Tuesday, December 29, 2009


First of all, I was sweetly surprised to know about Akhil Bharat Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal (ABVYM) website (http://abvym.org) from yahoo mail group run by Sri Shuvendu Sekhar Mahato. It is true that the majority of ABVYM members are from rural background but there are others ... and it was long overdue. The first day (26.12.2009), I visited the camp Benida (my mentor at Kharagpur unit of ABVYM) who was in bookstall at camp entrance took some time out and introduced me to Arunavada, the website designer. Arunavada is from Kalyani unit of ABVYM and works in a private firm in Kolkata. It is great to see how beautifully he manages his time and dedicates it to nation building activity. He has also started contributing articles in Vivek-Jivan, the mouthpiece of ABVYM. He is also a good orator, discussing how to start, conduct study circles in afternoon session of the camp. No wonder Nabanida (Nabaniharan Mukhopadhyaya, founder secretary) was in all praise of him.

On 26th up journey, I took the route via Balichak. This required an extra rail link. After that, I took the via Makrampur route. Kept cycle in Koushalya More, then 30 min. bus ride to Makrampur and then 45 minute trekker ride to Basantapur Jhareshwar Bani Bhaban, the camp site. The impressive infrastructure was built by a generous donation of a son of the soil who returned after serving in US.

The second day Ranjitda and others forced me to go to Nabanida's room. I was reluctant as he was taking rest after Q&A session. But not only he allowed me inside, kept conversing for more than two hours. I left when Birenda (Birendra Kumar Chakraborty, current secretary) and other senior camp officials entered his room to give them the opportunity to discuss camp issues. Nabanida asked me to give my address and other details. He wanted to keep that in his diary. At that time he kept it in his prayer book 'Stabkusumanjali'. He said many things. One I would like to mention here. He said, a person may have all the qualities but a little bit of ego disturbs everything.

After that, Arnavada introduced me to his deputy a young lad, a lovely boy who is now going to Chennai for an IT sector job. Met Bangalore unit's Raghunath. Swami Tanmayananda (earlier a Mahamndal member) had some desire to visit IITkgp campus but finally said 'No'.

The last day (Note the rejoinder at the end) I visited was yesterday. Ruhidas (a Kharagpur unit member now in Bankura, got a high school job) joined the camp then with prior permission from Birenda. Ruhidas has started one study circle near his school from where 4 are attending camp and has revived the Bankura town unit .. a great worker, nay leader indeed. He and Prabodhda (President, Kharagpur unit) shared some worry with me regarding Kharagpur unit. Salutation to Prabodhda for his great resolve and patience in guiding the young members when other seniors are, serving other units of the district or otherwise. A post annual camp discussion is planned on 17th Jan. as I shall be away to Vijaywada for attending a conference during 6-9th Jan.

Had some wonderful moments with Ranjitda (Balibhara unit), clicked a pic together with Dipakda with Ma Sarada in background. Sukhenduda (Bhogpur unit) was a great host..always eager to feed me something. Prabhatda (Khakurda unit) was too very accommodating. Jagadishda(Naryangarh unit) helped me to catch a bus in a return journey when there was no sight of a trekker and I was somewhat worried. And it was great to see those smiling faces who are putting up a great job year after year ... I wish I could take all the names. Sorely missed Shuvendu, my friend in the camp. Heard that he is in Bangalore, went to China for some job ... How could he miss the camp? This was the place where we used to meet once a year!

The final day took some pics. They can be found in http://picasaweb.google.com/gsaha.iitkgp/AVYMCamp2009#

I am not able to write post on NSSCamp2009 held a month back because I am yet to get pics/feedback from the students who immediately proceeded to vacation. We are going to have a dinner meet on 1st Jan. Shall take up the issue.

Yesterday, in our regular TUE study circle at F-127, Main Building I talked about the camp and today second half 13 of us visited the camp (3 of them faculty members) in two vehicles. It was a wonderful experience of all concerned, to see another side of India rising from the masses (so called ordinary people) without political noise, tv or newspaper coverage. Thirteen of us (3 of them faculty members) went in two vehicles. After visiting some of us opined that we little know about what is India. Often we underestimate so called ordinary people, dhoti clad, poorly dressed. A gathering of thirteen hundred young men for 6 days in a training camp to blossom one's life and dedicate the same to nation building .. is a wonderful sight. We talked to few people. It is astonishing to see the resolve, the disciplined nature, the compassion for fellow being. Almost everybody inquired us, the visitors if we had taken tiffin with the campers ... we had, it was simple but delicious. We saw people coming from different places, mostly villages, small town and from different parts of country. In the short time, met one from as far as Gujrat and he is not a Bengalee visiting home state. The ones we talked to belong to small study circles in respective places and depending on their capacity they take up philanthropic work. But the focus is on building oneself so that every act of one becomes a service and social service is not seen as a separate compartment.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


This I read in an investment magazine which in turn picked it up from somewhere. The message is thought provoking.
One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"
"It was great, Dad".
"Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked.
"Oh yes", said the son.
"So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.
The son answered, "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants to serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."
The boy's father was speechless.
Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad for showing me how poor we are."
Isn't perspective a wonderful thing ?
Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don't have.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fragrance of Independence

Salute to this spirit of independence! Shezad Ibrahimi, a PhD in Urdu from JNU runs a dhaba which on average caters to 100 students a day enjoys 'not having to report to anybody'. His independence reflect in the menu which changes everyday - "Main jo banata hoon, dilchaspi se banata hoon. If I’m not in the mood to make biryani, you’ll not get it here". The surprise does not end here. What one expects as the reaction of the family members for such an unorthodox approach?
His wife, Mona Gupta is on the verge of completing her PhD thesis. She helps Shezad between 'minding kids and research'. Shezad is in all praise of his wife's independent spirit - "Woh apne man ki rani hai, main apne man ka raja hoon".
They are really Royal dictating terms of their own lives. Hat's off to this couple!

A PhD from JNU, he runs a dhaba on campus now

Shreya Roy Chowdhury | TNN Dec. 23, 2009

Shehzad Ibrahimi runs a dhaba at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He also has a PhD in Urdu from the same university. It is not quite the career he had in mind while writing his thesis on the concept of ‘hero’ in Qazi Abdur Sattar’s historical novels. But Shehzad has no regrets being the mamu of Mamu’s Dhaba. “I enjoy not having to report to anybody. Besides, I really enjoy cooking. I am doing fine,” says the 37-year-old from Bihar’s Sheikhpura district.
With lunch hour approaching, he darts about the small kitchen keeping up a lively conversation with his assistants. Shehzad honed his culinary skills at a Nalanda madrasa where he churned out dal-sabzi when the bawarchis took leave. Later, at college in Patna and in JNU, birthday parties became his responsibility as students

came to know of his skills.
Shehzad never had any particular career in mind. After completing his MPhil, he worked as news anchor with a Hyderabad-based Urdu TV channel for nearly two years, quitting when a transfer to Varanasi seemed imminent. By then, he was married with two kids. Thankfully, he had the skills and the confidence needed to run a food joint. Permitted to start a canteen at JNU’s School of Physical Sciences, he wrote his thesis
alongside, submitting it the same year, 2002.
It’s not much use now (“You don’t need a PhD to chop onions”); the Urdu background manifests itself only in the flourishes in his lettering, visible as the day’s menu on the whiteboard and in the tendency to suddenly break into poetry to illustrate a point. He is writing a book — a collection of recipes. “I have all the material,” he says, which means he has tried them out on his customers and they
have approved.
Now established, Shehzad can afford to be temperamental. His mood determines what is on offer. “Main jo banata hoon, dilchaspi se banata hoon. If I’m not in the mood to make biryani, you’ll not get it here,” he declares. The menu changes every day. His chicken bhujiya was a hit, but now the recipe has been archived and can’t be had at Mamu’s for love or money. His relationship with korma too blows hot and cold. The one constant is the Bihari thaali — bhaat, dal, tarkari, chokha and chutney
— for Rs 25.

