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Sadly, the great man has left us. The world becomes a lesser place. Nelson Mandela, has been a remarkable symbol of  peace, determination and humility. A champion leader for humanity. Perhaps, no one since Mahatma Gandhi will have a legacy like Mandela. I vividly remember holding a placard in one of the  school day processions, with a message “Free Nelson Mandela”.  Little would I have known the true greatness of this man, back then… An absolute hero.

The most striking thing about Mandela to me, is the way he composed himself, after release from 27 years of prison. 27 long years.. think of it! 18 of that 27 years  in the isolated Robben Island. He held himself, dumped all vengeance against the very people who took away a golden slice of precious life. For the world, we had a great leader in him for years since then! His release could easily have turned into a bloodshed like never before, but he instead chose the path of peace. Talk about leadership. He is something beyond special.

I can feel the deafening feeling in South Africa and Africa in general, the world by and large too. What a sacrifice! Hope we can continue his legacy. BBC has this nice obituary on him. RIP.

If you have not seen this before, here is a must watch page from PBS.

Who would have thought, a 62 year old woman, successfully swimming non-stop against all odds through a turbulent ocean stream of no less than 110 odd miles, a stretch guarded by dangerous jellyfish and the likes of sharks. It is a daunting task and indeed hard to believe, but those who have seen Diana Nyad nearly making the cut in the last two attempts would know the type of steel her will is made of. Today, Diana Nyad has achieved her cherished dream by successfully swimming the strip from Havana (Cuba) to Key west coast in Florida. A feat she achieved by a non stop swimming of over 54 hours. This is no ordinary feat. An outstanding feat in every sense of the word and a great inspiration.

The three messages, she said after the tiring journey are gems. So apt, crisp and powerful.  “I have three messages,”  with her face visibly tired after being soaked many hours in the ocean, Ms Nyad said. “One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.”  Do we need a better inspiration than these words, every time we look for excuses?

And you know what, I share birth day with her!

I don’t think we needed to be told about the perils of plastic.  Enough is known and seen already. Among the many haunting stories, I distinctly remember the stories heard about animals and birds species being hit with the terminal trouble, after innocently consuming the plastic and other non-organic waste laregely left over by our actions. Those horrific stories that caught my attention were from cities of India, but I am sure that India is only a coincidence. It is sure to have happened or happens in many other parts of the world, especially the developing countries. Now, this documentary tells us how severe and grim the reality is. One of the remote island of our planet and its inhabitants too have to suffer for the callousness of our deeds. How unfair!

Jack Eidt has this eye opener report on the plights of Albatross, caused by our own ignorance.

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

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

The other day, I saw a Facebook feed photo about Iran in the 1970s. It was a shot taken in some university/school in Tehran (This post on Iran of 1970s has some interesting thoughts).

iran1970s

It didn’t really surprise me, particularly because I have a second hand information about Iran, through a close friend whose parents had earlier immigrated to Tehran in the 70s for good. He also had his elder sister born there in the late 1970s. I remember, him describing stories told by his parents on the good days they had in Iran. They even had photo albums of his family with people on bikini etc. The point is that, the now prevailing restrictions in women’s cloth etc was not so, until a few decades ago. I have had a discussion on this very topic with a few Iranian colleagues who all seconded what I heard off! Quite a change of times, for now to digest!

Anyway, seeing that picture, my curiosity took wings to know Afghanistan would look in the 70s or may be the 60s. Incidentally, while on walk in the park, I bumped across to meet a neighbor friend who at the age of 5 or so, had migrated with his family to Poland and then to the United States on a cold winter  night in 1979. I posited this question to him about his recollection of the Afghanistan of yester years. His eyes were lit bright when he described some of the golden memories he had about his country. A sense of hope seemed to have been with him as a child, at least in retrospect when he portrayed those images! He later pointed me some pictures that he had came across on the internet, while on a nostalgic path. These pictures (some are here too. I don’t know much about the original rights holder of these pictures; just linking as I found on internet) portray a different Afghanistan than the one, majority of the world including myself, now know off as.

It is a complicated thing to discuss these topics because it is highly interlocked a subject messed up with religion, fundamentalism, society, culture, money , gender, huh, invasion,terrorism! you name it. One thing you can make out is that, both Iran and Afghanistan looked much modern and a better place to live (for their own people if not anyone else) than it is now. Alas! For a twist and tryst with time, things turned the other way. The net result is years og agony, hatred, war and of course that chopped the dreams of many generations.

Here is an image from Afghanistan in the 1960s!

