31 August, 2006

An accidental self-discovery

Yesterday I came across two non-news articles in two different papers about the mathematician who declined the Fields Medal, the maths equivalent of the Nobel's. Well, for sometime now weve seen authors declining awards. It became a serious issue in India and particularly in Kerala, when a lot of the newspapers started advising the govt. to collect a list of non-aspirants to each award. Mostly it is seen as a protest against the award donor. Like in the case of the Chinese author who was selected for the Literature Nobel.

Grigory Perelman's non acceptance of the award was not pollitically motivated. For him the reward was simply the pleasure of having solved a conundrum that had puzzled mathematicians all over for over a century, the Poincare Conjecture. It is said he was obsessed with solving the conjecture, but once he proved it, he didnt even mention it. In fact, it became a problem when others could not get accustomed to the fact that it was no longer a conjecture.

He calls it purity of mind. One newspaper reports a colleague explaining "To do great work, you have to have a pure mind. You can think only of mathematics. Everything else is human weakness. Accepting prizes is showing human weakness. An ideal scientist does science and does not care about anything else".

When it comes to achieving something great, something no man has ever done, it takes commitment. Everybody knows that. It also takes something few others have, passion for the object of your discovery.

This reminds me of the Alchemist in Paulo Coehlo's book by that name. The teqnique of transforming lead into gold is as easy as any other formula that it could be written on a small piece of papyrus. It was this small formula which was expanded to the countless volumes of books that the aspiring (and must i say, unsuccessfull) goldsmiths wrote. They never learnt to turn lead to gold. And all these formulas were left to posterity to expand even further. The Alchemist tells Santiago why the hordes of genius' werent able to get there even with the collective knowledge of centuries of human thought.

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter's headmaster echoes the idea(incidentally, both of them are talking about the same stone and the elixir of life). The clue to immortality is meant to be unvieled only for the worthy. It is only for them that strive for something only for the sake of it.

For whom passion was for science, not for his own immortality.
Iv always felt that when it is passion that takes you somewhere, the pursuit is ennobled by that very fact. Then you wouldnt care about the pains or rewards, you are oblivious to the acclaim it carries.

But there, another voice challenges me. It asks me, "can you really do something and turn your back to the fame it brings?"

Sorry, I cant. I hate to admit it. But I must. I simply cant.

I cant. Thats not to mean that everybody is crazy after fame. Ive known people who'd rather live in the shadows. and pitied them too.
But Id rather be known for my hard work. Think about the sacrifices. what about the perseverence? Dont I have a right to be rewarded for it. Forget monetarily. But fame. Can you do without it?

Again, my mind reminds me, but that attitude's not going to get you above the ordinarily great. I retort, how can I change myself? I cant. Change myself. Coz, thats what I am. and I cant help being what I am.


No point pretending this small revelation I just had never was. But again I think, Thats how God made me. And I was always happy the way I was. Maybe my destiny is not to solve the accounting equivalent of the poincare.
Hey I got it. My destiny. Is just to shine. With this little lamp of mine. Maybe He wants me just to live my life so that somebody else (Theres the other voice correcting me, "It has to be everybody, not just somebody else") can be happier.
And smile. Always.

Im trying, Lord. For You.

Correction, for me, and also, for You

25 August, 2006

Pensive gazing- of a different kind

Remember what happens when Harry Potter finds himself in the Headmasters room and cant resist that muggish curiosity to do exactly what he shouldnt have done. Sneak into somebody else's history. Even better, imagine how wierd it was to come face to face with ones own history, where they play with the time turner. Yeah its wierd, very wierd. Even when your past was not that dark or the secrets being revealed are more of the nature of embarrassing for the less already- embarrassed-to- the-hilt .
Going throught he corridors of your memory is pleasant. Somehow, we tend to reserve the best for such reviere's. But when it is forced upon you, like a testimony of an old classmate, who remembers things that happened in a classroom, which has almost faded from memory, its an ordeal, unless youre OK with being laughed at. The following is a such a revelation, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

"You were this really dreamy kid even then! (I sat next to you in the front bench) I think Mrs. Abraham put you and me there becuase she though that since I was OK at Hindi, I would help you pay more attention in class.
But you would be in your own world, especially in HIndi class, and I used to usually pay attention and wonder why this kid next to me was so spaced out...and it used to be pretty traumatic when Mrs. Abraham pulled YOUR ears in class, because I've always got all jittery when there was any kind of violence around me or to me. She used to get really wild with you and shout at you, and whenh you still looked so spaced out she'd just lose it and pull your ears and go something like..aaa nnow now now ABRAHAM!! And I used to think Oh GOD!!! can u please make this kid just listen in class, why is it so difficult!!
I remember we were very small in the fourth, and Mrs. Abraham looked huge. She'd stand right in front of our desk and keep talking/teaching so that when you looked up, you looked right up into her nose holes which were shaped exactly like two kidney beans and i used to sit there and think how her right nostril is bigger than her left. And if, when I grew up, would it happen to me too, and how my nostrils might look if i could see them from underneath. Mercifully i dont remember her having a cold at that time becuase that would have been quite a sight if you had to stare up into her nostrils for 45 mins everyday!!"

