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A nice documentary on Aung San Suu Kyi  from BBC- The Choice. On the day of the great Gandhi‘s death Anniversary, I couldn’t have seen a better documentary than this. Another symbol of peace, in our generation. A symbol of resistance against a military dictatorship in the most Gandhian and peaceful way, much like Mandela elsewhere, Suu Kyi’s life is a message in itself. Gracious salute! We hear and talk about about great sacrifices, but this is beyond comparison!

On a nostalgic note, seeing the scenes in the documentary,the nostalgic days of punting at the Cam river in Cambridge comes to my mind. Punting along the calm Cam river (or stream) was such a relaxing experience! England is puritanical at times!

It was the last thing I would have ever imagined. Bertrand Russel in a Bollywood movie! Yes, apparently it did happen and this was in the year 1967. Anyway, it is only a cameo role and I am sure Russell didn’t see this any different from giving a TV interview. The posture he used in the movie looked akin to the way he sat during BBC interviews, all of which are now on Youtube. A very pleasant surprise to know this much anyway. The movie is Aman and Russel was acting as Russel himself , whom the hero (Rajendra Kumar) idolize.

Happened to see the highlights of the last test match of 1999  Wi-Aus test series at Sabina park! That great Brian Lara’s knock in 1999 at Sabina Park. Remember watching it late night live on TV. The final tense moments with Ambrose and then Walsh! And of course the Lara’s finishing drive.

Joshy

One of my closest friend, Joshy Sebastian met with a tragic accident in Qatar and unfortunately left us for good. I am terrified in tears with that devastated feeling of emptiness. He was such a gem of a friend, ever since we met in middle school days.

Yesterday, a call from parents back home had this news. When they mentioned Joshy, my initial hope was that let it not be him, but unfortunately it came otherwise. I called another childhood friend with a glimmering hope that things wouldn’t be  as bad as I had feared. Sadly, there was nothing to hope for and it was all over. We just couldn’t utter a thing for a few seconds, just to console each other! It is tragic and the most unexpected.  How do I even scale such a loss? Sitting thousands of miles away, I suddenly felt numb and helpless. Memories rolled back, one by one, painted with pain all over. Oh dear, this is cruel!

After hearing this terrible news, I hardly could take an eye off his face etched in memory. I vividly remember the first day, a chubby boy transferring to our 6th grade class at MGM school; How soon we became good friends, and not before long the best pals around! Seated next to me, on the first day, he had given me a book sticker, which was a grand gift back then, for that matter anytime; Oh dear! How well I had cherished those moments? He would buy those caramel cookies and the groundnut  plaque with jaggery (kadala achu or chickey) from the little store across the road, break it into equal pieces and share with me. Those days, he was the one who had the chance to travel beyond territories, to the bigger towns, which many of us never could even think of during school days.  It may sound strange to fathom. We are talking about different times altogether, huh!  Joshy always would come back with stories to tell, a lot of them! Recently (about two months ago) when we spoke over phone , I had asked him, the movie buff he once was, whether he still watches all the new Malayalam movies. He sure did!

At high school, we were in different divisions, but during the breaks, we used to meet up; There he loved describing the movie plots and boy, did I love hearing those? Do I see those blue eyes brightening up while describing a script! Is it all real? Oh dear, how can he go this soon? Between him and another close friend we had pretty much all sources of Balamangalam, Balarama, Poompatta, Amar Chithra Katha and the Pico children books and many more. Memories keep coming, so do tears!

The middle and high school days are full of nostalgic memories of being together with him. And even the pre-degree days, the fun we all had! The gentle friend he always was, I hardly recollect him overly being angry, even on occasions when he looked pensive.

Once in UP school, we boys out of curiosity and partly spurred with the boyhood mischief, sneaked into a neighbourhood land and grabbed cinnamon skins (Karuvapatta). Without knowing what  it really was , we all munched pieces of it with thrill. Somehow the teachers came to know that. Back at school, post lunch was mayhem when the dreaded headmaster Father Chandi (fondly called Chandi Achan) himself barged into the class with his notorious chooral stick. He began asking who all had indulged into that mistake of crossing the school boarder. Joshy, sitting next to me was one of those honest guys who stood up first. After repeated probing, several heads started popping up. They were all beaten up heavily with Chooral; With each passing second, my feet would start rumbling more and more. The fact that I had decided not to stand up in the first place and the danger of getting a compounded punishment made me touch cold with all senses. Only about 5 or six boys were left sitting by then. Finally when Chandi Achan asked Joshy who among the remaining seated were with him there. The lone culprit remained in me, who was sitting next to him, was sure to get caught. But he chose not to and stood guard a friend he found in me! The greatness of a true friend at that young!  I’d asked him about that later on. He would just smile! It is that smile which comes to my mind even after years since I saw him last. When we spoke over phone, couple of months ago, we were hopeful to meet up sometime and now, a sense of void cutting through my breath.

Rest in peace dear friend. Thanks for the memories. It was such a privilege to be your friend. You will be missed and my heart will never be lighter without you. You were such a beautiful mind! Saying a good bye has never been this painful and how I wish I had a choice not to, but…

joshy_kid

Looks like Mathematica 9 is released. I haven’t yet had a chance to take a look. Glancing through their release notes, a few interesting things I hope to try at some point are

– Signal Processing, which for some reason was fairly week on Mathematics till date, compared to Matlab for instance.
-The (random and social) network analysis tool is something I hope they made powerful.
-Integration with R.
-Time series, random process analysis new features and may be more.

Cary Huang and his collaborators made this stunning work showing  the scale of our Universe. We can get a gauge of a tiny measure Plank length to the grand size of observable Universe!. Work of these lads makes me speechless! It gives you a one shot view of various things.