Afghanistan-148

I’m half way reading, what looks like a great memoir on Western Africa by a philanthropist Rosamond Halsey Carr. The book is titled Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda. Picked this from the 4S ranch library yesterday and I must say this is such a beautiful depiction of an otherwise ignored part of Africa, through the eye of a great philanthropist .

I will try to do a personal review of her book later, but a few things flashed my mind while traversing through the book. The biggest of course is the deadly genocide in 1994 which took place in Rwanda and Barundi. Back then, we were small and the magnitude of such an enormous ethnic clenching probably didn’t entirely register in our minds,reading the news from half the world away. Now, Rosamond’s book prompted me to think of the disasters of that great human tragedy; in the name of some misconceptions on ethnic difference, spurred by certain anti social elements as well as incompetent political leadership. Whatever the reason it may be, the biggest losers are the West African people. We cannot even gauge the extend of that horror since it still lingers through generations.

Rwanda and Barundi and the other western part of Africa may not top the list of go to places, but Rosamond’s takes us through her memory lane and describe how beautiful  those places used to look, before the colonization, civil and finally the holocaust hit them. Rwanda with the many hilly terrains is regarded as Africa’s Switzerland and it indeed looked so. If only we could reverse such tragedies! Alas, too late!

Now, Rosamond’s life itself is a great example of human sympathy towards a completely unprivileged part of an otherwise neglected corner of our earth. It is commendable that she, without any real social or material compulsion, decided on her on will, to make a living for a great cause for the African people. For a woman from a wealthy surroundings of New York to travel to that part of the planet with a great intention, struggles through the difficulties and finally fills joy to a lot of people is commendable. This brings joy and tears in our eyes.  I feel sad that I didn’t hear about her before. She will always have a place in my heart; Rwanda and west Africa are in my go to list as well!

There is a nice documentary on her life, “A Mother’s Love: Rosamond Carr & A Lifetime in Rwanda”,directed by Eamonn Gearon . I couldn’t find the full documentary in youtube or in PBS archive, but a short trailer is here. If you have not seen yet, I definitely recommend this one.

The first mail  this morning (from Nihar Jindal)  brought this very sad news that Tom Cover has passed away. A giant in this field who contributed immensely to many flavours of Information theory will be missed. Everything he touched had class written all over, gracefulness, simplicity, elegance and all the more depth.

A tremendous loss! His legacy will continue.

Sadly, the journalist Anthony Shadid passed away all too sudden. It brought a bit of sudden stress on me, not because I know him anything beyond through his columns, but his very vey recent interview on NPR/KPBS radio is still reverberating in my ear and the death has become all too soon to cope with. A fantastic journalist as he always has been, he was often beyond that and largely the window of the middle east to the world, for sure to me. Through his reporting, I still feel as though I knew him very personally. His reflection from Libya, in spite of the horror he had to go through during the dictatorship has always been remarkable.

Now when I start my car to work, when the San Diego FM radio KPBS kicks on, the Terry Gross interview with Shadid on Fresh Air is still ringing. Boy, he was talking about tracing his ancestral village in Lebanon and so on. My mind transcend quickly to my mothers ancestral village in the serene riverside in Kerala. Rest in piece Shadid. Thanks for the sacrifices in reporting the middle east woes and sharing their pain.

We all knew that this will be inevitable, but all of us were hoping that it will be delayed as much as possible. Sadly, that day we all feared has finally come and it was today. Steve Jobs, the ever so mercurial leader of our industry has finally lost his battle with cancer and passed away this evening. Thousands of pages have been written about him and on his contributions. More will follow in days to come as well, from every corner of this planet. Let me not go there. To me, he has been a symbol of a child who always followed his dream and to top it up, he had the trust and ability to see it through. People may say, he is not philanthropic, but that is not his title, nor did he claim to be one. What he showed us is that, it is what “you decide”, what you want to become and it is entirely up to you to follow it tirelessly and achieve it. That’s it, no more no less.  What others think and say is completely irrelevant, as long as you put the trust honestly into your mind.

Come to think of it, his life and work and the glory associated with the making of one of the largest valued company in the world all have a charm and special persona associated with. His 2005 Stanford commencement speech made him immortal and inspirational to wider circle of life all over the world. More than being a tech whizkid, he was a symbol of innovation. More than a manager or a programmer, where he stays above the rest is the clarity in product vision and leadership to drive it through. I have heard several stories from my friends and comrades on his passion to drive stuffs at all cost and at times at the risk of spoiling personal relationships. That single minded drive to realize something special everyday made him this special. More often than not, we could see the sense of honesty in every statements he made, whether it is in public forums or in personal remarks at interviews. No tantrums and no diplomacy hanging around, plain simple truth in blunt words.

