Sunday, January 31, 2010


Wow! A must read for all. Appeared in Current Science, Jan. 25, 2010. Reproduced in The Telegraph, India today, Feb. 01, 2010. Excerpts are put here.

How can science be popularised in a country like India?

First, you must have good teachers. As a profession, teaching cannot be the last resort. Also, you have these elite higher education institutions that everybody wants to get into, and so the schools are teaching for that. People take entrance exams to get into a coaching school which prepares you for the next entrance exam. It’s ridiculous. Children have to work all day in school, then they come home, maybe have a quick snack, and they’re off until 9 pm or so in a coaching school. Where is the time to think about science? There should be much less homework, because excess homework kills the imagination. Amartya Sen goes a step further — he says there should be no homework at all, so that they’re free to think, read, pursue hobbies and so on. Sen also says coaching schools should be abolished, as they widen the difference between rich children and poor children. I never went to a coaching school, and I’m perfectly happy.

Do you think entrance exams should be done away with?

If you have a large country, there is bound to be a limited number of seats. There’s also much variation amongst different schools and states. In such a situation, there’s no alternative to entrance exams. But coaching classes must be discouraged... Maybe the exams could be redesigned so that the coaching centres are of no use.

What do you think about interdisciplinary research?

You can never force interdisciplinary research. What you can do is not have barriers against such research. Interdisciplinary research comes when two people who have complementary skills but a common interest come together. For example, a geneticist and a biophysicist may come together. It happens all the time in bioinformatics — people who understand metabolism, or microbiologists who understand microbes, are coming together with mathematicians so they can collaborate. You can’t force such collaboration but only foster it by ensuring there are no barriers.

Do you see any difference in the ways research is done in developing countries and in developed countries?

If you had asked this 20 years ago, I would’ve said there’s a big difference because the amount of resources people had were very different. In my father’s department (at MS University, Baroda), there was only one spectrophotometer and everybody had to use that. Then, it was a big deal to have a UV spectrophotometer. On the other hand, in the West, every lab had spectrophotometers. But all that has changed. When I first went to LMB (MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology at Cambridge, UK), I found it was not very different in terms of equipment. In fact, it was very crowded. There were freezers and centrifuges in the hallways, and so on. Of course, it had almost every equipment you would need, but everything was shared. I think the resource crunch is more of a psychological problem. Indian scientists have to say ‘I’m not going to do boring derivative problems where I’m doing a second or third example of something that’s already been done.’ But I see a lot of that going on in India. And I don’t think that’s going to lead to important breakthroughs.

Pay Back

Can you we all put a little bit of our resources for paying back? It could be our extra time, money, energy depending on where we stand now. A little effort from all of us can do wonder if there is unity of thought and execution. Let news item like this get highlighted and inspire all of us to come forward for our country.

NRI donates Rs 30L to Nadia schools

Ashis Poddar | TNN, Feb 01, 2010

Shantipur: He has spent around 50 years working in Germany and France, but memories of his old village, schools and friends have kept drawing him back to Sutragarh in Shantipur. Now, Rabindranath Banga has donated Rs 30 lakh for the development of two schools in his native village in Nadia.
A three-storey building that has been constructed from his funds and will be used as a high school, was inaugurated on Friday. Another building, which was donated to the local primary school where Banga studied, was constructed in 2005.
Banga passed his matriculation examinations from Sutragarh MN High School in 1949 and passed BSc in 1953. He joined his school as a teacher and served for a year before clearing the SSC exams and joining the State Education Department, where he served for around five years.

In 1959, Banga left for Germany. “I went to Wetzlar and started working at a steel-smelting factory. When I saved some money, I applied to Berlin University and studied metallurgy there with a stipend. I got the diploma in 1969,” he said.
Banga earned his PhD from the same university in 1974 following which he joined Siemens as a quality control officer in one of its atomic reactor projects in Frankfurt. He enjoys a dual citizenship of both France and Germany and has stayed mostly in France.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


If the previous news item shamed, this is the one from another 'student' that keeps our heads high. Karekar passed Class X examination in 44th attempt. But what he says may not have been learnt by many of us, the so-called learned. "I was never worried and never felt insulted despite failing the exam without fail. I only knew that I had to fight again and again till I succeeded." “Even my mother was fed up with my continuous failures but at least she would not ridicule me. On the contrary, she did all she could to encourage me,’’ he said, adding that other parents should follow his mother’s example.

