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Wow. This mobile phone market is fairy tale market indeed. Who would have imagined, this 20 years ago? Still no India and China, the two most populated countries in the world, coming anywhere in the percentage penetration. I reckon, this is going to be the dollar spot for the wireless world.

The Economist, latest edition [1] brings out this fascinating statistics on the mobile penetration, listed country wise.

Tiny Luxemberg has a whopping 1.6 mobile phones per person on the average (That is 160 mobile phones per 100 people). Most of the mainland European countries are around the century mark when it comes to GSM phones. I was a little surprised to see Japan trailing behind a little bit (only a little from the leaders) on it. When I started working on the 3GPP modem design in 1999, the market trend and demands were heavily pouring from Japan. Looking at the way things moved, the Japaneese were expected to have two 3G phones per person:-) Well, I was kidding. Japan and Korea as well have average of 80 phones per 100 people of the population. This figure is more than stunning.

I have my brains doing busy calculations to stretch this figure for India and China in five years time. Buoy! Isnt there an ocean of market available for grab? You count a pair of billions and assume only 50% penetration. No wonder, the 3G spectrum will sell at a premium much higher than the cricket telecast rights in India.

If you go by a pure urban scan, the mobile phones are almost anybodies right. I reckon more than 80% of the households would have it. This should translate to something like 30-40% per person phone ratio. This is strictly the city statistics alone. The villagers, which accounts more than 75% of India’s population are yet to taste this business flu. In 10 years time, the scene could change in proportion and the scales will stretch few digits in logarithmic units itself.


Every good thing has to come to an end, unfortunately. India’s ever most popular president, at least to ordinary citizens, has left office after serving five strong years. For children he was simply so dear a president to have. He was quite an exemplary president, who changed the perception of a president and rashtrapathi bhavan itself. While it was elusive for ordinary people of this country, until his term, he let it open to the very very base class of this society. School children could take pride in staying in the rashtrapathi bhavan, whereas in the past, it welcomed only the foreign dignitaries and the likes.

Thank you President Kalam. You are simply our pride. You made us proud in many ways, many times.

The title might mislead you. So, let me clarify upfront. I am not on a mission to self appraise. I am to talk about the autobiography of ‘Noerbert Wiener’, titled ‘I am a Mathematician’. This is a piece of book I am reading currently. Since I have heard a lot of stories about Wiener and having known some (percentage is minuscule!) of his work, the presentation of the book didn’t provide disappointment. Rather, it is a very very interesting sketch of his life, put in his own style.

I mentioned about stories being heard about him. There are many of them. I am not saying this candidly, because I hardly checked the authenticity of such tales. Nevertheless, I get ready to laugh everytime, I begin to hear anything about him. The mathematical work of this once child prodigy is very well known and is treasured. His wit and absentmindedness are quite unique. Some of the anecdotes, I have heard about him are;

1.During one of these trips down the hallway at MIT, Wiener was interrupted by several of his students who talked to him for several minutes about what they were working on. After the conversation had ended, Wiener asked one of them “Could you please tell me, in which direction was I traveling when you stopped me?” One of them replied, somewhat confusedly, “You were coming from over there [gesturing] this way [gesturing].” Wiener replied, “Ah, then it is likely that I have already had lunch. Thank you.” and continued down the hallway to his office. (A somewhat similar story is attributed to Einstein as well. As far as I heard, this is when Claude Shannon was giving a lecture at Princeton. It was well attended. Einstein made a back door visit when Shannon was in full stream. Shannon obviously noted Einsteins coming in, chatting with someone in the last row and the leaving soon. The curious Shannon (after the lecture) went to the folks to whom Einstein seemed talking. To Shannon’s surprise, Einstein was apparently asking them ‘where the tea was served’.)