Seeing this video, my daughter put us in a fix. Out of innocence, she asked us.  How big is the Universe? I said, we don’t even know precisely, how big it is. So far, the known size of observable Universe is so and so, I added. Then how come God knows all this, she probed. I followed: There are roughly two school of thoughts. One who believes that God created all these and the other who  believes that everything including the Universe evolved over time.

She was quick to say that she belongs to the second category. My wife was instant to claim the first the league affiliation. She asked what would I chose: Wife or daughter’s side!  Would rather evade that, I nodded . My kid wouldn’t let me escape that easily. Finally gave in and I said, I am more inclined to believe the second! She was all happy!

The one argument I was evading all along till today,  came all too sudden! I simply wanted them to figure it out and rationalize themselves in the years to come, without any parental influence or bias. But kids at times surprises us, don’t they? The profund words of Wordsworth lingered, The Child is the father of man! Truly!

I honestly think Bombay Jayashree and Michael Danna did a great job in creating this very soothing track for Life of Pi. However, this caught an unexpected plagiarism controversy while the Oscar nomination is on and a potential felicitation is ringing at the door.

The controversy is surrounding a portion of the lyrics of this track. Apparently, a couple of lines are taken or adapted from the very very famous Malayalam lullaby “Omana thingal kidavo… nalla komala thamara poovo….”, which almost all Malayalaee mothers recites to their babies at bedtime. The slow pace at which this being sung would draw even the crankiest of babies lulled into sleep. There is a sense of nostalgia and cultural belonging this song evokes to all Malayalees and in that sense it is not entirely surprising that a question being posed when a few of the lines of Life of Pi echoed resemblance to Irayimman Thampi‘s masterpiece. Some argue that the lines under dispute are literal translation of the original, from Malayalam to Tamil, but others refute with the claim that it is a common feeling any mother could have and Jayashree only scripted it in her own words. Whether a segment of the song was adapted from somewhere else, still a lot of work had to be done to make this to a wide awakening one and to something like an Oscar nomination. That way, it is touch unfair to simply brag the artists as copycats. At the same time, if there was a genuine adaptation pooled into the song, then it is only fair to respect and give credit to where it belongs. It is a bit sad that this had to be drawn to a public bashing. Getting an Oscar will be a real delight since that also will take Carnatic music trace to the world stage reaching to a broader audience, hitherto unheard of its rich and classical history.

Since we are on this subject, I thought it is a good time to read up a little on the history of the Omana thingal kidavo song. This song was supposedly written by the famous Travancore king Swathi Thirunal‘s uncle Irayimman Thampi. When Swathi Thirunal was born,  his maternal uncle himself a trained Carnatic musician composed this and was apparently sung by the mother Gowri Laksmi Bhai and the royal ladies to put the baby to sleep. The princely baby was all the more special since he was born after a prolonged wait at a time the Kingdom itself was at threat of being dissolved with the British empire having had no foreseeable replacement of a male successor to the King. Swathi Thirunal went on to become a famous King, who being  an ardent Carnatic music follower also produced several masterpieces, some of them are popular even today. Irayimman Thampi as well produced many more compositions including Karuna Cheyvan enthu thamasam.

Besides the rich and soothing music, the lyrics of Omana Thingal Kidavo are knitted with superlatives comparing the baby to the most wonderful things one can see in nature such as nectar in my sight or the bright and charming crescent moon. It doesn’t utter a word about the sleep, but just has many questions posed by the mother to baby as to which among the greatest wonders will match the priceless baby grandeur.  For any mother, none will match her baby and the lullaby carved into the minds of mothers of many generations. Whether they gave credit to Irayimman Thampi or not, the lullaby echoes in several hearts, even today.

Some interesting information on this composition is here. Further information on Irayimman Thampi and his contribution to Carnatic music is discussed by Dr. PP.Narayana Swamy. Renditions of some of the famous compositions can be heard here. A page on Swathi Thirunal is also maintained here. I am not sure whether it is the most comprehensive of his contribution, but has several useful links there.

A sad end to what looked like a promising and prodigious mind, complicated by many wizardly , perhaps at times turbulent actions and more so haste reactions from various corners of our society including the law enforcement offices. The news of Aaron Swart’s death at the young age of 26 is disturbing. The man, who at the age of 14 sparked into stardom by creating the now popular tool RSS for information subscription is no more! More than the wizardly invention, his name unfortunately caught into wider limelight perhaps through the MIT/JSTOR documents retrieving case.  He had later championed to several causes on free information access.  The right to free information in the internet era once again had caught the worldwide attention with that drive. It is difficult to keep side of this case, because it is strangled with multiple levels of complications involving the right to information, ethics, social stigma, law of the land, money, business,a wizardly mind and of course the turbulence of human mind!

I read his Uncle’s statement, “He looked at the world, and had a certain logic in his brain, and the world didn’t necessarily fit in with that logic, and that was sometimes difficult.” I couldn’t agree more to these words of Mr Wolf on Swartz. Don’t forget he was an ardent contributor to Wikipedia as well. Rest in peace Aaron!

Since most of us at home are hit by cold and feverishness from big bear and at Las vegas, the new year is largely spent at home, sipping hot tea, listening to some old songs, watching some movies and reading the book Land of a thousand Hills (Want to finish up reading that before office tomorrow!). Last night, we had a nice dinner pot lucking with  three other families!

I was scanning through the newspapers pages to get a glimpse of the new year celebrations across the globe. The Washington post has a few images of New year shots grabbed from across the world (the photo credits seem to be for Divyakant Solanki / European Pressphoto Agency). The following shot (form that list) captured my thoughts of a bright part of life in general. This one has two Indian girls enjoying the last sunset of 2012!

new_year_mumbai

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