means of putting a moral pressure, which, in this case, is for achieving not just social objectives but also certain specifically political ones. Further, since it’s a fast-unto-death, the issue demands that we must bring to the issue as much ruthless kind of honesty as we can. That is the only way we can assure ourselves a clean conscience. In particular, a wooly sort of hope, a blind kind of optimism, simply won’t do. And, finally, since it is Hazare’s fast-unto-death, we must also look at his person, as an individual—including at least a sketchy kind of moral evaluation of him, against an objectively validated code of ethics. For convenience, let’s begin with the man, his background, work and convictions, and then to the objectives he explicitly seeks to accomplish through his current fast.

So, who is Anna Hazare? Since I come from the same region that he does (had early schooling in, and have relatives in, the rural parts of both Ahmednagar and Pune districts of Maharashtra state), and since he has been profiled so profusely in the media, one didn’t really have to dig up anything. Still, out of interest, I read up his biography at his (presumably official) Web site: [^]. This biography notably lacks any mention of his education—formal, or informal (as gained via reading of books in an extracurricular manner). Which, incidentally, is precisely what one would have expected. A guy who can bask in the glory of being described as a crusader doesn’t think it’s important for him to let us have any clue of any kind of conceptual thought his mind is capable of conducting, if any.

Per the biography, he joined Indian Army in 1963. Began some social work in his home-town, Ralegan Siddhi, in 1975. Retired from the Army after 15 years (which makes it in 1978). Devoted himself to full-time social work after retirement.

He showed some great initiative and did some really good social work initially, in his home town. The work included watershed development as well as multifaceted development of his village.

One began hearing about him a few years later, say around mid- or late-1980s. The reports usually were full of praise for him. Perhaps it was around this time that one derived the impression that he was given the Magsaysay award. A search at the official Magsaysay award site [^] fails to confirm that he did receive that award; however, Indian media seems intent on saying so; e.g., see this search [^].

In Pune, one heard a lot of stories: of how the village had been transformed; of how a once barren land had been transformed into greenery rivaling Mahabaleshwar; etc. etc. A casual drive through the area in late 1990s, and I failed to spot even outstandingly thick greenery let one rivaling that at Mahabaleshwar. (One then realized, a prominent guy among them was a BJP+RSS-wallah PuNeri Brahmin. These characters always rely on spinning stories—the primacy of consciousness is their basic premise—they actually believe that the same thought repeated enough times can actually bring about change in physical reality without recourse to anything else.)

OK, but that digression was about the BJP-RSS-wallahs. But as far as Hazare himself goes, so far, so good. No arguments about his good work in Ralegan Siddhi.

Another piece. As I said, I have many relatives and acquaintences in rural parts, and I now recall a talk years ago (perhaps in late 1980s/1993–94 times) with some of them. The topic was: How farmers can improve their lot. My position was that the farmers were perhaps not helping themselves enough. To buttress my argument, I gave the example of Anna Hazare’s work in Ralegan Siddhi.

In Ralegan Siddhi—one of them emphasized. “Has he been able to do similar work in any other village?” he continued. Turns out, Hazare has always been a one-village wonder. He has not been able to similarly transform even a single other village. For whatever reasons, he has not been able to. He has been offered help by IAS officers and all. Funds have been arranged. They do run workshops in Ralegan Siddhi, on watershed management. OK. But that integrated sort of transformation? “Nowhere else,” I was informed. And, then, I was asked: “What do you think? Don’t we want to better ourselves? Aren’t there enough people in our villages to replicate Ralegan Siddhi?” And, then, what then was a shocker (which, then, I didn’t believe in.) “Do you think Anna Hazare even bothers to go to other villages, if not to work then at least to inspire people? Do you know how arrogant he is?” There was no personal enmity between the people informing me of ground reality and Anna Hazare. No rhyme or reason for them to hold any. Why would they say the way they did? I could not figure out, and left the question at that.

