We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Clouds in a Room ...

I am always amazed by clouds. Especially in Netherlands where the weather is always cloudy, that seeing blue clear sky with sun, is a treasure. While returning from Istanbul from a conference and watching clouds float in the sky from the plane. I imagined about clouds, the science behind clouds, and a lot of other related things. I wrote some of those ideas on my plane napkin. 

One of the prominent idea I imagined was, what if I can create decorative small clouds using some small machine (like a fog machine) in my own room.. Will it be possible? What opportunities lie in such an idea. 

For example, lets say, there is a children's birth day party and I want to    simulate a room filled with clouds instead of Baloons. What would it take to make clouds in a room? Can I make thunderstorms happen in those clouds artificially? Some wild creative imaginations.  

Today I was delighted to see the exact thing I thought counted amongst one of the best inventions by Time in 2012. Here is a picture. I do not know the authenticity of the claim below. The feeling that I get ideas which are worthy is fine to feel happy :-). 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A PhD students memoir...From Stanford

The journey of a quality PhD program is one of the toughest intellectual challenges that one can face in one's life. Its an incredibly long unique journey, with lots of hurdles as it comes along.

Here is a great memoir by a remarkable student Philip J. Guo, from Stanford, describing his arduous tough life at Stanford from 2006 to 2012, in Computer Science department, as a PhD student.


Thanks Philip for documenting the details of the process called PhD, at one of the finest institute for Computer Science research in the world.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Books for young leaders.

I came across the text below in the article by  John Coleman from Harward Business Review about must read books for a young leader. 
(The text below is direct copy from original blog from Harward Business Review blog).
Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor's Handbook. Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 A.D., Marcus Aurelius is considered one of history's "philosopher kings," and his Meditations were perhaps his most lasting legacy. Never meant to be published, Marcus' writings on Stoicism, life, and leadership were the personal notes he used to make sense of the world. They remain a wonderful insight into the mind of a man who ruled history's most revered empire at the age of 40 and provide remarkably practical advice for everyday life. This is the translation I've found most accessible.
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived life in the Nazi concentration camps. Man's Search for Meaning is really two books — one dedicated to recounting his frightening ordeal in the camps (interpreted through his eyes as a psychiatrist) and the other a treatise on his theory, logotherapy. His story alone is worth the read — a reminder of the depths and heights of human nature — and the central contention of logotherapy — that life is primarily about the search for meaning — has inspired leaders for generations.
Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full. Tom Wolfe founded the New Journalism school and was one of America's most brilliant writers of nonfiction (books and essays like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) before he became one of her most notable novelists. Often better known for his portrait of 1980s New York, The Bonfire of the VanitiesA Man in Full is his novel about race, status, business, and a number of other topics in modern Atlanta. It was Wolfe's attempt, as Michael Lewis noted, at "stuffing of the whole of contemporary America into a single, great, sprawling comic work of art." It's sure to inspire reflection in burgeoning leaders.
Michael Lewis, Liar's Poker. One of the first books I read upon graduating college, Liar's Poker is acclaimed author Michael Lewis' first book — a captivating story about his short-lived postcollegiate career as a bond salesman in the 1980s. Lewis has become perhaps the most notable chronicler of modern business, and Liar's Poker is both a fascinating history of Wall Street (and the broader financial world) in the 1980s and a cautionary tale to ambitious young business leaders about the temptations, challenges, and disappointments (not to mention colorful characters) they may face in their careers.
Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't. What does it take to make a great company, and what traits will young businesspeople need to lead them? Jim Collins introduced new rigor to the evaluation of business leadership in his instant classic Good to Great, with a research team reviewing "6,000 articles and generating 2,000 pages of interview transcripts." The result is a systematic treatise on making a company great, with particularly interesting findings around what Collins calls "Level 5 Leadership" that have changed the face of modern business.
Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Persuasion is at the heart of business, where leaders must reach clients, customers, suppliers, and employees. Cialdini's classic on the core principals of persuasion is a sterling example of the cross application of psychological principles to business life. Based on his personal experiences and interviews — with everyone from expert car salesmen to real estate salespeople — Cialdini's book is riveting and, yes, persuasive. It serves as a great introduction to other works by modern writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Levitt, who translate theories from the social and physical sciences into everyday life.
Richard Tedlow, Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built.Richard Tedlow taught one of my favorite business school classes, The Coming of Managerial Capitalism, and this book is something like a distillation of a few of the high points of that class.Giants of Enterprise chronicles the lives of some of the businesspeople — Carnegie, Ford, Eastman, Walton — who shaped the world we live in today. It's a brief introduction to the figures and companies who built modern business for the young business leader seeking to shape the future.
Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. Financial capital is at the heart of capitalism. Any young person aspiring to business leadership should understand the financial world we live in. Ferguson is one of our era's preeminent popular historians, and The Ascent of Money traces the evolution of money and financial markets from the ancient world to the modern era. It's an essential primer on the history and current state of finance.
Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Clay Christensen was recently ranked the world's greatest business thinker by Thinkers50, and his breakout book was a thoughtful tome on innovation and "disruption" called The Innovator's Dilemma. All of Christensen's books are essential reads, but this is perhaps the most foundational for any young leader wondering how to drive business innovation and fight competitors constantly threatening to disrupt his or her business model with new technology.
Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey's book represents the best in self-help. His advice — about prioritization, empathy, self-renewal, and other topics — is both insightful and practical. Seven Habits can be useful to the personal and professional development of anyone charting a career in business.
Bill George, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. A hallmark of next-generation business leaders is a focus on authenticity. Bill George has pioneered an approach to authentic leadership development articulated well in his second book, True North. George (who, full disclosure, I've coauthored with before) conducted more than 100 interviews with senior leaders in crafting the book, and offers advice for young leaders on knowing themselves and translating that knowledge into a personal set of principles for leadership.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Indian reforms and Indian farmer

