Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sachin Tendulkar makes a point to Dinesh Karthik after wrapping up the match

Sachin Tendulkar makes a point to Dinesh Karthik after wrapping up the match

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Who is Mr. Cricket ?

Yesterdays incident at Cuttack when Dinesh Kartik hit a stupid six and denied tendulkar a chance to score his 89th century brought many thoughts to mind  -
Did tendulkar advice Kartik to play freely ?  Did Kartik feel pressurised to score at a slow rate to allow tendular a century ? How must tendulkar be feeling ?

I think to me the answer is clear - Tendulkar, is not only a brilliant cricketer, he is also a role-model for cricket itself. He is upholding the standards of the game by rating an indian victory much higher than individual records.

In summary, I think he advised a budding cricketer call Mr. Dinesh Kartik to play each ball on its merit - a loose ball with 6 written over it - dispatch it to where it belongs. And in the process Mr. Tendulkar has given us a lesson on what is 'cricket' !

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Climate Change

The BBC Website on the Copenhagen Summit 2009 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) provides links to lot of interesting data and news videos:

Where countries stand on Copenhagen

An animated journey through the Earth's climate history

Impact of climate change - including a report on the receding himalayan glaciers

The key effects of climate change

For a more rigorous analysis of whats going on with our climate, check the IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change) website and their assessment reports.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

some more inspiration ...

25 Nov. (venue: Seminar room, ISVR, Southampton)
a) Dr Ben Thornber: Ben was here to present his work on large-eddy simulations of shock-induced turbulent mixing. Ben is an exciting young guy. His enthusiasm seeemed to rub off on the audience. He focussed more on fundamental numerical techniques in his talk - especially relating the numerical dissipation in finite difference simulations to entropy generation in some sense. what attracted me is the feasibility of using accurate finite difference methods for magneto hydrodynamic simulations of supernovae. Ben is  very jovial person too and I spoke to him at length about Cranfield university, where he is based as a Research Fellow in the Fluid Mechanics and Computational Science group. Cranfield is a post-graduate university for science, technology, engineering and management. Ben is based in the Department of Aerospace sciences, which is composed of a few hand-picked PhD and post-docs. Cranfield emerged out of the College of Aeronautics, created in 1946 and based at the RAF station in Cranfield, Bedfordshire. It started as a training ground for amateur pilots in the hampshire and solent area. This story dates back to the days when the solent area was thriving with aircraft manufacturers - especially the setups at hamble and southampton. Those were times when R. J. Mitchell must have been busy designing the spitfire. Out of this emerged the need to form a research-based setup for the aircraft industry which now runs itself under the guise of 'Cranfield University'. Ben invited me to meet him at Cranfield, where my dear friend Aditya (the one from Imperial) is going to be undertaking his post-doctoral study. So now I have two close friends in Cranfield :)

27 Nov. (venue: Lecture Theatre A, Nuffield Theatre)
b) Pedro Ferreira: Pedro is another young fellow with lofty ambitions. Pedro is a Professor of Astrophysics at University of Oxford. He was here to present his work on "Testing the Dark Energy Hypothesis". His work is to question - for one, the 'general theory of relativity' ? - for another, the 'cosmological principle' ?- for yet another, he questions whether the Universe is indeed flat ? - for yet yet another, he questions if the Universe might be empty after all ? Could SNAP, BAORSD, WGL, Integrated S-W effect, Planck answer these cosmic riddles ? It was probably one of the first talks I attended where it seemed that neither speaker nor audience didnt really care for a missing '-' sign (in the equations) here and there. Among the many famous works that he reffered to in his talk, was self-reference to his work in review currently for the Science magazine where he points out the problem of missing mass in Einsteins theory of gravity. I was also happy to find my friend and cosmology lecturer pasquale questioning the speaker at the talk. Among all the questioning, I think, Pedro brought sanity to the atmosphere by putting the following quote at the bottom of his conclusions - "No. You 're not thinking, you are just being logical." - Niels Bohr.