A hundred people eat here every day, 180 on a good one. Shehzad promises wholesome fare. “It’s a family joint, never been any trouble here,” says Mamu, having earned the moniker when a friend’s nephew visiting JNU shouted ‘mamu-mamu’ from the audience as Shehzad sang on stage. “His classmates started calling me ‘mamu’ and then everyone,” he says. As a ‘senior’ to most of his clientele, he spices things up with easy banter, taking the liberty of yelling when they get impatient.
They also enquire after mami, Mona Gupta, on the verge of completing a thesis on Bali. Between minding the kids and research, Mona helps when she can. “Woh apne man ki rani hai, main apne man ka raja hoon,” he says. Mamu loves his dhaba but doesn’t plan to let JNU be the last stop on his road to culinary greatness. “My wish is to start a big restaurant,” he says.


Monday, December 21, 2009


Many posts are due. NSS camp 2009 had been another great experience. Shall come back with that. Today I found the following article in TOI which is worth noting. The resolve of these school students of age 16 and 17 to 'resist the lure of the log in' may be the beginning of a backlash....or it may be too early to say that. That it is an issue getting noted among the youth is a good sign. Rest is in the article.

Teens ‘defriend’ to deal with online obsession

Katie Hafner

Facebook, the popular networking site, has 350 million members worldwide who, collectively, spend 10 billion minutes there every day, checking in with friends, writing on people’s electronic walls, clicking through photos and generally keeping pace with the drift of their social world.
Make that 9.9 billion and
change. Recently, Halley Lamberson, 17, and Monica Reed, 16, juniors at San Francisco University High School, made a pact to help each other resist the lure of the login. Their status might as well now read, “I can’t be bothered.”
“We decided we spent way too much time obsessing over Facebook and it would be better if we took a break from it,” Halley said. By mutual agreement, the two friends
now allow themselves to log on to Facebook on the first Saturday of every month — and only on that day.
The two are among the many teenagers, especially girls, who are recognizing the huge distraction Facebook presents — the hours it consumes every day, to say noth
ing of the toll it takes during finals and college applications,
according to parents, teachers and the students
Some teenagers, like Monica and Halley, form a support group to enforce their Facebook hiatus. Others deactivate their accounts. Still others ask someone they trust to change their password
and keep control of it until they feel ready to have it back.
Facebook will not reveal how many users have deactivated service, but Kimberly Young, a psychologist who is the director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pennsylvania, said she had spoken with dozens of teenagers trying to break the Facebook habit. “It’s like any other addiction,” Young said. “It’s hard to wean yourself.” NYT NEWS SERVICE

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Comment

Published in TOI today.
Bar on docs from accepting freebies soon


Kolkata: The Centre will soon ban doctors from accepting gifts and other freebies, including foreign trips, from pharmaceutical companies, by amending the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Sunday. He was speaking at the West Bengal Medical Convention organized by the Nationalistic Doctors’ Forum.
“Pharmaceutical companies send doctors on foreign trips and load them with gifts. So, instead of giving normal free medicines and some that are cheaper, the doctors prescribe medicines to please
these companies whose hospitality and patronage they enjoy. This is not a healthy practice. However, there is no law at the moment to prohibit the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors. We are going to ban this soon,” Azad said.
Only a couple of days ago, the Medical Council of India had written to the Union health and family welfare ministry seeking an amendment to the IMC Regulations to prohibit doctors from accepting gifts from pharmaceutical or allied healthcare firms.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


The following article published in TOI today needs attention. The other day another article came where a 'beggar' family owning a two storied house in Bhubaneshwar earns greater than Rs.25000 p.m. by beggging - the male member complaining that his wife has became lazy, else they could have earned more. They also lend money to traders. I also heard that there are begging syndicates which auction train, foot path etc. and other beggars are not allowed there. Today's article also says "begging is a punishable offence." Are we serious? Also, how to seek help when somebody is in distress and considers begging as the only option? Can the local youth organizations create a helpdesk and look at the merit of each case and act as a facilitator? They may approach local councillor, block development officer etc. - act as an interface between the needy and the Government. How to put a system in place?
Nanny sedates baby, rents out to beggars in B’lore
TIMES NEWS NETWORK Bangalore: This would beggar belief. As soon as the parents would kiss their little one goodbye, the nanny would feed him and get him ready for the day — not one full of fun and frolic, but for begging on the streets of Bangalore. Instead of giving milk to the baby, she would feed him sedatives; instead of nice warm clothes his parents had picked, she would dress him up in rags. That’s not all. She would hand the baby to beggars for Rs 100 a day and stay back at her employers’ home, watch soaps and feed herself to her heart’s content. This is the chilling tale of a seven-month-old baby of a working couple, who — relying on their ayah recruited from an employment agency (hence considered safe) — found their child was being abused. The horrifying tale surfaced when the nanny was caught by the child’s mother — she works in an MNC — who returned home early one day. She saw the ayah sitting in front of TV, but the baby was missing. Taken aback, she confronted her, who confessed to renting the child for begging for the past three weeks. The parents realized why their baby was drowsy and inactive in the evenings — he was being sedated every day but for weekends when the couple would be home. Strangely, they have not lodged a police complaint. “The parents want to remain anonymous and don’t want to even talk about it,” a source said. They are reportedly planning to move abroad. It isn’t clear if the incident has forced them to take the step. According to State Children Commission officials, a suo motu case will be filed against the nanny. “We are trying to track the family and get more details of the crime. As begging is a punishable offence, stringent action will be taken against the culprit. The panel will meet on Friday to decide on the course of action.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Hat's off! Short, sweet, sharp. Chetan Bhagat at it again. Let us all look at ourselves at individual and organizational level as mentioned towards the end of the article. It may take time to change at organizational level. Can we make a start at the individual level? Once it becomes a way of life for many of us, it would be easier to change at orgn. level. Hope, nobody puts up a chicken-egg issue here, who would blink first. If this is something good, let me go for it.
From today's Times of India

