Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rationalist

M. Karunanidhi, the present Tamil Nadu Chief-Minister, has always claimed to be the rationalist. An example from his recent interview with Shekhar Gupta might be very enlightening.
He says,

"Jawaharlal Nehru did not accept Ram (as a divine being); he calls him a hero, not a god. C. Rajagopalachari wrote a book called Chakravarthi Thirumagan (The Emperor’s Blessed Son) that says Ram is a prince, not a god. It is not as if only the DMK is saying it."

C. Rajagopalachari did not believe Ram as a God. Why? Because he wrote a book on Ram titled The Emperor's Blessed Son.
Now what is Tirukkural? Please do not say following our rationalist's approach that the rationalist believes that it is a type of painting as he has written a book on Tirukkural titled Kural Oviyam (Kural: A class of couplet, Oviyam: Painting, drawing, art).


Aruna Chandaraju wonders why padams are not heard often?

From The Hindu article:

Chitravina Ravikiran holds:

“Most artistes are daunted by its demands — a super-slow tempo which calls for great breath control, a platinum-like voice which doesn’t lose intensity even when modulated to the thinnest, and a mind capable of grasping its microscopic details.”

Sakuntala Narasimhan:

“Brinda took nearly one year to teach us the famous Sahana padam because it was so difficult.”

Sripada Pinakapani:

“Vilambalaya rendition keeping tautness intact is the vital requirement in padams. And in this age when unnecessarily speedy renditions by performers are common and accepted, where pyrotechnic displays draw applause, and where many students are in a hurry to ascend concert-platforms without acquiring perfect breath-control, where is the atmosphere for padams to flourish?”

(Thanks Manu for bringing this article to my attention - Shencottah.)


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Serve with a Smile from Heart

Sincere smile in itself is heart-transforming. When people serve food with hearty smile, there are only few other things that can match it in its strength, intensity, and power to transform.

Lakshman is one of them. He works in A-Mess at Indian Institute of Science. His smile is not a customary smile you get to see in some restaurants. He really smiles. If you are not in a hurry, you can feel that his smile is not on his face. It is from his heart.

When he serves from the buffet place, I am sure everyone eats more happily. If you tell him, "enough". He says, "Crispy Dosa, Sir. Take two more." You cannot refuse. You take at least one.

When your turn comes, you see only two idlies on the plate. Two cold idlies. You have to tell some people to bring the new batch of hot idlies. But with Lakshman, even if you are about to take those two idlies because you have to keep up your appointment with someone, he does not allow you to take those. He rather tells, "Just a minute, Sir. Hot idlies are coming." He goes inside to serve us with hot idlies.

Thanks Lakshman for those smiling servings. Lakshman is no more. Mogadalai's tribute is here. He died in a van accident. His wife and daughter died too.

Why did not I write about his smile-and-serve when he was alive? Why did the loss of that initiate this blog-post? Is it because we will know the value of some only when we lose them?

Death is a powerful heart-transformer just like the smile of Lakshman.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cough and spit anywhere

Few months back, our media flashed photos and video clipping of Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav's paan-expectoration when he attended a function where hygiene was supposed to be the main theme. We all must have laughed and once again reinforced our beliefs and biases about persons. The following incident happened two days back inside the Kabini Canteen, Indian Institute of Science.
There was a "research-scholar" sitting in the next table. I was having my Rice+Rasam with my friend. The hot rasam of Kabini was very good especially when you were recovering from fever. Since they keep the rasam and sambar vessels outside, you do not have to ask anyone. Just go and fill the tumbler with rasam. Drink slowly. That seemed to be a very good recipe for recovery. I was relishing my rasam when I was shocked to see our "research-scholar" spitting down. Oops!! This was inside the Kabini Canteen. There are chairs outside too. It is okay if you spit sitting outside as it is on the ground you are spitting. But inside where flooring is done? I was really stunned. He did again. I did not know if I had to go and tell him. We finished our lunch and were about to leave. I showed my friend the deeds of our "scholarly" friend. Then we decided to go and inform him not to spit inside.
I told him,"Please do not spit inside"
He looked at me as if I was curtailing his civic rights.
He said,"Cough comes."
"You could then go out and spit."
"It comes frequently."
"You could still take your food and sit outside."
He just nodded his head but still stayed there. I could not say anything more. I then left the place.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


