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The great writer of our lifetime passed away. I was aware about his illness and ongoing treatment at Mexico city.  Yet, the news of his death brings in a cold wave splashing through my mind.  Sadly the end came all too sudden, especially that he had looked jovial last month on his birthday, when he turned 87. What an incredible literary giant Gabriel Marquez has been. With his death, a huge void will remain unfilled.  The surreal touch of his pen in bringing life, social culture, colors, politics, revolutionary romanticism and then beautifully transform all of them to our minds, at mythical proportions is something Marquez-sh. It was a privilege to share a timeline, albeit brief with this colossal literary figure. The Latin American writers always had a special place in my heart, the reasons are many. Marquez surely tops that line with Neruda and perhaps Miguel_de_Cervantes among the pantheons. RIP Gabo. We will miss you, but your memories and work will stay timeless.

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!

News from Syria is looming a huge disaster. Seeing the video clips, of thousands of innocent people falling down to deadly chemical assault is a shame to humanity. It is making a mockery of what human and humanity should be. What a calamity! Are we all living in this very same world? Such a contrast!

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.

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!

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’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.

Ever since I heard the story of a young girl brutally raped in a moving bus in the capital city of my home country, I was restless and furious. It was not the first time, I’d read or heard about a rape story from India or for that matter from anywhere else. Time and again we hear these kind of brutalities and this happens and can happen any part of the world, not just the Taliban hit areas. Among the thousands of such incidents, only a few gets reported in public, a fraction of it gets to the mainstream news media and a smaller percentage reach us; And let us don’t forget, not many girls/women dare to say such incidents in public, with all the social pressure surrounding them.  Even in this modern society, woman and children largely have to live under the ego of a cruel world caricatured by sadism. It pains, it hurts and I am ashamed of myself not able to do anything to stop this suffering.

Think of this. A 23 year old medical student , an adult girl, is traveling with her male acquaintance in a capital city of the largest democracy in the world. Mind you, it is one of the most populous city in the world (with a population of 14 million. That means, there are a lot of folks around; For a comparison, this in count is more than that of a city like New York!) with all the central and state government establishments including the police administration in the vicinity! The girl and boy, to their innocence were lured to board a bus and to their misfortune, it turned out to be the wrong bus. What did the 6 wicked men in that bus do? They hit the boy on his head, dumped him on to the road; What happened then on is a mockery of what civilization should be.  In a moving bus the girl is brutally forced on by senseless men, one by one. All the while a helpess girl is being tortured, the bus moves around the city where police men patrol around, without noticing anything beyond normality. The girl in unconscious state is finally thrown out from the bus after all deed. She stays motionless for hours on the roadside before some medical help comes on her way. The police, government (both state and central) administration(s) turns first the blind eye, then a denial and eventually an eyewash damage control exercise.  Even after many days, the girl is battling for life. She has multiple organ damages, including intestine, liver and brain. When things got into dangerous situation, the government shifts her to another country, apparently a political move. Whether it is political or medical, the situation is grim! What a sorry state our society is in!

As usual, this news took people to streets. Naturally people are angry and they protests against the lackluster response from both state and central goverments. As always, some section tried to get some political milage out of this. Reality however is this. The biggest sufferers in cases like this are  the girl (in this case the boy too) and their families. They end up paying a very very high price for the recklessness of wickedness in our society. The elected government and its administration could have taken this as a last warning to engage a strong political and social change. Unfortunately, the leaders by and large miss the point. Few from the government dared to speak and whoever opened the mouth (like the President’s son) made a jock of  their senses. The mainstream media on the other hand is debating what punishment is ideal for the culprits, but the larger point should be: what are we doing as a society to prevent such atrocious incidents?

Praveen Swami has written this piece. Largely, I agree to his points. The solution to this social menace is not hinged on whether the culprits gets death penalty or not. Some may argue a Shariyath like law (arm for an arm, eye for eye or blood for blood method) is the way. Frankly, none of these post incident punishment alleviate this massive menace. The problem as Swami articulated here, is integrated in our social scheme of things. He rightly pointed the way the mass media, mainstream cinema and even the social stigma of son worshipping all directly or indirectly adding the bias to increasingly misogynic society of us. While the west also have cases of rape, the numbers are less because they have at some point in the past went through a political and social refinement, where the fundamental right of a woman to say no and a man to treat her no as a firm no. Again, this is not something that happened in Kandhahar or the tribal areas of Taliban hit Afghanistan, but the capital of the the largest boasted democracy in the world!

While the vast majority in any society will strongly condemn an act like rape, how many will respect the dignity of a woman travelling in any part of a country like India. Again, this problem may not be just India specific, but I have seen men’s colors even in buses in Kerala, a state socially way forward compared to the rest of India. As a matter of fact, you wont see woman in a bus after 7 PM in most part of Kerala too. The other parts of India may be even worse. The cities may be better off to stretch that 7PM mark to say 9PM, but thats it. Mumbai may be an exception, but even a city like Mumbai I wouldn’t count to be safe for woman. It will be a happy news if I hear otherwise. Bangalore, even with the celebrated success of modern life is unsafe for woman. I dont have the numbers, but during my stay there, I have heard far too many cases of woman employees getting assaulted, raped and at times murdered (Just do a google search on woman safety. You will hit through several of them). I am sure every city and small towns in India will have a gruesome shade of such a sad reality. No amount of police force can resolve this, in many cases they are the problem themselves, but things don’t stop even with them. It has to come from each one of us, from early stage to respect every one on their privacy and their right on individual freedom and choice. No one has the right to bulldoze on others, even morally, let alone physical. I don’t think the rape cases are mere act of sexual assault, they are deep rooted display of dominance of their hegemony. And in any case what sort of pleasure do men get after brutally injuring an innocent girl? These are beyond our senses. When will we as a society grow up to stand guard to our own sisters and mothers? Borrowing Bertrand Russell, “I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot and hence I too suffer”.