Never-say-die peon clears SSC at 44th try

Mateen Hafeez | TNN Jan. 20, 2010

Mumbai: A peon with the Mumbai railway commissionerate has a lesson or two for those citizens for whom one failure is enough to push them over the brink. Prakash Karekar, who is 50 years old and has completed 29 years of life as a peon, has passed his Class X examination in—believe it or not — his 44th attempt, and knows much more about failure, he says, than any other Mumbaikar.
“Look at me. The first time I appeared for the examination was in 1977 and I finally passed it in 2003,’’ Karekar told TOI on Tuesday. The eternal optimist, who now has his sights set on a promotion and a new life as a clerk, could serve as a role model for suicidal youngsters whose ranks are growing alarmingly. In the last three months, over a hundred students have committed suicide across Maharashtra, prompting much soul-searching among worried parents,
academics, psychiatrists and even the state government. The Maharashtra police has already formed a 15-member team to probe the reasons for the spurt in suicides and suggest preventive measures.
Karekar, currently working for a monthly salary of Rs 14,000, said he had a simple formula that helped him pull through all the years of ignominy. “I was never worried and never felt insulted despite failing the exam without fail. I only knew that I had to fight again and again till I succeeded,’’ he said. “I got a job as a
peon on the basis of my Class IX marksheet. But I wanted to become a clerk and knew that somehow I had to do my Class X and so did not give up.’’
The peon’s journey to an SSC certificate is illuminating. He failed in all six subjects in 1977. The first subject he passed was Marathi, after which he gradually conquered Hindi, science and English. Mathematics proved the toughest nut to crack. “But I never lost hope,’’ he said.


Conversing with a German student of 20 years ... definitely in English ...curious to know German education system ... 'educated' Indian students...what is education? Shame! Our apology to Peterman. The other day Prime minister was talking about all-round development, national service ( Hope, we sincerely act in that direction and move fast.
German student drugged, looted on train

Howrah: A 20-year-old German student learnt of the perils of train travel in India the hard way on Tuesday. Miscreants, posing as Indian students, befriended him in a sleeper class compartment before drugging him and looting all his belongings. David Petermann, a physics student from Stuttgart, was on his way to Howrah from Varanasi by the 2334 Vibhuti Express when the incident occurred.
He is now admitted to Howrah General Hospital. He is out of danger.
Incidentally, the incident came to light on a day when the Railway Board convened a high-powered meeting to evolve new methods of ensuring better security of passengers in Delhi.
Police spoke to Petermann on Wednesday to find out the details. He told them that he had boarded a sleeper class compartment of the train from Varanasi on Tuesday evening. Soon after this, two co-passengers — who Petermann believes were around his age — started chatting with him.
“They said that they were students and wanted to know more about the education system in Germany,” said a senior police officer. “This got him interested and he dropped his guard. Later in the night, one of the miscreants pulled out a vacuum flask and offered tea to him. He suspected nothing as his two newfound friends also sipped the same drink. We believe that they also warned him against accepting food and drink from unknown people. This would have certainly cemented his belief in their good intentions.”
Petermann has no idea of what happened after that. On Wednesday afternoon, he was found unconscious in his berth at Howrah station by cleaning staff. GRP were alerted and he was shifted to the hospital, where he later regained consciousness. Among the things missing are his passport, expensive camera, cash, debit and credit cards and clothes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Publication

Today is Saraswati Puja! Let me narrate a sweet academic experience. I cannot gurantee whether it really happened or conjured up from my dream. The quotes that appear below are reproduced from those faint memories. These may not exactly be the verbatim of the conversation but the sum and substance of it.

It was a cold winter evening of January. We were back after a short visit to Tikka, a tradition we religiously followed whenever a journal paper is accepted from a lab. student. For the uninitiated, Tikka is not what you may have thought, it is a food joint.

"Let me play the role of a TV anchor and interview RS", I started. Before this I told RS that he might have to make a speech. I believe that the modified mode of conversation was more likable. In the audience, besides 4 newcomers there were 4 seniors.

"Usually, people begin from the beginning. Let us begin from the end. What exactly went through your mind when you first saw the email stating your paper is accepted in the journal?" I asked. This was a special issue in an international journal with guest editors , the stalwarts in our field.