On 14th September 2012, after a long period of policy paralysis and constant controversies of corruption scandals the Indian government finally opened the Indian economy further, by introducing much needed reforms in sectors such as FDI in retail, power exchange, and aviation, etc. A major step is thus taken to bring back the Indian economy on the right track. Taking bold decisions in Indian politics has been tough due to a huge coalition based politics. Considering the vehement opposition the reforms have raised from Government´s own allies and the opposition party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), it is doubted whether there will be again a roll back of this decision, the way it happened around 1 year back.

The reform, FDI in retail is in prime focus. This reform is expected to bring much needed infrastructure in the unorganized Indian retail sector, by bringing in foreign players and their expertise. It is projected to help in building the logistic support, which would benefit Indian farmers and in turn the Indian consumers. A large portion of Indian farm products get rotted before reaching consumers, due to the lack of infrastructure support such as efficient transport mechanisms, and cold storage facilities, etc. The farmer loses his products and earnings, whereas the consumer pays a heavy price for the remaining farm products that is able to reach the market. The only winner in current situation is the middleman, who reaps in heavy profits by exploiting this infrastructural gap by employing their own logistic services.

India is facing a huge agrarian crisis for a long time now. It would be also interesting to see how FDI in retail would help improve the growing agrarian crisis that Indian farmers face. It is estimated that nearly 2,00,000 farmers have committed suicide in India over the last 10 years due to lack of support in farming practices and resulting losses. However, the mainstream media hardly reflects this. Nero´s Guests is a story about India’s agrarian crisis and the growing inequality seen through the work of the Rural Affairs Editor of Hindu newspaper, P Sainath.  More about it can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q6m5NgrCJs&feature=related

Why such stories are repeating in India, if India considers itself an agriculture based economy? Will these reforms bring answers by bringing investment and logistic support for Indian farmers is a very important aspect to be considered. Lets hope such reforms bring hope for millions of these farmers, and stories such as Nero´s guest are considered a dark past of Indian history. India´s political class has to study why such problems exists and how they can be solved by employing correct innovative means, than by using the same old ¨vote bank¨ politics based ideology to oppose any form of new ideas. Lets hope these reforms survive the political opposition and bring cheers to many of these helpless aspiring Indians, who are striving for that much needed support to better their lives.

Lets wish that the India´s political class understands the positive implications these reforms can bring, on the future of these much neglected Indians, its own farmers.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Istanbul and Indian cities

I had a chance to visit Istanbul, one of the greatest cities in the world on the occasion of VLDB conference. Conference was for 5 days, while I roamed around rest 6 days exploring nooks and corners of the city. I was enthralled by this global city and the life it offered.

Cities are a vision of its rulers. Constantinopole as it was called when Roman empire Constantine ruled it was always a center of attraction for different empires starting from Byzentine empire, Roman empire, Ottoman empire. Ottoman empire named it Istanbul, meaning the ¨city of Islam¨. Istanbul is a unique city to be located on two continents, Europe and Asia. It controls one of the busiest sea routes connecting ship movement through bospohorous from Marmara sea to the black sea. It generates 25% of Turkeyś GDP and is a home to around 13 million residents.

I was amazed by the historical monuments boasted by city in terms of grandiose mosques. These historical monuments stand side by side with the modern culture. I felt sad for many of the Indian cities which have ruined their hostorical heritage due to neglect. A majority of the population has Islam as religion, however the city is exceptionally modern with a feeling of being in any American cities from the perspective of youth culture. Transportation network which consists of metro, trams, buses, funicular, railways, taxis offers plenty of options.

The poverty which is a ubiquitous scene in any Indian city seemed almost non-existent in the first look. I explored both upscale elite and quite poor neighborhoods and  was amazed by the infrastructure. The city is clean, people are well mannered and helpful, and women are respected and free.

