Friday, December 12, 2008

Birth of a Child-II

Contd..from the last article

As I was stating earlier the time of 36 weeks inside the mother's womb is very crucial. As I experienced recently that even if the baby comes out after 34-35 weeks it is a considerably immature baby! These babies are very likely to have breathing troubles and in the baby that I am observing off-late he had to be put into an incubator in a ICU immediately after birth. Even after 34 to 35 weeks the lungs can be highly immature and unable to supply enough pure blood to the body. The alveoli in the lungs may simply be unable to expand enough and the baby might have to put into artificial breathing machines. Contrary to prevalent ideas and very surprisingly recent research has shown that these artificial breathing machines when used on new-born babies can affect brain development! So the situation is really complicated.

If the lungs seem to be maturing fast and the situation is not very bad then doctors can try to do some chemical treatment where they use chemicals called "surfactants" which little that I understand from the viewpoint of a physics student is that they reduce the surface tension of the alveolar bags and hence help them expand to full capacity.

The point is that birth just 2 weeks earlier than the typical 36 weeks can lead to pretty complicated situations. Over and above these lung problems another very common problem with pre-mature babies is that they may be born with holes in their heart! If the hole is large then chances of survival can be very slim given that already the lungs are under performing. If the hole is small then gradually the correct tissues grow and the holes get filled but if this does not happen then pretty complicated and risky operation might be required.

The baby I am observing now and whose situation has prompted this blog seems to have both the troubles of a under-developed lungs and has 2 holes in the heart!

Further if the premature baby is not of a good mass and is not physically very healthy then he/she might not be in a position to even survive these complicated medical treatments.
If the baby is very pre-mature then even after birth she/he needs to be kept in similar humidity and temperature conditions after birth like she/he was inside the womb. That is maintained these days by artificially creating such conditions inside glass chambers in which the baby is put.

Obviously these processes are very very expensive and not every family will be able to afford these treatments. And in these treatments there is no guarantee of success, further with things like late crying and convulsions the baby is likely to grow up to be a spastic child which no treatment can cure. Then why should the parents keep trying to save their child when it is sure that there is no cure and the fatal damage has been done within the first few minutes of birth!

Isn't it better for them and the world that in such a situation the parents decide to opt for mercy-killing of the baby?
Isn't euthanasia for the new born baby a much better thing in such situations than let her/him grow up to be a mentally handicapped person?
Shouldn't parents in such situations let hard sense of logic dominate human emotional instincts and take the bold step?

On the little brighter of my grandmother's elder brothers was born a very pre-mature baby and in those days about 75 years ago there was no such technology as talked of earlier. He was supposedly kept inside wet-cotton inside a shoe box and the room was covered with wet-clothes which were constantly kept wet! I feel a sense of extreme scientific thrill that they could save the baby in those days! Even one of my childhood friends was also born a very pre-mature baby. She is very much alive today and very much running around with her life.

And to top it all I had read that even Newton was born a pre-mature baby! I feel completely excited at the idea that in the early 17th century, some 300 years ago they could save a pre-mature baby!

In fact various research works have shown that pre-mature babies if are free from any other health complication at birth like lung dis-functioning etc then are likely to grow up to be very intelligent people!

The point of this article was to share from my almost non-technical viewpoint (that of a student of science with formal training in mathematics and physics but nothing formal in biology after class 10) some of the various non-preventable factors at birth that determine the health of the baby and have an irreversible effect on the person.

The point is that all these scary things can happen at birth and the couple has almost no control over it and can do nothing to prevent it. And if they can't go for hard options like euthanasia at birth then they have a very very painful life ahead, further society has collectively a terribly difficult task of bringing up a mentally handicapped child.

This reminds me of a Spartan custom. During the times of the roman empire the Spartans were supposed to be the most skilled warriors and probably the first civilization to have election and a democratic government and they supposedly had greater women-men equality in the society than it exists even today. Already in those days they supposedly had elected women representatives in the parliament! These Spartans had some specification about the minimum health standards of a child at birth and if the baby was below it then it was immediately killed.

What they did definitely does not seem appropriate today since today we need not have an entire society of warriors. I don't see why to do mathematics one needs to have a herculean figure. But the point is that given their needs Spartans did have the courage to overcome normal human instincts and use hard logic.

Given all this huge gamble that exists with the health and intelligence of the child, is this entire adventure of having a child worth it?

Couples unable to conceive naturally take all sorts of expensive and sophisticated help from medical professionals to be able to have a child.


What justifies all this effort and emotion and expenditure when on the bare minimum one can't ensure that the child will not be mentally handicapped?

(especially in India where the nation is already crippled by this luggage of 6 billion people!)

reminds me of the lines of a famous hindi song:

"...Tujhse naraz nahin zindagi se, Hairan hoon main..."

Birth of a Child-I

I have been planning to write about the idea of "Single Parent" for a long time but almost every time something or the other happens that distracts me to some other topic. Single parenthood is a concept that has been very close to me ever since I have memories of and I have experience of almost single parenthood from pretty dangerous proximity. Today when I have some sort of a standing in life I have the courage to write about this took me 21 years to build enough courage to do it. But probably not enough to get into personal details. That might have to wait for more years.

But this time round, again there is some other topic boiling around me that seems to have a greater immediate force on me. The issue is of a newly married couple and them having the idea of having a child.

With due apologies to all the people who think that I am inexperienced, I have a simple question to ask. Why?

Why most newly married couples are so eager to have a child? Given the phenomenal development that has happened in the science of contraceptives and abortion, there is no reason why people can't have a happy sex-life without conceiving.

I am still waiting to hear a convincing argument from anyone as to why they would want to have a child of their own. I have of course heard of a lot of flimsy arguments like the need to have an heir to carry forward the family and things like who will carry on the family business? and then things like it is somehow the necessary completion of a marriage. Some people seem to be more driven by the social stigma that a marriage is successful only when the couple has conceived. Then there are arguments that the child is the essential bonding in the marriage and that without a child the marriage is unstable and is likely break down.

I simply can't buy all these arguments. I am sure that a very compatible pair of people in love with each other can remain happily together whether they have or don't have a child. At some point it seems that the stigma of not having a child is created by the society to back up its reservations about love-marriages. It seems that getting the couple to have a child was a way to seal an arranged marriage forced on the couple.

Why am I suddenly perturbed by this idea? The immediate reason is that I am currently seeing from a very close distance the troubles of child birth. I am seeing on a day to day level how complicated the birth of a child can be and how very subtle factors at birth can determine the health of the child and how easy it is for a potentially healthy baby to suddenly become a spastic and become a burden for his/her family and the society at large. {Of course one can say that a spastic child is million times better than a healthy baby growing up to be a criminal or a terrorist.}

Last few days have been very revealing to me in terms of medical knowledge about the complications of child birth thanks to such a situation having risen around me.
It seems to be so much of a risk to me and so much about the health of the baby is in the hands of probability! The couple has so little or practically no control over it.

Given this huge gamble why would a couple want to have a child when they can't even at least prevent the new born child from being a spastic?

I never studied biology officially after class 10 but given that my mother is a doctor I always keep hearing of the details of the human life processes from the million discussions at home. I suppose I can be excused if I am not technically very correct but let me try to get the basic idea that I can understand as a science student although with no formal training in biology.

Probably because of my lack of formal training I can communicate the essential idea to people who have very little idea of biology. I think these are issues that everybody should appreciate.
Let me talk of some of the subtle risks that are involved. Of course I am not counting the obvious risks that are involved if say the mother is very young or malnourished or suffers some accident during the period of pregnancy or is HIV positive.