24 August, 2006

A faster way to travel (In India)

When youv been staying in one place for quite some time, 4 months in my case, you get accustomed to pretending that you have unravelled all the mysteries which the place has to offer and you cant help not being constantly on the lookout for your surroundings to spring a surprise at you at every corner. After all, you try to go to a new place every sunday, and you went to an old spot last sunday only because you couldnt think of a new place to go.
So it was that wide eyed me that displayed itself on my imaginery mirror throughout my first journey aboard Chennais metro rail. What surprised me was not just that there existed such a system of commutation somewhere in India, but that every thing in it was novel to a self-proclaimed know-all like me.
To start with, I would never have believed that there exists such an organised arrangement to travel anywhere in India. Orgainised? Yeah, so what if the trains are running 17 and a ahalf hours late, as long as theres one every five minutes.
Ive never seen the front of a queue disappearing so fast, only to get replenished even faster. They literally throw the tickets at you. As if anyone cares, much less complains, when it is a question of catching a train already at the platform.
Next. okay, this may be due to the inelasticity of my memory, but the trains do look big. Dumb me. they run on broad guage. thats why. sorry about that!
But it is also spacious. theres enough room for me to walk about. Though again, thats subjective. Me walking about is an activity which ceases only with me sitting down, or even better lying down. Ever heard of someone walking around while taking a bath. God, I wonder when i will learn to stand up straight. Or should I join the military. And if I do, will they have to change their procedures?
There are these rings hung from the cieling that make you want to swing.

For the first time Im not complaining having to stand (not stand though per se). The journeys fun, atleast the first time.
If the queues were fast, the trains are faster. Granted, all trains are fast, and I cant compare there. But I never knew the hour I took to travel accross the city every weekend could heve been only 15 minutes.

Long live the rail raods of India. O! come to think of it. Who's our minister for railways? Hes known as the wisest man in India. Now the wisest students in India are going to listen to him. My views on Laloo taking classes at IIM-A and why I dont think he is not as bad as we make him out to be, later.

14 August, 2006

Independence woes

Ever wondered why India celebrates its Independence on the 15th of August every year, and not on any other day? Especially considering that Pakistan celebrates it on the 14th. There’s an account in the very famous book 'Freedom at Midnight' (Its a book I would really recommend for reading, though it must be remembered that no book which has only one persons views can be taken to be an authority, granted that memoirs are written to indemnify from the mistakes of the past)
Once the date was publicised, a soothsayer came to Lord Mountbatten and warned that there could be no day more inauspicious to mark the future of a country. He said that the day would see a bloodbath due to communal riots. The last viceroy of India laughed it away. He was going to give a multitude what they were clamouring for since god knows when. He could not believe there could be another side to the story. After all, who would want to listen to a doomsayer.He had handpicked the date because it was a lucky day for him. Some years ago, he had won an important battle in Japan on this day, in recognition of which he was made a Lord.
He later regretted his oversight. He had momentarily lost sight of the fact that India was still the place you could find the 20000 varieties of cheese, as one of his former prime ministers did observe. That this was a country that was to embark on an experiment never tried in history. The experiment of eaters of 20000 varieties of cheese having a few (who inevitably ate the same variety) deciding which was the national variety. The day was indeed a blood wash. And the man who orchestrated the whole independence movement with a methodology hitherto unknown to the world wasn’t sitting in parliament at midnight that day to cheer what was remaining of the nation. The Father of our nation rather chose to spend his day at the eastern border, collecting the ruins of the great dream he had lived to see. Telling what had become a madhouse that it was so that we could live as brothers in freedom that so many people gave there lives, not for us to lose it for some make believe reasons which, as always, rarely make sense. In Punjab and Bengal, people were celebrating, not on the sight of the tricolour, but seeing the red pouring out of their slaughter. Hindus killing muslims who chose not to leave the country of their birth, and sikhs killing everybody.
While Nehru was reminding our forefathers of the tryst the new nation had with destiny, there was the lot rewriting the destiny of who they christened as foes. It hasn’t really changed, has it?
So that brings me to my question, at what price our freedom?
60 years. And what have we achieved along. Our poor are still poor. Our polliticians are infinitely corrupt. And we would have been better off without the set of leaders that stain the face of parliament, the same hall in which Nehru declared our destiny.
There is just one question we can ask ourselves today. Do we value our freedom? And if we do, what are we doing with it? No dont ask that question to those criminals who wear khadi. ask you and we. Because, after all, India is you and me.I received a text message yesterday. Lets celebrate the foolishness of the stupid people who gave their lives thinking we deserved freedom.