Let us turn clock for a few years. Does anyone remember Aruna Shanbaug? Some may have forgotten, but she comes to my mind every now and then. I don’t know her, but ever since I heard about her (first time I heard was several years ago during the euthanasia debate) my bloodstream freezes at times. She is the living martyr of male recklessness. As a young nurse in a city hospital, she was brutally raped by a servant boy. Why? As a vengeance  for reporting a crime committed by the boy! Ever since then, she stay motionless, a life merely existing as a symbol of our social cowardliness. What punishment the culprit got is immaterial. The young woman, who was supposed to have soon got married to a doctor, sacrificed a good life for our social reckoning! Her case is largely forgotten. We got many new cases to ponder, but we failed to grow!

As I write this up, I just heard the news on NPR (yes, the news gets reported even in my KPBS car radio here in San Diego, while I was waiting for my daughter from the piano class) that the girl eventually succumb to injuries. She sacrificed her life. Just imagine, she was an aspiring medical student. She had a whole life of her choice had to be ahead. But for the callousness of few men, we had to see her go. What a shame! Aren’t we all responsible for this one way or the other?

Whether the insane gang of six stupid men gets death penalty or not is irrelevant. Our wicked society just threw our sister to the fire. The slow government acted ever slow and everyone in the administration will find a way to excuse themselves. The media will find another sensational story and latch on to it. Leaders like Abhijeet Mukharjee will again get re-elected (For record, a portion of the elected legislators in parliament and state assemblies are themselves criminals!). The family of the girl lost one of their own and we lost another beautiful life. Her homage made our lives less colorful. Didn’t it? If only we grow up and stand up to prevent yet another casualty like this beautiful girl. The grim reality is penned by the BBC reporter Soutik Biswas from Delhi. A serious introspection is needed and the time is now if it wasn’t earlier.

Rest in peace girl! Our hearts are heavier!

At the UN headquarters in New York, there is this picture. It draws you to numbness. Can a picture tell a story this powerful? Yes it does. This masterpiece from  the award winning Argentine photographer  Alejandro Kirchuk takes you deep down the perils of the wrecked disease Alzhemeirs. His full creations in the series titled “Never let you go” is archived online here.

Alzheimer’s disease is a very very complicated desease. One may ask, how about AIDS and cancer? They are dangerous too, but one thing which makes Alzheimer all the more different is its impact on the emotional and physical drain on the caretaker. At the later stage of this illness, the patient in the scene is devoid of any memory; He or she lose the sense of surroundings and at times fail to relate the partner for years and now serving as the caretaker.

Think of this. You suddenly arrive at a stage where you don’t even make sense of the surroundings, the loved one besides you? Your past is erased completely. Having to depend on others for even routine acts! How terrible a stage that can that be? Now think of the lucky patients who have the loved ones to take care of them. Think of those caretakers, who in majority are elderly people themselves struggling to cope with old age. The caretakers often ends up doing pretty much have to do a baby care like support to the patient, yet the patient  have no real sense of her/his association to the helping person.

I have seen some cases like this and I can understand the pains. Couple of Alzheimer cases had come across in my childhood, my neighbors etc. That time, I never had realized the name or its complexity, but this series of Kirchuk portraits took me back several years and I now relate how hard it must have been for the parties in my memory.

See one of Kirchuk’s portrait on Marcos. Marcos wordings goes like this “Tell me where she is going to be better than here. I treat her like a princess, here she has everything.” Sweet, isn’t it?, It takes our senses to numbness. It is not fiction. Thousands of people around the world, and some in our vicinity goes through this. Only the privileged few escapes from such difficulties! Life is priceless, isn’t it?

alzhemeir_un

Last week, had a chance to catch up with two pioneers at Irvine. The coding (among so many other things, trellis coded modulation came to light through his seminal thoughts) champion Gottfried Ungerboeck and the multi faceted public crypto (Diffie-Hellman fame among the so many other things he has done) fame Martin Hellman were gracious enough to join me for lunch. They were in town for this years Marconi award felicitation. For me, personally, it was whale of an opportunity to interact with these two connoisseurs. I didn’t have much time to interact with Ungerboeck when he was still employed at Broadcom, but the little time I spent with him last week gave an indication on how much I would have gained, had he stayed longer (or had I joined Broadcom earlier):-)

With the Crypto guru Martin Hellman

With the great Ungerboeck

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.

Happened to see this youtube link, through a Facebook feed. Not sure how credible the information is, but interesting corner point. No harm in listening to an alternate view. Who knows, is it the truth or is it just another conspiracy?

Qaddafi for sure has done several horrible stuffs and no way a man to be worshiped, but the way he was publicly assassinated portray a sorry figure to civilized society. It is appalling that NATO had the freedom to do such barbaric acts to curt the end of another man who was criticized for similar acts to his own people.

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)

For a generation of kids like me, growing up in the 80s and 90s in India, Anant Pai, popularly known as Uncle Pai was one of the most influential figure. Not because of his personality or the aura in public life, but the sheer creativity in transpiring the richness in the Hindu mythological stories to us in the form of children stories. The Amar Chitra Katha stories from him, not only had improved our knowledge on the many epic stories and its variants, but also brought the curiosity in the fairy tale world to young minds. It is with immense sadness I passed the day hearing his sad demise, last week.