Even if the mother is healthy there are these 3 very subtle factors determining the health of the baby:

{There are a million other almost non-controllable factors that can affect crucially but these are the 3 that I am seeing closely during the experience that has inspired this blog post.}

a) The time elapsed between when the baby first cries and when he/she first comes out of the mother's womb.
b) The number of weeks the baby has spent in the mother's womb. The typical time is 36 weeks but I recently came to realize how important that number is. If say the baby comes out after 34 or 35 weeks even then there is considerable risk.
c) A large baby might happen to gulp in some of the amniotic fluid and that can complicate matters a lot.
{something that I am told that I did as a foetus!}

The idea is that the foetus when in the mothers' womb is floating inside a fluid bag. The fluid being called the amniotic fluid. So this baby is not breathing when inside this fluid and his/her lungs are collapsed and non-working. It nourishes itself completely by diffusing in oxygen and nutrients and diffusing out carbon-di-oxide from her/his mother's blood through the vessel, umbilical chord that connects from his/her navel to an organ called placenta on the mother's womb.

Even though it is slightly off-point here, I would like to note that the general practice has been to cut the umbilical chord at birth. One should remember that for other mammals there is no doctor around to cut the umbilical chord and the baby is born with that. It gradually dries up and falls off. So it is not clear why we humans have devised this artificial method of cutting the umbilical chord! In fact some recent research has shown that this process of cutting the chord gives considerable mental shock to the baby at birth and this is completely preventable. More and more doctors are of the opinion that like other mammals human babies should also be let born with the chord and let it naturally fall off.

Further inside the mother's womb the baby is in a fluid environment and when she/he is coming out he/she is having an environment shock from fluid to atmosphere. For quite a few years it has been shown that this environment shock is bad. Hence the concept of "Water Birth" has been going on for quite some time. In this process the mother gives birth to the baby under-water and the child doesn't have this shock. The baby is cleaned inside the water and is then brought out. Statistics has shown that this process is much more pleasant for both the mother and the child. In fact most doctors are of the opinion that water born babies are much more peaceful and intelligent. It is becoming increasingly popular in the west but somehow India doesn't seem to adopt this process. I don't understand the reasons.

{In the same strain one might note that many researches are pointing to the fact that use of diapers (Huggies kind of thing) might be harmful. The idea is that these diapers seem to inhibit urination and hence suppress the micturating center in the brain and the speech center is very close to it. Scientists more and more have the feeling that this harms speech development in the child. This is not very well established conjecture enough of a warning.}

Now when the baby comes out he/she breathes for the first time and air gushes into his/her lungs for the first time. Now the fact that we all have to live with is that the human brain requires the maximum amount of oxygen and it can't tolerate even the least of oxygen deficiency. When inside the womb the baby's brain has no oxygen deficiency but if the baby cries after a long time then the brain remains devoid of oxygen for that time and this can crucially ruin the baby forever.

But how long is a "long-time"? Its just a minute! If the baby cries after 1 minute of coming out then probably already some damage has been done to the baby' brain and if he/she cries after 5 minutes then the damage might be severe and the child is very likely to be highly mentally challenged.

In general it is expected that the baby will cry immediately as he/she comes out.
Now during the operation given that the mother is not very conscious she can't know exactly as to how soon the baby cried and hence this information is solely present with the doctor doing the delivery. It seems that there are corrupt doctors who try to suppress this number if the baby did cry late! But this data becomes a very crucial information in the process of diagnosis if the baby has breathing troubles after birth or shows mental disability as he/she grows up.

{It seems that I cried immediately :) I started speaking very early too. By 1 year I could speak fluently complete sentences and I used to talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. Apparently I asked "Why?" and "How?" for everything that I was told or saw. People tell me that they got tired completely of they had to baby sit me since that effectively involved answering the million questions I would ask}

Now there is this further risk that the baby might be very large in size compared to the mother's womb and if the delivery is getting delayed somehow then the mother's body might find it increasingly difficult to keep with the oxygen demands of the baby and the baby might run into oxygen deficiency. Then this triggers the breathing reflex of the baby even when she/he is floating inside the amniotic fluid. Then it is a very risky situation. The baby might just gulp in some of the fluid and get choked to death or some of the fluid might get trapped in the lungs or somewhere in the trachea. In someway one can say that the baby is getting drowned inside the mother's womb.

Now even if the baby comes out safe and healthy as soon as it starts breathing in the atmosphere this trapped fluid will cause it to choke and again the brain runs into oxygen deficiency. Now very commonly the baby runs into convulsions and if the convulsions happen for a long time it can severely affect the brain.

This precisely what happened to me at birth. I was a pretty large baby at birth. I had those convulsions but somehow due to the prompt action of the nurse it was stopped very soon.

Continued into the next writing.....

Monday, November 10, 2008


Once again a random blog....probably thats what blogging is for!

Fears..a million fears chasing me day in day out and I psychologically keep succumbing to it and the dimensions of my life get continuously clipped to 1.

I feel tired of running..have been feeling so for the last 2 years...I seemed to have burnt out totally running this rat race of academics for survival.

It probably is just not my cup of tea.

These days the race has just gotten a lot more ensure my existence in DTP (Department of Theoretical Physics) in TIFR. I am finding it getting exponentially tougher for me to survive here. The courses are so very boring and so uninteresting and the teaching standards are so very bad that my enthusiasm and the energy to work for the courses has crashed to almost nothingness.

I wonder how many more days I shall be able to keep dragging myself through this and keep getting hit at my weaknesses...somehow the entire situation feels like continuously hitting my head against a rock wall trying to break it. The courses keep trying me and testing me at things which either I can't do or in things that I feel least interested.

I wonder if I could get away from all this and be able to pursue science the way I want to. wonder how..and i keep wondering.

Things are just so messed up and depressing and frustrating. And I feel myself decaying into oblivion.

Probably these are my last few days in DTP and probably the end of the road is very near.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A tale to tell

A few months back I had written a series of articles on similar topics starting with True Love.

As a response to this writing my email-friend Apoorva mailed me a story to read on May 22, 2008 (Thursday) at 2:13 PM. I think it was pretty much relevant to the things I was analyzing in those writings and worth a read.

Hence in this article I decided to share that story. Here it goes.

Appointment With Love

Six minutes to six, said the clock over the information booth in New York's Grand Central Station. The tall young Army officer lifted his sunburned face and narrowed his eyes to note the exact time. His heart was pounding with a beat that choked him. In six minutes he would see the woman who had filled such a special place in his life for the past 18 months,the woman he had never seen yet whose words had sustained him unfailingly.

Lt. Blandford remembered one day in particular, the worst of the fighting, when his plane had been caught in the midst of a pack of enemy planes. In one of those letters, he had confessed to her that often he felt fear, and only a few days before this battle, he had received her answer: "Of course you fear...all brave men do." Next time you doubt yourself, I want you to hear my voice reciting to you: 'Yeah, though I walk through the valley of Death, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me.'.... He had remembered that and it renewed his strength.

He was going to hear her voice now. Four minutes to six. A girl passed closer to him, and Lt.Blandford started. She was wearing a flower, but it wasnot the little red rose they had agreed upon. Besides, this girl was only about 18, and Hollis Maynel had told him she was 30. "What of it?" he had answered, "I'm 32." He was 29. His mind went back to that book he had read in the training camp. "Of Human Bondage" it was and throughout the book were notes in a woman's handwriting. He had never believed that a woman could see into a man's heart so tenderly, so understandingly. Her name was on the bookplate: Hollis Maynell. He got a hold of a New York City telephone book and found her address. He had written , she had answered. Next day he had been shipped out, but they had gone on writing.

For thirteen months she had faithfully replied. When his letters did not arrive, she wrote anyway, and now he believed he loved her, and she loved him. But she had refused all his pleas to send him her photograph. She had explained: "If your feeling for me had no reality, what I look like won't matter. Suppose I am beautiful. I'd always be haunted that you had been taking a chance on just that, and that kind of love would disgust me. Suppose that I'm plain, (and you must admit that this is more likely), then I'd always fear that you were only going on writing because you were lonely and had no one else. No, don't ask for my picture. When you come to
New York, you shall see me and then you shall make your own decision."