Where’s My Nobel Prize?
We in India have to acknowledge talent as a source of inspiration, not resentment
Chetan Bhagat
The recent news of a person of Indian origin winning the Nobel prize while based abroad sparked off a series of discussions at home. “Why don’t we win Nobel prizes here?” became the question of the week. The standard points were raised: we don’t have the facilities, too much government interference, the selection process is rigged, the prize committee is racist and, finally, who cares about the Nobel anyway (of course we do, that’s why we discuss it). Like all media stories, this one too will die soon. However, maybe it is time to look at the core issue: why India doesn’t excel on the world stage on a fairly consistent basis. We don’t win a significant number of Olympic medals, we don’t create global brands, our IT industry is essentially a job transfer model but we haven’t created even one Google, Facebook or Twitter. (Of course, there is plenty for Indians to be proud of otherwise, so please don’t jump on me because of my observations.) The real issue comes down to the treatment of talent in our country. So, what is talent? Talent refers to a special ability and aptitude that give people an edge in a particular field. In sport, science, films, business or the arts, people who dominate the world stage all have a gift that makes it easier for them to excel. Of course, along with talent there is preparation, hard work and a certain amount of luck required to achieve success. However, talent is usually a necessary ingredient. Talent is rare, and randomly distributed across the human population, irrespective of pedigree, connections or wealth. Some may call talent an unfair gift. However, it is talent that allows ordinary people to come up in life. Otherwise, rich people would stay rich and poor people poor. Thus, this unfair talent actually makes the world fairer. However, we don’t put talent on the highest pedestal in our country. Talent’s stature is below that of someone with connections, hereditary entitlement, pedigree or even experience. If i were to tell you that an unknown boy from Agra will become the next superstar, versus a star’s son becoming the next star, the latter story is much easier to digest. Even in an IIT, a truly gifted young faculty cannot jump ranks and scales set by the system. And the people designing the system never took talent into account. Even when talent is identified, we are unable to train it, and find it difficult to reward it. It is difficult to say why we have this attitude, but there are many possible reasons. One, talent conflicts with the traditional Indian caste system. Two, Indian cultural values revere the older generation and its experience, and talent zooms past it. Finally, the ‘tall poppies syndrome’, an already existing term used in Australia and UK to “describe a societal phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are criticised or resented because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers”. Ask yourself, have you seen some of this in India? Maybe because so many dreams have been crushed in India, someone else’s success reminds us of our own pain. The US (only as a contrasting example, not recommending we become like them) has an opposite value system. Talent is respected, seen as something to be emulated. That is why they have teenage boy bands and college dropouts who open dotcoms as national icons. We don’t. There are grave negative repercussions for a community that doesn’t respect talent. It leads to a society where connected people do better than people with ability. It leads to a lot of talent being unused, a tremendous waste of a national resource. It causes frustration in the entire new generation as they see people with less capability doing better than them. It also reinforces the old Indian values of fatalism and the helpless-common-man theory. And it means India’s excellent people may not excel worldwide to the extent possible. So what can be done? Well, we definitely can do something – both at the macro organisational level and a micro individual level. At the organisational level, we have to let go of corporate hierarchies and the lifelong promotion ladders of government, particularly in talent-dependent organisations like R&D, companies requiring high innovation or sport. We have to make incentives in line with what attracts talent, as there is a global battle for it. Exceptional talent demands exceptional reward. We have to take away the moral judgement associated with rewarding talent. Just as it is morally okay for a rich man’s son to be rich, a person with talent also deserves to do really well. Change needs to happen amongst us, at the individual level as well. We have to acknowledge that talent exists, and we need to respect it. Frankly, isn’t it better a talented person gets rewarded than a minister’s son? Talent shouldn’t cause resentment, it should become an inspiration. I think the young generation is already on board with that. It needs the older generation’s support to make this change in values. It may be difficult, but it is worth it. Because if we do become a talent-driven country, we will become a more progressive nation, utilise the new generation’s skills properly, become a fairer society and, along the way, win a few Nobel prizes too.

Tax Us

When are we going to see this in India? From today's edition of Times of India ...
Tax us to fight economic crisis: Rich Germans
Berlin: Some rich Germans have launched a petition to call for the resumption of a wealth tax to help the country bounce back from an economic crisis, because, as one said, he had “a lot of money I do not need”. The text, posted on the internet at www.appell-vermoegensabgabe.de, has been signed by more than 40 people who want to convince the government of newly reelected Chancellor Angela Merkel to raise their taxes. For retired doctor Dieter Kelmkuhl, 66, it is time the wealthy came to the aid of their country. He reckons that if the 2.2 million Germans who have personal fortunes of more than $750,000 paid a tax of five percent this year and next, it would provide the state with 100 billion euros. Kelmkuhl got the idea when Berlin stumped up billions of euros to save banks and give the recession-hit economy a boost. “It made me mad to think that we suddenly found all this money for the banks, money that we did not have before for urgent programmes like education and the environment,” the left-of-centre weekly Die Zeit quoted him as saying. The former doctor would like Germany to have its own version of the the US group United for a Fair Economy (UFA), which includes around 700 wealthy US residents, according to the left-of-centre daily Tagesspiegel.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Humanity Hospital

No more excuse, please! I heard this before in one of the guest lecture at IITkgp. The lady, the central character sells vegetables in Sealdah, Kolkata market. Had temendous will and perseverence and of course purity of thought, life. That helped her to collect one rupee a day from other sellers of the market for the dream hospital. The following is from page 2 of Kolkata edition of Times of India.
She sold vegetables and her son grew up at a home for destitute children. But Subhashini Mistry still went on to set up a hospital that treats thousands of patients for free. They just call her Ma — a woman with a mighty heart. Prithvijit Mitra reports
Subhashini Mistry treads gently on the lawn, searching for weeds and undergrowth that she deftly plucks out from under the cycas trees. Bending low, she caresses the petals and waters the potted plants. But every once in a while, she instinctively turns around to take a proud look at a three-storey building overlooking a little patch of green that’s come up in the middle of nowhere. That building is, first, a miracle. A testimony to the 72-year-old widow’s grit, determination and impossible altruism; it’s also a hospital. The name, Humanity Hospital, couldn’t have been more apt. Because healthcare is for free here, along with lots of love and affection. The hospital at Hanspukur, on the southern fringes of Kolkata, was set up 13 years ago by Subhashini and her doctor son Ajoy to ensure that no one in their largely impoverished village went unattended or uncared for. They have found 20 doctors who work for free. “If you hear her story, you too won’t have the heart to ask for pay for work done at the hospital,’’ said a doctor. “This is service like I have never seen before.’’ Subhashini’s story is a staggering account of what human will can achieve, of indomitable spirit, of a rise, phoenix like. It was in 1971, after her husband died — poor, ill, and without any money for treatment — that she vowed no one in her village would end up that way. But the dream was easier dreamt than brought to fruition. “The eldest of my children was seven and the youngest just a year-and-a-half when my husband died,’’ Subhashini said. “We didn’t have money for the doctor’s fees and he died without treatment. That day, I pledged no other woman in my village would go through what I did.” But the journey she embarked on was riddled with hardships and obstacles. She started by collecting vegetables from neighbours and selling them at a local market for a small margin. She saved from whatever little she earned. Her neighbours laughed at her and relatives felt she was out of her mind. “Two of my sons worked in a tea stall. We survived on boiled rice for years. I couldn’t even send them to school,” Subhashini recalled. “I knew my children had to go to school and at least one had to be a doctor, or else my dream would never come true. So, I decided to turn into a proper vegetable vendor, without depending on my neighbours.” Ajoy, the third son, looked the most likely candidate to help fulfil her dream. He was a brilliant student even as he grew up in a children’s home. “My mother could not afford to send me to school. But she wanted us to study seriously, which we did. I was initially not keen on taking up medicine. In fact, I studied chemistry because I felt that was my subject,” said Ajoy, now 47. It left Subhashini disheartened, but she willed herself to fight on — even without a doctor in the family. By then, though, both mother and son had saved up enough to buy a piece of land at Hanspukur. Slowly, neighbours, now beginning to admire her tenacity, contributed generously. “The land for Humanity Hospital was purchased in 1992, and construction began three years later. When the hospital was inaugurated in 1996, it was just a single-storey structure, barely 3,000 sq ft in area. But it came as a ray of hope for people in the Hanspukur-Bankrahat area,” Ajoy said. Ajoy changed track, too, and in 1990, after clearing the joint entrance examination, enrolled at Calcutta Medical College Hospital. He graduated a year before the foundation stone for Humanity Hospital was laid. With 35 beds and 13 departments — including general medicine, gynaecology, paediatrics, eye, surgery, immunology and cardiology — the hospital stands as the lone symbol of optimism in a neglected terrain where treatment was considered a luxury. It caters to more than 10,000 people, and patients travel from farflung villages like Shakharipota, Mahishgot, Kalmikhali, Kakdweep, Kalagacchia, Diamond Harbour, parts of East Midnapore and even Bangladesh. Nobody is refused treatment. And no money is ever asked for. Subhashini and Ajoy spend more than 16 hours at the hospital every day. She struts about the hospital like a protective mother hen, visiting each bed, holding hands and talking to patients. “For us, this is our world. The patients are like my own children,” Subhashini said. Ajoy, on his part, never regrets having chosen to dedicate his life for the cause of the poor. “I don’t know when I started sharing my mother’s vision. But it was pretty early in life,” he said. But there is no end in sight to the struggle that started in 1971. It’s a daily battle to keep the hospital running. Donors and sponsors have lent a helping hand. LIC Golden Jubilee Foundation, for instance, funded the construction of the second floor recently, but it’s never enough. Ajoy said, “At present, we need Rs 64,000 a month to run the hospital. If we have to augment the facilities, we would require Rs 3 lakh. We need more donors and perhaps some patients who can afford to pay basic charges.” On his mother’s suggestion, Ajoy helped 100 villagers get medical insurance, but this number is just a drop in the ocean. “We need more such schemes to make Humanity a bigger institution. But it will always cater to the poor and the neglected. Whatever the cost.’’ No one will doubt Subhashini or her son on this.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Musing 2