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.

I am at aghast when these sort of things are happening in 21st century.  Zahra Bahrami was executed by the Iranian government! Where has the civilization gone? A large section of our world still hangs and hails the Neanderthal laws. So sick of these religion and cowardly laws being prevailed in many parts. Make a mockery of humanity.

I didn’t know much about Zahra Bahrami. Couple of years ago, I happened to see an Iranian protest in Lausanne down town. The mass then were protesting against the large scale rigging which took place in their country, during the general elections. Apparently, during a home protest the ruling government had arrested Zahra Bahrami, who held a dual citizen citizenship  of of Dutch-Iranian. A series of reports and news piece popped up everywhere in Internet, calling for a fair trial in the case.

Now, much to the world’s surprise the Iranian government hanged Zahra Bahrami for what many perceive as a fake case involving drug possession. Whatever be the truth, nothing justifies a government execution of this kind. In civilized society, there is no place for such barbaric acts. Shame!

In recent times, I heard about these Somali pirates. Initially, I brushed aside as just another news piece. The repeated presence of their action in news papers prompted me to explore a bit about these characters. And guess what, there is some kind of history to their origin. As expected, Wikipedia has stuffed quite  a lot of details already.

Somali Pirates are without doubt, a threat to the world. But think about this. According to many reports, including that from a United Nations study, says that, this came as a result of the rest of the world (read, the rich trading nations)’s exploitation and illicit dumping of toxic wastes in the Somali waters. The toxication of their waters severely damaged the livelihood of majority of Somalians who largely relied on fishing to make a living. So, actually the locals were forced to take up piracy as a means to live. What a pity. Whom to blame?

I just caught hold of this bizarre news from a recent verdict by a lower court in India. A community serving NGO doctor is sentenced life term for some strange accusation. Dr.Binayak Sen, a Vellore medical college alumni (Vellore medical college is one of the premier medical school in India) is serving the poorest of poor in one of the north Indian state (Chathisgarg).

Some stomach upset over the last couple of days prompted me to switch off from any serious activity. To make matters worse, I injured my groin too. Anyway, that in a way forced me to read up a bit of news and contemporary stuffs. Two good articles came in my way.

Amazing article by Sainath, “Narcissism of the neurotic” Must read.
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article834612.ece?homepage=true
An eye opener on the Indian media:
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article907823.ece?homepage=true

Via Lance’s blog, I came across this hilarious prize known as Ig Nobel prize. The term “Ig” stands for “Ignoble”! The prize is apparently given to something which may appear to be funny, but has some serious reasoning behind. In other words, these are peculiar awards given to something  which”‘first make people laugh, and then make them think”. Quite amazing huh?

I am yet to explore a lot on this. Lance listed one very interesting one. I find it extremely noteworthy! Robert Faid of Greenville, South Carolina, farsighted and faithful seer of statistics, got the Ig Nobel prize for calculating the exact odds (710,609,175,188,282,000 to 1) that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Antichrist.I wonder how he arrived at this magical number! Didn’t Faid know how to play a game in the stock market then?

Wikipedia has an interesting entry on this topic. Would you believe, the young Russian physicist Andre Konstantinovich Geim who just won this years Physics Nobel for his work on graphene had also won the Ig Nobel in 2000! Quite amazing.

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!

I remember this quote from George Orwell “if you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever”.

It is beyond comprehension to see that, we can do nothing on this. Think of this. Aung San Suki is detailed for 15 years of the last 20 years.

ABC mini clip

Sion Rain’s fabulous and touching song dedicated to Aung San Suki.

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!

After Neruda (one of the greatest poet of all time, in my book), the first name come to me from Peru is Vargas Llosa. South American writers are always special, for their sheer brilliance in writing. Gabríel Garcia Márquez, Llosa’s contemporary from the Spanish speaking continent,  is more known (who is one of my all time favourite), but the latter is no less in literary genius. So, a well deserved Nobel laureate. New York Times has published a nice report on this year’s literature Nobel.

It is somewhat ironic that, the day to celebrate love is not named after Cupid, the Roman god of love. His mother goddess Venus and father Mercury are not considered either.  The Greek mythical folks cannot be happy either. Eros, the Greek god of love or his mother Aphrodite, the goddess of love are not the ones remembered by the lovers of this century. In the Hindu mythology, encomium is poured over to Kama (or Kamadeva), but who listens when it comes to naming the modern love day? All the accolades instead went to a saint who to his innocence did not really had any fun himself when it came to love, but he was generous enough to facilitate the young lovers.

One of the legend of St. Valentine’s day go like this. Valentine was a priest who served Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decided to bring in a law to outlaw marriages. His claim was that, single men, without wives and families make better soldiers. The priest Valentine, apparently was not quite ready to bulge to this idea of Claudius. In those days, of course you don’t challenge a ruler in public. How powerful democracy is. We are lucky, don’t we?

Anyway, defying Claudius, Valentine continued to secretly perform marriages for young lovers. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, the king ordered that he be executed. The martyr Valentine became one of the most popular saints in centuries to come in Europe, especially in France and England.

Valentine day of the modern world has surely made St. Valentine proud for his worthy sacrifice. After all, it was all for a good cause. Love is beautiful. It is up-to the people to decide, what way they want to celebrate. There is nothing as beautiful than seeing people in love.  The very sign of love is pleasing to the eyes. Let love relish.