Turkey is a developing country. India is a developing country too. However, being in Istanbul offers a different vision of being in developing mode. Often Indian cities are compared to be aspiring for cities like Beijing. I thought why not aspire to be like Istanbul? Being a developed city is a distant dream for any Indian city. It needs guts and vision to be developed. All the talks seems extremely hypocritical. I think better aspiration is to be like Istanbul. A city which offers freedom, culture, modern and a great cosmopolitan outlook.

I think I learned a great deal from this city and will cherish the moments, I spent while gazing at the Bosphorous while seeping Turkish tea and thinking about various thoughts. From why sea containers sail to how light is reflected from distant sources on sea water, to visions of great emperors. Here is a small selected collection of snaps from the city.

Thank you Istanbul.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who were Nero's Guests?

    There is a popular saying that "If you had a good meal
    today, thank a farmer". Yet today, nearly 2,00,000 farmers
    have committed suicide in India over the last 10 years. But
    the mainstream media hardly reflects this.

    Nero´s Guests is a story about India’s agrarian crisis and
    the growing inequality seen through the work of the Rural
    Affairs Editor of Hindu newspaper, P Sainath. Through
    sustained coverage of the farm crisis, Sainath and his
    colleagues created the national agenda, compelling a
    government in denial to take notice and act.

    Through his writings and lectures, Sainath makes us
    confront the India we don’t want to see, and provokes us
    to think about who ‘Nero’s Guests’ are in today’s world.
    Here is a preview:
    And the full length. 

(Courtesy - TreeLabs).

A common question that runs in my head after watching such media, is how such documentaries could be made more popular. This documentary has only 27,000 views compared to any commercial media viewing on Youtube. 

As a Computer Science student, I always think hard on this question. Because information though available need to be of interest of general public. Twitter / Facebook and other such new media sites which are prominently used for entertainment and gossiping can also be used and are being used for disaster management, live feedback etc. However, their correct usage stays limited to a handful.

And there could be lot of questions that could be tackled here through correct use of technology to spread such awareness. I keep on thinking on such questions. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Consumer and choice

I recently came across some nice articles on choice in the age of consumerism and how people end up spending their time on this activity.

Barry Schwartz on paradox of choice.

Another interesting researcher on the same topic is Sheena Iyengar. She is blind, so it adds a different perspective to choosing. 

Choice is freedom to chose. However, one can make best choice only if one is sufficiently informed about what options exists to chose from. To be informed about the options, one has to study them. So unless one already knows about the options, chances are that a huge amount of time would be needed to be informed about the possible choices. Do people have sufficient time to do all this? Is this why shopping is considered a stress buster by many females because it provides them with this unique problem of choosing which takes other stress away? How do people chose?

I was visiting an electronic shop recently and was awed by the amount of choice available for consumers to chose from tons of electronics gadgets. I felt lost and needed constant assistance. Thousands of mobile phones, televisions, laptops, tablets, ....and the list goes on.

So if there is so much abundance of choice, how can a person make best possible choice? What if he chooses a wrong choice and suffers the consequences? What is the relation of happiness to this choice that the person is making today on his future? How much time one should spend on deciding optimally what choice to make?

Well. There lie so many nice consumer oriented problems and all the deals related sites that operate from Silicon Valley try to cash on, on such kind of problems. By offering a solution to make consumers life easier. However, most of them work in the area of making these huge choices available to people in some form, for example consolidated deals to chose from like www.deals2buy.com or www.groupon.com, or some kind of recommendation based on consumers past history such as Amazon recommendations, "Books you might be interested in". These all are called techniques in Data mining, Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence to help users narrow down their choices by providing them a guided environment of recommendations to chose from.

However, these are just recommendations and not final decision. Out of these tons of recommendations finally the consumer would decide which is optimal for him. Now there are lots of theories about optimization to make best decisions. However, they are limited to a few knowledgeable individuals with very high education, which a normal consumer is not.

So there lie tons of opportunities to help people make an informed decisions about any thing they want. Its a huge future industry in making.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Food, hunger and studies

Hunger and food are a delicate issue for any graduate student.

As an American graduate student, I used to crave for free food such as Pizza, sandwitches that used to get served in seminars. Seminars also hosted free food to guarantee an audience to fill the rooms. Thus it was complimentary for both hosts and attendees.

I have always wondered how easy life would be if one could satisfy ones food needs without much efforts. Food is considered one of the basic needs for life. What if there is an amazing answer to let humans live off without having any food for days like some animals for example, beers do when they hibernate in winter.

Huge amount of defence research gets done to prepare food bars which would stuff maximum energy in minimal quantity which soldiers can carry with them when on mission in remote areas and toughest environmental and geographical conditions. Astronauts are provided with special kind of food to let them sustain in space. 