In today's Times of India, the interview brings out more of 'Venki' Ramakrishnan. Let's try to understand what he wants to say and imbibe the spirit.
‘A little less nationalistic hero worship please’
— Venki Ramakrishnan
Iam distressed by the reaction to my comment about being deluged by emails from India, and realize I have inadvertently hurt people, for which I apologize. I hope people realize that I have no personal secretary and use my email mainly for work, so finding important communications became very difficult. I want to make it clear that I was delighted to hear from scientific colleagues and students whom I had met personally over the years in India and elsewhere, as well as close friends with whom I had lost touch. Unlike real celebrities like movie stars or people in sports, we scientists generally lead a quiet life, and are not psychologically equipped to handle publicity. So, I found the barrage of emails from people whom I didn’t know or whom I only knew slightly almost 40 years ago (nearly all from Indians) difficult to deal with. People have also taken offence at my comment about nationality being an accident of birth. However, they don’t seem to notice the first part of the sentence: We are all human beings. Accident or not, I remain grateful to all the dedicated teachers I had throughout my years. Others have said I have disowned my roots. Since 2002, I have come almost every year to India. In these visits, I have spent time on institute campuses giving lectures or talking to colleagues and students about their work, and stayed in the campus guest house. I have not spent my time staying in fancy hotels and going sightseeing without them. The people I visited, eg at the ICGEB in Delhi, CCMB in Hyderabad, the University of Madras or the IISc in Bangalore can vouch for this. Finally, at a personal level, although I am westernized, many aspects of culture like a love for classical Indian music or South Indian or Gujarati food are simply a part of me. The best way to take pleasure in someone’s achievement is to take an interest in their work and feel motivated to learn more about science. I remember reading about Gellman’s work as an undergraduate in Baroda, and, when he won the Nobel prize, rushing upstairs to tell my parents. It did not matter to me whether he was Indian or not. In my case, I am lucky to have had a combination of education, opportunities and a great team of co-workers to have made a contribution to an important problem. I am not personally that important. If I hadn’t existed, this work would still have been done. It is the work that is important, and that should be what excites people. Finally, there are many excellent scientists in India and elsewhere who will never win a Nobel prize. But their work is no less interesting and people should find out about what they do. My visits to India confirm that it has great potential and bright young students. A little less nationalistic hero worship will go a long way to fulfil that potential.


Excerpts of an interview of Nobel prize winner 'Venki' Ramakrishnan that has some important messages for all Indian and more specifically for those who are Indian S & T sphere. It appeared in today's edition of The Telegraph.
Ramakrishnan understands why Indians the world over are bathing in his reflected glory but he is keen to use the occasion of an interview with The Telegraph to urge them not to get too jingoistic.
“I don’t think they should make too much of it,” he says. “Fundamentally, it is not important that it was an Indian who did this.”
Now 57, he left India at 19 and lived in the US ....
He focuses on his science but he does have a life outside the lab. “I have lots of personal interests. I love music, I love bicycling and hiking and my wife and I went on a cycling trip in Norfolk last month. ”
He is vegetarian and tries out Gujarati and South Indian dishes when he has friends to dinner. “I like cooking occasionally.”
Will Ramakrishnan’s life now change beyond recognition? “I hope not. I wrote to a Swedish friend of mine, a major figure in the field of science, (and joked) ‘What have you guys done to me?’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry, you will be bothered for a little while and then life will be back to normal’.”
His computer has been clogged by unsolicited emails from Indians.
“I sometimes get the feeling that people in India think of it as some kind of sporting event that their man won but science isn’t like that,” he smiles.
He doesn’t want the Nobel to be seen in narrow, nationalistic terms. “It’s very bad. Science is done for the pursuit of knowledge. It is not done to represent your national team. It has no national boundaries whatsoever. This is the thing that people need to realise.”
He gives the example of his own lab in Cambridge, where he is the 29th Nobel Prize winner in an elite list that includes Crick & Watson, the pair that unlocked the double helix of the DNA. “My own lab has two Chinese, a Malaysian, a Canadian, an American, a German, it has had all sorts of people. And it’s actually fun because people from different countries come together, they have cultural exchanges, they learn more about each others’ countries and way of life. Science is a great international mixer, so the idea that it is a sort of cricket match where our team won — that simply is a wrong way of looking at scientific discovery.”
To be sure, he hopes the cause of science has received a boost. “It’s an absolutely good thing. I can think of one even better thing for young people, especially in India. It shows them you can study in India, get your basic education in India and you can (then) do whatever you want after that. That’s a very important message.”
He says: “Indians tend to be a little insecure and they should stop being insecure — I have visited India many times and I can tell you questions I get after my talks are as perceptive as anywhere else in the world, including places like Harvard or MIT. It’s perfectly fine to take pride that someone from their region has used their background and succeeded. That gives them a positive message that they can do anything that they want.”
He argues that “if India had 50 Nobel Prizes, they wouldn’t bother. For instance, in the US I was interviewed on the day of the Nobel Prize, it went into the major papers, news media and then they said, ‘Fine, another year when a few Americans have won Nobel prizes’, that was it. They did not have this almost exaggerated reaction. That comes from a sort of feeling of insecurity about their (India’s) standing in the world. But India is not the same as it was 50 years ago.”
He stresses: “Now many excellent scientists in India are doing really first rate work and it should not matter when the next Indian Nobel Prize is because they are doing very good work — that is what matters and the more you have this infrastructure, with good scientists within India, eventually someone will get a Nobel Prize for work done within India.”
He gives examples. “There are already people who are world class in India, for example C.N.R. Rao (who has worked mainly in solid-state and structural chemistry). He is an example of how you can do first rate international work within India. So I would say to Indians — you have it within you to do this (in India).”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The following are excerpts (from Times of India, today's edition) of an interview of Peter McLaughlin who took over as the headmaster of the Doon School in July 2009. He was a lecturer in modern history at the then University of Rhodesia, a post-doctoral research fellow at London School of Economics and, from 1983, a teacher, housemaster and headmaster in several British public and international schools. I wish, all of us connected to academics - the students, the teachers, the guardians take his words seriously, as a service to ourselves if not anything else.
What is the role of education?
The role of education is to ensure that children become lifelong learners. Today, a narrow and stifling academic curriculum in most countries has led students to disengage themselves from the
testing regime of the education system. Students are no longer intellectually robust. We need to create a critical mass of thinkers. True learning often takes place outside the classroom. I, therefore, encourage my students to excel in sports, arts, also recently we launched the Model UN, and so on.

