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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).


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!


I will be hanging in at Indian wells this week for the IEEE September interim session. More on the IEEE 802.11 development later (may be at the weekend wrap up). First let me say, this place is hot (scorching at 100 plus degree Fahrenheit, most of the time) and yet this side is so stunning and beautiful. The hilly terrains are a treat to watch. The drive from San Diego to this place, a mere 70miles, but more than three quarter of it is is simply breathtaking.

The day  ended pretty late. Had the 802.11ah session running till 9.30 PM. What did we do after that? Well, when in Indian wells, should we miss a game of tennis? Certainly not. Nihar, myself and Carlos had an hour of tennis session at the Hyatt courts. These are by far the best courts I have ever played. True and good bounce, nicely maintained too. I heard when Federer and co comes for the Paribas open, they go for hits here! Just had a shower and now I am off to sleep. Need to wake up early as well.

A few snaps I took on the way are placed at the bottom. Hopefully, I get to capture a few more towards the weekend. There are tons of Palm spring photos in the web, but I like this one in particular.

I am here in Hawaii this week for the IEEE plenary. The view from the Hilton in Waikoloa village is pretty enthralling…

I was long curious about the origin of the name San Diego. I feel ashamed of myself if I don’t know a bit of history of the place where I stay. As far as history is concerned, to a decent extend, I was indeed aware about the history of California, including San Diego. But, I didn’t know where the name San Diego originated from. Thanks to this and a bunch of Google/Wikipedia hits, here I know why San Diego!

Here is the official explanation behind the name San Diego, at least per San Diego Historical Society.  The Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcanio arrived San Diego from the Mexican coast of Acapulco . This was in the year 1602 and it took. He had departed Acapulco with four ships on May 5, 1602 and only three of them, his flagship ship being San Diego, made it to what is now known as San Diego bay.  Besides the flagship ship named San Diego, he had two other ships arrived at the bay. They are the San Tomás and the Tres Reyes. The exact date (as per history) of his arrival in San Diego bay is November 10, 1602. Acapulco found no qualms in naming the new coastal area by his flagship ship name and hence we now live in the beautiful San Diego and not San Thomas or Tres Reyes, huh! Apparently, there was another reason why Acapulco chose San Diego. It was to honor the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá.

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 am at Dublin attending the IEEE Information Theory Workshop ITW 2010. The city is small, but beautiful. I will write a bit about my Dublin experience later. Apart from the Whiskey (which I don’t drink anyway, but I am going to go for the whiskey tasting tour organized as part of the ITW program, on thursday evening) there is rich literary legacy. The Bernard Shaw and James Joycee belongs to this famous city. And oh dear, Yeats, my favourite poet in the adolescent years. My wife (then my fiancee) still says that she was truly impressed when I’d recited those Yeats poems, many years ago!  But then, I was so fond of poetry back then. Now, with (lack of) time and tide, things just got locked in nostalgia, alone. I am definitely going to spend sometime in the Dublin literary museum, this weekend, before flying to Geneva.

My talk, (on the joint work with Emmanuel) is on Tuesday afternoon. Need to work a bit on the slides too! Feeling a touch tired, after the sleep being deprived for the last two days! I will also try to pen down a bit on some of the interesting talks I am going to attend.

After a long thought and a near decision call against it,  I eventually succumbed to the temptation of going to the best firework show in Europe. The finale of Fêtes de Genève 2009 was today! We took the 20.45 train from Lausanne and reached just in time for the festive event. It was a bit of struggle initially to find a place, when folks were moving and parading across the streets in all possible directions. We walked and walked and finally stopped when the fireworks started.  A good way to decide when to stop moving, huh!

The musical fireworks show was awesome.  That is an understatement.  It was a not to miss event.  A touch overcrowded Geneva was, but that was to be expected off an event of this magnitude.  I didn’t take any photos.  It wouldn’t have come nicer anyway with my outdated camera. Not to be disappointed nevertheless.  Here is a link (Note: This is not my photo. The copyrights stays with the owner of the link and its sources).  I hope to post some more, depending on the photo availability from friends who may have taken a few snaps.