One minute to six... He flipped the pages of the book he held. Then Lt. Blandford's heart lept. A young woman was coming toward him. Her figure was long and slim; her blond hair lay back in curls from delicate ears. Her eyes were blue as flowers, her lips and chin had a gentle firmness. In her pale-green suit, she was like springtime come alive. He started toward her, forgetting to notice that she was wearing no rose, and as he moved, a small, provacative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, soldier?" she murmured.

He made one step closer to her. Then he saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl, a woman well past 40, her graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump. Her thick-ankled feet were thrust into low-heeled shoes. But she wore a red rose on her crumpled coat. The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. Blandford felt as though he were being split in two, so keen was his desire to follow the girl, yet so deep was his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned and upheld his own, and there she stood.

He could see her pale face was gentle and sensible; her gray eyes had a warm twinkle. Lt. Blandford did not hesitate. His fingers gripped the worn copy of "Of Human Bondage" which was to identify him to her. This would not be love, but it would be something special, a friendship for which he had been and must be ever grateful... He squared his shoulders, saluted, and held the book out toward the woman, although even while he spoke he felt the bitterness of his disappointment.

"I'm Lt. Blandford, and you're Miss Maynell. I'm so glad you could meet me. "May, may I take you to dinner?" The woman's face broadened in a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is all about, son," she answered. "That young lady in the greensuit, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said that if you asked me to go out with you, I should tell you she's waiting for you in that restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Random things yet again

If by reading this article you feel that I am some damn stupid guy with very low abilities and intelligence then there is a high chance that in near future you shall be correct and if you want to test your hypothesis on my past then you can email me and I will give you email address of people who know of my past academic life in much detail.

I decided to take a 2 day break from academics since I felt that I was cracking up and hence this blog.

My apologies if the coherence of this writing and its organization seems to be left in the hands of entropy.

It is getting difficult to find time to write anything these days given how TIFR is making a minced meat of me piling me up with huge amounts of assignments and robbing me of a regular 5-6 hours sleep. I simply wonder how other people in the batch are doing these assignments so efficiently when I am struggling to just keep my head above water.

My performance levels seem to be drastically falling and my ability to cope with pressure is also falling pretty fast. I seem to be too slow in doing most of the kinds of things that TIFR is asking me to do and hence I am lagging behind class and just mot matching up to the rest of the class.

By the time I manage to read the theory from the books and understand what is being done, others in the class have completed the assignment.

I wonder what is happenning to me...

I wonder whether my thinking abilities are falling exponentially...or am I simply pushing myself into things which are orthogonal to my interests? I seem to be not getting answers to most questions that I ask these days...

But the differential geometry class of Prof.M.S.Raghunathan is very interesting and I am enjoying that.

Anyway just thought of jotting down a few more random stuff:

1. My friend Pratish's blog is becoming increasingly more and more powerful in its content and I would recommend people to read his writings.

2. There is this new blogizen in this blogosphere by the name of Ranjani from my alma mater CMI. Her writings too seem to be a great read and might leave you with a sense of introspection. Again I recommend people to read it. Just the melancholic title of the blog was attraction enough for me to start reading it.

I have quite a bit of hopes that these 2 above mentioned blogs would keep churning out great articles.

Anyway I should refer here to a few other blogs which I think are great and would recommend highly:

1. Shreevatsa
2. Rajesh
3. Vipul
4. Another one by Vipul

3. After a lot of swaying around I decided to buy an iPod, a 120GB classic black. It was my long dream to own one and it gives a sense of joy to be able to buy this from my own money. It is an amazing tecnology and I am enjoying it thoroughly (much more than my Quantum Theory classes!). I am looking forward to the experience of watching a movie on videos look great anyway.

Times when I feel that my senior Vipul was very correct when he used to debate with me the necessity to be financially healthy. Initially I thought it uncanny for a mathematician to think thus but now I feel that more one is into abstract studies one needs more sophisticated technology to keep one connected to the real world at times and keep the human being inside alive. And in many ways today I more and more feel the need to pump in a lot of money into academics and money to be available in both forms as money in the banks of the people in science and money in funds of the institute. But oviously the later is much more necessary and imortant.

4. TIFR organises something called an "open house" every year where lost of students and teachers and parents across the schools are brought here and introduced to this research world..encouraged to take up science....TIFR asks for volunteers to show the people around..i have volunteered..was thinking of what to tell the school people...

My perception of what doing science is and being in the scientific world means has changed exponentially over the last 5-6 years....and the frequency of my thoughts as to whether or not I took the right decision by taking up Physics has also been on the rise.

Given the kind Physics world that I have faced and see of what it takes to succeed in it (atleast as far as I have seen of it in India) I plan to give these school sudents a test on that day:

I will give them two
non-trivial 7 digit numbers and ask them to multiply in 2 minutes. If you can do it then you are elligible to do physics othewise don't even think of doing Physics.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A very common thing...

Probably one of the commonest things that happen in this world is that a guy happens to see a girl and is floored by her. Obviously almost always it is a mere attraction induced by beauty, elegance or sexual appeal etc. Rarely ever the people are able to immediately distinguish between such a "crush" and true love. Probably it is the nature of life that this inability is intrinsic. Obviously most of these crushes soon beget an immense hope and an acute longing for the other person and soon follows dreams of a long stable relationship based on a crush! Almost always all this dream bubble bursts in no time and the persons are left with a feeling of huge vacuum of defeat and hopelessness. It s obviously not a loss in the true sense of the term but just a waking up to reality from a dream.

And then begins the sequence of blame game where mostly the guy blames the girl for being insensitive or something like that. Most often the interaction would have been so short and so superficial that neither had understood the other well enough to decide about their mutual compatibility.

Girls probably have a tendency to quickly remove themselves from any thing that seems even slightly off-normal and get back to their usual life and guys in general have a tendency to peg themselves onto whatever soft emotion that they chance upon as if their life depended on it.

But at the end of it what amuses me most is that the guys never get tired of falling for the next nice girl they meet and putting themselves through the same cycle as above. It is absolutely mysterious as to what motivates them through such emotional ordeals over and over again.

Is it a deep urge to fill a vacuum in their lives or acute loneliness that guys deeply feel that only a female can fill? Is this ability to endure this cycle somehow intrinsically a part of the arrangement for existence of the 2 sexes and hereby nature trying to optimize that the most compatible kind of people from opposite sexes build relationships. And this optimization is reached through going through a series of such crushes which act like filters?

I wonder and I only wonder.

Somehow I have always felt so very alien to the idea of builing realtionships and my lack of understanding of such things continues. How these things happen seem to be absolutely mysterious to me.

Yet another Durga Puja...

It is 'Durga Puja" time and I am perfectly aware that a certain cty in India called Kolkata is abuzz with activity liek people and relatives flocking in to their homes for this special time fo the year and friends and relatives going out together Pandal hopping and gorging on the most exquisite cuisines Kolkata has to offer. And all the cosy corners of the dimly lit restaurant will be filled with couples enjoying the exotic romanticism of darkness with the faint sound of the party time outside floating through the windows. Lovers finding their cosy proximity in this crowd of human race as if the rest of the universe didn't exist. The time when love is in the air in that city and people just find this extreme party atmosphere of sound and light the right time to take their beloved for a trip and probably the opportune moment to speak their heart out while the rest of the world is busy with the Puja.

Of course I have no personal experience of whatever I wrote above but is a mix of what I imagine of what beautiful things exist in this world that I haven't seen and what I have heard from other people. I haven't ever enjoyed any Durga Puja in Kolkata in the true sense of the term like going out with friends etc and freaking out. It is supposedly a great experience that my life seems to have denied me and that seems to feature on the top of my to-do list with my lady love (if ever she starts existing in my life)

Last year during the Pujas I was in CMI (Chennai Mathematical Institute) ( struggling with a myriad of examinations and I wrote this blog:

An year later I am a student of TIFR and still struggling with a million examinations and subjects that I hate to the bottom of my heart (Electronics!) and trying to ensure my academic existence. Somehow life has been pretty much stagnant and essentially noting has changed.