The world has lost a leader, visionary and innovator. He did not invent a medicine for cancer or aids, but he had made many a mark in the lives of thousands of people around the world. For some, he was the man who championed behind the realization of many amazing products of everyday use (Myself a huge beneficiary of it directly and indirectly!) and for others, his life itself serves as a message to follow their own dreams and then enjoy a lovely and satisfying life.  Thank you Steve Jobs. You have made a stamp in many lives.

While driving back home this evening on  a dark and rainy day I had the Stanford speech in mind. My mind seem to have said. Thank you sir. The words “Stay hungry, Stay foolish” reverberated on. Immortal words! Along the same bay he is resting at peace!

Footnote: CNN money had this report published sometime ago. The level of scaling Apple achieved under his rein since the beginning of this century is stunning.

Courtesy: From CNN money report (See the link above)

No wonder and no dispute to this argument. It was quite apt when Túlio said ” Lionel Ritchie works all the time” in the movie Rio (see the official website here). Listening to this is a treat, all the time, all places. Simply beautiful!

 

Happened to see a wonderful animation on the formation of human embryo and how a baby develops from almost nothing to the cute avatar!. First, I saw as it through a Facebook feed, but it is also there in you tube. I don’t know who the original creator of this nice animation is . Wonderful!

I heard about the Indian agricultural minister Sharat Pawar making such an atrocious statement on the highly dangerous pesticide Endosulfan. According to him, Endosulfan is a good thing. Holy cow. What an insane statement!. Someone sitting in the ivory tower with the rich cricket administration under his tummy, may not have to be overly bothered by the hundreds and thousands of lives already ruined by a dangerous pesticide. A pesticide which is banned in pretty much all the developing countries, is enjoying 70% market share in the largest democracy in the world. That shows the will and responsibility of our government. Kerala is the first Indian state to ban this pesticide. Why wouldn’t they. Their state, the northern Kasargod district is the worst hit by the hazards of Endosulfan. Hundreds of people are still suffering from the genetic impact of the dangerous venom, Endosulfan.

According to this, Endosulfan export from India is worth 180 crores. The largest democracy in the world has no time and seriousness to protect its good majority of poor people. The Endosulfan tragedy is rated as the disaster whose magnitude is next only to the Bhopal gas tragedy. It is so sad that, the government is so sick in their drive on corporate responsibility.

Here is a video revelation of the nonsense pesticide that Sharat Pawar think is good. For him, the IPLs and the billions along with that is more precious than the millions of suffering elsewhere. Shameless.

After all, there are trees on earth’s terrain. Why not on Google earth? Google just don’t delay it any further. Now we can see trees with Google earth 6. Amazing view of SFO, right here. As they say, it is here as it is there.  Now we truly have the world in front of our eyes.  The beautiful 3D world is now ready.

Just heard about the 2010 Hay festival was held last week in Thiruvananthapuram. Although I couldn’t have gone there, it felt nice to have had such a great global art and literary event in my own home state in India. The official website hosted some amazing scenes from various parts of Kerala, which to an ardent Kerala fan like me wished to see  all times. The Hay festival of arts and literature has become quite prominent in the public media, recently and what better place to have it, than the beautiful and literary rich Kerala!

Thanks to Youtube, I could gather glimpses from the event. Part of Vikram Seth‘s Storypooja is captured here. The one session, I would have liked to attend is Marcus du Sautoy on “The Number Mysteries: A Mathematical Odyssey Through Everyday Life“. I hope to see a video tape of this program online sometime soon! After all, Marcus claimed to have had a reason for everything, including why bend it like Beckam! Another of my favourite is ONV Kuruppu. His candid and lively talk is an anytime favorite of mine. He was supposed to have had a conversation with poet Sachidanandan. And, how much I missed Bob Geldof‘s conversation, let alone his concert!

Through Mahdi’s Facebook feed, I bumped across this beautiful composition La Plage by the emerging (already emerged, I must say. Well critics may say, Mozart was already among pantheon of greats by 30!) French musician Yann Tiersen. The linked photo is even more stunning. Apparently this is a photo shot byPaul Patrick (titled “Girl in Gallery, Paris”).  Amazing shot! Just brought back memories. How beautiful it is to see kids in a free world!

Thought provoking start for a day!

Recently, this came up during the lunch discussion with my colleagues at Broadcom.  I remember reading up an article somewhere, quoting the impact of birds migration due to cellular phone towers.