General public at the most gets the energy bars (Cliffhanger brand from US) that can help make one feel full for some time. But, by far a good solution does not exists. Is there a market for such a product? What if there are pills for different type of food items which would make you feel full and provide the body with enough energy that would have obtained by eating normal food. Worlds food problems could be solved and there would be much peace. But considering the fact that it takes 15 years for a drug pill to get introduced in market, after its first envisioned and the amount of research money spent (up-to 1 billion dollars) on these drug pills. Creating an artificial food pill looks a herculean task.

Who would eat such food because after all many people live their life so that they can eat to fullest and live to enjoy :) I would be the first client if such a pill would ever come in existence.  I would love to eat a pill which would make me feel full when I am working on some deadline, and without having enough time / will to prepare and eat food.

I wish. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Google Science Fair and the world

Could a worldwide technology competition for high school kids, be considered as a benchmark for understanding the competitiveness of countries across world? Could the results be analysed to understand the spread and interest of technology across the world?

I came across Google Science Fair results, which are displayed below, by mapping winners from each country on Google map.

This is interesting because, there are some major observations that could be drawn from this map.

1. Most entries are from US. Within US, they are distinctly from West Coast and East coast. Rest of the US seems to be lagging behind.

2. There are just three map pointers from Europe. Within Europe there are three entries from Spain. What about Germany, France and other major European countries?

3. Three entries from India. Two from Banglore and one from Lucknow.

4. Major ethnicity of the participants is Asian (Indian / Chinese).

This raises different questions such as.

1. Why there are no participants from rest of the US?
2. Why Europe is lagging so much behind?
3. Why not more participation from other Indian cities like Pune, Mumbai etc.?

Of-course, this shows only winners, and we do not know the total number of entries submitted. But, whatever number that might be, this shows that the technology is limited to a very few privileged sections in the world, and its mass spread in education stays limited.

I can hypothesize some of the answers based on my observations so far, but it will be premature to comment based on them yet. I think the socialist agenda in most European countries is to blame, which has reduced competitiveness in people overall?  I think so.

I wish to see more map markers across all over the world when Google conducts these competitions in near future.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Technology, knowledge, talk and Implementation

Technology has made a lot of information available to people in a very convenient manner. The more information people have, the more knowledgeable they become, and the more topics they have to discuss and debate.

However, one strong observation that I am having is, these debates need not result into actions most of the times. People are happy to talk about things at length, without taking conscious efforts to change things. The pleasure of intellectual debates pleases most people, with an intense feeling of satisfying intellectual hunger to certain extent. We see academics debating on complex issues, research papers being written to length, committees being formed, but implementations many times lack the same rigorousness that is seen during debates.

What is it that can make people take action and implement instead of just having debates and discussions? Implementation requires discipline, persistence, hard work, and motivation. Is this where humans differ from robots, that humans can think and everybody thinks differently, where as robots are programmed and will do what one is asked to do.

Can humans be programmed to act like robots in certain circumstances? Imagine, 4 people having a strong debate on some complex issue, and after the debate is over, they actually implement the things that they strongly debated about during discussion. And this pattern is repeated, across every discussion. A kind of robotic behavior, where pattern is repeated  multiple times always. The productivity will be huge and so will be the outcome of such discussions.

Knowledge will be useful in the best possible manner, if some thing of this type could be achievable for solving certain complex problems. The problems which have eluded mankind because of lack of consensus and lack of willingness to implement the solutions. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dancing and the context

Is dancing a means of entertainment, a means to relax, a means to earn money, or a means to express art?

I was left wondering when I watched a video on YouTube about air stewards dancing in an Indian airplane, on an Indian song, as an attraction theme on Indian Independence day.

Why do girls like to dance? Why India is associated with dance and festivals and colors, and not with many other characteristics?

Why when a bar girl dances in a bar, her dance which is done for earning a living is considered bad for society, but when girls dance at family weddings it is considered a part of culture? Why when dignitaries in 5 star hotels watch girls dancing while enjoying their expensive liquors not immoral? Why when girls are whistled at during college dance shows it is considered Ok and a part of the youth culture, but when girls are whistled at on road it is considered a matter of morality.

So context matters. Contexts are decided by the society. And so society decides what context is good and what context is bad. How should one decide upon then about how good a society is? For example, western society, eastern society, or a hybrid society.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Some philosophy ...by great people


Math is no more about equations than poetry is about spelling. Equations and spelling exist to convey an idea. Understand that idea.
A few other quotes that capture my attitude on learning:

On what we truly know

  • “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” – Socrates
  • “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” – Isaac Newton

On understanding

  • “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein
  • “Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in language comprehensible to everyone.” – Albert Einstein
  • “The only real valuable thing is intuition.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
  • “You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” – Richard Feynman

On problem solving

  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” – Matsuo Basho
  • “If I’d listened to customers, I’d have given them a faster horse.” – Henry Ford
  • “Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.” – Brian Kernighan

Monday, May 21, 2012

A virtual world...