I still continue to be the slave of the Indian education system which refuses to give me any freedom or facility that I ask for and it seems to continue to strangle me and subjugate me to the state of an invertebrate. Somehow I just still manage to keep myself alive and write few blogs as my probably my only display of life.

As life probably is bursting with colour and sound and light in Kolkata, I take my lonely walks along the TIFR sea-beach in the opalescent evenings gazing at the relentless ocean which never ceases to lash at the shores. I stare blankly at the mysterious play of colours on the sky above the Arabian sea and a single word emanates from somewhere inside me "Why?" .... I don't know what I am asking but it is a question whose answer I seek. So many "Why?"s that seem to flock together and I see the sun set reflecting back to me the same number of questions as I had asked yesterday.

I don't know why I ask "Why?". I don't know why I don't feel a million things that million other people around me respond to. Seems this devilish education system has made a million things irrelevant in my life which others respond to..It has somehow surgically cutout so may possible dimensions of life and reduced me to a state where I lose the freedom to individuality and any attempt at doing so is a crime liable to be severely punished.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Various random points...

There is no denying of this basic fact of my life that there exists many many people who have strong objections to my ways of life and opinions etc. Most of the times it is pretty easy to know who is taking a stand against me but sometimes it is not....these are those times when life hits back with its cold reality.

Its a shock even when a suspicion becomes a confirmed reality. I keep talking to a person on a regular basis and suddenly truth unfolds before me that this person with whom I was smiling a few hours ago has been doing a public campaign against me. Not that it came as a great surprise but still it takes some time to get used to the inkling getting converted into realization.

My batch-mate in CMI, Ravitej has been upto such purposes for quite some time and here are 2 of his writings on the web where he launches an all out attack against me. I am not trying to defend myself but just putting up on my "web-diary" opinions of some other people who have not shown agreement with my ideas in general.....just giving every side of my life a fair chance :



Somehow I dont feel much perturbed by such things any-more..gotten life-hardened and pretty much used to everything.

Anyway talking of some more random things:

1. Given that many people anyway feel that I have made no contribution to this world and that I have only probably caused sadness to the lives of many people etc etc etc...I don't let go any chance I get in my life to make a positive contribution to someone's life...if the other side is receptive and i see that i can make a positive change then i put in all possible efforts of mine to help him/her....i just hope that at least one of these people will turn up on my funeral and say at least one good thing about me.

Somehow I have always felt that girls in general take quite a bit of lackadaisical attitude towards life especially towards academics (my apologies if you are a girl reading this page and don't fit this above description)...and interestingly most of these girls also happen to be very talented and intelligent!..i wonder if for girls being talented and being unmotivated are 2 qualities that come together!

Somehow I have had the good fortune in my life to have met and interacted with quite a few girls who are vey intelligent and talented. And for some of them I have tried my best to help them in their lives. But it has always been so difficult to get them to come out of their state of slumber into a state of being pro-active about life. Somehow girls , at least the ones I have met, never seem to be take an active role in their lives but would be happy to let life take its own course.

I somehow deeply feel that the development of anation crucially deopends on the women of the nation taking a pro-active role and changing from being the objective of change to the cause of change. I wonder how India is going to develop if its talented women continue to remain so inactive!

2. I had been feeling pretty troubled with the current accomodation scenario of the TIFR..that our housing is in some other corner of the city and that we have to commute 2 hours each day etc etc..I have been sleeping in the seminar room sofas to avoid commuting and also taking bath in the guard's bathroom etc..

But today I found out that there are students in TIFR who have worse accommodation scenario than us. I was talking to a girl in the biology department and realized that TIFR has admitted student to the biology department in 2 categories i.e just for MSc and some for integrated PhD. It seems that unlike us who have been atleast given some acommodation albeit in some corner of the city, the MSc students of DBS have none! It was supposed to be a part of the admission criteria that if you are ready to stay in Mumbai with your own acommodation arrangement only then join MSc in Biology!

The girl I was talking to is living in a working women's hostel and she said that some people are living with their relatives in Mumbai. It takes her 2 hours of journey to come from her hostel to the insitute! It supposedly took her one month of research around Mumbai and knocking at the doors of 40-50 such hostels to find out a proper place. Thankfully she has relatives in Mumbai to help her with these ordeals but I wonder how a person completely new to Mumbai would have found out such resources!

I India it seems that various other factors far apart from academic competence is becoming influential in deciding whether a student can learn at the good institutes. I was wondering whether a part of the TIFR entrance test is implicitly a proof of courage to put up with pathetic acommodation arrangement.

Seems that there are people in India dedicated enough to science to be able to struggle with all the disadvantages of living in a developing country to pursue science as a career.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A rare positive experience

In this bizarre kind of life that I lead I get excited by any little positive thing that happens in my life..they are just so rare. And hence this article to share a positive thing that fell into my life by a sheer stroke of luck..may be what I will describe is a very commonplace thing in other people's lives but for me it was almost a dream come true given that my life has always been devoid of such things and I have only imagined of such things. {The description of the main incident starts after the first 2 paragraphs}

As I continue to get pulverized by the Indian education system (first in my St.Xavier's Collegiate School and then in Chennai Mathematical Institute and then in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) which refuses to let me pursue my interest, my senses get numbed and my sensitivities and sensibilities get more and more blunt. I seem to have most senses like that of sorrow,joy,love etc ..nothing seems to touch me much unless in extreme. My emotional thresholds have been considerably pushed up. This system acts like an efficient gas-chamber which tries to smother a person into submission where he/she just follows what is told and is robbed off one's imagination and curiosity. After some time one starts to ask whether whatever seems natural is if the education system is right then I have to conclude that it is a crime to ask for a bare minimum amount of sleep in a day and it is a crime to ask to be left unperturbed so that one can study or follow one's own pursuits. It doesn't seem to be right to ask to be left alone so that one can follow what one is interested in.

These questions seem to have gotten old to me and I have at some level stopped asking them since I don't hope for any real change to happen. But yes in someways TIFR has been a slightly better experience for me since here I have more resources to study what I want to. Obviously the stupid compulsory courses keep strangling my life to a bare existence so that I have no more energies left to do what I want to do. I have to do all sorts of things to be able to steal a few hours out of the system to sit down for an hour or two and study things I these days I am attracted to the book on vector bundles by Milnor. The way the system expects me to study Physics seems so bizarre to me that after sometime I feel repelled from the subject and it takes quite a lot of effort to keep up one's interest in Physics. I keep homing that someday I will do Physics and Mathematics the way I want to and that I will create a system where everyone interested in the subject can pursue it the way he/she wants to.

I strongly believe that the role of a system is to provide advice and resources to help the people pursue their interest and NOT try to mould people into what it thinks is right.

Somehow by a sheer stroke of luck the system happened to do one such good thing to me among the million things it has done to damage me physically and mentally. Of course this flash in the pan doesn't cleanse it of its sins. Somehow this happened through my course in experimental physics course.

In the experimental physics course we were split into groups of 3 randomly and each group is supposed to perform 3 experiments given an approximate time of 4 weeks per experiment. The group allocation and experiment allocation was completely arbitrary. The first 3 amazing things that happened in this doubly random process are:

1. I got a group such that I gel very well with the other 2 people. Firstly it is very rare that I find people with whom I gel well and then to get them in the same group as mine is another bliss. Their names are Sambuddha (BSc from somewhere in West Bengal and then MSc from IITD) and Padmanath (BSc. from somewhere in Kerala and MSc from IITRoorkee). They too like me are in the Department of Theoretical Physics. Somehow we 3 have a lot of resonant frequencies. Something like this happened when the new first years came to CMI in 2007..I seemed to have a lot of resonance states with many of them like Dang,Pratish,Ashwin,Aditya,Hrishikesh,Atul and Rajesh.