What is your vision for the Doon School?
It is to create thinking individuals. I would request parents to come to us only if they want to develop their child’s character and creativity. On the way, we will also help the child to get decent grades. It is important to remember that your life is not over if your academic scores are not high.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Youth of India

How much I believe the following! It is wonderful to listen to Mukesh Ambani's voice which is plain and simple. The Q & A is published in today's edition of Economic Times. To a sceptic I would like to say, if you see something different around you it is primarily because (i) we seniors have not empowered them properly with right education, values... in our own pursuit of selfishness and (ii) they are kind of defocussed, distracted by the environment they were raised from early childhood (the negative thoughts, vibes). If someone can do it, it is the youth of India ... once they lay their focus on personal and social malady ... waiting for that sunshine day.

Now the excerpt.
You mentioned recently that India is not a land of a million problems but a land of million opportunities. What kind of opportunity would you like your children to pursue when they get into business?
Well more than my own children I’m amazed when I see the commitment levels in young Indians (which) is the real strength of India. I think as a country we have to empower them, to unleash their energies on problems.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I was listening to a vivid panel discussion on Nobel prize and contribution of Indian or India born scientist. One veteran panelist, Pathik Guha narrated Subrahmanyan Chandresekhar's view on Indian Science from his biography written by Kameswar Rao.

Chandrasekhar opines that in pre-1930 days, there was a tremendous urge from the Indian Science community to deliver the best, to show the world that they though subjugated by British were also at par. And it bore fruit. Many of us drew the attention of the world. Post 1930, he observes, something strange happend and the downfall began. What was that? The seniors tried to cling to their position and the junior, younger scientists were not encouraged or allowed to grow!

Strong views. I looked for the biography on the web. Instead, I got some other. Let me put few lines from http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/apr252000/generalia.pdf
Chandra kept himself informed of what was happening in Indian science and was surprisingly well aware of the political scene – science politics that is. Although he was totally uninvolved in all this, he was ready to deal with administrators in order to help the deserving. Cases such as that of Smt. Janaki Ammal, wife of Ramanujan, may be well known. But there are many other obscure cases in which Chandra went out of his way to meet heads of institutions to make his recommendations. His efforts were not always rewarded nor were they universally appreciated. At least in one instance when he tried to recommend a scientist for promotion that was long overdue, he was told in no unequivocal terms that as a foreigner, he had no idea of how the Indian science machinery worked and was asked not to interfere. This hurt Chandra deeply. All the same, he did not stop helping others.
So, what Pathik Guha says may not be off the mark. Hope, it is corrected to a great extent or in the process of being corrected. Further quotes from this biography.
I met Chandra again in 1993 at his brother Balakrishnan’s house where he was staying on a private visit. We sat in the verandah watching the little garden. It was late afternoon, bright sunlight playing upon the flowers. As the day wore on, light faded and shadows lengthened. Chandra asked me to move closer to him so he could hear better. He looked tired. But, as usual, he asked me in detail about my research. Then he went on to discuss a composite picture of what he had done in recent years. He was satisfied that his work on Principia was progressing well. Then came Indian science – research institutions, universities. A short pause. He looked up with a tinge of melancholy and said, ‘You know the worst thing one could do to science? Use it for self promotion.... It is sad that people think I cannot see what is happening. For instance...’. His voice trailed off as he closed his eyes. ‘Another time, perhaps...’ he added in a whisper. Depression seemed to be coming on. It was time to change the subject. I started talking about science education, the need to communicate science in the proper manner, creating opportunities for the young, conveying the excitement of new developments through interaction with practising scientists. Chandra opened his eyes. He was alert now. ‘When you were a student, you met Sommerfeld,’ I said, ‘wasn’t that an important occasion?’ According to Kameshwar Wali, Chandra described this meeting as ‘the single most important’ event in his early life which launched him on a research career. Chandra sat up. His keen, piercing eyes were sparkling now. He said with emphasis, ‘Yes, indeed’. He kept nodding as I continued. ‘But how many students could have the good fortune of meeting someone like Sommerfeld? And how many would be prepared, as you were, to make use of such an opportunity? Yet, if we create the proper atmosphere and facilities, some motivated children may grow into good scientists, even great ones. Maybe, we will have another Chandra, who knows’. He looked at me wistfully, apparently moved, and asked, ‘Are you going to do that?’ ‘I would like to try,’ I replied. ‘If you do that,’ Chandra said, ‘I should like to come and see it’.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Proud Father

From rediff.com, today's edition, titled 'Nobel winner does not own a car, cycles to work'

"When the Secretary of the Nobel Committee called my son in London [ Images ], he said 'you must be kidding with me and trying to fool me," his father said.

The reason Venky thought so, the father explained, was that during this season when Nobel Laureates are selected, a lot of their friends make prank calls speaking in Swedish accent and trying to fool people.

"My son did not believe what he heard from the secretary until he spoke to the chairman of the Nobel Committee," he said. Nor did he.

The senior Venkatraman got phone calls from local news papers 'wanting to talk to his son who has got a Nobel Prize' late at night without knowing that the latter does not live in Seattle.

But he did not believe any of then until he asked them 'hundreds of questions' and was fully satisfied that his son actually got the Nobel Prize.

"A few hours later when Venky called his father to give him the good news, the senior told him that there was 'no excitement ' as he has already come to know about it.

"My son, who did not want to wake me up in the middle of the night, just laughed," he said.

The father described his son as well his daughter Lalita Ramakrishna, a professor at the Infectious Diseases Center at the University of Seattle Medical Center, who is more into research than medical practice as people leading a simple and ordinary life.

He said Venky does not own a car and goes to work in bicycle. "He keeps a low profile. He is very helpful to people, especially young people, and will help them whether in terms of giving advice for their studies and above all he is very friendly with people," he said.

"He always keeps a very low profile and that is how he has been since he was a child," he said.

Has his Nobel laureate son done anything apart from being steeped into research?

The father said that Venky and his sister have been avid bicyclers and love trekking.

"Venky would go up to 25 miles bicycling. He is very interested in nature. So is his sister," he said.

Both Venky and his sister, according to the father, have a benevolent streak. They both donate money to UNICEF, Ramakrishna Mission, of which their parents are great followers and to Doctors without Borders. Then he spills a secret.

"I do not think he is a very spiritually oriented person," he said in response to a question in the context of his son's philanthropy. "He just likes to help people."


Guess what I am thinking!


Interaction through telepathy possible

Washington: Researchers from the University of Southampton have shown that people can communicate with each other through the power of thought alone.
Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) can be used for capturing brain signals and translating them into commands that allow humans to control devices like computers, robots, rehabilitation technology, and virtual reality environments just by thinking about various actions.
Dr Christopher James, from the University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, took the experiment a step further in the current study. The researchers aimed to expand the current limits of this technology, and show that brain-to-brain (B2B) communication is possible.
“Whilst BCI is no longer a new thing and person to person communication via the
nervous system was shown previously in work by professor Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading, here we show, for the first time, true brain to brain interfacing.
In his experiment, one person used BCI to transmit thoughts, translated as a series of binary digits, over the internet to another person whose computer receives the digits and transmits them to the sec
ond user’s brain through flashing an LED lamp.
While attached to an EEG amplifier, the first person would generate and transmit a series of binary digits, imagining moving their left arm for zero and their right arm for one. The second person was also attached to an EEG amplifier and their PC would pick up the stream of binary digits and flash an LED lamp at two different frequencies, one for zero and the other one for one.
Although the pattern of the flashing LEDS is too subtle to be picked by the second person, but it is picked up by electrodes measuring the visual cortex of the recipient. The encoded information is then extracted from the brain activity of the second user and the PC can decipher whether a zero or a one was transmitted. The experiment, thus, showed true brain-to-brain activity. ANI

Monday, September 14, 2009


As I read the Kolkata edition of TOI this morning, two articles in the same page appear to be far from ordinary, yet can be considered very close to our heart.