"Early morning, I was in g-talk when a message flashed in the screen that a new mail has arrived." RS started slowly. "It showed only first few words, "Your paper has been..." and didn't show the rest, if it was accepted or rejected."

"I got tensed, couldn't muster the courage to open the mail. Many different thoughts came to my mind. How much effort went into this work, how the next piece of work got interrupted in answering queries of reviewers, conducting new experiments etc. and what shall I do if I get a verdict 'Reject'. With renowned editors on charge, there will be many good submissions in this special issue and unless our paper cuts above the rest, it won't find a place. May be I shall send to another journal with some more work on it based on the comments made." No doubt that for a first timer who has just completed 2 years as PhD scholar and this being his first piece of work communicated to journal, apprehension would always be there.

"So, what did you do? You gradually gathered strength and opened the mail..." I asked.
"No, I could not gather sufficient strength myself. I called my grand father over telephone. By talking to him I gained some confidence. While he (grand father) was on telephone line I opened the mail and a sense of great relief descended on me .... yes, it is accepted .... my this piece of work is complete ... I can focus on the new threads which are at semi-finished stages."

"Then I rang you", RS was addressing me. "You must have observed that my voice was trembling in excitement." Yes, I did. Excitement like this is unparallel when one's good work is acknowledged by an international panel of experts.

"Now that you have completed a full cycle on your first piece of work, pls. share with the audience how the journey was constituted" I asked. "Compared to ERS, the first PhD from our Lab. in this area you could start from something, not zero."

"Yes, Sir (ERS) had to start from the scratch. He studied the subject by heart. Given a sentence, he can tell where does that appear, the paper title, author, page no. etc." RS continued, "I found that one need to read a lot. The older papers of 70s and 80s were better written and help to develop the fundamental. If faced difficulties, I took help of books e.g. MS suggested me Papoulis and that helped me clear some doubts on mathemtaical issues. I found that the books are more authentic, reliable. I cannot say the same for all the joural papers even when eminent names are therein the author list. And conference papers are mostly unreliable. Some papers I have seen are demotivating and mis-leading in certain sense. They try to say that the roads are closed in a particular direction while it is not."

"Any suggestion for juniors, specially the new comers?" I asked.

"Yes. Don't waste time. Looking back I find how much more I could do if I had used the available time more fruitfully." He sounded tough in advising, "Now that you have taken research as a career, stop worrying about job market and concentrate on work. If job is what matters to you, then leave research ... it is not for you. You have to give more time, need much more dedication." Strong, terse statement but for the well being of the juniors. I am sure they will understand. Only a well-wishers cautions, shows weaknesses so that it can be overcome sooner than the later. I chipped in saying that one is entitled to worry about future but there is no such case where a student after getting a IITkgp MS or PhD degree remain unemployed. The more you focus on your work and get output, the more will be the employment opportunities.

The meeting eneded at 8 p.m. when I received a phone call asking me if I feel like returning from tha lab. and if I have other responsibilites or not :-)

New Leaf

“My biggest reward is the warmth and love these children shower on me. I get touched when some call me ‘Ma’. Now I see my Ayan in their faces.”