2: After several years teaching at MIT, the Wieners moved to a larger house. Knowing her husband was likely to forget where he now lived, Mrs. Wiener wrote down the address of the new house on a piece of paper and made him put it in his shirt pocket. At lunchtime, an inspiring idea came to the professor, who proceeded to pull out the paper and scribble down calculations, and to subsequently proceed to find a flaw and throw the paper away in disgust. At the end of the day, it occurred to Wiener that he had thrown away his address. He now had no idea where his home was. Putting his mind to work, he concocted a plan: go to his old home and wait to be rescued. Surely Margaret would realize he was lost and come to pick him up. When he arrived at the house, there was a little girl standing out front. “Excuse me, little girl,” he asked, “would you happen to know where the people who used to live here moved to?” “It’s okay, Daddy,” the girl replied, “Mommy sent me to get you.” (Decades later, Norbert Wiener’s daughter was tracked down by a mathematics newsletter. She said the story was essentially correct, except that Wiener had not forgotten who she was.)

Description on the image: Norbert Wiener with Amar Bose (Bose audio fame) and Lee (the early MIT pioneers): Source of this image is [1] [1]

This weeks Outlook magazine had a special coverage on the southern states of India, on how they fare well in comparison to other states (mainly North Indians states) of India. The results hardly surprise anyone, because the north south differences in terms of human development (not in terms of the urban prosperity and stock market index) is quite wide. But among southern states itself, the little Kerala stands way apart in almost all of the development index. This can be confusing to many, because the perception many have about Kerala is one that of an industry freed and unemployment sprouting region. It is no denying fact that, Kerala’s main problem over the years have been unemployment, mainly because of the lack of private industries. But, I am interested to see how an ordinary human being living in a remote village fares. Is he able to live a decent life, freed of violence and exploitation? Is he in a position to support his/her children’s education? Does he find comfort in himself or herself within the social circle? Can he afford a house? Do they access to other basic needs of life? Is he getting basic medical/health support from Government? As far as I am concerned, these should judge the well being of a state, because that is the best index of its people.

Not surprisingly, Kerala is miles apart from the other states, in all of these. It would not offer any surprise to anyone who lived in Kerala. I must confess that, the left policies over the years helped in drafting a grass root level development program emphasizing on such welfare based indexes. Eduction reforms, health reforms, land reforms and even the literacy drive all are massive programs initiated by the left governments in Kerala.
See the statistics from [1]
Also A Head For Numbers
The South is streets ahead. They earn more, they live well and they feel better too.

conomic Indicators

Karnataka, 7.2%, tops growth A.P T.N Kerala Karnataka INDIA U.P# Gujarat
Per capita net state domestic product (SDP) in Rs (2004-05) 23,153 25,965 27,048 23,945 23,222 11,477 28,355
Percentage share in total FDI approved (1991-03) 4.61 8.53 0.53 8.25 NA 1.69 6.47
Average annual growth of state domestic product in per cent (1993-94 to 2003-04)** 5.5 4.7 5.0 7.2 5.6* 3.2 5.7
Per capita SDP in per cent (1993-94 to 2003-04)** 4.4 3.7 4.1 5.7 3.8* 0.9 3.6
Percentage of population below poverty line (1999-00) 15.77 21.12 12.72 20.04 26.10 31.15 14.07
Range of min wages for unskilled workers in Rs (2005) 45-119 54-150 72-189 63-103 61-115 57-110 50-99
Job-seekers registered with employment exchanges in thousands (2003)


5006.4 3635.1 1784.3 41388.7 1927.8 998.1
Percentage employment share (public/private, 2001-02) 71.3/28.7 64.1/35.9 52.8/47.2 58.7/41.3 69.0/31.0 79/21 53.6/46.4
Percentage of urban population (2001) 27.30 44.04 25.96 33.99 27.81 20.78 37.36
*at constant (1990-00) prices between 1999-00 and 2003-04 **at constant (1993-94) prices #Includes Uttarakhand in data from 2000-01 and earlier

How Women-Friendly?