In one interview, Lisa Ray on being detected cancer remarks, "Life drags down and that is good". She continues, " I suspected something was wrong with my health but we always push ourselves, don’t we? That has been a big lesson. I was relieved rather than hugely distressed to hear I had cancer..... I have been running around the globe for the last few years and neglected my personal needs. This healing is needed at every level. I plan to ..... live passionately and truthfully — laughing when needed but also acknowledging the pain.". It appears that the thought of dying makes huge difference. Death is evitable. Yet we don't want to acknowledge it. How about rebooting ourselves and make a restart to our life and enjoy it at its fullest, make the best of it?

The other article is titled 'At Madrassas Hindu students make a mark'. One needs to dig deeper into the article to find that there is more than breaking of boundaries like Hindu-Muslim. I am talking about gender divide and the way we treat girl child and their education aspiration. The article says "This year, Muslim girls both outnumbered and outshone boys in madarsa exam in Fauqania (equivalent to matric) and Wastania (equivalent to middle). ‘‘That more girls are joining madarsa and pursuing education is encouraging,’’ Ahmad said. He said enrolment of Muslim girls in all districts, including Muslim-dominated Kishangunj district, which has the lowest literacy among women, has increased."

I see a healing touch to some of our wounds at personal and soceital space.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Great Time

Having a great time. The feast is on - the spiritual one!

Yesterday evening I was sweetly surprised when two students came to our residence with Prasad after a Bhagabat study. The day before yesterday another two students from the same group came to invite us for this program. How much I like that the students are taking interests in studies like this! It was to be held from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Prof. - Rao's residence. By that time my Saturday evening was already planned. I said that I would try, if possible else next time.

Yesterday afternoon as already discussed in Vivekananda Study Circle's TUE meet (and group mails), we assembled at IIT Prembazar gate at 5:00 p.m. Then we cycled towards a nearby Lodha settlement ina village named Soladahar. Lodhas are one of the most bacward tribes in this part of the country. There is a primary school in that village that teaches up to Class IV. There is none there who has passed Class X (even after 60 years of independence) board exam. Met one young school drop out of class VIII. There are 6-7 students who are still continuing study in class V to VII in a high school situated at another village. The village head and the elders (that included lady members) showed lots of interest, enthusiasm when we proposed to assist them in children education. We met one boy and a girl from this V-VII group who too appeared quite interested and serious. The villagers said that earlier NSS volunteers used to visit on Saturday and Sunday and interact with primary school students. That inspired the students a lot.

We plan to start an activity with some long term targets in the village. On our way back we discussed few models. We shall visit again to talk to their primary school teachers and make another survey on financial condition of the villagers. The children education program is to start after Durga Puja.

Besides TUE study circle, on every WED institute lecture is being held at Kalidas auditorium (5:00-7:00 p.m.) where Ramakrishna Mission monks are discussing Gita as a part of lecture series on Indian heritage. I saw a notice in gmail that IIT Tech. Club is organizing a spiritual discourse where a monk from Kriyayog order will deliver talk. And now I learn that there is this monthly Bhagabat study where too students and Prof.s assemble and study together.

Friday, September 11, 2009


It was interesting to read following articles in New Scientist - our limit of capabilities.
In today's edition it also reports that the air borne LASER to shoot down missiles are ready for field trial. Ready for star wars!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Super 30

Today I was watching super 30 story in youtube.
It is so inspiring! My salute to the team.

Time index 7:17 minute to 10.07 minute of the second video
under 'special' shows what usually go unnoticed in our
development process. It will be great if this gets included in
Super 30 coaching what one of the founder, Mr. Abhayananda
noticed and referred to.

Hard Work


The story of Patwatoli village in Gaya district also encouraging.
My gratitude to all those who made it possible.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


YSR's death is shocking! I wish to comment on a small piece of news that may go unnoticed. Thirty YSR fans in AP died, out of shock or committing suicide on hearing the news (TOI report, pasted below). And these are common people. And even after such a negative portrayal of politicians. Hero worship is in India's DNA. There are temples in the name of Sachin, Mahi, Amitabh, etc. We can debate whether it is good or bad, whether it should be changed or can be changed, how long that will take etc.. A better approach could be to channelize this emotion positively by springing up heros who think about them, care for them, live for them. The IITians, the natural leaders are the heros before the society. Can we live up to the expectation?
30 YSR fans die of shock
TNN 4 September 2009, 04:48am IST
HYDERABAD: Shell-shocked by the sudden demise of their beloved leader Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, 30 people died in different parts of the state on Thursday.

In East Godavari, nine people died, while former minister Jakkampudi Ramamohan Rao fainted on hearing the news. Seven died of heart attack and shock, while two hanged themselves unable to bear the grief. According to district police, N Yesubabu, 20, of Narendrapuram in Rajanagaram mandal and Achanta Ramakrishna, 48, of Nagaram in Mamidikuduru mandal committed suicide.

The heart attack victims were: Yerravarapu Raji, 40, a barber shop owner, in Mangaturthi village in Pithapuram mandal, Bonam Tulasiveni, 56, of K Yenugupalli village in Gannavaram mandal, Ramayanam Radhakrishna, 62, a panshop owner at Masjid Centre in Kakinada, Ch Satyanarayana, 45, of Telugodupalem in Tallarevu mandal, Anaparthi Sriramulu, 50, Marnidi Venkannadora, 50, of Tuni and Pothula Tirupati Reddy, 70, of Bikkaolu mandal.

B Padma, 44, a Rajiv Arogyasri beneficiary and a daily-wager from Vanamalla in Punganur of Chittoor, collapsed on hearing the news of YSR's death at 10 am and died. Parvathamma, 22, from Kummaragunta village in Punganur mandal died of shock. An ardent fan of YSR and TV shop owner, N Raja Reddy, 52, died of cardiac arrest at Pileru as soon as he saw the news of YSR's death on the TV. The people around him tried to resuscitate him, but he died a hospital, a relative said.

Monday, August 24, 2009


The letter of IITkgp Teacher's Association President published in IITkgp student mouthpiece titled - Letter from President, IIITTA:"Save IIT System" and associated comments can be found at

200 IIT-B profs take leave, march for higher pay hike

Express News Service

Posted: Aug 25, 2009 at 0141 hrs IST
IIT-M faculty members protest over new pay scales (over 150 faculty members abstaining)

The statistics says that not everybody was in favour of boycotting the class. Even at IITkgp, while every faculty member is aggreived, the mode of protest, the 'boycotting of class' was not acceptable to a section of faculty members inspite of persuations from the other sections (some felt as intimidation, too). They prefer other modes of protests which are not disruptive. There was enough attempt though to make a hero out of people who boycotted the class and villain out of the ones who did not through passages like (which came out in open):
"Casual Leave on the 21st August should see no classes and no laboratories at IIT Kharagpur.
Please do not ask the question: what have the others done? You do it first. Note down the names of those who did not cooperate. When the obituary of IIT system would be written, at least you can get the solace from the fact that you did whatever was asked of you."
Read the line "Note down the names" of those who did not boycott class. There is a veiled threat.
"It should be enough for us if we could prove to ourselves that we, the IIT faculty, are not dead dogs who do not react however hard we are kicked on the back."
The sarcasm : "
Some faculty members have called me up to inform that some have "Freshers' Intro" at 5 PM. Some have "extra class". Some have "project defence". So, they cannot come. After all, we are famous IIT faculty, known for our commitment and dedication."
Unless we wake up from slumber and shake off our pseudo-elitism, probably, the time has come for all of us to write an obituary to the hallowed IIT system."
There are many such instances.