29 Nov. (venue: The Private Rooms, 51 Buckingham Gate)
c) Ranjit Sondhi: The chief guest for the IITLC annual lunch event is also a Commander of the order of the British Empire (CBE) besides being on the board of governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The lunch event is only the second IITLC event I have turned up, nearly a year and half after the Picnic 2008 at Watford park. This time, instead of IITian friends, I have family as company - my cousin Prachi, who, by some heavenly coincidence also happens to be an IIT Kharagpur alumnus herself :). And by some cosmic conspiracy, we happen to bump into Prof. Ajit Shenoi, who besides heading the Fluid-Structure interactions group in the School of Engineering Sciences (my school :) at Southampton, also happens to be an IIT Kharagpur alumnus. Prachi and Ajit, by virtue of their umbilical connections to IIT Kharagpur revelled in talks of the Patel hostel and the like, which is greek talk for any non IIT Kharagpur-ian. Having checked the location of the venue on google maps - my biggest worry before the event was the attire - just in case the Queen peered out of the glass windows of Buckingham palace next door. However I was lucky to have found a old gift-wrapped 'peter england' among my possessions. Combined with a suit, which I presumably had last worn in my brothers wedding 3 years back, I had transformed myself from rags to riches in a matter of minutes. In fact I am suspecting my attire was so impressive that me, along with Prachi, landed up getting the voluntary job of door-keepers - to welcome confused (ironically, the location of the 'Private Rooms' is hard to find) and drenched (it was a typical british day) IITians.
One of the perks of being a door-keeper is the opportunity to interact with more people. Speaking to one of the better halves of the IITians (who were busy parking their vehicles) gave me the first clues about the forceful speech to come - the lady told me - "I have been here for 30 years - and yet I dont feel like I belong here". मैंने पुछा - क्या आप पंजाब से है ? - और उन्होंने कहा - हाँ जी.

The chief guests' mesmerising 15-minute talk revolved around the 'role of identity'. He emphasised on preserving ones identity - whish is a sum of his/her experiences - againgst the odds and challenges posed by an increasingly flat, global social order. I think the essence of his speech was captured in an anecdote he narrated about -

d) A 10-yr old school-girl somewhere in Birmingham - When asked by the speaker above - "Who she was?". She replied - "When I am with white friends, I am black. When Afro-carribean friends join us, I am an Asian. When Asians join us, I am an Indian. When I am with Indian people, I am a punjabi. And When I am with my Punjabi family and friends, I become a school-girl again."

3rd Dec. (venue: Lecture Theatre A, Physics and Astronomy building, University of Southampton)
e) David & David: David Payne and David Smith were the presenters at the annual University of Southampton nobel lecture. This lecture, organised by the Physics society, is an annual ritual in the first week of December - keeping in mind the nobel lectures in Stockholm in the second week of December. The nobel prize in Physics this year has been awarded for two revolutionary optical techniques which have revolutionized our daily lives - and makes this communication possible !!.
In the first half of this inspiring lecture, Prof. Payne talked about his personal contributions to the research of optical fibers. It was exciting to hear about work he and his colleagues did at University of Southampton, following the work of Kapany and Co. at Imperial College London. His presentation included videos from the 1960s - in which he himself looked more like Elvis than David :) - showing a young researcher, Charlie (the nobel prize recipient in physics this year) working on improving transmission propeties of fibers at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL), Harlow, UK. Through his one-hour talk, he tracked the improvement in purity of the glass used for fibers from the 1950s to the prsent work at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), which he leads. It is interesting and exciting to note that exactly 100 years ago, Marconi and Braun were awarded the Nobel prize "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy". Today wireless technology combined with a fiber optic backbone pervades the cyber-space and makes all communication possible. Among the many projects ORC is undertaking, Prof. Payne highlighted the collaboration with Trans-Africa development company to install 8 to 14 terabit Fiber Optic Cable capable of handling Voice, Data and Video and allowing for the overall distribution of Wireless Networks in each country.
In the second half, Prof. Smith from Physics and astronomy, armed with a camera, a detector and a oscilloscope, and a telescope, gave a practical demonstraton of Charged Coupled Devices (CCDs). Titled "Seeing in the dark", his talk threw light on the fundamentals of metal oxide semiconductors (MOS). The name of the game he pointed out - is to quantify number of electrons coming from a source - or something like that. Being a mechanical engineer, I could relate to a contraption, he showed on one of his slides (and which he almost ended up manufacturing!) - an array of buckets capturing the deluge of electrons - and feeding their collection to a common conveyer for further quantification. His talk covered the historical developments from Raman spectroscopy to the present day use of X-rays for detecting dental caries. It was intersting to not some figues - while a (normal/average) human eye can see a 50W light bulb 26 km away, a CCD ca seethe same bulb placed 490000 km away (or almost 1/10th of the way to moon). His talk included fascinating pictures - including a 11.3-min exposure photograph from the Hubble space telescope. The development of the nano-photonics group at southampton means that we can expect switches working on 'light only' in the future - As Prof. Smith put it - "The future is bright".