After losing son, she lives for orphans and urchins

Sumati Yengkhom | TNN Jan. 20, 2010

Kolkata: An accident snuffed the life out of Rita Ganguly’s 16-year-old son in 2006. But, instead of spending days in grief, Ganguly put her mind and soul into working for the betterment of street urchins and orphans.
Ganguly’s only son Ayan died in an accident on May 19, 2006. Ayan had left his aunt’s house in Baranagar and boarded a bus on route number 3 to his Shyambazar home when he met with the accident. Just two days earlier, Ayan’s ICSE results had been declared. The student of Frank Anthony Public School had scored star marks in many subjects. His aunt had called him over to shower him with gifts for his excellent performance.
Ayan had just reached Bhupen Bose Avenue and was about to alight when he saw an elderly man behind him trying to get off as well. Ayan made way for the old man and had just put a foot down when the bus started moving suddenly. He lost his balance and fell and the rear wheel crushed him to death.
“Though I hate to recall the incident, it keeps haunting me
time and again. I wish no other mother goes through such unbearable trauma and pain,” said Ganguly.
Ganguly went into an emotional crisis after her son’s death, but unlike others, she bounced back soon enough. Staying in the same house where she spent 16 years raising Ayan, had become difficult. So, her husband, who works with a private firm, suggested that they relocate to another house in Ishapore. It is here that Ganguly came in touch with Don Bosco Ashalayam
(DBA) — an organisation that cares for orphans and street urchins by giving them shelter, food, love and education.
The courage of these children of a lesser god inspired Ganguly to start life anew. In them, she saw a ray of hope and realised that here, she could get a chance to tend to hundreds of Ayans.
With encouragement from Fr George Chempakathinal, director of DBA, Ganguly started her journey with these have-nots — helping them with their lessons, working with them at the workshop during their vocational training, manning Asha Shop — a shop on Free School Street that showcases and sells handicraft and other products by inmates of DBA. She does not charge a single penny for her services.
“My biggest reward is the warmth and love these children shower on me. I get touched when some call me ‘Ma’. Now I see my Ayan in their faces,” said Ganguly.
“She understands us, our ordeal and hardship, though she can be strict at times. But that, I believe, is the quality of every concerned mother,” said Pintu, who stays at Don Bosco Ashalayam.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I found it funny to read. But this shows where 'speculative research' could lead to. The news item tells the rest.
I have added a follow-up from 19th Jan. TOI report which brings another angle to the whole issue. It is seen as a part of a design to weaken India's position in climate change related talk.

World misled over glacier meltdown: Report

London: A warning that most of the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 owing to climate change is likely to be retracted after the United Nations body that issued it admitted to a series of scientific blunders.

Two years ago, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) headed by India's Rajendra Pachauri, issued a benchmark report that claimed to have incorporated the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming.

A central claim was that world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the last few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report, The Sunday Times reported on Sunday.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephonic interview with Syed Hasnain, an Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the report said.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was a "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research, the report added.

If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research.

The IPCC was set up to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Rajendra Pachauri has previously dismissed criticism of the Himalayas claim as "voodoo science" and last week the IPCC refused to comment on the report.


Glacier ‘melt’: Ramesh turns heat on Pachauri

Nitin Sethi | TNN

New Delhi: The furore over the validity of data used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has taken some of the sheen off the Nobel Prizewinning institution’s reputation.
A day after it emerged that IPCC’s dire prediction that climate change would melt most Himalyan glaciers by 2035 was based on mere ‘speculation’, environment minister Jairam Ramesh slammed the processes of the celebrated body, saying: “Due diligence had not been followed by the Nobel peace prize-winning body.”
“The health of glaciers is a cause of grave concern but the IPCC’s alarmist position that they would melt by 2035 was not based on an iota of scientific evidence,” the environment minister said.
Ramesh recalled how IPCC chief R K Pachauri had dismissed a government agency’s doubts about the veracity of the UN body’s sensational projection about melting of glaciers. “We had issued a re
port by scientist V K Raina that the glaciers have not retreated abnormally. At the time, we were dismissed, saying it was based on voodoo science. But the new report has vindicated our position.”
The revelation that the data on glacial melt in the Himalayas was unverified has dented the image of the IPCC, which has set the agenda for climate talks. It has given a handle to climate sceptics who have long accused IPCC of being biased.

A follow up in 20th Jan. TOI. The scientific community must be careful and do their homework properly so that our own analysis can be presented in parallel to protect our interest else we have to accept what others say.

World bending science to force India on climate?

Nitin Sethi | TNN

New Delhi: The United Nations IPCC’s admission of getting its facts on Himalayan glaciers completely wrong has again brought out concerns over the use of science, and pseudoscience, to pressure India to take stronger action on climate change or put greater responsibility for the climate crisis on it.
The 2035 demise date drawn by the IPCC in its fourth assessment report for Himalayan glaciers was used very often to demand that India should take greater action to reduce its emissions in order to protect people from glacial melts and floods. Similarly, a ‘premature’ release of information on the so-called Asian Brown Cloud was used by several western NGOs and governments to pin the climate change blame on burning firewood and cow dung in India.
While the UN released a preliminary report
suggesting India’s poor were adding to climate change by using firewood and cow dung for heating, it later retraced its steps and admitted the results were partial and preliminary in nature and clear evidence linking the haze to changes in Indian monsoon and other consequences had not been established with certainty.
The release of the report, timed closely to crucial climate negotiations where industrialised countries were keen to get India to take global commitments for reducing its emissions, did not go unnoticed.