It took a few years more, and I ran into people, even stranger, casually telling me (or discussing among themselves, in ST (bus) journeys and all) that Anna Hazare does not even like to discuss the issue of why his social experiment has not worked out in any other village. He gets angry. He begins calling people in the non-honorific (Marathi) “are ture” sort of way, once anyone raises the issue. He insults them as lazy bums who cannot do anything to help themselves. He can insult people, but won’t stop to face the fact that indeed that there is a failure of replication. Naturally, no analysis is even permissible: What might have led to the failure. And, no betterment: Having understood the reasons for failure, what can be done to overcome them and remedy the situation. None of that is possible. The way he behaves, people indicated, is to enjoy his senior status in his village, to bask in the media glory outside it, and to refuse to even consider the possibility that even very honest applications of his approach might encounter failures elsewhere—let alone suggest ideas to overcome them.

Ideas—outside of the media-adored Ralegan Siddhi experiment—seems to be anathema to this man. That was an inescapable (though a tentative or intermediate) conclusion I drew.

A few years passed by, and I was in the USA and all, and so had lost touch with the everyday sort of happenings taking place in India. But, after I returned in 2001, I heard that this guy (Hazare) had progressed far too ahead on that line. He had not been able to control the Ralegan Siddhi success go to his head. This accusation seemed to be true.

No longer were people questioning anything about his approach, I observed. Instead, people, notably those from the BJP and Shiv Sena, were egging him on to take ever bigger role, riding on his brand-name as a social crusader (much of which was anyway generated only via the media-hype), and many “middle-class” variety of social workers also were running after him. He had established a group/forum/NGO against corruption, and the clever BJP folks were using him to tactically gain political advantages against their enemies: the Indira Congress, but even more notably (given their predominance in the areas where he primarily operates): the NCP.

Ok. That’s so much about politics. But one thing was for certain. Given his combative style, his inability to introspect, his inability to reach out to his critics—and, what the heck, I will name it—his plain stupidity, he simply couldn’t be a Gandhian. (To call someone a Gandhian is not the greatest compliment in the world, IMO. But for all their flaws and inconsistencies, one still associates names like Yashwantrao Chavan, and many many other, small village freedom-fighters who need not be named, and why, even Sardar Patel and Morarji Desai, with the term “Gandhian.” One has heard the first in public meetings more than once, and read about the other two.) And, yet, his (implicit) media managers were now portraying him as a Gandhian. And, the retards that Indians are, none was raising even a suspicion. His wearing “khaadi” dress and Gandhi “Topi” was enough to make him a Gandhian. Undestandably so. If a usual Indira Congress moron could be a Gandhian, why not this guy. And, after all, how many “Gandhian” sort of people could BJP wouldn’t mind hooking into and magnifying (if you discount Vajpayee himself—who, for obvious reasons, couldn’t be portrayed as a Gandhian, of course!)

In short, Hazare had already become a useful pawn to political parties, and a fond avancular figure for the wooly-wishy sort of social workers (some of them retired IAS/IPS types too), by mid or late 1990s. That is, about a decade or more ago.

Ok. So, that’s the man we are talking about, here. Now, what are his convictions? And what does he bring to the table?

The first question is very easy to answer. As far as his convictions are concerned, whatever bunch he does carry around, they are not very consistent. Let alone sucsceptible to be any serious scrutiny (let alone a thorough, objective validation).

If you don’t believe me, consider these facts. Ok. Before that, let me state what is it that I do consider to be an objectively validated set of ideas. The prime part of the answer is: Ayn Rand’s philosophy—Objectivism. Politically, the answer is: the actual motivating spirit (and most of its articulation as well) which led to the creation of the American political system—the spirit of Enlightenment. Given the spectacular success of that original American political revolution, I do not think it is necessary to stress here that any individual or group who addresses the government in India, and asserts his moral authority to the extreme degree of fast-unto-death, must remain open to have his convictions examined against that golden standard: The original American political innovation, and the complete (and consistent) integration with philosophic fundamentals as found in Ayn Rand’s philosphy. Is such a process of judgment difficult to undertake? Not at all. Consider the following.

If Anna Hazare can hold India’s government to task, what is his position vis-a-vis Capitalism? Is he a Capitalist? Any answer? … Nope. Perhaps, he doesn’t even know the word. But since so many of his group-mates do, and since none of them has ever publicly spoken of any unreservedly good remark about Capitalism, we may take it that this guy Anna Hazare, when the chips are down, is likely to go/wither away from Capitalism. That’s his “conviction” no. 1. As always, the more fundamental an issue, the better judgment we can have. So let’s go to a bit deeper level.