Happy Valentine’s day.

Hearing the news about the massive earthquake, I thought how unfortunate, the people of that island nation is.  The latest natural calamity accounted to the death of easily over a quarter million helpless people, not to forget the many maillions injured and displaced.  Already the people were dragged into a state of helplessness, by the shabby governance, lack of administrative will to prevent crime and corruption besides the general economic and social crisis, which has been prevailing for years in the island nation. The frequent calamities visiting the nation, is literally draining all hopes for a decent humane life there. Natural calamities of this scale can shatter any country, even the most developed ones. But, looking at the images and reading reports of the Haiti catastrophe, I feel for the people. Even when there is  increasing support from the world community to extend aid to the ailing nation, there are significant hurdles before the affected people get to bite a bread.  It seems that, even a relief camp positioned 2 km away from the airport is not accessible, because of the poor infrastructure.

The infrastructure and development in general was poor even before the calamity. The nation is one of the poorest nation in the world, let alone in the American continent. The governance is often criticised for sheer negligence. What is agonizing is that, the country has rich resources, both natural and people. Yet, the reality paints a sorry picture. It is agonizing. Is this all human?

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!

Three days on and no positive signs of any survival after that sudden disappearance of French commercial plane. These are tragic moments and my heart goes to the relatives and friends of the missing. The Air-France flight AF 447 was heading from Rio de Genero to Paris when it was lost early on Monday. There are reports emerging that some debris found on the Atlantic ocean may have been that of the missing airline. The present inference leads to a possible crash of the airbus into the middle of Atlantic.

I began to wonder the difficulty of carrying out search in the middle of a rather ominous ocean stretch, with difficult weather conditions, compounded with higher depths in the range of several thousand kilometers. If we were to do that in the night, you can imagine that extra difficulty with artificial light too. This clearly is an arduous task.

I was checking the specifications and features of the Airbus 330-200. They are ultra modern and almost disaster free.  They are supposedly very robust engines equipped with superior communication, control and electrical safety devices. Since went into operation in 1993, there was no fatal accidents, until this unfortunate thing happened on Monday. The only deaths reported on this bus was during a test flight in 1994, killing the pilots and two engineers on board. That accident was widely attributed to pilot errors and faulty autopilot systems. The latest disaster by far is the most fatal in terms of casualties and the extend of failure. As often is the case with air accidents, the survival chances are grim.

The A330-200 is a wide bodied two engine carrier. It is one of the dominant carriers for many of the medium/economical airliners operating. They include Air France, KLM and Etihad.

The loss of 228 passengers on board is beyond one could have imagined, especially with the advent of superior technology in modern airbuses. At the same time, this also give us a perspective on how well they function, every time a successful flight is seen through. The engines, the communication control devices, the pilots, the crews, all have to work rather seamlessly to make a trip safe as is the case, most of the time. I have seen people making huge furies over few minutes of delay at airports, reportedly caused by engine maintenance etc. Sometimes, I wonder whether such sudden outbursts by some passengers are reasonable at all. I get annoyed when some weird nuts behave like this. It is understandable that they value time as precious as ever, but we must surely give credit and due respect to the airline staff for making every journey as safe as possible. Sometimes, even the best effort may not lead to guaranteed goals, but then such is life.

Disasters like this latest one, might have occurred due to catastrophic failure of several parts of the system. Unfortunately everything seemed to have gone wrong with this airbus, including weather, location and extend of engine failures. Experts are worried about the chances of recovering the black box too. Just imagine the difficulty of the Brazilian and French air force, navy and military to get into the troubled waters of the vast Atlantic to search for the missing links. Quite a task that is going to be.

The Air France accident feel a touch more dearly to me. I have travelled quite a lot of times with Air France, almost always thanks to the economical advantage over other European carriers (They charge the least airport tax within continental Europe! and they have direct flights to Bangalore, connecting a Geneva-Paris as well).  This unfortunately is the biggest disaster for this Airline. It must be terrible time ahead for them too, to try and find the causes of such a catastrophic failure. The major surprise I noted is the absence of ay radio communication from the cockpit crew to ground. Some says it indicates the almost instant collapse of the system thereby leaving no time for the crew to react. I was wondering whether any of the following could have been done, at least as a futuristic goal!

1) The Satellites take frequent pictures of these airline routes. The rate of sensing, storage and power requirements, perhaps are the obvious limitations here. May be a potential compressed sensing application here? I am curious to know whether Satellites do scan the whole earth and if so, how frequent? I was told that, they do in parts, skipping the ocean for instance.

2) Let Satellites sense communication from all the airlines and report a failure of trajectory instantly. Considering the present day amount of traffic in the air, this may be quite a task. Besides, some form of this may already be in place.

3) Air France flights interestingly have these flight camera operating live. I have seen them beaming the live video of the ground while it is landing and taking off. I am wondering whether they could relay it down to its ground terminal so that they get to know when things go wrong.

None of these perhaps avoid a disaster. They can at the most help to trace the airline wreckage after a disaster. Considering the state we are in at the moment, aftermath of such a tragedy, this might be of some use. Never sure!

Sadly, these days, truthful, sensible and objective reporting are missing from many mainstream media houses. This is true globally including Europe, USA and without exception in India too. Take for instance Kerala, a tiny piece of land in the south west tip of India. The media over the past many weeks or months are just doing a masala gaga over silly factional arguments within a section of the ruling party. They go wild to picturize every tiny statements given by leaders and then glorify with their on puerile interpretations. It is a mess, the Kerala media at the moment;to say the least. Where are truthful media and journalists? Is any of them sensible enough to do truthful and objective reporting, sans yellowing the news? In an attempt to sell their masala craps, everyone go mad and go after such third rated reporting. The masala and gosspis can be at most a desert, but that cannot be the main course. Unfortunately, in reality the media changed their roles and glorified the wrong one. 