In TN, 69.2% have a say in family matters A.P T.N Kerala Karnataka INDIA U.P Gujarat
No. of females per 1,000 males (’01 census) 978 987 1058 965 933 898 920
Juvenile (0-6) sex ratio (2001) 964 939 963 949 927 916 878
Mean age for marriage (2004) 19.0 21.5 22.9 20.0 20.4 20.4 20.5
Female literacy rate (2001) 50.4 64.4 87.7 56.9 53.7 42.2 57.8
Currently married women who usually participate in household decisions in per cent 55.7 69.2 62.5 47.4 52.5 48.2 56.7
Women who have experienced spousal violence in per cent 35.2 41.9 16.4 20.0 37.2 42.4 27.6
Percentage of women with more than 10 years of education 22 32 49 28 22 18 24
Percentage of women’s employment to total employment (2003) 20.5 30.2 39.3 31.2 18.1* 9.8 12.7
* 2002


Less than 1% live in slums in Kerala


T.N Kerala Karnataka INDIA U.P Gujarat
Percentage with regular exposure to media (TV, radio, newspaper at least once a week) 87 94 97 90 80 76 84
Percentage of slum population to total urban population (2001) 24.9 10.4 0.8 7.8 15 12.70 9.90
Teledensity per 100 persons (May 2007) 20.7 24.2* 35.1 26.2 19.3 11.38 25.5
Total road length (km) per 100 sq km (2002) 71.3 127.7 386.8 79.5 74.7 103.1 70.2
Voting percentage (2004 elections) 69.95 60.8 71.45 65.1 58.1 48.16 45.2
* excluding Chennai


In TN, 81% get vaccination A.P T.N Kerala Karnataka INDIA U.P Gujarat
Life expectancy at birth (1999-2003, M/F) 62.2/64.8 64.3/66.5 70.9/76 62.9/66.4 61.8/63.5 59.6/58.7 62.5/64.6
Number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the last five years 53 31 15 43 57 73 50
Institutional deliveries in the last three years in per cent 69 90 100 67 41 22 55
Mothers who had at least three antenatal care visits for their last birth in per cent 86.0 96.5 93.9 79.3 50.7 26.3 64.9
Vaccination coverage in per cent 46 81 75 55 44 23 45
Children age 6-35 months who are anaemic in per cent 79 72.5 55.7 82.7


85.1 80.1
Population served per government hospital bed 2,351 849 1,172 1,321 2,257 5,646 1,544
Children under 3 who are underweight in per cent 37 33 29 41 46 47 47
Per capita expenditure on health in Rs (2001-02) 1,039 846 1,858 712 997 1,124 816
Unless specified, data in tables are the latest available, for 2005-06


In Kerala, 84.1% live in pucca houses A.P T.N Kerala Karnataka INDIA U.P Gujarat
Percentage of households that:
Have a television 50.3 53.1 67.7 53.6 44.2 34 53.8
Have a motorised vehicle 14.6 22.6 24.7 20.4 18.6 16.6 30.2
Live in a pucca house 40.4 69.6 84.1 49.8 41.4 27.3 56.4
Have access to a toilet facility 42.4 42.9 96 46.5 44.5 33.1 54.6
Use piped drinking water 67.8 84.2 24.6 57.4 42.0 10.3 72.7
Have electricity 88.4 88.6 91 89.3 67.9 42.8 89.3


100% transition to upper primary in TN A.P T.N Kerala Karnataka U.P Gujarat
Literacy rate (2001 census) 60.5 73.5 90.9 66.6 56.3 69.1
Percentage of schools with one teacher 05.7 7.8 0.1 8.8 16.3 5.7
No. of students for each teacher 24.0 39 26 32 66 36
Transition rate from primary to upper primary in per cent 89.6 100.7* 86.6 89.7 57.62 82.7
Average classrooms in each school 03.9 5.6 10.5 4.5 3.4 4.8
Average number of instructional days 212 217 181 225 194 210
Percentage who go on to Grade V 99.2 104.2* 108.5* 98.2 56.6 78.9
Net primary enrolment ratio 75.6 94.1 64.1 95.6 90 75.9
Dropouts (Grade I-V) in per cent 00.4 -6.8* 5.8 2.2 11.9 2.2
* Indicates higher intake of students than dropouts