2. Somehow the TIFR records mistook me to be a post-MSc student and hence grouped me with 2 other MSc students. I was the only BSc. student to have gotten into a MSc group and hence the nature of experiments that I got were also different and somewhat more to my taste. I just cant stand the idea of having to sit with a machine/apparatus for hours but the experiments we have been allotted were mostly of the kind which involved sophisticated data analysis of some complicated experiment done by other people. Of my 3 experiments, 2 happen to be of such a kind and hence many of the conservatives around are raising eye-brows about it that these are not "experiments" and especially BSc students like me should be exposed to more direct kind of experimental work. But I am thankful to whoever in the office did this error of feeding the data that I am a BSc student.

Somehow this age gap factor doesn't seem to make any difference in the group's interactions.

3. The first "experiment" we have gotten is to analyse bubble chamber tracks gotten from subatomic particles like muons and pions passing through liquid hydrogen. To top the situation the prof. who has been assigned to guide our group is Prof.Amol Dighe! Anyone who knows him knows what a "cool" guy he is. Probably years and years of education and work experience at US (at Chicago University and Berkeley ) has built in him a very dynamic attitude. He has been one of the spear-heads of research in theory of neutrinos in India and has hell lot of an experience behind him about analysing complicated experimental data. He is a core theoretical physics guy and is an extremely amiable person. He is the kind of guy who made it clear on the first day that there is no "right" and "wrong" way in Physics and that we should freely explore methods and techniques and come up with our own to suit the purposes.

Prof.Amol Dighe is sort of acting like the "ideal system" which I explained earlier who is providing us with resources and help and advice when we ask for it and is not making any periodic demands from us like "report at the end of the day what you have done"...he is not forcing any of his notions of right and wrong on us but subtly tells us the alternative ways he thinks and urges us to explore everything to find out what is optimal. Best of all he doesn't expect us to follow his word but to only try out everything and do what we find the most convincing.

Given his huge experience with sub-atomic particles he can tell us one alternative process of analysis for every algorithm we design. Most excitingly every idea that he gives is new to us and vice versa. So every side is interested to try out the other idea and figure out if that shows something new.

So cumulatively we are generating ideas at a very fast rate and if one plan of action doesn't work we almost always have another way ready to try out.

Hence it happens that 3 students from the Department of Theoretical Physics are doing a "theoretical experiment" (or "virtual experiment" as the critics like to call it) in the theory department under a theoretical physics prof. In case you have forgotten it is a part of the experimental physics course!

Coming back to the serious positive aspects of this experience:

More critically the balance of abilities in this group is very satisfying and is probably one of our greatest strengths apart from the fact that all of us seriously consider the ideas of the other. Sambuddha has considerable experience with high-energy physics which is crucial to understand the specific data at hand (he actually has 2 published papers in particle-physics) and Padmanath has experience in numerical computing for Physics and knows programming in Matlab,Mathematica,C++ etc. So Padmanath is the central programmer and he has amazing ability to debug programs and Sambuddha is explaining the physics at every step then I can mathematize the situation and Padmanath can code it.

I am sure I would not be able to write these huge programs that Padmanath writes and then debugs then patiently. No wonder he gives his killing look at me at times when I come up with a new algorithm to do the thing. Already we have tried and thrown about 4-5 methods before settling into the one that seems to keep the errors under control the best. Each algorithm is reached through an intense series of discussions on the black-board generally between me and Padmanth and sometimes Prof.Amol Dighe. After the session the black-board looks like the battle ground of Kalinga after the war and Padmanth knows that now it is his painful time to code all the exotic ideas that I have come up with. It is actually surprising that many of the basic mathematical techniques can get so complicated to program.

Ofcourse everything is being done on the laptop of Sambuddha. One should mention the terrific sense of humour of Sambuddha which keeps nerves under control when after 4 hours of algorithm designing and coding the program outputs sheer junk. He can laugh even when the output is as bizarre as we have got at times like at one point the output was such that the distance covered by the particle was an oscillating function and once it was a complex number!

Thanks to CMI I have considerably higher maturity with mathematics (especially calculus and geometry) than others so at every step of the analysis I am being able to chip in with detailed analysis and derivations and rigorously cross-check whatever others feel intuitively. So every algorithm that is thought of and program that is written at some stage goes through a thorough mathematical scrutiny by me for possible pit-falls and detecting unaccounted for special cases.

Further given my experience with higher dimensional geometry I am being able to take the data analysis to the level of detail where one can use the curvature effects of the chi-square surface and do serious analysis regarding the Fischer information. These are at some level purely concepts of statistics but I can see a clear advantage of being able to "see" them given my experience of having studied some amount of geometry in higher dimensions.

This is the first time that any of us are using our skills for any real situation. Especially this is our first experience of doing serious error analysis of data using Bayesian Statistics. So in effect I am having to learn a certain amount of about Statistics and Information Theory.

The central question we have been trying to figure out is to be able to determine the length of a curve and radius of curvature at various points given coordinates of a discrete set of points on it. The point is to come up with a consistent way of computing the curve length and curvature along with an error bound on it. It may sound simple but I assure you that you shall get unexpected surprises like we got when we did our first tries.

We still have a lot of errors to fix but somehow we seem relaxed about it given that we enjoy so much the process of doing it. This is probably the first time I am being able to work in a group and also enjoy doing it. It is probably sheer luck that got me into this amazing group with an exciting question to solve.

I wait for the sessions with the group very eagerly given that the rest of the courses are simply torturous and kill whatever abilities I have of thinking and imagination. Its the first time I have a little scope to explore my scientific creativity and let my ideas free to find out methods to reach a certain scientific goal. A few hours of blissful independence in an entire week of slavery.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mumbai Reflections

This is just rambling about my recent life. What follows is a completely disorganized set of facts and reflections. Sometime soon I plan to post a more detailed blog about my other experience at the conference in Germany

Finally I have joined TIFR as a student for Integrated-PhD in the Department of Theoretical Physics (DTP). I am yet to get into my permanent accommodation. Since I have joined late the proposed accomodation at Wadala seems to be over so I have been put up at one of the older hostels in-campus and some time soon I will have to shift to Wadala. That prospect is worrying me day and night! Its one hour bus ride from there to the TIFR campus and the only bus from Wadala to TIFR leaves Wadala at 8Am and the only bus from TIFR to Wadala leaves at 8:30Pm. I wonder how I am going to get into studies in this weird scenario where I have to leave home at 8Am and I reach my bed-room at 9Pm involving an hour of bus-journey on each side.

This scenario reminds me of the life I led at CMI (Chennai Mathematical Institute, undergraduate institute) for quite sometime when I used to wake up at 7Am to catch a bus from T.Nagar to Siruseri (a bus-distance of about 45 minutes) and then used to come back from there at 7Pm. While going to the institute if I missed the bus then the route via public transport was pretty troublesome and would take about an hour or more but if I miss the return bus then life is going to be hell. Public transport from Siruseri (which is a developing city at the outskirts of Chennai on the Old Mahabalipuram Rad) to T.Nagar is almost non-existent and finding the rare ones is just too difficult at 6Pm in the evening.

Those were really tiring days and studying was really difficult given that I study late in the night. But now I will have to go back to a form of life somewhat like that but what is very difficult now is to get out of some of the crucial comforts of the Siruseri campus that I had gotten used to over the last 2 years.

Some people chose to go to the US to their grad school even if it was not the top places of US to escape from these hardships of life at TIFR. Many advised and tried to motivate me to do the same. But I have other reasons to prefer TIFR over those colleges of the US.