Researchers from Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels, Belgium have investigated into this subject and published an article (more reports here). According to the authors (Joris Everaert and Dirk Bauwens),the house sparrows do not prefer to stay near the GSM base stations because the radiation in the 900 MHz range is adversely affecting them. The paper investigated the male house sparrow population. The statistics quoted in this paper clearly shows that, there is some kind of an impact the cellular tower radiation is causing onto the city birds.Perhaps a more scientific study on this is needed to assess the details, but this itself is a reason to worry.

Another interesting blog comes from India, which also suggests that the Belgian research finding is correlated to what is observed elsewhere.  But then, I am wondering how come there were thousands of sparrows flooded across almost every street at Schaffhausen. We had been on a family holiday there, last year. It was the place where I have seen the highest amount of sparrows, all waiting to get fed and pampered! May be they have adapted to the technology, huh?

After a long gap (over six months or so),  I finally played some tennis again. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t all that rusty in spite of the long layoff from any major sporting (barring some recent treks and once in a while cricket) activities during this period. After a few hits, my serves started holding and I slowly felt the rhythm. I started enjoying this beautiful game once again! In the Swiss heat, it was almost unbearable at times to absorb the hot air from the synthetic surface. On Friday and Saturday’s I played for two hours each until late evening. Yesterday, after the game we took dip in the Lake Geneva near the UNIL sports center arena at St.Sulpice. I never felt a better swim than this before. Such was the feeling of taking a clean water swimming after a good game of sports. It was getting darker and a swim between 2100 to 2200 on the fading summer light in the foothills of the Alps was simply amazing. I just cant compare a place to this amazing Lake Geneva region. Quite a place this is. After the swimming I seemed to have regained all vigour to play a few more games. Had there been floodlights, we were on for a few more perhaps! They say winning is an elixir for eternal youthfulness, but did I feel that swimming in lake Geneva comes close to that?

While, standing in the lake  with chest level water and overlooking the Alps mountains,  it reminded me of the photos of saints in olden days taking a morning yama’s in the Ganges overlooking the Himalayas. I’ve never been to Ganges, but for once I could perhaps feel a sense of their state of mind. I felt like singing one of those Yesudas classical songs, standing with half immersed body. I don’t quite remember whether I did one. I was in a state of fulfilment sort to say!

Lake geneva

I just finished listening/watching a very nice conversation between Harry Kreisler and Kenzaburo Oe.  I remember how much I had enjoyed his very touching style of story telling and how soon I had become a fan of Oe after reading his remarkable book  “A personal matter”. Oe’s “A personal matter”  depicted an amazing journey of a father through the cultutal walls, creativity, honesty and responsibility. Since then, I have almost forgotten about him (and my reading has come down drastically, after I started working in industry). I  think he is one of the finest writers of this century, perhaps not known outside Japan as much as he should be. I really enjoyed this conversation. It is quite touching, the way, he and his wife learned to react to his brain damaged child converse with them, for the firstime when their son was five years old or something. Incredibly human!

Shocked to hear about Rajiv Motwani’s sudden demise. I couldn’t believe it. So tragic and sudden end to one of the smartest computer science guy we ever had. So sad.  Apparently, he met with an accident in  swimming pool at home.  The world lost such a terrific talent and entrepreneur. May his soul rest in piece.

…High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

Oscar Wilde‘s ‘The Happy prince‘ is one of the many stories that I have read during early school days. Remarkably, this is one of the few I still remember! I was barely able to read difficult English literature per se then, but still the story of Happy prince was within my grab. I don’t recollect whether I had understood all the words of Wilde, back then. This was at a time, when I was happily enjoying my schooling and life in my mother tongue Malayalam. Malayalam literature had its penchant style and aura, which is difficult to explain to non-Malayalam readers.  I was ‘at-home‘ when it came to reading the Malayalam literary works. Yet, I had thrived to learn English stories, albeit at a reduced speed. That whenever, I got a chance to read. Oscar Wilde was one of the rare English writers whose work, somewhat accidentally came to my reading list.  I was surrounded and enthralled by the works of great south American and Russian writers, otherwise. Partly, thanks to the communist influence in Kerala society, the translations of great Russian and south American books were far more available at ease  and at cheap rate (In fact I don’t remember buying anything, but all borrowed from various small local libraries around). 