Two Roads ...

Last couple of weeks have seen life being breathed into two major research facilities - one computational (supposed to make sense of experimental data) - other experimental (supposed to make sense of theoretical data). Put together, they demonstrate the scintillating synergy between theory, experiments and computations - the three corner-stones of modern research.

We at University of Southampton are now proud owners of the 74th fastest supercomputer in the world and the fastest university-owned supercomputer in England. The new facility nicknamed 'IRIDIS-3' on campus will help researchers at Southampton to perform calculations that they ever dreamed of. Hopefully, researchers on campus would now dare to dream even more and push the frontiers of research at Southampton.

For a small matter, the world is now in possesion of its' highest energy particle accelerator - the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The first physics at the LHC is expected in 2010 and might lead to a change in our understanding of our universe ...

Standing on the edge of the woods, a pondering researcher wonders .... about The Road Not Taken ...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Inspiring people and Inspiring talks

Its been nearly a month since the verbalisation of the Welsh Diwali, and in the meantime I have been fortunate to meet a few more inspiring people at few inspiring talks I attended -

(27th Oct. venue: Turner sims concert hall)
a) Ben Fogle :  Ben is a truly inspirational character - in every sense of the word. Fortunately I had a reminder pop-up in outlook just 10 minutes before his talk - advertised on the university events website. Among other (crazy) things he has done in life, which you can check from his website, he has participated and completed the MDS, supposedly the toughest footrace on the planet. He has raced across antarctica to the beautiful south pole only to find that bang on the south pole is a block-shaped american research station - complete with McD's and basketball courts.  He has crossed the atlantic in a row boat. And if that was not enough to raise money (for charity), he has penned down memoirs of the last two adevntures in "The Race to the Pole" and "The Crossing". To quote Ben - "Life is all about taking risks"

(28th Oct. venue: Physics lecture theatre A)
b) Jocelyn Bell: Jocelyn was chairing the inaugural lecture by Prof. Malcolm Coe as part of astronomy group seminar programme .  It was inspiring, motivating, humbling to have spent 15 minutes with jocelyn after the lecture -  discussing among other things - the subject of the talk that day - whether the large magellanic cloud (LMC, for short, is a satellite galaxy of the milky way) will collide with the milky way in a few million years. One aspect of LMC and SMC fascinates me - that they are visible only in the southern hemisphere sky. So unlike the andromeda galaxy, we people in the north hemisphere do not see these two tiny blobs, which are companion dwarf-galaxies, in our night sky. Jocelyn, being one of the luminaries of radio astronomy, it was natural to touch upon history of radio astronomy - and whats' more - we got an invitation to visit the famous lovell telescope at jodrell bank :)

(3rd Nov. venue: Turner sims concert hall)
c) Prof. David Clary: David was here to deliver the annual IBM Hursley lecture. The fascinating aspect of this talk was its non-scientific theme. David recounted personal stories related to the life of Erwin Schroedinger. The umbilical connection between the two of them is an office room in Magdalen college in oxford, which they have occupied at separate time instants. Off course, you cannot judge the occupant of this room (David or Erwins' soul), until you open the room, akin to schroedingers famous cat paradox. David took the pains to track down Erwins' daughter in austria and invited her to oxford, her first visit to oxford since her father left oxford in 1933. David proudly narrates the history - in Oct. 1933, even as Erwin was making way to his office for his first day in oxford, he got a call from some journalist, telling him he won the Nobel prize in physics. Among the memoirs David has diligently unearthed is a hand-written note from 'The Fuehrer' itself to schroedinger when he left berlin for oxford - perhaps the only appreciating note this man ever wrote :)