When I saw a book on "Derivative Pricing" way back in 1999, it caught my attention immediately. I knew then derivative as limit of certain ratio of infinitesimals, rate of change of something, local property, etc. But what was derivative pricing? I knew certain pricing was based on intersection of demand and supply curves. I wondered if derivatives were used to find the intersection where one could achieve maximum pricing, and hence the name "derivative pricing". Better sense prevailed. I opened the book and read few pages. It opened the door to the world of modern quantitative finance.
But what are derivatives? Derivatives are financial instruments whose worth depends on the value of an underlying asset. You will soon read lots about derivatives in the context of Indian markets.
Here is a book Derivatives: The tools that changed finance by Phelim Boyle and Feidhlim Boyle, written in plain english to make concepts clear. You will not be able to solve Black-Scholes equations after reading this book. But you may appreciate why we have to solve them. The book is available for free download.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Man Booker Prize 2007 - Announced

Anne Enright was named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel The Gathering. For more details, read this page.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Drops of Ganga

I stumbled upon three tributes to Raja Rao while looking for information about the Telugu writer G. V. Chalam. That is not true, isn't it? When a friend of mine mentioned about the online existence of excerpts from Chalam's Sasirekha, I wanted to find more about him. I told this to my friend CCG. And CCG told me about this literary e-journal. It was while browsing through the archives that I noticed the three tributes to Raja Rao. Here they are:
"The luminous novelist has passed away on the 8th of July, 2006, at 12.45am. I am told by his wife Susan that he passed away calmly and surrounded by people who loved him. I cannot avoid admitting that I am writing this with a deep sorrow - or dukkha as Raja Rao would call it - affecting my soul. One thing is sure: Raja Rao would never have remained in this world for so long but for the devoted and painstaking care of his adorable wife Susan. In her, he must have found the peace he had been searching for in his novels, as echoes of her personality and character can be heard in Rao's last masterpiece, The Chessmaster and His Moves. She said she still feels his presence so strongly that to her their hearts are one. I could not, therefore, imagine a better person at Rao's bedside at the time of his peaceful death."

"Going to see him would be for me like making a pilgrimage – I wanted to do that in a duly reverential frame of mind...To me Raja Rao seemed like a hermit living in a lonely garret to pursue a higher quest of the mind oblivious of the consumerism that marked American life...(Once) Shamefacedly I brushed them aside as he went on about the divine status of a woman in Indian society. I kept up my end of the debate trying to tell him that a human status would really be quite enough for the time being. But it was an unequal argument because he was charming, erudite and eloquent and I was not only awkward but also in great awe of him...He lived on a higher intellectual and philosophical plane and could easily have dismissed people like me who knew much less and lived in a limited world. But I think it was a measure of his generosity that he had time for even those who disagreed with him. I like to remember him not only as an major writer of the twentieth century but also as a humane individual who had encouraged an unknown young academic many years ago."

It is good to see that Vijayakumar T, in his tribute, mentions Preface to Kanthapura and Kanthapura in one breath. He also writes,
"The Meaning of India is valuable for me because it is an eminently teachable text—at least several essays in it. As many of us know, books that are good to read are not always amenable for teaching in a class room. But The Meaning of India proved to be one partly because of its aphoristic style. Formulations such as "India is not a country (desa), it is a perspective (darsana)" and "it is not the Indian who makes India but 'India' makes the Indian" remained with the students long after they may have forgotten the argument leading to these conclusions."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Real Thing of Everything