Discussions on the Asian Brown Cloud (ABC) — a thick layer of seasonal smog that forms over parts of India, like it does in several parts of the world — continue to surface periodically even today, and unnervingly timed closed to ongoing climate negotiations. One of the key authors of the ABC phenomenon was V Ramanathan of the US-based Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who will now be funded by the Indian government to carry out further studies on the issue at TERI, IPCC chairman R K Pachauri’s institute.
One of the earliest cases of scientific manipulation that caused a furore was when the US Environment Protection Agency tried to pass the blame of climate change to poorer countries like India. It had claimed that wet paddy fields in India were emitting very high levels of methane, an extremely high potential climate warming gas but with very short life in the at
mosphere. It had suggested India had to check its survival emissions — emissions by the poor to sustain at even poor levels and not demand reduction of the ‘luxury emissions’ of rich countries such as the US.
It was later found, through research done independently in India, that emissions from wet paddy fields and animal husbandry in India were less than one-tenth of that the US EPA had claimed and that their impact was highly insignificant when compared to the large volumes of emissions by the industrialised countries.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All-round Development

Let's hope and pray that the wish of the prime minister gets reflected in schools and colleges. But we need teachers who subscribe to this view and are trained themselves. We need a nation wide movement towards this.

‘Educators should focus on child’s overall growth’


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged those associated with school education to pay special attention to modernising syllabi and foster overall development of children.
“We must pay attention to children’s health, to physical education and community and national service. School education must focus on the all-round development of a child’s personality. I would like to see a sharp increase in the enrollment of the girl child in schools. Every girl child should have the opportunity to fulfil her potential and become equal citizens of our great Republic,” Singh said, speaking at the concluding ceremony of the yearlong 150th anniversary celebrations of St Xavier’s Collegiate School in Kolkata on Saturday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cancer Hope

Thanks are due to this research team. Hope they have done enough study/trial before making their claim. Hope it works on human species too and work wonders for the hundreds of suffering people.

6-week breast cancer cure

London: British scientists have developed a new chemotherapy-drug course which they claim could treat breast cancer in just six weeks.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield have developed the combination that when given to the patient for over a period of six weeks was as effective as six months of treatment.
The team found that when a combination of doxorubicin — a chemotherapy drug commonly given to stop tumour
growth — and zoledronic acid — a treatment given to protect bone in advanced breast cancer — regularly given to breast cancer patients destroyed tumours in a shorter period of time.
In a mice-model test, the team treated a group of mice with the combination every week for six months and another group for six weeks. They observed that in both the groups tumours shrank from their original size and became barely detectable. PTI

Monday, January 11, 2010

National Youth Day

Today is National Youth Day, birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, our hero. Excerpts of his messages to the youth are reproduced here from two sites and
Check National Youth Day - Why 12th Januray in youtube

The Voice of Swami Vivekananda

Act on the educated young men, bring them together, and organise them. Great things can be done by great sacrifices only. No selfishness, no name, no fame, yours or mine, nor my Master's even! Work, work the idea, the plan, my boys, my brave, noble, good souls – to the wheel, to the wheel put your shoulders! Stop not to look back for name, or fame, or any such nonsense. Throw self overboard and work. Remember, "The grass when made into a rope by being joined together can even chain a mad elephant." The Lord's blessings on you all! His power be in you all – as I believe it is already. "Wake up, stop not until the goal is reached", say the Vedas. Up, up, the long night is passing, the day is approaching, the wave has risen, nothing will be able to resist its tidal fury. The spirit, my boys, the spirit; the love, my children, the love; the faith, the belief; and fear not! The greatest sin is fear.

Throw the idea broadcast. Do not be proud; do not insist upon anything dogmatic; do not go against anything – ours is to put chemicals together, the Lord knows how and when the crystal will form. Above all, be not inflated with my success or yours. Great works are to be done; what is this small success in comparison with what is to come? Believe, believe, the decree has gone forth, the fiat of the Lord has gone forth – India must rise, the masses and the poor are to be made happy. Rejoice that you are the chosen instruments in His hands. The flood of spirituality has risen. I see it is rolling over the land resistless, boundless, all-absorbing. Every man to the fore, every good will be added to its forces, every hand will smooth its way, and glory be unto the Lord!