Coming back to the Happy prince, the story had indeed put a stamp in my memory as a child.  I may have been 10 years or so when I was ‘introduced to’ the ‘Happy prince’.  The subdued request of the prince to the little swallow was by heart to me. When the prince says ” Swallow, swallow little swallow…”, my heart seemed to have resonated at a lower pace.  As a child, I had never seen an European city, for that matter any great city including the ones in India, let alone city across the Atlantic. It was all in my mind, that I’d imagined a mythical model of such a city, a city of the happy prince!  I used to visualise the position of the Happy prince statue standing tall in the middle of a city. Did I ever imagine the enormity of a city as big as this? As a child it is difficult to fathom and relate the seriousness of people’s struggle, a statue could see.  For sure, I was touched and moved by his sorrows and pain.

The swallow represented a role model so to speak  when it comes to helping others. Subconsciously, the little swallow literally drenched my cheeks by living through that difficult winter.  Back then, I had never seen what it is to be a snowy winter, still, could feel the chill of that season, when the shivering swallow wholeheartedly fulfilled the Prince’s wishes. Years later, the words “…Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow. Stay with me one night longer” still linger my ears. Tears still beckons! Perhaps that story have had a deep influence to me since childhood, to an extend that I’ve never imagined. As a child, I wished if only the swallow could go to Egypt, but alas!

Now, I have accidentally come across that very same story in video form in youtube. That brought in a rewinding of years! I feel the same chill now, as a 10 year old that I had felt years ago. I had told this story to Nivedita a few times. I could see her expression when I uttered the prince’s humble request “…Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow. Stay with me one night longer” .. The impact of Oscar Wilde’s powerful writing tells a story in itself. Don’t they?

…High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

The prince and the swallow still stays on.. in my memory…I really want to tell this story to many kids! The youtube video is commendable too.

A few years ago, during undergrad days, myself and  friend Ramani during our lazy 75 paise mini canteen tea outing, were discussing a small riddle. It was motivated from a real world experience from our computer center in NIT Calicut (REC Calicut). In REC those days, we students almost exclusively used rubber slippers (Yes, those Paraqon brand which used to cost 20 rupees or so), usually called by the name ‘chappels’. With that, we were not only comfortable while walking and running around, but we’re equally at ease playing cricket and badminton with the very same foot support; and many other things too, including jogging. Those thin hard rubber slippers used to last an year or more without giving much trouble, other than perhaps an occasional tearing of the rubber tie. In all, we were at peace with that.

But there was an issue, not exclusively for this brand, but for chappals in general (shoes were a luxury of sort in the campus;atleast it wasnt very common). Not for everyone though! If and only if you were fancied of visiting the computer center! Well, computer center wasn’t all that fanciful then, since we were provided with only graphics less Unix terminals (no colour monitors!). You might wonder, huh! what age am I talking about? Besides, Internet and Emails were only taking shape then. Chats and browsing were not quite there yet;Unless you felt a touch inferior to the computer wizkid around, that was not a compelling centre de visite. As, ‘would be‘ electronics and communication engineers we had that occasional inferiority complex!. Computer center was air conditioned and was strictly slippers free. We were expected to keep our valuable slippers outside (no clock room luxury! well that was not a necessity either) before entering to that cooler room, filled with monochromatic terminals. Since most of the chappals dropped outside were alike (in size and also sometimes color) there was a good chance that at the time return, we ended up with a different pair of slippers (Some folks found happy for themselves by a visit to the computer center, just for a pair change, often to an improved lot!).  Sometimes, we ended up having differently colored ones, say left foot white and right foot blue. That wasn’t a problem socially either, as long as you stayed within the campus. It was socially accepted within the walls!

Anyway, coming back to the riddle we were busy conjecturing on. We wanted to automate a clock room. The idea then would be to just deposit the chappals there at random. The clock room work automatically. Upon asking (at the time of return, say) it will select a pair at random and give it to you. Sorry, you cant have a choice. Just accept and hope for the best. We asked the questions:

1) What is the probability that everyone gets their own chappals

2) What is the probability that none of them get their submitted pairs

Assume n number of  people (and hence n pairs). We can assume that, a pair is a single entity (say both left and right slippers are tied and submitted as one) . This simplified the problem to n people n slipper scenario. A simplistic model assumeed that all n people submit their slippers at the same time. We wanted to build that great randomized clocker machine! And we wanted that to work for any n, which means, the algorithm had to be implementable and to work well in expectation!

We had thought and pondered about it for a while, then. In the end, we had found that the first one is easy, but the second one a little harder to generalize for beyond n=10 or something.  As busy undergrads, we left the problem after an hour of discussion, probably until we had finished sipping the tea. Aside, we were busy with many other extra curricular activities including a 3 hour daily cricket match at the lush green international hostel ground. The megadeth team, as we proudly grouped ourselves, the electronics and communication batch hardly missed those cricket matches. We were electronics engineers and had taken pride in ourselves by not really bothered to ask any fellow discrete math or combinatorics folks! That perhaps helped in some sense.  Ramani found management more interesting than those technical details of counting. I am sure he took the right career. Anyway…too much digressing already!