A devotee once asked Sri Ramana Maharshi, "Is there any psychic effect in visiting sacred places like Mt. Kailash, Benaras, etc.?"
"Is there any benefit accruing by dying in Benaras?"
"Yes. The meaning will be clear if the real Benaras and real dying are understood."
The devotee was silent in front of Silence.
The above conversation is mentioned in the book Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. There are many other Maharshi's books made available for downloads here.
The same theme is touched in Raja Rao's On the Ganga Ghat, and is elaborated and extended to many other related areas by Osho in Hidden Mysteries, which is available for online reading in this website.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I am not Okay - You are Okay

Nirmal Shekar flogs Sreesanth for his behavior in the second one-day international match between India and Australia. It is quite irritating to see aggressive and belligerent nature in the field of sports; especially when it is directed against opponents. It is one thing to boost your fighting spirits on your own and another thing to encourage your spirits by spraying venom on opponents. There is nothing called "there is a limit to aggression shown on others". Who will then decide the limit? The winners?
Nirmal Shekar implies sledging at right time is a mark of great champions!!! Ha..Ha.. You can call that as my wild imagination and feel logic is stretched too much there. You either condemn all sledging or support it wholeheartedly. There is nothing in that article about sledging by Australians - maybe they sledge professionally!! Anyway is it boring? Ask the media.
BBC writes In truth, India only matched Australia in the verbal exchanges and general posturing, which further marred a forgettable game of cricket.
Why do people then criticize only Sreesanth? Is it a case of "I am not Okay - You are Okay"?
Thanks Manu for bringing this article to my attention.

Womb, Matrix, and List

J. J. Sylvester coined the term "matrix" in 1848. But what is the etymon of matrix?
matrix 1373, from O.Fr. matrice, from L. matrix (gen. matricis) "pregnant animal," in L.L. "womb," also "source, origin," from mater (gen. matris) "mother." Sense of "place or medium where something is developed" is first recorded 1555; sense of "embedding or enclosing mass" first recorded 1641. Logical sense of "array of possible combinations of truth-values" is attested from 1914.
How is womb connected to matrix? In the sense of origin? Or in the sense of source?
But wait, there is another word - matriculate. The etymon is matriculare - to register; to create a list. Could it be possible that Sylvester had coined matrix from matriculare? I do not know. Incidentally, the online etymological dictionary attributes the confusion to translation from Greek to Latin.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Math in Blog Posts

It is always a challenging task to render equations in web browsers. There are so many latex-to-html converters. The latex code is converted to an image file to be embedded into the html page. There are then MathML standards. The question comes next is if the browser is MathML compatible. I am not sure if blogspot supports latex. Do let me know if anyone says yes. I have just come to know that wordpress supports latex code though it uses the same trick of converting the code into an image. We need not do any conversion. Just write the latex code as follows:
$latex this-is-my-latex$
Insert this into the code of your post. It's done. You can also change the background and foreground colors of latex rendition as well as the size.
To change colors: $latex this-is-my-latex&bg=cc0000&fg=ffffff$
To change the size: $latex this-is-my-latex&s=3$
For more details, visit this page.
I told this feature to my friend Hariharan. He immediately tested it and was quite happy though he felt MathML is the key to math-rendition on the web. The tools are still under development for MathML, and browser compatibility standard is the key issue. You may also see this google gadget - equation editor (to convert latex code to an image)
I was wondering how it had come to my mind the possibility of using latex in wordpress. I now remember the spark(!) came after seeing these posts of Mogadalai and Terence Tao. I then checked the wordpress help. Though I have been reading their blogs for quite sometime, the spark(!) gets initiated only when the time is right!!!!!!! Thanks.

Truth - Relative and Absolute

... But I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded be my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it. But as long as I have not realized this Absolute Truth, so long must I hold by the relative truth as I have conceived it. That relative truth must, meanwhile, be my beacon, my shield and buckler...
- Mahatma Gandhi (from this wonderful site)