Personally speaking, I am horrified by the commanding tone in these open messages. As if, we now have two bosses at work place. One, the administrative one, Director via HOD. The other is the Teacher's Association. If they are in conflict, whom to obey? What does my service rule say? Can I not participate in a mode of protest that is not in conflict with my service rule?

I have participated in black badge protest held before. Boycotting classes is above my threshold. I took class as usual though there was lot of pressure not to do that. I respect their view as much as they respect mine or the other section who did not boycott and that number is significant in IITkgp as well as other IITs as the news report says.

Finally, I am much more disturbed by the conflict over the mode of protest than the cause of it, the division in rank and file because of it. I don't feel that not-so-high pay rise will affect the IIT System that much. But if others feel so, I value their opinion. When I took the job of an IIT faculty, salary was never an issue. It is not even today. As long as I get a good, peaceful work environment here, I care the least for the salary. What I get is sufficient for my family and the philanthropic activities I am engaged in. Also, IIT offers me other approved means of earnings by offering professional services which though irregular is substantial to me.

The following to a great extent echoes my sentiment.
From NDTV.com, a report by
Manu Sharma, Thursday August 27, 2009, New Delhi

"Dr Sandeep Sen studied at IIT Kharagpur, went to Duke University in the US for his doctorate, but despite many lucrative offers, chose to come back to his alma-mater to teach two decades ago.

Now, as the faculty demands a pay hike, Sen says for him it was never about the money. What has upset him is people questioning the credibility of the faculty.

"They say there is no great research at IIT. I agree we could have done better, but at least acknowledge the good work. It is not about a few thousand rupees, it is about the recognition that comes, a kind of medal given for good work," says Dr Sen, who is heads electronic engineering at IIT Delhi.

Dr Sourav Bansal, Sen's student and with a Phd from Stanford, could have his pick of jobs abroad. But like his mentor, he too came back to contribute to excellence in teaching.

Dr Bansal, who is an assistant professor of electronics at IIT says: "when I came for the interview I was told money would be very less, but I remembered the environment and wanted to come back. Be a leader in our technical revolution. And when we see that professors have to ask for this, it's not fair."

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It is wonderful to go through views of people who have attained some amount of success in life...and business leaders are no exceptions.

Long back I read what the leader of HCL Technologies had to say. It was a turn around story. The success mantra was (i) Focus (ii) Lead and (iii) Dominate. I wrote these three words in my office room blackboard to be constantly remided of. Yes, that was the time I found myself cornered, facing resistances from unexpected quarters and resolved to reinvent myself.

Today I read the interview of Anand Mahindra in Economic Times. The four success mantra for his company, in his own words are :

"There are four mantras. Essentially, they have to do with businesses that are global or have global potential; businesses that have innovation as a measurable plank; certainly we also want to be leaders, preferably one or two in all the businesses in which we compete. Finally, the fourth mantra is financial — they have to do with free cash flow and return on capital employed. "

I also liked the other part of the interview where he talked about meritocracy in his organization. And he has no plan to put his siblings on top. This is a story on how a person joined M&M. One should also not miss the wisdom of the father in the story and how he advises his son.

"There’s a wonderful story that I always share in all the management gatherings. It’s about Bharat Doshi, our CFO. Many years ago, as a gold medalist accountant Bharat had to chose a job. He got two offers. One was from a Gujarati-owned company and another from M&M. He went to his father and asked him. His father said, ‘Get me the annual reports’. When he got the annual reports, his father looked at them and said ‘Choose M&M’.
And when Bharat Doshi asked why, he said, ‘Look, the Gujarati company has Patel & Patel, Shah & Shah. And M&M had an Ali Mohammed, a Pitambar, a D’Souza. There were a whole variety of people from across the country and he apparently told Bharat, ‘If you choose this company and you get to the top it will be because of your merit and not because of where you come from in this country.’ That’s an incredible legacy. And I think I’d have failed if I didn’t maintain that legacy. I’d like to think that it’s still maintained."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Swine Flu

Last THU I had to travel to Mumbai for a project meeting. Family members were not happy. Pune is the hot spot of Swine Flu. My mother's first air travel to a relative's place in Pune is cancelled. Mumbai is not too far. And it is also in news. However, this was an important meeting and few other from IITkgp were also travelling.

At IIT Bombay, we did not see any panic. Neither the people on the street or airport appeared perturbed. The life seemed to be all normal.

This morning I read an interesting article on this written by none other than Swaminathan S A Aiyar (Times of India), one of my favourites, mostly for his contrarian view of life. He says, I quote -
"Swine flu has killed 21Indians so far, and may soon claim hundreds, even thousands. That is a tragedy. Even so, swine flu remains a very minor cause of death, far behind other diseases that kill millions. The panic generated by the media is unwarranted, and is worsening health outcomes. "
He is armed with statistics.
"(In India) we find that 1.37 million people die annually of respiratory diseases and infections, 7,20,000 of diarrhea, and 5,40,000 of tuberculosis. These are staggering numbers. They imply that on an average day, 3,753 people die of respiratory diseases and infections, 1,973 of diarrhea, and 1,479 of tuberculosis."
Did we know that or cared to know? This was from a 2001-2003 report by Registrar General. Why media does not take note of it? Swami has a major point when he says -
"Seen in this light, 20-odd swine flu deaths are almost laughably trivial. I do not laugh, because every death is a tragedy. But i am infinitely sadder for the millions whose plight has been swept out of public view, and is actually being worsened by upper-class panic.
Make no mistake, swine flu panic is substantially an upper class worry. Why do the media overflow with news of swine flu while ignoring other diseases that kill thousands every day? Because those everyday diseases are the problems of the poorer half of India, and the media target the upper half. Some upper class folk do get asthma or TB, but they are quickly treated and rarely die of these diseases. The millions who die come from the bottom half, lacking access to doctors and medicines. They die so regularly in millions that their deaths are no longer considered news. "
Swami may appear harsh but let us not miss the sympathy in his tone for those people who do not get it and need it more than others.
"Then along comes swine flu. It is a new disease, and that itself commands media attention. The richer half is terrified that not even its money and access to doctors provides safety. As a disease carried by air travellers, swine flu is a quintessential elite concern. Elite panic soon spreads to lower rungs of society, as the media project a new apocalypse. This is true across the world. Globally, swine flu has infected 1,77,000 people and killed 1,126. The numbers are trivial compared with deaths from malaria, respiratory disease or diarrhea. Yet, the global media focus on swine flu. "

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Convocation : Part 2

Yesterday IITKGP and IITD had their convocation. Excerpts from convocation speeches are presented here. Hope, people take note of these. A much less important but satisfying personal experience is related to this year's convocation.
My name as a student of IITKGP was called before during convocation. In this convocation, I was sweetly surprised when Director in his address mentioned my name. He read out a list of faculty members who got national level awards in last one year. I was watching the convocation with family from home on local cable TV network. The auditorum is too small to accommodate all. The family felt very proud. Later, during the convocation lunch, one senior professor from our Dept. expressed happiness and told that this made the Dept. proud. I think, it is sweeter than the award itself - that it is being enjoyed by all!