Now, it turns out that, the very same problem is akin to a well known problem in combinatorics. It is called the Hatcheck lady problem. It is fairly easy to solve it using the inclusion exclusion principle. The proof outline is shown below. As I type, memory fetches that discussion,  sitting leg-folded on the cement bench at the REC mini-canteen, perhaps an occasional cool breeze around too. 

The inclusion exclusion principle is the following:

\lvert \bigcup_{i=1}^{n} A_{i} \rvert=\displaystyle\sum_{i=1}^{n}{\lvert A_{i}\rvert}-\displaystyle\sum_{1\le i_{1}<i_{2}\le n}^{n}{\lvert A_{i1}\cap A_{i2} \rvert}+\displaystyle\sum_{1\le i_{1}<i_{2}\le n}^{n}{\lvert A_{i1}\cap A_{i2}\cap A_{i3} \rvert}

                 +\displaystyle\sum_{1\le i_{1}<i_{2}\le n}^{n}{\lvert A_{i1}\cap A_{i2}\cap A_{i3} \rvert}+\ldots+

                 +(-1)^{n-1}{\lvert A_{1}\cap A_{2}\cap A_{3}\cap\ldots\cap A_{n} \rvert}

The Hatchek lady problem can be stated with a similar story as the random clocker machine. (From Harris, Mossinghoff, Hirst’s book on Combinatorics and Graph Theory)

A lazy professor gives a quiz to a class of n students, then collects the papers, shuffles them, and redistribute them randomly to the class for grading. The professor would prefer that no student receives his or her own paper to grade. What is the probability that this occurs? This indeed is an equivalent statement of the well known Hatcheck lady problem (I guess the exact name come from a hatcheck lady who collects hats and absentmindedly return them)

For Hatcheck lady problem, the probability P(n)=\frac{D(n)}{n!}.

D(n)=n!-\lvert A_{1}\cup A_{2}\ldots\cup A_{n}\rvert=n!-\frac{n!}{1!}+\frac{n!}{2!}-\ldots+(-1)^{n}\frac{n!}{n!}

= n!-\displaystyle\sum_{k=1}^{n}{(-1)^{k-1}\binom{n}{k}(n-k)!}=n!-\displaystyle\sum_{k=1}^{n}{(-1)^{k-1}\frac{n!}{k!}}

P(n)= 1-\displaystyle\sum_{k=1}^{n}{(-1)^{k-1}\frac{1}{k!}}

When n gets larger and larger it converges asymptotically to a constant!

\displaystyle\lim_{n\to\infty} P(n)=\displaystyle\lim_{n\to\infty}{\displaystyle \sum_{k=1}^{n}{\frac{1}{k!}}}=\frac{1}{e}

I wonder how this song found itself a way to the drains!  I remember listening to this audio in All India Radio chalachithraganangal program during childhood. It is a little slow but I have enjoyed the  rhythm. Never seen this video before. Now, the video brings more nostalgia about those paddy fields and picturesque Kerala, my home land.  Missing Kerala!

Hope you guys enjoy this music. (For information the music is in malayalam)

Firstly, thanks a lot sufiwindsurfing for bringing the story of Ravi, a young boy from the street of Mumbai India. This boy, without any formal education, all by himself learned some very commendable language tricks.  Now he speaks over thirteen languages (albeit few sentences only, but still an incredible achievement) including English, french, Italian, German, Persian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic.  Amazing! It is quite sad to realize that, the society we live in is so much unaware about the plight of millions of kids like him who are forced to suppress their talents in pursuit of making their ends meet.  In the many streets of India, we may be able to find so many such Ravi’s who are unfortunately pushed to the dark side of the fortune wheel.  I really wish and dream of an era, all the children of this world have equal access to love and education.  It is cruel to leave them alone into the  world of difficulties this early. Forget all religion and fanaticism. Who needs that, when a vast ocean of basic social problems still loom large across the world? It is a known story that, many of the kids begging in the streets of India are abducted and forced into the urban chaos. My heart goes to those parents whose beloved ones are oppressed forever. Every time I see these kids,  my mind goes into that wild scary thought of that beautiful would have been childhood, denied for the millions of underprivileged. Who knows, we may have lost millions of future hopes into the drains of mass urban disaster.  As Betrand Russell said in his beautiful autobiography prologue, “I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot and hence I too suffer“.  As he said, this indeed make a mockery of what human life should be!  We are simply not doing enough! 

and here is Ravi, when he was younger (may be 5 years then?) in 2005 

Here is a list of some of my favourite Indian commercial ads.  Thanks to youtube, I get to see them again! The adhisive brand “Fevicol”has produced some inredible and funny ads.  Most of their ads stuck on to the viewers mind.  Among the other funny ads, I liked camlin erasurs and marker ones.  I better dont say too much here. As they say, the fun in an ad is best viewed and chilled out! Have a look and enjoy the fun and appreciate the creativity of these fabulous ad makers.