Experiences of different types are important to appreciate the value of things that one gets in ones life. What is the difference between an intelligent man and a wise man?

Is maturity a symbol of a wise man? Does a person become mature, only because he has lots of experiences? Is that the reason some old people who have gathered lots of experiences of varied type considered wise and their opinion is sought after in deciding important things?

Can experiences be created virtually? Can a person be made to understand the things that are beyond ones imagination through virtual reality? What role do films play? What role does photo essays by photo journalists play? What role do museums play in displaying history and creating context of the past?

Could a virtual world be created where experiences of different sort be recreated? Imagination is the key. People spend their life times without witnessing beauty and sufferings of the many parts of the world, which might teach them important lessons. Can these people be made to undergo these experiences which they will never go in their life time? Would they at all be interested in such an activity, which might be curious to go through but not very much comforting?

There are many such questions, which one might ponder upon, when faced with different contexts, different cultures, and different situations.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The magic of touching...

"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." 

-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Monday, April 9, 2012

Life And Death In India’s schools ....

    A great move by the Supreme court of India in guaranteeing Right to Education in Indian schools. 

    An excerpt....
    "Declaring that the Right to Education is constitutionally valid, the Supreme Court today said the Right to Education will apply to all schools controlled by the government or local bodies."

    More here

    Contradicting this with the factual status of how rural, economically backward, and lower caste students face harsh situations in Indian elite schools such as IITs, where they can not cope up with the pressure and social stigma where society around does not provide a support system for equal opportunities and elites stay elites whereas poor get suppressed to serve the interest of elites...

    The fundamental question is, could passing of a law make improvements in the minds of traditional Indian society, which is so much riddled with caste equations and so many socio-economic problems.....

    Policies and laws gather dust, whereas implementation never happens or takes so much time, that one loses interest and motivation. 

    Excerpts from an article in Outlook magazine, 16 March 2012 

    "... What makes Indian society so shameless as to not just deny but even
    justify such prejudice against Dalits that lead to murders? Why is it that
    these deaths are used to bolster perverse arguments against the very
    existence of reservation? ... ... Most children from disadvantaged castes
    end up as maids, child labourers or dropouts. In most of rural India,
    Dalit students are asked to sit apart, sweep the school verandah or clean
    toilets. ... ... For a Dalit girl, the odds are worse. In Khairlanji,
    Maharashtra, in September '06, the fact that 17-year-old Priyanka
    Bhotmange was educated and sought a life of dignity outraged the peasant
    castes. She and her mother Surekha were raped, paraded naked and murdered;
    her brothers were butchered. ..."

    The Killing Of Shambukas - Dalit students still face oppressing times in
    our educational institutions

    S. ANAND

    Outlook magazine, 16 April 2012

    "My final words of advice to you are educate, organise and agitate. Ours
    is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is
    a battle for the reclamation of human personality." - Dr. Bhimrao Ramji

    In 1901, at age 10, young Bhim realised he could not drink the water at
    his school in Satara. Like most Dalits in India, he did not have to be
    kicked out of a train in a foreign country to get a taste of
    discrimination. Still, Ambedkar's thirst for education made him persist.
    In 1918, on returning with doctorates from Columbia University and the
    London School of Economics, Ambedkar was once again reminded of his
    untouchability. The patronage of the Baroda maharaja, a fine education,
    money, good clothes, none of it helped him quench his thirst with dignity
    or find shelter. To overcome the poison of a system that believed in the
    innate inferiority of certain castes, he offered the antidote of
    reservation. And he gave Dalits the Fabian Socialist slogan: educate,
    organise, agitate.

    Reservation in India is actually a battle for the reclamation of human
    personality - something that is still casually denied to millions of
    Indians. Last week, the newspapers reported that a doctor couple in Delhi
    - Sunita and Sanjay Verma - locked up a 13-year-old Jharkhand maid in
    their house with nothing but salt and flour, and went on a holiday to
    Bangkok. The abused girl was rescued and the doctors have since deferred
    their return to the city.

    Earlier last month, on March 3, Anil Kumar Meena, an adivasi medical
    student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, killed himself in
    his hostel room. Educated in the Hindi medium, the son of poor farmers in
    Baran, Rajasthan, Meena had scored 75 per cent in Class 12 and a second
    rank in the AIIMS entrance test. He was following in the footsteps of Bal
    Mukund Bharti, a final year MBBS student, who exactly two years ago hung
    himself to death in his hostel room in AIIMS. As I write this, news comes
    of Neeraj Kumar, a first-year Dalit medical student in Lucknow's
    Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, failing in his attempt to
    take his life. There have been 17 other such suicides of Dalit/adivasi
    students in the last five years (see graphic) documented by Insight
    Foundation, a Delhi-based initiative that seeks to make our institutes of
    higher learning 'more inclusive'.