The Hindu, is the only paper I find as an exception. It is indeed commendable that we have one source to reply upon. While the entire Kerala media was behind gossipping, The Hindu published this report (by C. Gouridasan Nair )on the progress of Kerala government over the last three years. This simply opened my eyes. While the sensational media events otherwise created an impression that the current government is not functioning at all, the truth clearly is the opposite. Surely, the common man do not get to read The Hindu and hence is caught in the wrong net of fallacy world spooned with incorrect information. I am sure that reflected in the vote share too.”

Whither goest thou media? Will you please grow up to be much more sensible and judicial? Thank you The Hindu for standing tall as a true piece of hope in the journalistic world. If only, the other media house learned a piece of your ideology!
http://www.thehindu.com/2009/05/18/stories/2009051854680700.htm

I had written a couple of blogs on this long running, rather unfortunate SriLankan civil war. I was terribly annoyed and saddened by the plight of millions of poor people docked in the name of a separate land. While their objectives and goals were reasonable, the method of violence to achieve the same was clearly beyond any common sense. LTTE and the war against the Sri Lankan civil government over the last several decades, not only killed their ethnic rivals, but also a vast majority of their very own people and displaced millions away from their land. Besides, he killed many promising leaders, most notably Rajiv Gandhi, India’s promising youth prime minister in 1991. If you go by the rationale of that assassination, you feel pity about LTTE as an organization, devoid of a genuine social and civil agenda. They just act like terrorists, which clearly  is not the way to solve problems in a modern civil society. If only they did have some sense prevailed, they should have gone to fight for their cause politically within the social rule. That would have in turn saved many innocent lives! Sadly, not to be! 

Now, the news is breaking out that, the ruthless terror guerrilla leader of LTTE Velupillai Prabhakaran is killed along with many of associates. I condemn killing anyone, but this surely is a news, which in the long run will lead to stoppage of mass deaths and disaster to millions of people. This hopefully will end the civil war which ran over 25 years in the name of an ethnic (shame that we have to call it ethnic, since there is hardly any difference you cane make out from the two people involved in this fight) difference.  This end in many ways will pave ways for a better society for all the SriLankans, irrespective of their ethnic and language difference. 

The end of this surely have to be a beginning of some sort for the small island nation to learn and live in harmony. They can learn from their big neighbour India, which has thousands of different societies, with multitude of languages, colour, culture, politics all coexist in harmony. Let all your citizens of SriLanka get to live together; let all kids get to go to the same schools;play together; grow up together; That is when your country look more beautiful. Not when you fights trying to show who owns this and that. Now, is the time to make that great move to future. Best wishes for a better tomorrow to all Sri Lankans. 

Now is the time for international governments to help SriLanka to re build the nation. It is also time for them to force issues to evenly rehabiliate and integrate the minorities into mainstream. I seriously hope they do that. 

Footnote: I was going through some of the photos circulating in the Internet on Prabhakaran. These are pictures released today, probably after raiding some of his hideouts. It appears that, he was living a comfortable life when thousands of people on their name, he played this big war were docked to doldrums. What a pity leader?

The 2009 Indian Parlament election results are out. The Congress lead government is all set to return for the second successive term. I personally think this is the best governmet at the moment available to the people. Manmohan singh is an able man and largely they seem to have a vision. His last five year term has been one with many accolades and a very few dulls. The Congress under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi seem to be freed of large scale problems within the party. Congress even though have a lot of sycophants, the top leadership acts more or less sensibly to larger issues concerning the nation.

Now this being a clear mandate to Congress, it is an opportunity for them to take India forward with a stronger vision and clearer direction. A vision not merely targeted to improve the India shining media tag or sensex alone, but the one which genuinely helps to scale the rural and poorer section of the population. It is important now than ever to improve their lives by providing education, food and employment. While cities have gathered some colour and prospetrity in the recent years, the villages in many part of India still have a different story to say. I really hope this government begin addressing such issues with utmost importance. We need development stemming from rural areas, because immense potential are to be tapped from that often underprivilaged segment of society.

The defeat suffered by many regional parties which lacked any ethical base in some sense is going to be a blessing in disguise. We have seen over the years, the ugly negotiations between major parties and these swinging parties, in order to hang on to power. Some of them still are in there. I hope we don’t get to see such pity party MPs make mockery of people. I really hope that party leaders like Amar Singh, Mayawati and their respective parties don’t get to play that ugly negotiations.

The left parties, who have always stood as one of the rare political parties in India, for certain ideological standing also do not have much strength in this parliament. While many would consider their less than expected performance as an aid for a trouble free governance, I still consider their standing in many social issues has helped the current government to implement many people friendly schemes. This faiure is also a time for them to introspect into the ugly political factions within their party. As they say, you can learn more from failures than victory. I hope they learn to become a better outfit, by raising above pity individual factionism.