The old Ericsson mobile phone ad (I guess 1996). The concept of a  “small” phone back in 1996 perhaps is too outdated for today.  All boils down to Moore’s law!

Rimii Sen and Aamir Khan did a nice job here in this Bengali accented conversation.  The coke ad is one of the better ads from the cool drink folks.

Fevicol: Simply superb ad from the popular adhesive brand.

Naukri.com’s famous Hari Sadoo funny ad:

How about this one. To be this is too good an ad from Camlin.

The Peugeot ad used to appear in Channel 4 in UK. It was an incredible ad. I am glad that this is there for viewing in youtube. Superb one.  

Came across this New york times article on the Bhopal tragedy. It pains to know that the left over of that fateful tragedy still rolls on. Isn’t it still true that, the dreams of poor are never rich enough to be noticed? Their problems are not important enough to be cared?

I am quite saddened to hear about the demise of Professor Randy Pausch. The 47 year old CMU professor who was diagnosed with terminal cancer finally succumbed to death. It is unbelievable that, he showed courage to confront life when you know that there is nothing positive to look forward to. I have gone through his famous last lecture over and over and many a time wondered how can someone be so positive when the odds are so much against you to lean forward. Simply heroic. He showed us the value of life and the way to look forward to. I couldn’t agree more when he coined what “experience” mean,

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted

Randy, may you rest in peace. Your life has changed many lives for good. You must be proud. You have truly left and enduring legacy. Our thoughts are with your family.

Randy Pausch giving the last lecture at CMU

Randy Pausch giving the last lecture at CMU

His last lecture video is a must watch, if you have not done yet. Here is the video link:

Growing up in Kerala is an experience one cannot describe in few words. One must live through it to really feel it. It is different! This video

brings back a whole lot of those memories of childhood. I may be heavily biased here to say so much uniqueness about the social life in Kerala, but to me they simply remain so. The greeneries and the beautiful countryside, the many little ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, paddy fields, the list goes on. The days of Onam and Vishu are more than festivals for the people of Kerala. The expectations and excitement build around these festivals on children’s mind and the fun of playing so many little games: playing in rain, then invariably fall sick, all that in spite of being truly aware of the consequences. August-September time frame also had the monsoon settles when all the ponds and lakes are filled with water. As kids, those were special days to spend near full days swimming and play the various games by staying in water. Beautiful! Now, all those little games like Kuttikol, Pulikkali, lathi and the countless many games all must have disappeared and perhaps paved the ways for cricket or computer. I wish to believe that it is not!

Looking back, it is amazing that people of Kerala unanimously enjoyed the festivals like Onam, Vishu and Christmas irrespective of religious beliefs. The excitement of a festival was much more than religion, even though there is mythological trace to each of them.

Coming back to this video, it instantly took me to the days of Onam when we all kids (my siblings, cousins and neighbourhood friends) took pride in displaying new dresses, (more traditional it used to be) and group ourselves to play the whole day, with intermittent breaks for lunch feast etc and the pleasure of eating a sweet or two from the neighborhood house and to feel it tastier than the one at home.

And how can I have enough of those Kani konna pookkal (Cassia fistula), a seasonal flower seen all around during vishu summer days! (Courtesy, this beautiful image of kani konna is taken from http://www.ulujain.org/album/casino/casinoflowers/cassia1.jpg)