    Most children from disadvantaged castes end up as maids, child labourers
    or dropouts. In most of rural India, Dalit students are asked to sit
    apart, sweep the school verandah or clean toilets. Omprakash Valmiki, the
    Hindi Dalit writer, in his autobiography 'Joothan', recalls the
    humiliation of being forced to perform his caste occupation by his
    headmaster, who told him: 'Go sweep the whole playground. Otherwise I will
    shove chillies up your arse and throw you out of school.' Almost every
    first-generation formally educated Dalit has such horror stories to share.
    For every youth who manages to persist with the skewed education system,
    four members of the family skip a meal; siblings work as farm labour to
    help one person hope for and dream of a life of dignity. For a Dalit girl,
    the odds are worse. In Khairlanji, Maharashtra, in September '06, the fact
    that 17-year-old Priyanka Bhotmange was educated and sought a life of
    dignity outraged the peasant castes. She and her mother Surekha were
    raped, paraded naked and murdered; her brothers were butchered.

    Those who defy such impossible odds and make it to institutes of higher
    education - statistically 2 in 100 Dalits manage this - are welcomed with
    barbs and taunts from faculty and fellow students. When not harassed to
    death, they are crushed in spirit. Those from castes that feel innately
    superior tend to look at adivasi/Dalit students as fit only for menial
    labour, like the Vermas who locked up their maid.


    Last February through April, a debate unfolded in the British media about
    the poor representation of Black students in Oxford University. For all
    his faults, Prime Minister David Cameron intervened, saying it was
    .disgraceful. that universities like Oxford.his alma mater.had so few
    students coming from Black and minority ethnic groups. The Telegraph had
    reported: 'Fewer than one in 100 students beginning courses at Britain's
    two oldest universities in 2010 were Black, including just 20 of the 2,617
    British students accepted to Oxford, a fall from 27 in 2009.' David Lammy,
    a Black Labour MP, collected data using freedom of information requests
    and wrote a column in The Guardian lamenting 'the Oxbridge whitewash'.

    The debate in Britain is in sharp contrast to the silence in India. In
    2006, following reports of discrimination in internal evaluation
    (especially practical and viva), segregation in hostels, mess rooms and in
    sports and cultural events, a three-member committee headed by Sukhadeo
    Thorat, then chairman of the University Grants Commission, conducted an
    inquiry into the state of affairs in AIIMS. The 77-page Thorat committee
    report indicted the administration on many counts and offered
    recommendations, but it was dismissed as prejudiced and no action was
    taken. Here's one of the incidents narrated in the report. In April '06,
    Umakant, the Dalit occupant of Room 45 in Hostel 1, found this graffiti on
    his door: 'Fuck off from this wing'. The miscreants once even bolted the
    door from outside when Umakant was inside. He made a formal complaint.
    What happened? 'The students were reminded of their duties, adherence to
    discipline, tolerance towards each other and were told to concentrate on
    their studies.' The culprits were asked to shake hands with the Dalit
    student, after which they promptly went and thrashed him, forcing Umakant
    to shift his room to a segregated section where all 'scheddus' were meant
    to be.

    If such was the wilful neglect of the AIIMS administration, shouldn't the
    deaths of Anil Meena and Bal Mukund Bharti be deemed murders? And such
    murders aren't limited to AIIMS. On August 26, '07, Ajay Sree Chandra, 21,
    an integrated PhD student at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore,
    killed himself. Despite making it to IISC in open competition, he was
    admitted under the reserved category. Then began hell. In his diary, he
    describes the atmosphere in the lab where he seems to be repeating an
    exercise for the third time as some kind of punishment: 'Time: 11.45 p.m.
    Maybe I am in the wrong lab or this lab is not for me. Those eyes, they
    scare me, they look with such inferiority/superiority complex @ you.'
    While AIIMS maintains that Anil Meena died owing to 'depression', IISC
    decided that Ajay Chandra died unable to cope with 'stress'.

    Over the years, there have been some feeble 'reformist' attempts to help
    'category' students cope in elite science, management and tech institutes
    through crash courses in personality development and English skills. The
    Kozhikode-based Centre for Research and Education for Social
    Transformation, CREST, has even prepared some 'packages'. When solicited,
    it conducts weeklong on-campus 'self-enrichment' programmes to help
    Dalit/adivasi students 'integrate' into iims and IITs like it did in IIT-D
    last year. What they do not do is sensitise the predominantly 'upper'
    caste faculty and students - the Dronacharyas and Arjunas at these
    institutes who insist on hacking the thumbs of Eklavyas. It is those who
    discriminate who need help.