I have seen enough of pain and agony in my personal and academic life and I am sure I have grown to be a more steeled person to fight any kind of hardship. Anyway mortal pains are always far less then the emotional pains or agony of being cheated by unfair means in a corrupt academic system. But I still firmly believe that these can only be local losses and in the long run she/he is the winner who has true depth of knowledge and understanding.

Here probably I should acknowledge the infinite debt I have to the CMI Mathematics department whose support helped me find an escape to some happiness when I felt that life was being very unfair to me at various different levels: personal and in pursuit of Physics.

But while at CMI in those days of bus-travels the hostels though very far from the institute were located in the center of a pretty posh city and hence lots of basic amenities like a restaurant and super-market were a walking distance from the hostel. Moreover because CMI maintained a small computer room near T.Nagar it added to the comforts. But here at TIFR things are going to be radically different since the Wadala hostels are far away from the main city and there is practically nothing around it. Hence once I leave the institute I am practically going to land into a desert.

And I just cant imagine reading a book or doing sme large calculation on anywhere but on my bed reclining. Given this schedule which is coming up in life I am yet to figure out how I am going to do my work being detached from my bed-room for most of the working hours of the day.

And even inside TIFR there is acute space crunch..unlike our seniors we don't have a computer room..and what we have been given as a computer room is more of a dump-yard!..a pretty dingy dirty room with lots of broken computers and a mess of wires and old tables and a few working computers...interestingly some of the working computers are pretty high-end like they have 21inch flat screen but many of them can't play music or can't play a DVD..I somehow have gotten used to be listening to music whenever I am on the computer.

More or less thats the only time I listen to music i.e when I am sitting on a computer. But given these amazing computer facilities at TIFR, I am not being able to do that very much.

But yes I am hoping that at some point of time these things will change for the better. More importantly I hope that the opportunity to interact with some of the best Mathematicians and Physicists at TIFR will help get over these innumerable mortal worries at TIFR.

Of the few things about CMI that I miss, one is the amazingly comfortable computer room and especially my cosy corner in that room which I had almost individualized. Of course here too I am trying to do the same as to individualize the computer room and its organization as per my tastes. Somehow this is probably how a fundamental instinct of human kind manifests itself and pretty strongly in me: That is the instinct to change the surroundings to one's needs unlike other species who adapt to the surroundings.

Of course among the many things that I don't have some are: a TIFR identity card, a TIFR computer account and email id, a computer network to which I belong and a locker.

Let me explain the last 3 things in a little detail: In CMI all the computers are networked so data like say my music is not localized and hence I can log into any machine and access my music from it but in TIFR I am yet to get to a networked system so it is becoming necessary to keep my frequently used data on all the machines that I use and thats troublesome.

Now about the locker:

I just can't carry around those books with me regularly from hostel to the institute! I mean those books that I am reading these days. I really need a locker to keep them in the institute.

This is why I didn't need a locker in CMI:

In CMI, I could walk around the entire campus in 5 minutes and could walk to my room from the lecture hall in less than 45 seconds...thats going to be radically different here...if I felt bored studying on my bed then I could hop into my computer room and again if I needed a book while in the institute then it would take me a minute to get it from my room...

This is the biggest luxury of CMI that I am going to miss here. Such frequent and fast transits are simply impossible like it was when I had to travel from T.Nagar to Siruseri for classes.

It is my first experience of a big institute and a big campus. On the positive side here there is an implicit cloak of anonymity...I don't know most of the people and most of the people don't know me..unlike in CMI where everyone knows every person a bit too well...this anonymity has both its advantages and CMI unfortunately almost everything that would happen in my life would become known to lots of people and that is unlikely here (thankfully!)...on the negative side not knowing most of the people can be a problem when Iam looking for a person to help me with something.

Shayantani didi (I met her an year ago while I was in TIFR as a summer student) seems to be the help desk for me as I can go upto her to know where to get what?

Of course there is one big comforting thing at TIFR ... the sea-side...the rocks and the furious waves lashing at it..the incessant ballet and love struggle between the water and the rocks...the seemingly infinite energy of the sea and its untiring motion..

But then there is something to be feared in everything that is beautiful.

Towards the corner of that sea-side, the sea is much more furious...and the pavement has a lot of moss on it..hence slippery. Obviously the adventurous spirit in me pulled me towards those areas...then I fell down from the rocks and have badly bruised my knee..about 2cm x 2cm area of skin is limping around with bandage...then I had to take a tetanus injection and then the hand is paining.

Minor casualties that one must be prepared for when in the process of conquering fear in attempt to progress because on the other hand failure begins with fear. In spite of the dangers, I think there is nothing more demeaning than to nurture fear for something.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Either to laugh or to cry

Probably a great talent a person can have is to be able to laugh at one's own mistakes and inabilities.

Before I start saying anything let me give a standing ovation to the marriage scene between Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean-At World's End".

The scene mesmerized and enamoured me (over and above the fact that I found Keira Knightly awesome in the 3 parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean). The bride, the groom and the priest all of them complete the formalities while in the thick of the battle and the couple hold each other and say "I do" while with their other hand they both continue to sword fight the enemies. What a scene! What a deep and subtle message! Undoubtedly it is the best marriage scene I have ever seen on the screen and probably one of the best scenes I have ever seen in any movie.

Of course this doesn't over-rule the fact that I found Jhonny Depp completely overwhelming. He is definitely one of the Gods of acting. Jack Sparrow is probably the most intriguing and complicated characters I have ever seen on screen. Apart from his continuous choice of precisely those options which are exactly midway between being black or white, what provoked me most was that all his choices seem to be disastrous in the short-run and beneficial in the long run.

There was a time when I was dead scared of mathematics and I was on the brink of deciding to quit science because of my inability to understand mathematics. I distinctly remember when I ran into a restaurant after my first algebra exam in CMI and started to cry. {Then I ordered a lot of spicy food to drown my sorrows in it. Expectedly I failed in that exam.} Today I suppose the situation has changed to some moderate extent. Life has come a long way since then and today I at least love certain topics in mathematics like Topology and Differential Geometry (advanced forms of geometry) and have also been able to give seminars in mathematics which have been appreciated by the audience. Today mathematics is an integral part of my daily life and is central to my career choice. But there are certain things about which my situation never seems to change and the chances of it changing is growing slim by the day.

I first fell in love with a class-mate of mine when I was in Class 4. That was when I for the first time wrote a letter to a lady proclaiming my love for her. That was when I should have detected my fundamental inability to understand almost half of the world called "women". But yes, I live and learn. Sometimes a bit slowly. That was obviously not the last time I fell in love and I did spend 2 days crying when a "relationship" of mine with a lady fell apart an year ago.

Over these years and more so over the past 1.5 years I have given considerable thought over this whole issue of "relationship building" and more I try to understand exponentially more it seems to be getting complicated. What happened with mathematics seems to be a rare kind of phenomenon in my life and something that seems unlikely to happen in other fields. Human relationships are undoubtedly the most non-linear dynamical system that exist and with women involved in it the system invariable tends to a singularity. {Sometimes I think I understand why mathematicians call neighbourhoods of such points as "basin of attraction" !)

There are a lot of things which somehow society assumes that "naturally" people will understand and don't need to be taught. Except for a few classes in school from my biology teacher, the education system never found it worthwhile to teach the students about the process of human reproduction. I had to myself sift through quite a bit of literature and medical text-books to understand it. But I am not sure whether most people have either the energy or the resources to read proper scientific texts about such basic things which are probably more important things to understand than the lineage of Mughal kings who ruled India or when is a locally euclidean space not a manifold or Quantum Theory.

Here I would like to note that the only time ever in school history that I got a 100/100 was in biology and almost always I scored more in biology than other subjects. All credits to my mother who is a doctor and who enthusiastically taught me a lot of biology. But somehow I was more attracted to the space-time and Quantum Theory and chose Physics as my career. Later I fell in love with Topology.