Train up a band of fiery young men. Put your fire in them and gradually increase the organisation, letting it widen and widen its circle. Do the best you can, do not wait to cross the river when the water has all run down.

Work among those young men who can devote heart and soul to this one duty – the duty of raising the masses of India. Awake them, unite them, and inspire them with this spirit of renunciation; it depends wholly on the young people of India.

Worship the Living God

If you want any good to come, just throw your ceremonials overboard and worship the Living God, the Man-god – every being that wears a human form – god in His universal as well as individual aspect. The universal aspect of God means this world, and worshipping it means serving it – this indeed is work, not indulging in ceremonials. . . . Let some of you spread like fire, and preach this worship of the universal aspect of the Godhead – a thing that was never undertaken before in our country. No quarrelling with people, we must be friends with all. . . .

Spread ideas – go from village to village, from door to door – then only there will be real work. Otherwise, lying complacently on the bed and ringing the bell now and then is a sort of disease, pure and simple. . . .

My Ideal

My name should not be made prominent; it is my ideas that I want to see realised. The disciples of all the prophets have always inextricably mixed up the ideas of the Master with the person, and at last killed the ideas for the person. The disciples of Shri Ramakrishna must guard against doing the same thing. Work for the idea, not the person.

My ideal indeed can be put into a few words and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.

One idea that I see clear as daylight is that misery is caused by ignorance and nothing else. Who will give the world light? Sacrifice in the past has been the Law, it will be, alas, for ages to come. The earth's bravest and best will have to sacrifice themselves for the good of many, for the welfare of all. Buddhas by the hundred are necessary with eternal love and pity.

Religions of the world have become lifeless mockeries. What the world wants is character. The world is in need of those whose life is one burning love, selfless. That love will make every word tell like thunderbolt.

Bold words and bolder deeds are what we want. Awake, awake, great ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep? Let us call and call till the sleeping gods awake, till the god within answers to the call. What more is in life? What greater work?

Love makes no distinction between man and man, between an Aryan and a Mlechchha, between a Brahmana and a Pariah, nor even between a man and a woman. Love makes the whole universe as one's own home. True progress is slow but sure. Work among those young men who can devote heart and soul to this one duty – the duty of raising the masses of India. Awake them, unite them, and inspire them with this spirit of renunciation; it depends wholly on the young people of India.


Selected Teachings of Swami Vivekananda
My ideal, indeed, can be put into a few words, and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.

Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet.

So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.

Whatever you think, that you will be. If you think yourselves weak, weak you will be; if you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.

If you have faith in all the three hundred and thirty millions of your mythological gods, … and still have no faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you. Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need.

Strength, strength it is that we want so much in this life, for what we call sin and sorrow have all one cause, and that is our weakness. With weakness comes ignorance, and with ignorance comes misery.

The older I grow, the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my new Gospel.

Purity, patience, and perseverance are the three essentials to success, and above all, love.

Religion is realization; not talk, not doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes.

Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man.

Teach yourselves, teach everyone his real nature, call uon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, and everything that is excellent will come when this sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity.

They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.

This is the gist of all worship – to be pure and to do good to others.

It is love and love alone that I preach, and I base my teaching on the great Vedantic truth of the sameness and omnipresence of the Soul of the Universe.

Monday, January 4, 2010


I'll come back with my comments little later. First, this is what others, the Professor community are saying.
From today's TOI