    Just imagine the repercussions if Black students were to die half as
    routinely in Harvard or in Oxford as Dalit and adivasi students die in
    AIIMS, IITs and IISCs. When Indian students in Australia - predominantly
    students with surnames like Gupta and Sharma not good enough to make it to
    IITs, IIMs and AIIMS.are attacked, it is 'racism'; it even becomes a
    diplomatic issue. When Dalit and adivasi students on Indian campuses are
    hounded to death, there's not a murmur. What makes Indian society so
    shameless as to not just deny but even justify such prejudice against
    Dalits that lead to murders? Why is it that these deaths are used to
    bolster perverse arguments against the very existence of reservation?

    In the 2003 blockbuster, Munnabhai MBBS, the protagonist flaunts a Brahmin
    surname, Murli Prasad Sharma. As a bhai whose daily business is extortion,
    hustling and kidnapping, Murli goes on to cheat his way into an MBBS
    course and even tries to clear the exam by fibbing. He was loved and
    hailed as a voice against an insensitive system. It.s not surprising that
    the humour and message of Munnabhai became so popular, for a Sharma was
    doing the deeds. Unlike Murli Prasad Sharma, Anil Meena and Bal Mukund
    Bharti toiled hard to make it to AIIMS. They did not cheat their way in.
    With their deaths, a million Dalit and adivasi aspirations are crushed.

    Ajay Chandra speaks of harsh, judgemental eyes that scared him. It is time
    we learnt to meet the eyes of Ajays, Anils and Bal Mukunds with the
    respect, love and friendship they deserve. That will perhaps help humanise
    the very sick Dr Vermas. Till then these deaths will haunt us.

    Life And Death In India.s schools

    Nineteen young buds lost, and that.s just in the last five ye ars. How bad
    was it for them that they took their own lives?

    * Malepula Shrikant, Jan 1, .07 Final year B.Tech, IIT Bombay
    * Ajay S. Chandra, Aug 26, .07 Integrated PhD, Indian Institute of
    Science (IISc), Bangalore
    * Jaspreet Singh, Jan 27, .08 Final year MBBS, Government Medical
    College, Chandigarh
    * Senthil Kumar, Feb 23, .08 PhD, School of Physics, University of
    * Prashant Kureel, Apr 19, .08 First year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur
    * G. Suman, Jan 2, .09 Final year M.Tech, IIT Kanpur
    * Ankita Veghda, Apr 20, .09 First year, BSc Nursing, Singhi Institute
    Nursing, Ahmedabad
    * D. Syam Kumar, Aug 13, .09 First year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of
    Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada
    * S. Amravathi, Nov 4, .09 National-level young woman boxer, Centre of
    Excellence, Sports Authority of AP, Hyderabad
    * Bandi Anusha, Nov 5, .09 B.Com final year, Villa Mary College,
    * Pushpanjali Poorty, Jan 30, .10 First year, MBA, Visvesvaraiah
    Technological University, Bangalore
    * Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, Jan 31, .10 Final year MBBS, Chattrapati
    Maharaj Medical University (former KGMC), Lucknow
    * Balmukund Bharti, Mar 3, .10 Final year MBBS, AIIMS, New Delhi
    * J.K. Ramesh, Jul 1, .10 Second year BSc, University of Agricultural
    Sciences, Bangalore
    * Madhuri Sale, Nov 17, .10 Final year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur
    * G. Varalakshmi, Jan 30, .11 B. Tech first year, Vignan Engineering
    College, Hyderabad
    * Manish Kumar, Feb 13, .11 IIIrd Year B.Tech, IIT Roorkee
    * Linesh Mohan Gawle, Apr 16, .11 PhD, National Institute of Immunology,
    New Delhi
    * Anil Kumar Meena, Mar 3, .12 First year AIIMS, New Delhi

    (Information courtesy Insight Foundation)


    (The author is the publisher of Navayana.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lets Do It ....Cleanup the world

World Cleanup. Lets clean the world together ....

Excerpts from WikiPedia ...

Let's do it 2008 (Teeme ära 2008) is the largest campaign to activate civic society in Estonia since the Singing Revolution in 1988.[citation needed] The international campaign for cleaning all countries is called Let's do it world.
Over 50,000 people, or approximately 4% of the population of 1,3 million, participated in the cleanup of the forests and countryside, which would equal 15.3 million people in the United States, or 57 million people in India. Momentum for the event was built up with a media campaign from October 2007 to April 2008. The action was carried out during one day in 3 May 2008. More than 10,000 tons of garbage were removed from the country's forest in about 5 hours for less than 500,000 euros. Under normal circumstances it would have taken the government 3 years and 22.5 million euros to accomplish a similar feat.

More here...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Behaviorial aspects of technology

Experts from Yvette Subramanian of CITRIS.