In Kerala, I personally, find the result as a mixed bag. I am indeed thrilled to see Shashi Tharoor winning with a handsome margin. He is surely our next foreign minister, largely because of his UN employment credentials. My wishful thinking is to have him taking up a ministerial portfolio involving rural society. Say for instance agriculture or rural development. I know this may not happen, because these are seen more of second class port folios, with no glamour or media hype around it. My argument however is to have someone who can make that policy vision for the future, which can transform a nation forward. One thing for sure. Kerala, which is often overlooked as a non-important state in national scene will get some preference, because some heavy weights including Shashi are going to be housed in parliament as representatives from Kerala. Apart from Shashi Tharoor, the better representatives are the young CPI(M) Mps such as Rajesh and Biju. Kasargod MP Karunakaran of CPI(M) and Vadakara MP Mullapally Ramachandran of Congress are also known to be good vocal representatives of people in the parliament. I hope they all live up to people’s expectations. Some of the winning MPs are less than useful to people and indeed it is sad to learn about this verdict, especially the ones from Kannur, Alappuzha, Kollam,Ernakulam,Trichur,Kottayam etc. End of the day, it is people’s verdict and we should respect it. We can only hope for these elected candidates to be model representatives for their people.

Meanwhile, the much underrated Laloo Prasad Yadav made it from one of the two constituencies he tried. He has been an amazing railway minister, in spite of his ridiculed public view among elite social circle. To me, he is the champion minister who made the Railway from an organization of deep debt to one of the very successful outfit. Considering that Indian Railways is the largest employment providing organization in the world (claimed to have over 1.4 Million employees!), his contribution is nothing less than extra ordinary. Many people, including your truly had once thought of him as a mere laughing stock, but now he has my respect in lump-some. I hope he continue his promising work and stay as Railway minister.

Elsewhere, the most dynamic minister in the current cabinet Chidambaram just survived a scare at Shivaganga. I am glad that he made it, simply because he is too good a minister to miss out. With Rahul Gandhi in, the new Cabinet is going to have some promising members. Together with many others, including many young and vibrant representatives, we have the making of a very dynamic cabinet under Manmohan singh. I am really looking forward to a more stable, cleaner and efficient government which can take our nation forward, eradicating the mark of poverty in many villages to one India of prosperity.

A very interesting report on the neuro socio development and progress of children from poorer background, is reported in the recent edition of The Economist. In the report they discuss the research study by Martha Farah of UPenn.  Their investigation came out with a worrisome conclusion that, children born with poorer socio economic background have a greater chance of becoming underachievers (read as under performers compared to their middle-class counterparts). The study is of course based on statistical inference and hence there ought to be scope for exceptions (Large deviation theory!). However, being a statistical method, we can well assume that the behaviour is true on the average (expectation). This is truly not a conclusion we would like to hear, but to me, it appears to be a careful study and its conclusion opens up the ramifications of the larger crisis faced by millions of people all over the world, especially from developing countries and Africa.

What these researchers did is to study the stress level suffered by a person over the span of his/her life. They combined various type of pressure (such as systolic and diastolic blood pressure) and formed an index, what they called allostatic load. They found that this index is on the higher range among people from poorer background than those from middle class. They also have found that, the duration of the poverty life of  a person is correlated with allostatic load.

The report appears to conclude that, stress is more or less the sole reason for spoiling the working memories of an individual. We could say that it is a little too strong a statement. Children under too much socio-economic stress tend to do badly in studies and that unfortunately carries on for ever. I am tempted to argue that, a socio-economic push, say by providing opportunities to such children will change the performance of an individual. After all, we know many instances of children born into poorer backgrounds scaled highs.  But if you read the report carefully, they are not refuting this either. What they simply say is that, on a relative scale, the impact of stress during early childhood is much more serious than what we perceived to be. Children of poor perform poorly in school and stay on that way and sadly, remain as poor (under achievers) adults. Clearly, the authors refer ‘poor’ adults as state of ‘under achieving’ compared to their counter parts from a middle class background. In that case, one can always argue on the definition. True, one doesn’t have to be a genius to do well in life. But, the larger picture however is clear. A poorer childhood may limit his/her potential. 

It can be very easily mistaken for that, this report is derived from a non scientific study. I too was inclined to think in those lines when I read the title.  A careful reading however convinced me that, there could be genuine truth in  their argument. After all, the conclusion is not on a single individual, but on a collection.  

I am sure the wider picture of this report may have a scientific explanation too.  Too much stress, at an earlier stage of life may prevent development of nerve cells. Bottom line is that, we simply do not want to take a risk. It isindeed very important that our children and future generations not to undergo that ill fate. We have a social responsibility to be aware of these and try to do a part to ease up the trouble, as much as we can.

From this blog piece, I came to know that the smart MIT theoretical computer scientist Madhu Sudan is making a move from MIT to industry. He is set to take up a research position with Microsoft. At this economy troubled days, lesser mortals would take the conservative route that ensure stability and so on. They would say a move from a tenured professorship to a more volatile industry is risky. But then one of the smartest mind in the world can have a world revolve around him, if need be. So no surprises here. On the positive side it is a gain for industry, while it is a big loss for MIT, if Madhu decides to stay away from academia for too long.

Interestingly, on the very same blog, someone commented about other famous moves. Apparently, Venkatesan Guruswami, Madhu’s celebrated student is also making a permanent move from UWash to CMU.  In industry, we are often associated with frequent hops. Academia is not too immune to attrition either. However, I see no harm in making smart moves. It is going to help the world, atleast  in expectation.

As in EPFL too, there is imminent big fish attrition(s). Tom Henzinger and his wife Monika Henzinger are about to leave EPFL to take up a permanent position in Austria. The awesome twosome will be missed in EPFL.