Forbid that the tomorrow of India say that aloud

02 August, 2006

The deafening clinking of silence

What do you do when youre done with a lifetime of making money. Try making some more. So what do you do. Take a pen and start writing how you made money, or rather how you couldnt. Even worse, why or because of who you couldnt!
And then the controversies. Make sure you put in something that will make poeple talk. Talk in parliament, in the press, everywhere other than on a date. Make sure it was an issue forgotten only because of lack of avenues for speculation. Fuel it with a pinch of imagination. So what if you cant verify every fact. After all, youve lost the previlege of being privy to secrets.
I find the papers very educating these days, now that I catch on to every word.
Two books that came out last week have been shrouded in controversy. Jaswant Singh, former Foreign Minister(and a good one at that), former Finance minister et all. His book started what will be remembered as the great mole hunt in Indian pollitics.
In a way my heart goes out to him. Poor guy. Nothing much to do. For all the pollitical instability, the BJP still seems lost. So he decided to do something different. And maybe attain pollitical immortality on the way.
Well, deep inside, I feel that he did sniff a mole. But then, nobodys (atleast nobody whos read all those hyper exagerated novels) pretending there are no spies in diplomacy. Whether Jaswant had proof is another question. So should he have gurgled it all out now. Now, when he cannot and is not going to do anything about it.

John Wright spent some excruciating summers in India, doing the hottest and hitherto regarded as the most thankless job in India. He slugged it out, bearing the slurs in the dressing room and the ignorance of the esteemed selection. Finally he gave up the ghost and left. Months later he comes out with his book 'Indian summers' which among other things criticises the selection policy and has a small paragraph about Dravids decision to declare, denying Sachin the unique distinction of being the first batsman in the world to score back to back double centuries. Again, did he need to? The selection policy is no news. Everyone who is not a selector has been saying the same thing all along. Then again, you bear the frustrations all the way because you are bound by a code of conduct, explicit, in Wright's case, that you need to resort to something like this to let the world know your side of the story.
But do you need to resort to sensationalism to sell (OK, accept it, thats the only thing that sells). There was a joke going around in America some years ago. "Hillary Cinton's book sold 8m copies. Bill's sold 16. Well, atleast its got some sex in it". After all these are the books that go down in history as famous.
And come to think of it, thats 24 m copies for not remembering anything for 8 years. After all its whats left unsaid that crystalises in these auto's. So do polliticians have the liberty of shutting up saying "Ill 'tell' you so".

Big men. Big ideas. Big money.

01 August, 2006

Errata. The War... that never was

If you still are wondering what the lines in the blog below mean, youre not alone. I only remember putting a post which read like english there. In any case, after considerable searching through the recycle bin, Iv been able to come up with something that atleast resembles the original post. So read on...

Last Sunday even I became aware of the ongoing war. During prayer at church. Well, it came as a rather rude shock. A war? Without me hearing of it? Me, who used to be considered as a quiz buff or whatever else you call someone who religiously attends every quiz around.

Well thinking of it, these days my reading of the paper never went beyond the sports page, and mind you, I start from the back. So, hurt, with that stupid feeling that rants in the head saying you didn’t even know about the most read thing in the papers (of course, Zidane’s head war is now a thing of the past), I decided to get as wise as I could about the war.

And I must say, this was the best week to start on such an endeavour. OK, accept it, any week in which Mr. Bush gets the attention of the world press is a funny week. But this time he had a lot of us starters confused. (more confused than him?) For now, what the papers chastely called as the “four letter word” did not essentially have to begin with ‘f’. Well, that’s an achievement, even for the president of the US. And he didn’t stop there. The next day, he was found rubbing the shoulders of the only female who was invited to his meeting. My, what a week for the press. So, with the comic effects from Jay Leno and the analysis from the most respected political authors today, I learn that Bush is not only a war monger (a dumb one, at that), a stubbornist, pretending he is saving the world in (not even from)
the 3rd world war as well as a rewriter of history. He has them Americans believe they were justified in Iraq on the evidence of two 1980’s chemical trucks found recently.

Back home there was even more confusion over the sanity of having a nuclear deal with the hegemony of armaments, now that the US senate has approved of the deal. After all they wouldn’t say yes unless the dice were heavily loaded in favour of them. Hey, when are our politicians going to start thinking on their own two feet? Why doesn’t our parliament take pains to dissect every clause and find out its implications for itself? Of course, they wouldn’t get time to walk out, but still. Arundhati Roy was conspicuous by her silence. After all, she didn’t want India to have weapons in the first place. And I, totally ignorant of the intricacies of reactors and how they lead to bombs, refrained from taking sides.

But I must remind you that some time ago, in 1991, they put a man in the dock accused of selling everything India to the world. But now, they’ve made him Prime Minister.

In diplomacy, I guess, its difficult to make decisions that make sense