There are a growing number of persuasive technology apps and systems that aim to make individuals (and therefore society) healthier, greener, more financially sound, smarter, happier, and so on. Analysis of such technologies often focuses on the aggregate results, for example the total percentage of residential electricity saved across households. However, an aggregate focus misses important aspects of the behavioral responses at an individual level. This talk focuses on experiments and models that examine behavior at the level of the individual, and demonstrates how such analyses could guide the effective design of behavior change technologies and better predict their impacts on different users' segments.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The HOME - An aerial visualization

The HOME -

The theory of selfish gene by Prof. Richard Dawkins suggests that each individual at its core (gene) is selfish and most of the behavior of individuals is a result of such selfish activities. Individualism vs socialism. Capitalism vs Socialism. These are different philosophies. However, if one goes broader and broader in ones vision, the vision grows with me, family, state, country, world, Earth, Solar System, Universe .....

The Home is a unique vision of how humanity in its crux has been able to term mother Earth as its home. Its a story of human evolution on Earth and how in a single generation of last 50 years, the Earth has been drastically transformed like never before. So much that it threatens the existence of future generations.

Here is an excerpt .....

Internationally renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand makes his feature directorial debut with this environmentally conscious documentary produced by Luc Besson, and narrated by Glenn Close. Shot in 54 countries and 120 locations over 217 days, Home presents the many wonders of planet Earth from an entirely aerial perspective. As such, we are afforded the unique opportunity to witness our changing environment from an entirely new vantage point. In our 200,000 years on Earth, humanity has hopelessly upset Mother Nature's delicate balance. Some experts claim that we have less than ten years to change our patterns of consumption and reverse the trend before the damage is irreversible. Produced to inspire action and encourage thoughtful debate, Home poses the prospect that unless we act quickly, we risk losing the only home we may ever have.
More here.

Some tips on writing a research paper

Some steps in writing a good paper / article describing your research.

1. Think on the structure of the content and layout of the writing
2. Work on the abstract
3. Work on the introduction
4. Work on the conclusion
5. Work on writing what you did and how you did it, in the rest of the paper

This is how the individual section goes ahead. 

1. Abstract - Why is this problem important? What is the uniqueness of the solution that you are providing to this problem? Why others fail? What is your contribution? What are you going to describe in the paper.

2. Introduction - What context is needed to understand the problem? Why is the problem so much important? What is the solution that you are providing based on this context? What are some important characteristics and contributions of your approach? How is it better than other approaches?

3. How you do it, and what you do it. Description of architecture, components, algorithm, methodologies, work-flows etc.

4. Conclusion - What is the main contribution your solution provides, why this approach important, how this approach benefits, what are some future directions of thought.

Different iterations of paper writing -

1. Generate the entire content of the paper in the structure described above. Get the template Latex file for the paper and start writing in it directly. Keep placeholders for diagrams. When writing a paragraph, the first sentence of the paragraph should be an introductory statement, which gives crux of what the paragraph is about. Then describe the contents of the paragraph around this statement. Write long sentences which convey your thoughts and shorten them in the next review cycles.

State problem first and define the solution later.

2. Check if the paper reads like a story. Give it for a review to your adviser / friend. Ask for feedback. Do this as much as possible to have the final first version of paper.

3. Make corrections in the arrangement of the statements, paragraph structures, the way thoughts are expressed and story is told.

4. Shorten the statements and make them concise to convey the same point. Work on the tense and grammar to remove unnecessary words.

5. Check if some paragraphs do not fit in the story and re-write them,  add new paragraphs. Read the story again.

6. Work on fitting the paper in the given page number format and optimizing space. Lets assume the page restrictions is 4 in size. Start by looking at paragraph ends. Try to remove standalone words which create a new paragraph. Play with latex word rearrangement to rearrange words so that they are placed with minimal space. Replace long words with same meaning short words. Check grammar. Do this for each sentence in the entire paper.

8. Work on abstract, introduction and conclusion again to see if it introduces story line correctly and makes the correct impact. Try to understand what is the central message that your paper gives to the reader. Are you guiding him correctly in his reading process?

9. Once a good content is ready. Give the paper for peer review to couple of people. Remember, new people will have a new perspective to look at the paper and would provide you with critical feedback such as if story line is not clear, if some sentence is not fitting well and needs rephrasing / reordering / restructuring etc. Chose the peers to review in such a manner that some would give a technical feedback whereas the others would provide a language based story feedback. Improve on the feedback.

The central idea of a scientific paper is to convey the novelty of your research. Make sure your paper talks that loud and clear in best way in the abstract, introduction and conclusion section prominently.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Art of Patience ...

Learn the art of patience. 

Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. 

Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success. ~ Brian Adams

A new meaning of Democracy ...

A great quote by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in his article in "Indian Express", on "Mandate for a dream" , about landslide gradual change in the Indian democracy ...

"Democracy will not bring angels to power. But its dignity is something deeper, and altogether more enchanting. It allows for the greatest freedom: the capacity for reinvention. Democracy will give even devils a second chance. In doing so, it tames them, rescues them from their own hubris."