Similarly the education system also relied on fate to teach me about human relationships and how to build them successfully. Probably almost people are born with these intrinsic abilities and hence don't feel the need to be taught these things. I was probably somehow born with a complete vacuum inside me about these things. It was not until I entered college that I realized that I have fundamental problems in understanding human emotions and handling emotional bonds. Hence over the past 1 year I have been making deliberate efforts to get something done in this area.

I have spent considerable amount of time reading articles and magazines and books about human relations and emotions and how to interpret them. My lack of personal experience about most such things was a great road-block to me in understanding these things. I had t rely a lot on my imagination. Almost always I felt like a robot from some another planet trying to understand human beings or probably like the 'Tin-Man' in the 'Wizard of Oz'. I read quite a bit about topics like "stability of marriages", "marriage counselling", 'How to build a happy family?" etc etc

I spent quite some time trying to understand what a "marriage" means and what are its dynamics and needs for stability. I intrinsically have always felt convinced that there is something very good about this concept and that it is above all other things and something that distinguishes human race from all others. Humans are not the only ones to have the concept of "family" but I am not aware of any other species who have the idea of "marriage". For others things just seem to end at the level of "mating partner" but for humans it goes far beyond that. Today when the society is giving serious thoughts about the idea of homosexual marriages we really need to understand the concept of "marriage" in far greater detail.

I have a sort of firm belief in the concept of the "holy wed-lock". I can't see any argument in favour of promiscuity and domestic violence and even in their mildest forms they seem to me to be the most dastardly of all crimes. The sanctity of the marriage and mutual love and respect among the partners in it seem to be the defining lines for me for a successful civilization. Further I can't see any strong argument against being very possessive about one's love. As far as I feel and understand and what seems most logical about "love" (as in what should lead to marriages) is a mix of sexual attraction and a strong form of preference among the partners for each other for almost every sphere of life.

But then unfortunately or fortunately the above two though the most important are not the only things that can keep marriages together. It is easily possible for a person to effortlessly maintain the above 2 principles and yet fail to build relations.

Recently I read 2 more articles about such things titled "Things to do before you say 'I do' " and "How to keep your wife happy". {Probably most people understand these things "naturally" and find these things "obvious" but one must remember that there exists poor mortals like me who need to study these things to understand them.}

Mostly what were said in those articles were things I had vaguely felt through my brilliantly 'successful' relationship efforts. But what surprised me most about those articles is the following point that they had to make:

As far as I feel about the whole idea of 'love' and "marriage' is that ideally it should lead to the lives of the two people to get intimately intertwined to put into effect the lines 'What is yours is mine and what is mine is yours'. After two people are in love with each other I fail to understand what is the justification of still having a "personal space" where you still have an individual life disjoint from the life of the other person.

The articles seemed to be advocating that even post-marriage one needs and should maintain (and accept that the other person also maintains) that personal space and one shouldn't try to mix the two lives totally. They seemed to say that if two lives are totally and intimately mixed then this proximity can be choking for either of them.

I find this above philosophy very confusing and currently beyond my intelligence levels. Somehow this seems to me to be in contradiction with the philosophy that I had come to believe that love and marriage are a process of transition from thinking in terms of "I" and "You" to thinking in terms of "We".

I am currently unable to resolve the paradox between the above philosophy (which I think is right) and what the articles had to say.

Probably this article was born out of this paradox.

...and the system

Contd..from my last article.

This whole idea of creating something starting with a blank paper continues to fascinate me. Somehow this always seems to me to be the most interesting thing to do. { I am an admirer of Yanni and as Yanni puts it "creation is the most powerful act of deliberation"}. Somehow I never felt comfortable with the idea of "emulating" someone or trying to "follow" someone. "Fashion" and "vogue" don't make much sense to me. {Except with one or two teachers, I have always hated the idea of sitting in a class and listening to some professor speak}. I look at history from a distance. Because XYZ has "succeeded" by doing this doesn't seem to me to be reason enough to start off doing that.

I try to bring to science the fundamental instinct of an artist. All I see in front of me is a blank sheet of paper on which I am going to paint and not the works and thoughts of other people cluttering it. Probably this attitude has brought me into conflict with many teachers because I have refused to accept what they said and I insisted in starting afresh. I can't accept something just by being told of it irrespective of who is telling it. I accept something only when I am convinced of it. This process has its possible pit-falls but I see immensely larger gains from it which clearly they cannot reap who follow what they are told.

This starting-from-a-blank-page approach at least keeps me away from all forms of bias which people who live in sync with the society tend to develop. As a result of this process of thinking developed alone, I ran into severe social conflicts when I went to a big school in Kolkata (St.Xavier's, Park Street) and later CMI (Chennai Mathematical Institute).

But only when I entered college I realized that my ways of thinking and opinions about most things starting from most mundane daily things is very different from the rest of the world. The fact that society's opinions about most things is contrary to mine came as a root shock to me after all these years of having spent a life of mostly struggling with one's own self and developing ideas alone.

It has been a long struggle in coming to terms with the world outside. I have had to pay severe costs for this but yes I live and learn. Today I have learnt to maintain that safe distance from the world outside whereby I can interact with it through a selectively permeable membrane which lets me know all the alternatives that exist in the society and lets me compete them against my self-analysis to decide what is right. So that I am aware of the socially prevalent alternatives but I am not going to be biased towards whatever the mass applauds.

But I have always said that thoughts developed on one's own in loneliness have a clear advantage over socially generated ones in that the former has considerably higher chance of being original or innovative or path-breaking. What is iconoclasm and unorthodox today will become the standard of tomorrow. The standards of tomorrow are almost always born out of some thoughts in loneliness of some person today who refused to go with the social flow.

Somewhere down the lane the Indian education system (in which I have little or no faith and I condemn it to the core) strips the students off this basic element of courage to think beyond the norms and socially accepted correctness. I find the entire attitude of the Indian education system to be so much in conflict with the entire spirit of research and innovation. It has taken me great pains to fight this system and its menacing influence. I have had my share of losses due to this but what I have rescued from the jaws of Indian education is my natural courage to think out of the track. Its a natural courage every child is born with but most give it up to the devilish system in lieu of acquiring social acceptance.

I strongly feel that even today the Indian education system is largely under the shadow of education principles as instituted by the British Rule that is a mechanism to churn out clerks and not thinkers. The methods of learning by rote and repetition seem to be dangerously predominant. As an example I would like to mention this series of mathematics books by an author called Keshab Chandra Nag which was the predominant book when my grandmother was in school and that is still used by thousands of students in West Bengal and even in notable schools like South Point High School (Kolkata). This series of books is a typical example of insightless and pre-historic methods of teaching mathematics where the entire focus in on practice with arithmetic and algebraic manipulations with complete neglect of building concepts and understanding the subtleties of precise mathematical definitions. As if the students are expected to grow up to become calculating machines.

The parents of the students are also feeding the vicious circle by not taking efforts to expose the children to more modern methods of mathematics by exposing them to internatioanally acclaimed books. They too are looking for (a condonable and mediocre attitude) short term results in terms of rank in school examination as opposed to recognizing the importance of people of a nation being good in mathematics.

These parents should probably take efforts to read the articles on the web by Fields Medalist mathematician Terence Tao on the social importance of quality mathematics being encouraged in a country.

Today I am trying to continue the process of change in more sophsticated forms. At a primary level I am trying to learn a lot of geometry at the same level of abstraction and formalism like any other professional mathematician and trying to understand its subtle inter-windings with Physics. I believe that many more people will join me in this endeavour and we will completely change how Physics is done in India. For these endeavours of mine I am having to face tremendous criticism and sarcasm from various students and professors in Physics and Mathematics but it only adds to my determination to continue on my path to prove them wrong.