Ok. So, consider this: What does Anna Hazare think about Individual Rights? Blank out. How about his having a crusade for restoring full property rights by amending the amendment forced on us by the semi-dictatorial Indira Gandhi? Blank out.

On the other hand, does he have the usual socialist sort of ideas? Hint: Don’t check with him—he is too stupid (I told you so!). Check with his associates (both in and out of the political “right” in India). They will tell you. If not, consider that in the last set of elections, BJP was equal to everyone else in promising Rs. x/kg of rice, wheat, “tur daal”, etc. etc. etc.

Hmmm. Now, how about his metaphysics and epistemology… Boy, are you insistent or what? I have already begun yawning here…. I think I will not entertain your request to enquire into these aspects of Anna Hazare’s set of convictions, explicit or implicit. Not at all necessary. What we observed above is enough to draw a rational conclusion.

Namely, that this guy has basically never bothered too much with ideas despite his burning ambition to do something at the national, constitutional etc. etc. levels. He is that stupid. And, he evidently, is easy to get misled (which is not surprising if he hasn’t bothered to have a firm and consistent set of convictions—consistent with reality, that is).

Now, I haven’t at all discussed anything about that supposedly people-friendly “Lokpal” bill, and its provisions. The point is: I simply don’t know enough about it, and am still in the process of reading and absorbing what say different political parties have about it. And, that, incidentally, leads to the conclusion of this post.

If someone like me—someone who at least browses through all the headlines and all the titles on the edit pages of at least 3/4/5 newspapers (both in a local langugage and in Englihs) on a daily basis, apart from browsing on the net—still doesn’t know enough about the Lokpal bill, obviously, the “civil society” (in the true sense of the term) hasn’t even begun discussing it. Newspaper editorials have barely begun doing so. (For a couple of good pieces, see today’s Indian Express, and a bit of half-hearted piece by DNA’s V. Rao, on the front-page.)

If, absent sufficient discussion in the “civil society,” this guy goes all the way out and jumps into a fast-unto-death, can we, applying any proper standards, consider it a major issue? A national issue? I mean, shouldn’t his action be taken as a rather open way of committing suicide? And, given the absence of any consistent and solid intellectual and moral positions, and given the absence of his jumping ahead to the last resort prior to the occurrence of any national debate, is there any reason why one should care about him?

There is only one point you may validly raise. And, it deals with “corruption.” Given the way my mind works, it is impossible for me to tear out of context anything like “corruption” and start beating the chest about it. Sure, corruption is bad. But if thinking of Hazare and, say, “crusade … to end … corruption” is at all permissible, then surely it also must be permissible to think of such issues as: the kind of the working morality whose realization a given kind of government facilitates; the proper nature of government, the principle of checks and balances, and the fine ways in which it has been realized or deterred in a given system of government; the role of constitution in shaping the life of a nation—including introducing artifical stresses and strains in the fabric of its life if not serving to tear it apart; the systemic reasons for corruption; etc.

Surely, if you can give the idiot that is Anna Hazare so much of a latitude, you could give me some, and allow me to post on these matters at my own pace, some time later on in future.  … I think I will open the next post on these matters, esp. corruption, by observing not corruption itself directly, but something different (which, hopefully, you will find relevant to the issue corruption, the way I think it is). A small example not related to legalities, constitutionality, national issues, etc., but one that I think is relevant anyway.  … I am too busy (both in my day-job and my leisure-time work), and so, please excuse if I don’t write that next post immediately.

* * * * *   * * * * *    * * * * *

A Song I Like:
[NB:  I do like this song, but not all of its associated aspects… If you know me, you could easily figure out why; just read on to see why I say so 🙂 ]

(Hindi) “Aana mere pyaar ko naa tum…”
Music: Jatin-Lalit
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultaanpuri
Singers: Kumar Sanu, Alka Yagnik

[PS: I have just written, but not read even once after writing, this post. If I find time (and I hope I do), I will streamline it a bit.]