Sources: Various central and state govt publications, including National Health Profile 2006, National Family Health Survey 2005-06 and State Report Cards 2005 of National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration


After a really long time, I could see an epic Wimbledon final. Federer won 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-2 against Nadal in a super clash, yesterday at Wimbledon. I couldn’t say with certainty that Nadal was a loser here. He definitely elevated himself to a high level to give a genuine fight against the master of grass court tennis, arguably since Sampras. I always tend to believe that Sampras’s era had some of the great opponents to have ever played tennis, let alone the 7 time Wimbledon champion himself. Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter both would have scaled few more grandslam titles, if only not there was a certain Sampras. This is in stark contrast to the kind of opponents Federer has to play these days. This by no means should take away the champion in Federer. I have no doubt in my mind about the genius of Federer. In fact, I am a huge Federer fan, as much as I was a Sampras fan. These men often produced something amazing when you thought it was impossible.

Now, yesterdays final brought in a very different event in this Roger Federer dominated tennis era. Now here is someone, who can challenge Federer in his backyard. We all know that, Nadal is the undisputed champion on clay, but on grass, the weights are heavily in favour of Federer until yesterday. This year Wimbledon final was not anywhere close to a walkover for Fedex. There was very little of tennis which separated between these two fine tennis champions. As a tennis follower, what else could you have wished for? A thrilling five setter, almost symmetrical and the tie breaker decides 3 out of the 5 sets!

Recently, Nirmal shekar in his ‘The Hindu’ column had compared the two grass court champions, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. He opined that, if both of these were playing at their respective peaks, Sampras would have won seven out of ten on grasss and six out of ten on hard courts. On clay Federer could outclass Sampras eighty percent of time, says Nirmal Shekhar. I kind of had a similar feeling, when Nirmal Shekhar compared the list of opponents these two fine players faced/face in their respective playing days. As always, there are ifs and buts with these hypothetical analysis, when you compare two time lines.

But, with the emergence of Nadal as a strong allround player, not only on his favourite clay, but also on speedy grass courts, we are hopefully for better and competing days of tennis. This is what tennis lovers want. Stronger challenges to scale the level of even champions like Federer. For sure, this will take Federer to the next level and Nadal to the next stage of his exponential master curve.

And, what a way Federer taking seats at the pantheon of greats? Now, he has equaled Bjorn Borg’s record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. Borg was there watching the game. He must have been surely proud of this Swiss. Can he equal Sampras’s seven Wimbledon titles? Time can only tell it. Considering the form he is in, we cant be wrong to predict it on the positive. For that to happen, he must be injury free and fit for the coming days. These are among the least things to reach that higher levels. The other hindrance may perhaps is the Nadal factor itself. The twenty year old Nadal could perhaps write few epics in the history, if he gets improving. I am certainly looking forward to more such clashes.

I am not a very religious person, but I love visiting religious places. Isn’t this quite contrary? Perhaps yes, but I cant explain the rational, psychological or emotional theory behind this. I don’t necessarily like to go to crowded temples. I am of the quite kind, who cherish visiting a quite temples, in serene settings. Of course a quite chant or classical or vocal music played in the background is highly welcome. Is it very difficult to find such temples around? Fortunately not so hard to find in Kerala. There are aplenty all across the region. There are many around my home in Nileshwar, Kasargod and its neighborhood as well.

But among all the many temples, I have visited there is a special charm to the Vadakkunathan temple in Trichur. All the criteria of a good temple suggested above are met without doubt, by this temple. Besides, it is so clean and maintained well. The architecture of this temple is reminiscent of the old Kerala style. It is believed that this temple is more than 1000 years. The temple is spread across a considerable amount area, almost at the heart of the Trichur town, but once you are inside, you are far from all the hues and cries of a busy town. It is so quite (unless there is a major festival) and calming. Kerala is blessed with a good share of monsoon rain, which makes the ground (everywhere in Kerala) scenic with lush natural green. The presence of a large number of big trees (Banyan trees and mango trees) adds some extra colour to this temples.