The latest edition of The Economist reported this shocking fact based on Amnesty international study on capital punishment: our civilized governments have executed close to 2400 people in the last one year alone; all in the form of capital punishment.  Over 70% of these numbers are coming from China.  Perhaps more revealing is the fact that Saudi Arabia and Iran took the percentage share (per population) when it comes to executing supreme order, all to its people. 

Now, there may be a stronger story to defend these killings, because some of those criminals may indeed have done heinous crimes. But that, simply cannot justify capital punishment, Can it? To me, killing a human on any count is unjustified. By doing so, we are exhibiting more insanity. Why killing? We could rather put them in jail and let them be forced to work extra hard and learn the hardship of life. 

The other day, couple of my Iranian friends and I were discussing about the sort of criminal law practiced in our respective countries (here India as in my case and Iran for them). One of them asked me about the kind of punishments that would be given for instance to a guy who accidentally injures someone on the road.  I had to tell him, in India, a capital punishment is usually given only in rarest or rare crimes.  Even then, there would be widespread opposition to the hanging.  On the other hand, I was shocked to hear that in Iran, some crimes are dealt with a ‘blood for blood’ response. Apparently in Iran, for a recent case wherein a husband poured acid to permanently disable his wife’s eyes, the judge ruled a replica punishment so that the culprit get to feel the pain and agony that his victim had gone through.  To me, this sounded too uncivilized a punishment, even though the victim deserve no mercy. He surely does not deserve rights  for any decent public life for the heinous crime he carried out.  The best way to punish such barbaric people is to put them through the most rigorous hardship over a prolonged period. That way, they get to experience the bitterness of life. Killing someone to compensate the loss of innocent people  is simply no justification: At least I find no solace to accept it as a civilized way of dealing crime and criminals. 

In a way, by killing the criminals we are giving an easy escape to those in-humans.

It appears that, both the LDF and UDF have overcome the usual uneasiness in coming out with the candidate lists to the coming Loksabha elections. Quite strangely, LDF candidate selection meetings turned out to be much like the usual UDF fights.  LDF known for their discipline and ideologies, had to face a lot of mudslinging exercise, not only from opponents, but as well from their allies. However, largely, their candidate list showed some sense of vibrancy by fielding young and cheerful candidates. After all, people need their MPs to talk and present their woes; more importantly present and represent them well in the Parliament.  Personally, I am not too inclined and happy with these Ponnani episode. Nor am I happy with these religious mongers having a big say in these elections.  Sadly, the sense of reality hastens that, even the religious outfits have their agendas waiting to be exploited by one of these two fronts, namely LDF and UDFs.  

Now, what do we have from the UDF list? Quite frankly,  all but two are hopeless. Among the UDF list, I would like Shashi Tharoor to get elected, even though he will have to sweat it out from Thiruvananthapuram. I am not enthused by the religious agenda dominated constituencies like Ponnani and Malappuram, partly because I am ignorant of the real scene there and partly because of my uneasiness in mixing religion and politics.  In the remaining 16 seats, I would rather prefer LDF candidates to win, simply because the opponent candidates stay no chance of being effective representatives. Congress has been lacking smart leaders.  Their usual choices are drawn from the pool of factions and castes.  LDF, in spite of all their hodgepodge alliances, fielded some decent candidates.  It will not be easy, I reckon even for LDF, because the unpleasantness among allies and even within the members of major party CPI(M) is looming large.  Going by the corruption history and ability to stand up and speak, many of the LDF nominees deserve to get elected over the UDF counterparts.  For sure, I would really think Shashi tharoor is an appropriate candidate to represent Kerala.  If elected he can perhaps be a very vocal MP for not only Thiruvananthapuram, but Kerala as a whole. To be honest UDF inspite of the minor opposition from within Congress party, got a good candidate to contest from the state. You can argue that he is not a big wig politician, but he knows more about India and is an exemplary policy maker, which will help in the parliament. 

As a footnote, it is appalling that Rajdeep Sardesai cant even say the word Thiruvanathapuram, not in one, but four or five trials.   Quite pity that, a leading national  reporter cant get this right. I don’t mind a little change in accent, but he seem to care little to get the name correct. Horrible. At least a sense of respect? Anyway, their credibility tag is lost long ago, with their sensational reporting.  Sad thing is that, they seem to continuously relish on that ideology. And they are sort of ridiculing Mallika Sarabhai, by asking something like “You, urban English speaking candidate fielding from Ahmadabad?” It was (and still is) so stupid a question that, Mallika replied in Gujarati to create more splines and wrinkles on their face (Suhasini Hyder the other news anchor in this case). Weren’t they expecting it? Or do they think that, everything in this world revolve around their concept of Indianness? Being a broadcast medium one thing is that, they can say any nonsense, but being responsible is entirely another.  Over the years, Rajdeep who had been such a fine journalist, now all confined to being one among the many, new era sensationalizing breed. It saddens people like me, who had enjoyed their good piece of reporting; all when sensibility prevailed!  She is standing in an election from a constituency where she lives. How ignorant are these urban news reporters on her ability to speak her mother tongue? They fielded similar question to Shashi tharoor as well. For their information, he can speak Malayalam, pretty decently.

In this post, I tried (for the first time) to write something in Malayalam, my mother tongue. My dear English only readers, please excuse! The pleasure of writing something in mother tongue is different.  Sadly and regrettably, I seem to have forgotten some of the alphabets of Malayalam. I feel ashamed. 