[E&OE]

A Comment Perhaps Censored at Atanu Dey’s Blog: Deeshaa.org

Today I wrote a comment at the following thread on Atanu Dey’s blog: [^]. Actually, it was not a comment to his write up as such, but a clarification to some discussion in the comments following it. I have no idea why, but this comment didn’t appear immediately after it was submitted. Probably, Atanu has changed the settings and now the comments at his blog are moderated. It was not an error in transmission because when I resent it—I had saved the contents in a .txt file sheer out of habit because power and connection can easily go out anytime—the Web server did say something like duplicate comment. So, I know that it did reach the server both the times. It’s been hours since then and other people’s comments have appeared but not mine.

In any case, I was planning to post it as a separate entry here too. So, here we go (and by the way, I will keep it as is for a day or so, and later on, if I feel like, I will also add to it, edit, streamline, etc.

–  –  –  –  –

This refers to Shantanu’s comment above [i.e. in Atanu’s blog] re. Ayn Rand, and then, also to Atanu’s reply to it.

I do appreciate Atanu’s remarks concerning the greatness of Ayn Rand. Nevertheless, I would like to clarify a bit and also add a bit more.

Ayn Rand was a lady of principles, a “sui generis” philosopher. As such, if she hated communism, it was fundamentally because her philosophy was diametrically opposite to the entirety of the mystic-altruistic-collectivist axis, communism being only a part of it.

Actually, it would be apt to say that she didn’t hate Russia; she hated the communist Russia.

From what I know, even after immigrating to the USA, Rand communicated extensively for years with her family and friends back in Russia, trying to get them out of that totalitarian dictatorship and into the freer world. She stopped writing letters only with the consideration that the Russian authorities would regularly keep an eye over international correspondences, and so directly keeping a touch would have only served to jeopardise them.

Apparently, throughout her life, she kept a soft feeling for Russia in a corner of her heart—Russia itself, as in contrast to the totalitarian regime ruling it. She spoke in glowing terms about whatever the better elements of culture that she had seen during her early years in Russia. These even included a certain comic strip, apart from the better texts in her university studies. Rachmaninoff remained her most favorite music composer. Overall, to get a glimpse of how she saw people in Russia, note the tone that her words acquire in writing that extraordinary article: “The Inexplicable Personal Alchemy.”

The abovementioned article might also tell you that Rand’s relation with the Soviet Russia does not form a good analogy for that of an NRI, with India. And, certainly not of Sonia with Italy. … But let me focus on India here…

India still is not a totalitarian dictatorship, neither formally nor in actual practice. It’s a mixed economy—with the element of statism ever increasing in scope esp. after Indira Gandhi’s regime. But a totalitarian dictatorship, it is not. Why, today, you and me can not only get away writing against Sonia, we don’t even expect to get harassed to any more extent than what would have happened under Vajpayee, barely six/seven years ago, or what sometimes does happen even in the USA (though to a greatly lesser extent). Come to think of it, in India, we have no state-operated concentration camps nor Syberia. Millions have not yet been politically killed in India as under Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc.

So, I do think those who wish to see a freer and better India do have a lot going for them.

To end this comment on a better note, I would like to cite two examples from recent history, even though I emphasie right at the beginning that comparisons with these two examples really are not apt in every sense either.

On an historical scale, Germany has seen a lot of change since Hitler. Even though Germany’s internals were not strong enough that it could on its own throw out Hitler, once he was, despite the ravages of the two wars, the Western part of Germany could once again become a considerably free nation in a short time span—i.e., as soon as the systemic things were changed by ending Hitler’s totalitarian statism, and a better system (including a better constitution) was put in its place. The change was good enough that a few decades later, it could even absorb the shocks of accomodating the communism-induced ravages of the Eastern Germany, once the Berlin wall fell.

The second example is the post-second world war Japan. Once the Americans under General McArthur gave Japan a better constitution respecting Individual Rights, and a better system of governance, the nation—an Asian nation, a tiny nation, and a nation ravaged worst of all during the war—still could rise. Today its economy is important world-wide. … It’s a modern intellectual fashion (whether in USA or elswhere) to downplay the role that the better, freer constitution together with a better governing system has played in Japan’s rise. The modern intellectuals are all statists, mostly socialists, and therefore we are told that the Japanese rose because they “worked hard.” Yeah, right. Even the mule works very hard. The point is the better system of governance.

Both the examples show that better systems produce better results.

In India, we have a lot of advantages. What we ought to focus on are better systems—not just of governence but also of constitution. The precondition for these is: a better culture that promotes liberty (i.e. individual rights) and free markets. Rand’s writings are pertinent here.