The temple has many deities inside. Well, I am not quite particular about any. But there are many small temples inside the premise, each worshiping a different god or goddess. You would find a continuous stream of god fearing people flowing inside out, from one to another of these temples, whenever the temple is open to puja offerings.

I felt really good being inside (Not spiritual of any kind). A sort of melancholic perhaps. My wife is a bit god fearing and pious and she felt much more satisfying than me. In a way, we both had a very gratifying outing in the form of visiting a temple. This is not the first time, we visited this temple. I had come here many times, thanks to the many friends I have in Trichur. But every time, I come here I find it extra special. Something more beautiful than the previous one.

Some of the scenes from the inside area of the temple are seen here on this page

Last weekend failed bomb scare at Glasgow and UK [1] has brought in more cowardliness about the so called religious terrorism. I am at complete aghast to understand the motive behind killing innocent people. What kind of ideology and religious uprightness is displayed out of such heinous and uncivilized acts? Time and again, we hear about bomb blasts here and there and in the aftermath, claim from some one saying that this is done to protest on so and so for supporting so an so. To me, if this is what religion brings into the society (whichever it is), then it is doing more harm than the little goods. I cannot understand the idea of pleasing ones’ god by killing people who out of their innocence have to face the act of stupidity of some senseless individuals or groups.

What shocked me more, in this last week incident is the involvement of some Indian doctors and engineers. It is shameful indeed. I can understand if this is done by someone who is desperate in life, for not been able to lead a normal life, out of unemployment or poverty. Here the characters involved, rather suspected are middle class individuals, who went to a foreign country to lead a better education and life. Instead of bringing fame, they chose to make stupid of themselves by involving in such rubbish acts. What are they trying to prove? Who are they going to please? By doing such senseless acts, they brought disgrace to the entire nation. I cant talk about any religion, because I don’t know what is taught and practiced by many religions. At least, the radical religious views are something new to me. Never in my childhood or schools or collages, I have come across people talking religion fanatically (I am lucky in a way that my friends were more social than overly mad about religion). We all lived and studied together, without really arguing about the rights or wrongs about any bodies religious rights.

Because, these acts are often linked to religious sentiments, they become over sensitive and people tend to take it either personal or critical. I am sure, these are done with a cover of religion, but the real motives of this is inhumane. It is high time, the Governments and intelligence wings do a thorough background checks on the irresponsible networking of youths. The youths must be taught the values of respecting lives of other human beings if not more. It has to be a huge social initiative. We all have to forget about being overly religious and reserved about a particular religion or religious values alone. What is good for others only can be good for ourselves. If there is god, then he cant be so stupid to see innocent people being killed by such irresponsible acts of few ill behaved individuals or groups.


On the day before yesterday, while on travel I picked up two books from the Bangalore airport book shop. One was the Helen Keller autobiography “The Story of My Life”. This was perhaps the first full volume autobiography book I had read, when I was a child. I still remember, the used copy of this book being given to me, by a family friend and teacher, when I was in early school. The vivid recollection of Helen Keller learning the alphabets and notably, words like ‘rain’ sill echoes somewhere in the back of my mind. I decided to buy this book, with the plan to gift it to someone, who I come across, preferably young kid in school or so. Eventually, I gifted this to a friend of mine who, when I mentioned about the same, was all excited to grab it. In a way I felt happy because I could instigate interest in some one about Helen Keller. Keller’s life has been a message in itself to humanity. Her strives and constant efforts to learn to react to this world is touching to say the least.

The other book which I have picked along is on the story of “Nicolas Bourbaki”. It is titled “The artist, the mathematician: The story of Nicolas Bourbaki, The genius mathematician who never existed”. It was authored by Amir Aczel, the author of the book on ‘The Fermats Last theorem’. I never heard about this book before, either in reviews or from friends. Well, I must confess that I didnt really search for books or reviews on a topic of this kind, to really hear about such a book. Anyway, the book is a recent print and the news may be just coming out only.