Break the idiotic mould: IITians

Prithvijit Mitra | TNN

Kolkata: Watching Aamir Khan come up with a simplistic definition of a machine and getting thrown out of class for not following the textbook description in 3 Idiots turned Sridhar Rajgopalan nostalgic. The former IITian could identify with Rancho — the character played by Aamir in the film — when he sought to argue with his teacher that even a trouser zip was a machine and an example like that could help explain things better than tongue-twisting bookish terminology.
“There is a big lesson that engineering institutions across the country need to learn from the film. Teaching in technical colleges has turned mechanical and students memorize lessons rather than learn them,” said Rajgopalan, who has designed modules for schoolchildren that discourage rote learning. The engineering fraternity in Kolkata accepts that ‘aal izz not well’ with them and that it is time to break the mould.
Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu) vice-chancellor Ajoy Ray believes there is a lot of substance in the message that the film seeks to deliver. “We need to change our teaching methodology and evaluation process. Students should enjoy attending classes and learning lessons. They shouldn’t just be driven towards scoring good marks in semester exams,” said Ray.
Thousands of engineering students switch to management or change streams since they don’t have the aptitude to excel in hard-core engineering, say teachers. “This is probably more true for Kolkata than many other cities. Every year, I come across scores of students who would have excelled in basic sciences or
in some completely different stream. But they are forced by parental and peer pressure to take up engineering and struggle to complete the course,” added Ray. He cited the example of one of his former students, an IIT graduate, who couldn’t follow his heart and pursue mathematics.
Rote learning is a major reason why colleges are churning out money-spinning professionals rather than innovative thinkers, say teachers. Even the IITs are

guilty of driving students towards plum jobs, they admit. “Over the last decade, the focus has shifted from excellence in studies to landing a job with a five-figure salary. The system is geared towards that and this has somewhat undermined the importance of learning. As a result, aptitude has become secondary and everyone has joined the rat race,” said R V Rajakumar, professor, IIT-Kharagpur.
3 Idiots urges students to follow their heart and do what they love doing. “This may sound idealistic but nothing could
be more true. An engineering degree might land you a job but won’t ensure success. Only with passion can you inspire students to think like Rancho and design innovative tools like he did for his students in the film. From the teaching point of view, projects and exercises need to be more realistic and interesting to encourage free thinking,” said Rajgopalan.
But nothing could substitute strong infrastructure and a sound teaching sys
tem. “You cannot overhaul a system that has been successful. But we need to look beyond the conventional and change with the times,” said Partha Pratim Biswas, professor, Jadavpur University.
Besu has realized the importance of innovative teaching and introduced discussion sessions that review the lessons taught in the course of a week. “We also enact dramas over engineering problems that help to hold students’ interest and teaches them to apply what they have learnt,” said Ray.

Here, I am! A very very good film. A good way to send a serious message, the fun part was never missed. While all the seniors - parents, faculty members are shown as villain (except one - when Aamir Khan becomes teacher), the student community except one is spared. My experience as an engineering student in no distant past was not the one where student community in general are bubbling with innovative spirit, neither is the case now. People prefer safer, proven track and are risk averse. Today in another article I read Ex-President Kalam asked scientists not to mind initial failures. We have not learnt to accept failures.

In the TOI report the faculty members appear to be defensive. May be the reporter picked up only those quotes that suit the story. The faculty members at IITkgp very much encourage innovation, give marks even if the definition is not 'bookish' and there is a very very cordial teacher-student relation. Few weeks back I heard a teacher saying, "I increased everybody's grade by one, the students were pleading so much!" While some other teacher won't do that but there is never such a case where a good performance is given a bad grade. I cannot say the same for a bad performance which often gets good grades.

The film narrative requires people, institutions to be painted in black and white - good and bad, for easy consumption of audience. Life is not like that. It is different shades of gray. Let us accept the portrayal of characters in filmy spirit and take the message that "All is not well" and we can do a lot and the teacher-student division is anything but artificial as far as innovative spirit is concerned.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Childhood(C) vs. Adolescence(A) : Smacking(S) vs. Non-smacking(N)
The following study shows that C-S combination works quite well while A-S is a big no-no.
Parents, listening? From today's TOI.


It’s proven: Spare the rod & spoil the child

London: For long, it has been a divisive debate — is smacking your child right? Now, a study claims that chastised youngsters indeed do better in life.
An international team has carried out the study and found that young children smacked by their parents grow up to be happier and more successful than those who have never been hit, the Sunday Times reported.

They have based their findings on an analysis of detailed questioning of 179 teenagers who were asked how old they were when they were last smacked and how often they were smacked as a child.
The study found that kids smacked up to the age of six were more likely as teenagers to perform better at school, carry out volunteer work and go to university than their peers who were
never physically disciplined. Only those children who continued to be smacked into adolescence showed clear behavioural problems, the study reported.
Lead researcher Marjorie Gunnoe of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said her study showed there’s insufficient evidence to deny parents the freedom to choose how they discipline their children. PTI