The fire show was coupled with traditional music (and hence it was more of a musical fireworks) and rhythmic tunes. It simply drew admiration from everyone present there, which in number was anything more than a 10000. Even though it was not that Sth clear, it appeared to me that, music from all over the world were played.  A Hindi (India rather) one from the movie Lagaan too was played (I guess it was  this).  In a way, this presented the crowd a journey around the world of music, a little lip service, but nevertheless highly enjoyable experience. The stupendous thing is the setting of the Lake in a moonlit night, with remarkable display of colourful magic in the air.

As they say, the fireworks outshine the stars, the sky bursts with colour and the lake reflects it all. It was well and truly that. Every year a different theme is chosen for the show. The theme gives meaning and rhythm and grandour to the event. This year, a pyrotechnic vision of one thousand and one nights (Arabian nights as we know in English) was chosen and it simply rocked the Geneva crowd for about 1 hour from 2200 hrs on a rather pleasant day (The afternoon rain infact cleared things a bit). From East to West, through the Tropics, three acts presented amazing visual displays cast by music from the local area and elsewhere selected by the pyrotechnics’s themselves.

The show opened with traditional Arabian music, apparently chosen because the guest of honour presented was the Sultanate of Oman. It was marvellous to say the least. It sounded a little like Punabi to me, but then as you would guess, there are many similarities of music from the east (and partly because of my lack of knowledge in vividly distinguishing musical style). The first scene reflected the thousand and one eastern nights, from Arabia to Asia. The initial act evoked the shimmering splendour of the East with a superb golden rain. Yes, it was a fabulous scene where it appeared as though there was a drizzle of gold in the air. So charming it was.  A superb oriental music tuned to its rhythm made it even more stunning.

The second scene reflected tropics, apparently conceived by some famous Argentine from in Buenos Aires (They mentioned the name during commentary, but I failed to pick the name). With south American (Latin American to be exact) music in the background, it was indeed a magical display of colours depicting the thousand and one tropical nights.

The third and final reflected Western nights. It was a mix of slow and fast notes of western music. I was wondering why such a mix, but I was told later that, it was deliberately chosen to depict the surprise effect. Some people liked it, but it sounded a bit too noisy for me at times. Some french (European!) and north American music were played. The firework was big and loud this time, needless to say it was great, barring the excessive sound. The sound however shook the crowd and made them heavenly alert and cheerful. It was a fabulous scene, to the eyes, but not so soothing to my ears (I would have preferred more to see and lesser burden on ears; But largely people wouldnt have complained!).

The famous fountain of Geneva (Jet d’Eau) was  switched off during the fire show. In the end it appeared to be on, but the smoke around didnt make it so visible from the bridge where I was standing. I had to catch up a train to Lausanne and hence didn’t spend too much time in Geneva after that.
In the end, my last minute decision to take a train to Geneva paid off. It was worth it. I was initially pondering on whether this is better than the firworks in New York during the July 4 independence day. Or for that matter, a Trichur Pooram fireworks in India. Those have their charm, but Fêtes de Genève has a charm of her own. It is definitely a beautiful event.

The one hour pyrotechnic in the air resulted in quite a bit of smithereens of paper and powder floating in the air. A fair share of it came to my body as well. A hot shampoo shower at midnight cleaned up a bit of it. The Geneva river looked more like a polluted river in the end, but the civic authorities will hopefully clean it tomorrow. The river is so beautiful to be dirtied! What is to be a good city if not there a clean river flowing through her heart?

Update [2009, Aug 10]:

Here is a video sample I found in youtube. It spans just over a minute only, but the (video) quality is pretty good.

and another one here (You can check the Youtube follow up links for more).

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 

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