This book turned out to be quite an interesting one. On the flight and while on wait, I could quickly finish reading the book. Being a math and mathematician related book, I didn’t feel sleepy over the book. That helped to complete the reading at a stretch. The book is about Nicolas Bourbaki. Out of my innocence, I never heard about this character before, either. As the title says, there was no specimen of this kind in human form lived upon earth. Yet, there was an identity to this Nicolas Bourbaki. The real truth about this name is revealed a little later in the book. Nicolas Bourbaki was not just one person, but an identity for a collection of mathematicians, mostly French. Together they have published a lot of work in mathematics, under the identity of one name “Nicolas Bourbaki”. How does that sound? Well, it sounds a little weird and a little interesting to me. Can we say, Nicolas Bourbaki was an institution itself? (Well there is a story about Nicolas Bourbaki being applied to get an AMS, American Mathematical Society and gets a reply to pay the institutional pay to get the same. Of course, the AMS president that time, had known the truth about the name Nicolas Bourbaki!)

So, Nicolas Bourbaki represented a group of Mathematicians, post 1935 (between first and second world war period), who formulated a systematic structure to the study of mathematics itself. They have worked predominantly on the Modern mathematics (modern algebraic concepts) including the concept of ‘sets’. As you would expect (because of the time line and French connection), the star mathematician André Weil was one of the founding members of this group. Some of the other well known French (connected) mathematicians also figured in the celebrated group. They iuncluded names like Henri Cartan, Claude Chevalley, Jean Coulomb, Jean Delsarte, Jean Dieudonné, Charles Ehresmann, René de Possel, Szolem Mandelbrojt. Some later entrants to the Bourbaki group had the likes of Laurent Schwartz, Jean-Pierre Serre, Alexander Grothendieck, Samuel Eilenberg, Serge Lang and Roger Godement. The group would meet regularly to discuss and debate on modern mathematical topics and eventually publish under one name Nicolas Bourbaki!

Even though Bourbaki does not exist (at least actively) today, it is believed that this has brought some ‘structure’ in not only mathematics, but in European culture in general. Besides, the stellar contributions on the field of algebra and number theory by this group is acknowledged very well.

Now, another reason, why this book took my interest is because of the presence of the mysterious Alexander Grothendieck. The book talks rather in detail about this mystery man. He was regarded as a genius and had contributed immensely to the world of mathematics. His fields medal in 1966 and related absence from the Moscow event on his own Fields medal confer perhaps tells more volumes about this man. I took by surprise to hear about the current life of this once world star of mathematics. Post 1991 he is believed to be living in a remote jungle/outskirts of Southern France, far from any worldly contacts. I quickly recollected the 2006 Fields medal winner Grigori Perelman, when he declined the medal and began to live away from mathematics crowd. Like Perelman, who (now accepted by everyone) proved the Poincaré Conjecture, Grothendieck as well, produced some monumental contributions. He was considered as a Genius and it was recognized too. But in close resemblance to what Perelman did in 2006, he as well decided to quit mathematics altogether and decided to live a mysterious and aloof life.

What makes, genius folks like Perelman and Grothendieck to abandon themselves from the world? It is surely not fear, simply because they have contributed so much to us and can only be proud of it. What else then? There may be arguments that Grothendieck was disappointed by the fact that, he couldn’t get the results he wanted from his political activities (He had strong political views on certain things against the establishment). Others say that, the childhood miseries and leading an abandoned life early on triggered him to do an isolated life, out of frustration and despair. In Perelman’s case, it is surely a hurt feeling and the one that of ignorance by the mathematical community, for questioning his credentials on the Poincaré conjuncture proof. But can the human mind, which is otherwise so highly brilliant all of a sudden taken aback by a feel of hurt? I feel sorry for these two fine mathematicians, who could have produced much more (They have already done so much, but….) to the world. The life and fate of these two tells the story of the society we all are in, where jealousy, politics, lack of respect to others can completely eradicate a gem, which we should have preserved at all cost.

Tears and anxiety glues through my mind on the current whereabouts of Grothendieck. I hope he lives a happy life around Montpelier! Human mind, man is a highly complex black box. What all it takes and what all it breaks?

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July 2007
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