മലയാളത്തിലെഴുതാന്‍ ഇപ്പോള്‍ വളരെ എളുപ്പമായി. പണ്ട്  ഞാന്‍ മലയാളം LaTex malayalam ഉപയോഗിച്ചിരുന്നതോര്‍ക്കുന്നു (In 2000 or so, it was. Now, latex omega is pretty nice and easy too, especially while LaTexing). കുറച്ചതികം ബുദ്ധിമുട്ടിയാണ് അന്ന് കുറച്ചു വരികളെഴുതാന്‍ കഴിഞ്ഞത്. എന്നാല്‍ ഇപ്പോള്‍ എത്രയോ എളുപ്പമാണ് (all thanks to Google Transliteration). എന്തായാലും വേര്‍ഡ്പ്രെസ്സില്‍ ഒന്ന് എഴുതി നോക്കാമെന്ന് വച്ചു.

കഴിഞ്ഞ രണ്ട്  ദിവസ്സമായി ഞാന്‍ കേരളത്തിലെ രാഷ്ട്രിയ സംഭവ വികാസങ്ങള്‍ നിരീക്ഷിക്കുകയായിരുന്നു. ഇവിടെ യുറോപ്പില്‍ ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ് വഴി കിട്ടുന്ന വാര്‍ത്തകള്‍ മാത്രമാണ് ഒരു മാര്‍ഗം. പ്രധാനമായും വാര്‍ത്തകളെല്ലാം വരുന്ന ലോകസഭ തെരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പ് സ്ഥാനാര്‍ത്തികളെ ചുറ്റിപറ്റിയുളളതായിരുന്നു. സി പി ഐ എം, സി പി ഐ തമ്മില്‍ പൊന്നാനി സീറ്റ് സ്ഥാനാര്‍ഥി നിര്‍ണ്ണയം ചൊല്ലിയുള്ള വിവാദം ഒരു പക്ഷേ അനാവശ്യമായിരുന്നു. സി പി ഐ സെക്രടറി വെളിയം ഭാര്‍ഗവന്‍ തീര്‍ത്തും നിര്‍ഭാഗ്യകരമായ രീതിയിലാണ് പത്ര സമ്മേളനം നടത്തിയത്. ഒരു മുന്നണിയില്‍ പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ ചില അഭിപ്രായ വിത്യസങ്ങളൊക്കെ ഉണ്ടാകുന്നതു സ്വാഭാവികം. പക്ഷേ അത് ജനങ്ങളുടെയും പ്രവര്‍ത്തകരുടെയും മുന്നില്‍ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ കുറച്ചു പക്വതയൊക്കെ ആകാമായിരുന്നു. ഇത് കോണ്‍ഗ്രസിലെ അടിപിടി പോലെയുള്ള ഒന്നായി മാറ്റിയതിനു വെളിയത്തിന്‍റെ കൊള്ളരുതായ്മ്മയായി മാത്രമേ കാണാന്‍ കഴിയു‌. ഇതില്‍ ഏറ്റവും വിചിത്രം പൊന്നാനി സി പി ഐയുടെ കൊട്ടയോന്നുമല്ല. മിക്കവാറും തോക്കാറുള്ള മുസ്‌ലിം പ്രാധിനിത്യം അത്യധികമുള്ള ഒരു മണ്ഡലം,അതില്‍ ഒരു പൊതു സമ്മതനെ അങ്ങീകരിക്കാന്‍ ചേര്‍ന്ന ഒരു മീറ്റിങ്ങില്‍ തങ്ങളുടെ ആഗ്രഹം അതെ പടി സാധിയ്ക്കാതത്തിന്റെ പേരില്‍ ഒരു പത്ര സമ്മേളനം നടത്തി ശകാര വര്‍ഷം ചൊരിഞ്ഞ് വെളിയം അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ ഉള്ള വിലയും ഇല്ലാതാക്കി. ഒരു കണക്കിന് ഭര്‍ദ്ദനും വെളിയവും ഏകദേശം ഒരേ പോലെയുള്ള മൂക്കിന്‍റെ അറ്റത്ത്‌ ദേഷ്യം ഒട്ടിച്ച രണ്ടു നേതാക്കള്‍. നിര്‍ഭാഗ്യവശാല്‍ രണ്ടുപേരും ഒരേ പാര്‍ട്ടിയില്‍. അതോ ഭാഗ്യവശാലോ?

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 

Until the recent past, south India was freed of all these callous folks who gets thrill by killing innocent people. Now, they are sneaking in and creating havoc everywhere. Inhuman activities happening anywhere hurts and the people who are affected only knows how bad they are. The sad trend is that, these are spreading across boundaries. Yesterday’s serial blasts in Bangalore is an example where the cancer is eating all sides of society. No matter who these stupid people/groups behind these and what their motives are, it is simple attrocious and pity to hear that such insane gangs exist. I fail to understand their doctrine of deriving sadistic pleassure by killing and terrorising common people who struggle to move a life on the side lane. Koramangala was a relatively quite area (but well, outskirts of them are heard to be a little notorious for the few religious gangs, but it was a hearsay I wished to not believe, but now truth must be properly investigated), but these inhuman activities are spreading everywhere.

To my innocence, I began to think that, there is support, directly or indirectly to these callousness. If the entire mass vehemently isolate the doctrine of killing innocent people these things simply cant continue. One random blast somewhere can be considered as the work of some streaky individual or group, but a series of such things ought to be coming from more planned inhuman groups. I really wish everyone think above these pity factions, whether it is religion or silly politics or any other doctrine. If you cant respect humanity and that too helpless armless poor people then your God cannot care you either.

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).

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