–Ajit
[E&oE]

–  –  –  –  –
A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “dooriyaan, nazdikiyaan ban gayi…”
Singers: Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosale
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

[E&OE]

Trivia Like the M. F. Hussain Controversy and the Women’s Reservation Bill

0. With this post, I once again resume blogging…

First, I need to quickly get a few things out of my system before I am ready to write on some of the things I have wanted to write about. … So, here we go with the more trivial (but far more discussed) matters first…

(1.) About the M. F. Hussain Controversy…

There was a spike of discussions concerning this particular controversy about one/two weeks ago. So many interesting angles got thrown up that it would be impossible to even summarize them. I felt like jumping in, but instead, just kept on reading on the ‘net and otherwise, to get the “lay of the land” before I wrote. In a way, this turned out to be a good decision.

After all, I did find a very highly quotable position post which explains most of what I had wanted to say anyway. By that, I mean the post on the topic by Dr. Atanu Dey, here [^]. Please do read it. Highly recommended.

Not that I agree with every nuance of every point he states. Speaking in overall terms about his blogging about other matters too, I suspect that there might be a difference among us in that I might look at something from a moral/judgmental viewpoint whereas he wouldn’t, necessarily. That hardly matters here, though…

Here, I find his ability to think in principles, and the straightforward way in which he puts his thoughts, marvelous! And I completely agree with all the essential points of this post of his.

Just a couple of points I shall add to what Dey has already said.

(1.a) Dey says that “[he is] not much of a paintings person, anyway.” But I am, to a certain extent. And used to be one to a major extent about two-three decades ago. So, I can add a bit about this matter.

The question I very briefly address here is: how great is Hussain, as a painter (i.e. artist)?

Even a casual glance at his paintings would tell you that he has an extraordinary mastery over the line. He is an abstract painter—which, to my mind, generally speaking, doesn’t qualify as art to begin with. This applies as much to Hussain as also to Souza, or Gaitonde, or Anjali Menon, or even Sujata Bajaj, or anyone else of their kind—which means, about 99% of today’s painters: they, too, are not artists.

But keeping this aside for a moment, the next question is: Doesn’t he show at least some elements of great art in his work?

Here, I think, as a craftsman, his defining skill is not at all light and perspective, certainly not color, nor even subject, but it’s: his line. His painting unmistakably show that had he chosen higher goals, he would have made for a recognizably great artist—and, despite spending 95 years of his life, he still has not managed to even become an artist let alone a great one.

But why do I say it’s the line which really defines his craftsmanship? Just look at the lines that define the contours of his horses, and the women he paints. His line is capable of bringing to life the sheer life power, the very unruly dynamic, of a horse. Just one apparently careless stroke of a brush in the right place while drawing the eye of a horse, and that raw, unruly energy of the horse begins to jump at you. Similarly, consider the fact that despite carrying the crudeness of the abstract technique, his straight lines still perfectly capture the contours of the feminine form, whenever he manages to slip-in to the remnants of the better elements of the technique he must have been taught at the JJ School of Arts.

So, here is a very curious phenomenon. You have a gifted craftsman—at the level of the line. But this same guy, then, refuses to use that gift to paint a picture—i.e. to create a work of art. Instead, he uses his more abstract powers to mangle the elements like the objects making up those lines, the color and the perspective etc, deliberately disorients them all, throws them together to deliberately create incoherence or even un-intelligibility in his work of “art.”

Consider its counterpart in other forms of art, for example, literature, for example, poetry. What Hussain’s approach would yield is not a poem but something like a poem. Of course it would be called a “free verse.” But the matter doesn’t end there—it gets worse. What Hussain would give you would be a collection of in-principle disconnected bunch of lines, some phrases of which being extraordinarily brilliant on counts such as drama, innovation of expression, metaphor, imagination, etc. Mind you, the brilliance would be restricted only to phrases, not even to lines—the mangling would begin right at that level. And, the lines, taken as sequence, would all be disjointed, hinting at something which, in principle, cannot at all be known, not in toto. The hints themselves could at times be grotesque, at other times sly, at other times profane (and this term is to be taken in its objective sense, not necessarily in connection with this religion or that)… You could, if you try, easily locate Hussain’s parallels in modern “poetry” too. The point isn’t that. The point is to convey what Hussain really is like, when taken as a painter. Namely, that he isn’t one.