(17th Nov. venue: soul cellar)
d) Prof. Nils Anderson : Nils was speaking at the science cafe. The beautiful thing about these science cafe talks is that they are delivered in a pub ! The subject of this particular talk was gravitational waves. Between sipping cider, beer and the odd lemonade (thats me :), people discussed Einsteins general theory of relativity with Nils. Nils is interested in rotating neutron stars in particular and gravitational waves in general. To quote Nils - "General theory is a theory with no free parameters - unlike string theory where you need to play around with some knobs on your super-machine. Also it is simple to understand - as simple as the following quote by John Wheeler - 'Matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move'  "

(18th Nov. venue: Murray lecture theatre)
e) Capt. Eric Moody : Eric was talking at a Royal Aeronautical society talk on the campus. Eric is a funny person - for one, he saved the lives of all 247 passengers on the ill-fated (and divinely lucky in retrospect) BA009 flight from kuala lumpur to perth on the night of 24th June 1982 - for another, has got an unbeatable sense of humour :). For those who might not have time to follow the links - this plane, which capt. moody was piloting, ran into a volcanic ash cloud resulting from a volcanic explosion on one of the indonesian islands and lost all its 4 engines for almost 15-18 full minutes - the plane flew as a glider from 37,000 ft to 12,000 ft, when the engines miraculously re-booted :) and inspite of the communication and language barriers between the ATC and the flight crew, the plane made an emergency landing in jakarta airport - everyone safe and sound.

(19th Nov. venue: Kuti's Royal Thai Pier)
f) Prof. Wendy Hall: Wendy is present at the UK India business council's next generation network meeting to share her insight into the evolving world of the web. Wendy is a close friend of Tim (berners-lee), who wrote the first web-page on the internet. It is amusing to know that at one time - about a month since he developed the internet protocol - Tim used to maintain a diary of web-sites in his pocket - all of the 17 websites on the net - which obviously he couldn't memorise :) - so he had to write them down, since there was no google-god :). She is also the president of ACM and said she is looking forward very much to her visit to bangalore in Jan for the ACM india launch event.

(19th Nov. venue: Kuti's Royal Thai Pier)
g) Laurence barber: Laurence is the director of sport at university of southampton. We met at the UK india business event where wendy gave her talk. We were both present for entirely different reasons - laurence, to look for sporting partnerships with India - me, for the free canapes and drinks. Among other things, we shared thoughts on why/how a nation of more than a billion people can do nothing better than a single gold medal at the olympics. Taking the opportunity of sharing a confined space with Laurence and the chairman of hampshire cricket, in the current spirit of things, I asked for discounted student tickets to matches at Rose bowl. I did get a verbal assurance :)

In between thanking god for these chance interactions, I compiled the poems that these inspiring people seem to carry in their hearts and wallets in a nutshell ...

Friday, 30 October 2009

In a nutshell ...

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

- Where the Mind is Without Fear, Rabindranath Tagore.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing, have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves; they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

- from page 147 of the book "Addiction by Prescription"by Joan Gadsby

IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,Or being hated, don't give way to hating,And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

- IF, rudyard kipling.

ओळखलत का  सर मला  .. पावसात  आला  कोणी,
कपडे  होते  कर्दमलेले  केसांवरती  पाणी,
क्षणभर  बसला  नंतर  हसला  बोलला  वरती  पाहून,
गंगामाई  पाहुणी  आली  गेली  घरट्यात  राहुन,
माहेरवाशीण  पोरि सारखी  चार  भिंतीत  राहिली,
मोकळ्या हाती  जाईल  कशी  बायको  मात्र  वाचली,
भिंत  खचली  चुल  विजली  होते  नव्हते  गेले,
प्रसाद  म्हणून  पापण्यांमध्ये  पाणी तेवढे  ठेवले,
कारभारणीला  घेउन  संगे  सर  आता  लढतो  आहे,
पडकी  भिंत  बांधतो  आहे  चिखल  गाळ  काढतो  आहे,
खिशाकडे  हात  जाताच  हसत  हसत  उठला,
पैसे  नको  सर  जरा  एक्तेपणा  वाटला,
मोडून  पडला  संसार  तरी  मोडला  नाही  कणा,
पाठीवरती  हात  ठेवून  नुसतं  लध  म्हणा.