kanikonna poothappol

kanikonna poothappol

I don’t get to watch Indian television daily, but I still keep an eye on them once in a while by visiting their websites. The two sites I visit so are CNN-IBN and NDTV. These are sort of the two large English visual media in India. For the last one month or so, one issue (other than perhaps the left Congress party fiasco over the proposed nuclear deal with the united states) widely flashed is a murder of a young teenage girl Arushi in Noida, a suburb of Delhi. The unfortunate girl apparently had to pay an innocent life to the cruel world of cunning and sheer callousness. The callousness of the cruel people leave the society to a state of shock and uneasiness. A sense of fear is invited all around. But my point is none of these.
I am appalled by the way the Indian media went about sensationalizing this news. I can understand the many soap Indian yellow news channels (most of the Hindi news channels are just that) going this way. The two celebrated Indian news channels NDTV and CNN-IBN are just no better. Day in and out their journalists competed to present a set of tabloid style news with the quest to attract the greedy readers and audience. I say this with utter disappointment. Here is a girl, the only child to their parents and she is lost. There is investigation on going. It is a basic courtesy not to write stories about the victim’s family without having enough substance to what they talk about. News readers and media can talk senselessly on any topic and feel happy for it. Their flash news are spread across the country like tabloids. There must be some integrity and social responsibility before they venture into such silly acts. I dont have a problem when they expose any irregularities in the investigation or any cover up. But they should not air their verdict as if they are the supreme, even before doing a proper evidence collection. After saying nonstop incorrect stories about the family, now they can simply accuse the police and CBI for all what happened. Look at the family. They lost her daughter, they are portrayed as villain to the public, they lost their social reputation and health. Man this is agonizing. Police and CBI can be questioned, later on for all wrong doing. They can still be brought to justice, for any harm they created, but who can question or challenge the media? They offer all kind of accusations, but they are the one who enjoy the freedom to tarnish anyone of their choice. This is not a good going for the channels which claim to have reputed journalists. Pity!


Nandu (Nandakishore Santhi) married to Kavita on 27th December 2006 at Cherpulasseri, Palghat (Palakkad), Kerala. I went with my friend Soni PM (in the photo, Soni is at right hand side of Nandu and yours truly is seen to the left side of of Kavitha) to this beautiful part of Gods own country!

Paghat is a beautiful place, known for its natural setup aside the western ghats. The green paddy fields are a scene worth many a click. You could see many fields all around (all over Kerala for that matter, but Palghat has little more to its credit, historically). Music is one another thing you would associate Paghat to. The Tamil Brahmin’s population in this area (this place is also in the close proximity to the city, Coimbatore) credits to a rich history of music (Carnatic music).


Monday, 2006 December 18
Mangalore

On 18, December 2006, I could attend wedding of my good old friend Sukesh Pai. Sukesh and I are known to each other from my higher secondary school days at Kanhangad Nehru arts and science college (those days..early 1990s we used to have a two year pre degree course, in place of the 10+2). Sukesh married to Archana on 18th December at Mangalore.

On 17th December night, I set out for an overnight trip to Mangalore, along with Narayana Pai. Maya and Nivedita couldn’t join since they were caught under the weather. Even though, I wasnt feeling all that well with the viral fever, I somehow wanted to make it to this occasion. In fact my hometown is very close to this port city (Nileshwar in Kerala’s Kasargod district is less than 60 miles from Mangalore). With Pai (Narayana Pai is known as Pai in the friends’ circle) it is always fun, because he has this huge ability to make you feel very comfortable, anytime, with the worldly discussions on any topic. No matter, where we start, with Pai, it will never get completed without discussing about cars and automobiles (and not to forget the Cisco goodies, they give it to employees with a certain regularity!). As one would expect, we also talked about cars. We talked about the new BMW cars being launched in India and to the torque adjustment mechanism of the latest Mercedes S series. Travel can never be boring with Pai and it was no different this time. I enjoyed every moment of this Volvo trip to Mangalore. The Bangalore-Mangalore highway was so messed up after the monsoon, that buses these days go via Mysore-Madikeri route.

Anyway, we had a comfortable journey (barring the condition of the road itself; I for one, didn’t feel it to any extend, thanks to the sound sleep on the journey). We reached Mangalore Jyoti circle at 6am . Mangalore as you would expect was relatively warm (even in winter it is quite not chilly there) compared to Bangalore.

Sukesh looked gorgeous in his wedding dress. The wedding was reminiscent of typical Konkani GSB Brahmin’s function. The pooja’s and other rituals would start from the previous day and would continue till the next day. It was quite a pleasant, and well organized sort of function. Both Sukesh and Archana looked very happy and it was indeed a pleasant sign. With Sukesh, you would always find a pleasant smile, the very sign of it could make anyone happy. Sukesh’s parents are known to myself and my wife Maya for a long time (may be longer with my wife because she is also a Konkani). They must be very proud (and a little relieved) that he found his very suitable better half.

I am very happy and feel proud of him. He is one guy, to whom I have tremendous respect as a good friend, as a simple human being who cared for his family and friends, and also a role model for any youngster with the sheer dedication and hard work he put in. I wish him all the very best for a continued, happier times in life.

happy married life Sukesh and Archana

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