(It would be an error to compare Hussain’s paintings with the strokes produced by a student studying at a school for the mentally retarded—the first has the ability to do better, the second doesn’t, and the deliberateness of the rebellion against integration is the crucial difference.)

(1.b) Another point that many people seem to have missed is this. I ran across a court judgment that did agree with the opponents of Hussain in all other points. However, it refused to try Hussain on a point of legal technicality. And, that brilliant piece of the legal technicality was supplied by the current Central Government of India minister Kapil Sibal. … The less I say, the better it will be to my health and life…

(1.c) Nevertheless, we must stop and ask ourselves one question. If merely brilliance in respect of an element like the line-work can be enough to qualify a guy to be counted as an artist, even when ample evidence from his art-work as well as his interviews exists that he has deliberately followed a policy of working against proper integration as required by a proper piece of art, then, following the same standards, why not also consider those millions of anonymous Indians whose “work” adorns the walls of all our public urinals to be artists in their own right, too? [And, I deliberately use the word “urinal” rather than “toilet” or “rest room,” because only the former can adequately convey the strength of the stink in question.] Why not decorate also them with those Padma awards?

Any answer, Delhi “intellectuals”? Rich Bombay “businessmen” patrons of Hussain’s “art”?

(2) About the Women’s Reservation Bill

First of all I want you to note that here I am going against many politicians I otherwise respect, first and foremost, Sharad Pawar. Also, many other politicians I fear. … The reader must excuse me here; there would be too many to name them to list them individually. …

The best commentary—and the only reasonable one—that I saw in print or on monitor, came from one Mr. Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, Jr., in a column he wrote for DNA, here [^]. The only other media/blog to highlight it (in my limited browsing) was “Churumuri,” here [^].

… As usual, at least one qualification. What Rao calls “politics of identity,” I would call such things as “politics of narrowness/of insularity/of divisiveness.”

And, here’s the extraordinarily brilliant part of Rao’s comment, expressed so tersely but so well:

…Women’s reservation bill too is supposed to promote gender equality but what it really does is create yet another special interest. And society is turned into a bureau of cubbyholes. And the power of the State is increased yet again. …

Thank you for saying it, Mr. Rao!

To Swamy of Times of India, regarding his today’s column. Nope, Swamy, you don’t get it right. Hmm…

Back to basics. There are three pillars of a nation state: (i) legislative (L for short), (ii) judicial (J for short), (iii) executive (E for short). In India, the mangling of the E branch began right with the original version of the Constitution (C for short)—it’s just for five years, no principled, i.e. unreserved respect/acknowledgment of the individual rights, etc. As such, the J, if pushed to the wall, would have been helpless, in principle. For the aforementioned reason (viz. the absence of an explicit ack. of the Individual Rights), the Constitution always had been sufficiently vague—i.e. weak–that if L grew, it could not only overpower the E but also effectively restrict the J in various indirect ways. Enter the mixed ideals of Nehruvian socialism. L had become powerful. In Indira’s semi-dictatorship, it changed C and systematically weakened L and then also J. With the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of USSR, there seemed to be a reversal of sorts, but it was necessarily doomed because C was weak to begin with anyway so there was poor theory, and, in fact, Indira’s years had weakened the level of the public discourse to such low levels. So much so that on this issue of reservation, all major parties—Congress, BJP, and the communists—they all agree. (Also all the rest of them: they simply fight for greater reservation—not less). Ok.

Against this background what would this Bill do? There are certain implicit grounds for negotiating any kind of agreement in any free society. Due to a better past—and interactions with better countries like the USA and UK—despite the systematic abuse of the above sort and all the weaknesses of the Constitution and legal codes, the common implicit grounds in India actually tend to be better. This is the reason why gays (as much the “chhakke”s as the more hype urban ones) could at all live without having cases slapped against them. This is the reason why in Maharashtra, the ANS-sponsored Bill gets halted. (The reason I oppose it: What standards would permit an ordinary police officer to distinguish between proper private practice of religion and blind faith as prescribed by ANS?) This is the reason why business can at all in fact function even if enough legal codes exist that in theory it would be impossible to run a business without breaking some or the other legal code. That implicit ground is important.