Sibal raises bar for tech trophies

New Delhi, Aug. 8: The IITs must transform themselves into creators of knowledge rather than focus on undergraduate teaching, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said today, issuing a thinly veiled challenge to the apex engineering schools.

Addressing the IIT Delhi convocation today, the minister also questioned the absence of “passion” to generate new knowledge among IIT students once they clear the entrance examination to the institutes.

“Students come here after clearing one of the toughest examinations but then seem to lose their passion for creating new knowledge,” Sibal said, addressing graduating students, their parents and faculty at IIT Delhi.

The minister called the IITs one of the country’s top technical education institutions but pointed out that the institutes faced fresh challenges as “expectations from you have grown”.

“Very often, I am asked by people: ‘Oh, what’s so great about the IITs? Have they produced any Nobel laureates?’” the minister said.

In defence of the IITs, Sibal said they were producing more research than many other Indian higher educational institutions.

“But the best research universities in the world have been able to break out of a chain of undergraduate teaching and become creators of knowledge, in turn attracting the best brains to join them,” the minister said. “And we need that from the IITs if we are to catch up with the West in terms of research,” he added.

IIT's surprise convocation package India's moon man

It wasn't on the invitation card (no reporter claimed to know this), but Isro chief G Madhavan Nair dropped in to collect the institute's highest honour, Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa).

"I'm honoured," Nair said, while the applause at the mere mention of Chandrayaan said it all. The Isro chief invited IIT grads and Gen-Y with open arms: "If you aren't afraid of hard work and have vision, Isro is the place for you."

Presiding over the occasion where 1862 students received their degrees Tata Steel MD B Muthuraman, who's also the chairman of IIT-Kgp's board of governors, stressed on the long-term benefits of living within one's means. "You must be a part of a new, evolving India," he advised the fresh IIT alumni.

For executive director of Tata Sons, R Gopalakrishnan, it was a homecoming of sorts. "I'm a father, a son and a brother here depending on whom I'm talking to. I was here 45 years ago. It's tough to be an IITian, tougher to an IIT alumnus, and toughest to be the chief guest," he said to loud cheers.

IIT director Damodar Acharya opened up with a range of expansion plans and long-term goals. "We are aiming for 11,000 students by 2011. If the government permits, we intend to eventually take in 20,000 students. This year, we had 228 PhD students, which is a record of sorts. As of now, we have about 15% PhD students. We aim to make it at least double," the director said.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The following came in today's edition of DNA. The context was IIT Bombay convocation and Delhi Metro Rail mishap. I wish students/people take convocation speeches more seriously than appropriate sound bytes that are appropriate to the occassion. I had a chat session yesterday afternoon with few outgoing students (Bibh..., Anim...., Pawa...) who gathered here for convocation (being held today at IITkgp). They are on their way to do PhD in US universities and asked for suggestions, issues related to research. Then like all previous batches of students, I urged them to come back to India and participate in the nation building process. The discussion invariably led to value based education, peer pressure in making decision, leading life in others terms etc. They wished to be made aware of these when they entered IIT. I am happy that Vivekananda Study Circle (http://vsc.iitkgp.googlepages.com) is organizing a meet on 10th Aug. at S. N. Bose Auditorium as the new session begins. Students like Tapo..., Sum.. are taking lead there. Wish them all the success.

Now the DNA article :

'IITians should look beyond short-term gains'

Mumbai: "Should we not educate and warn engineers and scientists coming out of IIT Bombay that professional ethics and values should not be compromised for short-term business advantage?"
This was the question put forth by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation managing director E Shreedharan at the institute's 47th Convocation. He suggested that IIT Bombay should incorporate ethics and national values as part of the students' training.

"I am making this suggestion based on my long professional experience, particularly in the context of the tragic accident that took place in Delhi Metro on July 12th when a cantilever pier under load collapsed causing death of seven workers and injuring 16," said Shreedharan. He said that a high-level committee concluded that the collapse was due to serious design deficiency.

"The structure was designed by a well-known structural consultancy company and was being constructed by one of the best known civil contractors of India. The design of a cantilever pier is not a complex exercise. It was lack of professional ethics that led to the deficient design," he said.

Shreedharan told the students that achievements could not be sustainable unless they are built on ethics and values. He further urged students to give back to the country.
"The country invests Rs20 lakh yearly on each student graduating out of this institute. It's your duty to pay back to the nation at least 10 times what you've got from IIT Bombay," he said.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Holy August

This is the August, the holy month for every Indian.
We became free as a country.
The journey since 1947 was full of toddler's steps.
We had many falls.
More important is the fact that we stood up and marched ahead.
A lot of work remains.
The best way to pay tribute to the martyrs of freedom struggle,
the sacrifice made by millions
is to live up to their expectations, to fullfill their dream.

Some inspiring videos from post 1947 Indians (triggered by Pinki's orkut update)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No flame, please

I found the BBC News article titled 'India's Faltering Education System' dated 18th Aug., 2006 quite interesting. The more interesting is the debate in the comment section. It can be found in

The observations of few are given below. It is time to introspect.

I am an Italian American executive recruiter, working for technology companies in the west part of the United States. As a part of my job, I have met quite a good number of Indian software professionals from IITs. Most of them are quite successful, established and holding c-level positions in big/blue-chip companies. However, none of these people has ever made any contribution to his/her IIT institute endowment. Surprisingly, some of these people actually made contributions to their graduate schools, such as Caltech, Stanford or CMU. On the other hand, I have seen Chinese people making significant contributions to their institutes in the mainland. I have seen same trends here in the US too. For most of Ivys, these endowments are the major source of funds to attract right talents. Sometimes I wonder - do these people really hate their Indian institutes or ashamed of being Indian? Again, I am not an Indian and this is just my personal opinion. So, no flame please.
Bob Copliano, US

If Government institutions cannot attract good researchers, then private research institutions should start doing this. Why are there are not good private universities in India? Lets not forget that schools like Cornell, MIT, Stanford are private schools.
Sathyan Subbiah, USA/India

There is a curious straitjacket in the Indian education system- that good students study engineering and medicine and mediocre students study commerce. Therefore, the cream of the students is forced to study mechanical subjects with little emphasis on original research. Few have the patience to study classical sciences, since all are after quick money. The poorest of the students are forced to study humanities and social sciences, and it is fruitless to expect them to come up with cutting-edge research. No wonder most of the top Indian academics, including Kaushik Basu, are based overseas.
Aruni Mukherjee, India

I am a final year student at IIT Kharagpur . The reasons about the declining number of students who are pursuing research after under graduation can be attributed to the following factors: 1) A job in India for IITians could easily fetch a starting salary of 400,000 rupees plus . However , If one opts to work as a research assistant , or go for PhD , then the stipend one gets is very less . It's like 10,000 rupees per month , whereas if a student goes to US to pursue higher education(read MS/PhD) , he gets $1800 in hand (after taxes) per month . 2) Dearth of quality professors in India . I think the reason for this is the low salary for the professors . At 25,000 rupees ($600) per month , one cant lead a life anywhere near to the kind of lifestyle a highly qualified and brilliant person would like to have . These people would better go abroad and join the US universities , where they get a much better deal. 3) Lack of proper infrastructure: Despite the fact that IITs have produced some great minds , the fact remains that it has to do with the tough entrance procedure . The faculty and infrastructure inside is quite modest by any international standards . There's shortage of water , lavatories stink , mess food is a mess altogether and surroundings are not much hygienic . Why would one like to stay if in every regard the option of doing MS from USA seems a more viable and better option?
Pushkar Prasad, India