Fortunately in this path I have also found help and support from some people in my peer group (mainly from CMI) and professors, some of whom have shown considerable amount of faith in my endeavours. When most in CMI turned down my seminars as being unworthy these people could feel the excitement that I was trying to convey to them of how so called "abstract" mathematics completely revolutionizes how we look at Physics and shatters through socially predominant notions of what is correct and what is not. This is one of those attitudes that would have been considerably difficult for me to develop had I always lived in resonance with the society.

Let me end by remembering the famous song "Hum honge kamyab ek din...Man mein hai vishwas" ("We shall overcome someday..I do believe")

Two kinds of people..

In this article I am trying to just jot down various thoughts that have been going on and off my mind for the past few weeks. These will probably build up towards something more concrete in the next few articles.

Over the past few weeks I have been very busy trying to pack up for my trip to Germany for the Physics Nobel Laureates-Students meeting and alongside I have been trying hard to meet my own set deadlines to finish two expository articles that I have been writing in topology ( a branch of mathematics about which I am absolutely passionate). One of them was of an elementary nature and the other was slightly advanced (in the sense that it involved structures like locally trivial bundles and covering spaces). Now these writings are complete and I have sent them to some of my mathematics colleagues for reading it and commenting about it. Hopefully someday I will teach topology and Physics to some class and I will then use these articles as teaching materials.
Now that these personal mathematical commitments are over I can get to writing about non-academic aspects of life that are equally important to me as my professional pursuits i.e Geometry and Physics.

With respect to human relations people are crudely of two kinds although a spectrum of fine shades might exist between these two :
1. People who have had a life in sync with the general society and hence don't feel that they are particularly in need of people in their lives.
2. For various reasons people who have had a life which is pretty much disjoint from the society or the only connections been very formal. Hence they have spent a considerable amount of their times in lives alone.

There are various points that intrigue me about the attitudinal differences I observe between these two kinds of people. Mostly people of the first kind tend to huddle together and people of the first kind try to have very intimate relations with a very select number of people.
By and large I fall into the second category and one central feature that I feel that I have in these respects is a natural tendency to talk/interact with people whenever such a chance comes. Like I have spent hours teaching other people various topics in Physics and Mathematics which others in general would prefer to spend at least by studying things on their own. My inclination towards the process of teaching and having discussions and debates has a strong element of trying to build long term relationships with people. I somehow feel that relationships built through intense academic exchanges tend to be very strong compared to just psychological or physical bonding.

But this process of spending time alone has resulted in me doing a lot of introspection and self-analysis of various things that I see happening all around be it the Gujrat riots or Einstein's Theory. Very often the opinions and thought processes one forms out of such thinking done alone tends to have a strong individualistic flavour and very distinctive from the opinions that a person of the first kind forms out of the social interactions. This process has its gains as in giving a direct vent to creativity and originality and also has its pit-falls in terms of developing a bias because one might not be aware of alternative arguments if the analysis has been done alone.

This has its pros and cons. Knowing about the presence of alternative arguments that are present in the society can sometimes act as quick check to whether the self-analysis has some obvious flaw. On the other hand the very fact that some alternative thinking has strong social backing might make it so compelling that one tends to go with the flow and not take efforts to do the self-analysis almost like taking the wisdom of the crowds on blind faith.
So one needs to maintain a very subtle balance between doing a thorough self-analysis in loneliness and being aware of the alternative arguments that are socially prevalent.
More often that not the radical ideas that have changed the world have been born out of thoughts done alone of some person. More often than not these thoughts when propounded were ridiculed by the then existing society since it was in conflict with the socially backed idea at that time.

The most complicated situation arises when a person of the second type starts non-trivial interactions with a person of the first type.

The second type person is like then a butterfly just emerged at the end of a process of metamorphosis undergone in cocoon and the person of the first type is like a person from another planet who has never seen any flying living creature. Some of the likely things that this alien can do are the following:

1.This alien can start with a fresh mind accepting the fact that there exists creatures which can fly and then start appreciation the novelties of the butterfly. This way he takes the risk of sending out vibes to his society that he is keenly interested in this new creature as compared to trying to mould this new creature into one of its own types.
2. Can get so scared of this new phenomenon that it tries to run away or tries to kill the butterfly.
3. Tries to fence sit by observing this new creature from a distance so that he keeps his side with his society too.

Among the people of the second kind there exists a great variation with respect to what a person does with this huge of lonely time. Some of the prominent ethical possibilities are:

1. One can devote it to indulge passively into music, painting, photography, cinema etc. By passivity here I mean doing things like listening to music but not taking efforts to learn to sing or play an instrument or watch movies but not study about its technical details with the aim of making or acting in a movie.
2. Indulge actively in the above non-academic activities.
3. Devote it to intense academic work and pursue some technical subject like say Physics or Geology in great details.
4. Read a lot of books on varied topics. Again this can be active or passive. Passive approach would be to read about adventures but not take the efforts to embark on a trip.

Due to various reasons and circumstances I have spent quite a chunk of my life alone. Not that I have always been in boarding schools and hostels but there are more subtle forms of loneliness that a person can have to face. About an year ago in another article I had discussed this aspect of my life. This constant lack of companions of my age group had various profound effects on my life. Some of which are:

1. I was inclined towards drawing and painting since I ever picked up the pencil. I became more and more addicted to it. I used to spend 5-6 continuously with my pencils,pastels and brushes. When I used to start on a painting, I would keep working on it for days and nights. It had a magical effect on me. I would not even feel hungry or thirsty when working on a painting . Thats what was predominantly always on my mind since kinder-garten till about class 9. Almost the whole day I would primarily keep thinking about what would be the next experiment I would try to do with my paints and brushes. Experiments continued with colours and medium. Apart from formal classical art (my predominant form), I painted egg shells at one time and the once tried making colours on my own and once I tried painting with bird feathers. Then I did some abstract painting.
Unfortunately no one ever taught me to do oil-painting but I self-learnt that. So oil-painting was more exciting to me since I learnt to do it completely on my own. I think some of my best works are still those that I did in oil-paint. (Apart from my dearest works in Chinese-ink and monochrome watercolors. I loved drawing old shattered buildings in Chinese-ink and my favourite monochrome watercolor was when I painted from a photograph the boat traffic at Chittagong Port in Bangladesh)
Once I moved to West Bengal I didn't like my art teacher and I almost completely independently worked on my own developing my own style. (Anyway thats what has happened almost fully for Physics and to a great extent with Mathematics) Somehow my art teacher in Orissa gave me more freedom and encouraged me to develop my own genre. He only pointed out errors in technique but never told me to change style.

2. Given that I never had anyone to share any thoughts or views with I had still quite a bit of time left after drawing and painting. So thats when I started the following activities:
a) I started writing poetry. {But this had some other associated issues to which I will come in the next article}
b) I started writing stories. But I soon realized that I am not comfortable with this and I dropped it. But I read quite a bit of English stories especially the classical novels. My Bengali was pretty bad till about I was 13-14 years old. Then I made great efforts to learn to read and write Bengali just to be able to read the exciting stories by Satyajit Ray (the same film director who was awarded the Oscar, the Golden Lion and many more.) Later I went on to read some short stories and novels by Rabindranath Tagore.
c) I started watching movies of Amitabh Bachchan. {Yes. I am crazy about him. By the time I was in class 6, I had watched a considerable amount of his movies and I was enamoured about him. Even today he never fails to mesmerize me.}
d) The undercurrents of science had begun (thanks to the fact that when I was in my kinder-garten I started reading the book "Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking and got excited by it and then by two other books "Giant Book of Facts" and 'Dorking Kindersely Science Encyclopaedia") and I had started to feel an inclination towards the whole idea of "research".

It wasn't very clear to me then as to what "research" was all about but I felt that it was all about "creating" just like I was trying to draw something interesting starting with a blank piece of paper.

continued in the next article.....