In a country with as huge illiterate, semi-literate, and literate-but-uneducated population as India, a country where to run the elections you have to use symbols—not candidate’s names—it does matter a lot what kind of signals we project to all those people.

When reservations in jobs came into force, it actually did not matter to large parts of population: most of the labor is in agriculture or unorganized sector, and even in organized sector, job reservations applied only to government jobs, not private. It was bad, but it was limited in terms of impact. When the Constitution got mangled almost with each successive amendment (some of which being more deeply mangling than the others), it rather affected the upper echelons of the society—their effects on that implicit negotiating grounds that I alluded to above was at least initially minimal; in any case, their effects would have to slowly trickle and diffuse.

But when you introduce a Reservation Bill of this sort—whether on the caste basis, gender, or any other, it matters not in principle—what you do is that you not only mangle the L branch of the government out of its shape, but, since the common illiterate man, right since the Freedom Movement, has always been an active part of the political process, you also affirm to him that divisive agendas like that are alright so long as ratified by an overwhelming majority, as led by the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar and Advani and others.

In other words, you affect that implicit understanding of what kind of state one lives in, for that common illiterate man. In essence, you tell him: It’s perfectly “sarkari” to be prejudiced against any innocent man. It is perfectly OK to be prejudiced. It is perfectly OK to be so even at the level of elections for law-makers. It is perfectly OK to follow the blind politics of special interest groups.

The first implications of this kind of a message has already emerged, in the form of the opponents to the Bill. … And, Sharad Pawar, and Sonia Gandhi, and Nitin Gadkari, and Brinda Karat and their lesser colleagues all find a cause to celebrate for. What a tragedy!!

. . . . .

[BTW, if someone from NCP or Indira Congress comes and asks me (which is very unlikely), rather than give them a lecture on principles and all, I am just going to be a bit smart and raise a few points in turn: (i) Why did “Sakal” stop carrying the news of new PhD awards precisely around the time I was awarded one—and why does, through other columns, it does sometimes (even if rarely) does cover the news of other PhDs… Is “Sakal” ashamed of the kind of work I had submitted for my PhD? (ii) Why did I not get that job in COEP—even after my PhD defence? [^]  (iii) Why did the IIT Bombay Conference ICCMS09 reject my paper (citing such flimsy grounds that I had used the grammatical first person while writing the abstract)? Who gave them the encouragement to behave thus anti-intellectually? (iv) Why did CERN reject my paper?. I think this might keep them busy for a while… We could discuss principles and all later on…]

– – – – –

Things I Wanted to Write About

Now that the trivia are out of my system, here is a word about what I have been wanting to write about for quite sometime, and may write in near future (not necessarily in the next post):

On the political side: The magnitude of the black money kept abroad by Indians, Why no Maharashtrian could become a PM thus far.

And, then, of course, Physics: A simple but important example illustrating how, in Physics, it is impossible to get rid of certain basic assumptions delineating the nature of your theory.

– – – – –

A Couple of Songs I Like

1. (Marathi) “kase kase, haasaayaache…”
Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Aarati Prabhu

2. (Hindi) “jaaye to jaaye kahaan…”
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: S. D. Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianwi

PS: As usual, I might edit/streamline this post a bit, later on…

[Mostly] Political, [Mostly] Latest

Here are a few (almost) random points…

1. Economics:
Can Swami (of Swaminomics) explain to me in simple enough terms the following phenomena:
1.1 If, at the most basic level, stock investments are done by keeping in view the earnings through dividends, how come Bajaj Auto shares used to be traded at more than 100 times or so during Indira Gandhi’s rule?
1.2 Similarly, for the other cases, in today’s context.
1.3 Clarification: I am not for greater control to rectify the situation.
1.4 There is a dominant streak of pragmatism in every “pro-business” “defence” which I would rather someone exposed—without proposing more government interventions.
1.5 Indeed, I think the extent that the market is overpriced precisely serves to reveal the extent of the government intervention in economy.
More on economics, later… I have an idea for modeling of certain kind of basic economic issues.

2. Sathya Sai Baba:

So much has been written about him that his case has thrust itself into being a curiosity for me for quite some time. … I wouldn’t mind visiting his Puttaparthi ashram (or some place similar) provided he can talk to me on a 1:1 basis. And it would be OK even if this occurs in front of thousands or lakhs; I hardly care for that aspect. But should his weighty followers and he himself at all come to thinking of allowing this to happen, here are the opinions (or the “baggage”) with which I would go to him:
2.1 First and foremost, I don’t believe that he is a reincarnation of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, full-stop. From what I have read of the original Sai Baba, this claim is a complete impossibility—regardless of whether Hirabai Badodekar (and the then Rashtrapati Bhavan) agree with my assessment or not, and whether APJ Abdul Kalam, Shankarro Chavan, Ashok Chavan, Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, Jayant Patil, Sonu Nigam, Sachin Tendulkar, Suchitra Krishnamurthy agree with me or not.
2.2 I don’t agree with his critics that all he is can be reduced to a few magicians’ tricks. (And, I don’t concern myself with everything that has ever been written, said, or suspected about him on the Internet or on the BBC.)
2.3 He might have some spiritual powers and he could possibly be using it in a way that his followers feel blessed, or at least, relaxed. … Not enough of a reason to take his claim of being Shirdi’s Sai Baba very seriously.
2.4 I am not a materialist in the tradition of the so-called “rationalists” of India (the leftists and left-leaning intellectuals included).
2.5 He shouldn’t expect me to even bow down to him as a precondition of my meeting with him. If he can meet me, as I said, one-to-one, I am eager to talk to him. It won’t take even five minutes for me to place him better (than what I have above) in a personal meeting.
2.6 And, oh yes, I wouldn’t at all mind bowing to him in a manner befitting his place should he want to see me. The point is: He should not mistake my physical bowing with anything else—esp., my acceptance of all his ideas and all his claims—that’s all. Indeed, I would be very neat, just like all his followers, should I go and see him.

3. Indira Gandhi
It’s remarkable that post-Vajpayee years, remembering her is, on the whole, a subdued affair. … I mean I didn’t see full-page photos in the newspapers, and there weren’t huge cut-outs towering over buildings either… All this was welcome, in a way. After all, there still is a huge gap left between remembering her and remembering Lal Bahadur Shastri.

And, BTW, I really can’t remember her without also remembering Durgabai Bhagwat—the real iron lady between the two, if you ask me. … Again, it’s not that I agree with every position that Bhagwatbai ever took in her life…  [And, is issuing such clarifications really necessary?] But, as far as I am concerned, Bhagwat’s principled defence of Freedom during those difficult years of Emergecy was enough for me to conclude that this, in fact, was actually the case….

And, indeed, what quote could they at all find to bring out the supposed “greatness” of Indira in those recent newspaper ads? If you read through it, it’s plain and obvious that such quotes could fit in the mouth of any third-class dictator in any of the third-world countries—all that the speech-writer would need to have is some education in one of those Christian missionary schools, and he would be well on his way to utter what Indira Gandhi, we were especially seriously reminded, did!

Which brings me to another sub-point: Has Barkha Dutt lost her original fire these days? … First, there was this change of the mix of topics as soon as they had that deal with MSNBC or NBC or so. That, by itself was bad already…  I mean, Barkha would get the heat up on some topic, and suddenly that entire topic of discussion would get mixed quite incongruously (and in following with all the worst trends of the Tame Americans) with some other topic that was decidedly luke-warm. (Luke-warm, mind you. Not cold.) … And then, in such a process, the whole tempo of that hot topic would be entirely lost. Plus, they also  reduced the time spent actually debating—not just the content but also the format… All this was bad by itself… But then, esp. since her becoming a Padmashree or so, this lady seems to have lost that fire to confront the government uncomfortably that she used to have. … Or is it the case that she was a Congresswoman in disguise all the time, and that we saw that side of hers only because BJP+ was in power? Any thoughts, Barkha?…

Not that she should be the hanging point for all our worries… That’s not the idea here. If she is tired or bored out of fighting it out, she is entitled to a rest… But then, the decent way to do this is to retire from all that debating—not to dilute it to the extent that one doesn’t even feel like turning the TV on Sunday evening at 8 PM…

– – – – –

Some of the songs that I like:

(Hindi) “yehi woh jagah hai, yehi woh fizayen..”
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: O. P. Nayyar

[… More, later!]