- कणा , कुसुमाग्रज

- देव देव्हाऱ्यात नाही, Sudhir Phadke

Monday, 26 October 2009

A Welsh Diwali

The idea of applying for host had germinated even while I was in Imperial in 2006/7. It took more than two years to take root. The idea of soaking in british culture and getting to know more about english people has always been high on my agenda. And host provides just that.

So with a glimmer of light visible at the end of the phd tunnel, and effectively an end to the bliss state of life called 'student-life' in sight, I decided to apply for host in September this year.

The application moved swiftly and I was intimated that my 'host' family would be somewhere in Wales. After a lull in communication for a while, I finally learnt (towards the end of september) that I would be hosted by the Nocks. Now the Nocks are a joint family - Roland and Margaret in their 40s, 18-yr old son michael, 16-year old Rachel, a dog, 6 ducks, 3 ducklings, 3 rats. or so I was told in the introductory mail. I was immidiately excited.

On calling up Roland, I realised that Roland and Rachel had been to India just this summer for a month. The idea was for Rachel to get a feel of Indian culture. And Roland and Margaret had been to India 13 years ago, when they had also stayed in pune for couple of days. Roland guided me about the possible transport links and indicated that the national express bus stop was just 15 minutes walk from their place. So Off I went to the University travel centre to get a discounted ticket from Southampton to Cross Hands. Cross Hands is a small village near the town of Llanelli (dont bother pronouncing it .. its welsh :) in carmarthenshire county. Roland, in his own thoughtful way, also made the kind offer for me to stay for 3 nights instead of the normal 2 nights, since the journey would take almost 8 hours.

With the 16th of october drawing closer, I bought my first digital camera - a canon powershot, with just a week to go. It was Rachels' birthday that week and Michaels birthday the week after. So my thoughts lingered upon an appropriate gift for the family. After toying with handbags, indian sweets, books etc., I zoomed in on my default choice - A spitfire calendar, spitfire bookmark and a 3-propeller model of spitfire which also doubles up as a pencil sharpener - from the local Hall of Aviation. While the real 5-propeller spitfire would have required servicing, the showcase model costs £125 - both unrealistic :).

On the day of leaving - I read the 'how to be a perfect guest' guidlines from host website - switched off my mobile diligently - and before I knew the bus halted at Bristol where I was to change for the bus to Swansea. Before reaching bristol, the bus winds through Bath, and the signs of roman architecture are unmistakable. Finally, I think, I can 'feel' the difference between Roman architecture and the Victroian buildings of central london.

Bristol to Swansea was eventful - for my ears. Surrounding me in the bus was a group of mantralaya politicians. Needless to say discussions reveolved around projected margins of victory, who supported whom ( कुणी कुणाच्या पाठी मागचा हात काढुन घेतला), why booth capturing is not as rampant in maharashtra as in bihar and so on. To save them further embarrasment, I introduced myself in मराठी. That did curb down the decibel levels and discussions, but not before I learnt some disturbing facts - these people come to UK every year for holidays , next years' holiday plans were in iceland, the seniormost of these guys throws a party every year in birmingham - including drinks, this chap stays in a £95/night service apartment when here, both alcohol and money seems to flow from his hands (did I read somewhere that farmers commit suicide in maharashtra). Sorry for the digression, but I was pretty animated by the time these chaps got down in Cardiff on the way. And without saying 'good-bye' - I should add for the record. It is pretty offensive for a english-man to have people leaving you without saying a polite good-bye. No english person in his right senses would leave, after being introduced to him, without saying a polite good-bye. But alas, these were thick-skinned mantralay-is.

At Cross Hands, Michael and Margaret recieved me at the bus stop. A leisurely 15 min walk takes one to the Nock home. On the way, Margaret showed me the local cinema and old-age residential home. Margaret, being a nurse by profession is interested in topics like state of the goverment run health service here, what options do elderly have in their senility etc. She narrated to me a couple of cases about a 37-year old person who couldnt look after himself and was asked to move in an old-age home with all 60+ people around him. Pretty difficult situations. Margaret works in night shifts 3 days a week. Night shifts pay more.

I started my investigation of local economy by posing questions about local employement. Apparently this village was once a thriving coal economy. With time, the hills as well as coal reserves dissapeared and so has much of the poulation. Leaving behind a calm, contented rural area. Everyone in the village seems to know everyone else. what a beautiful feeling. I was introduced to quite a few dogs on the way - some playing in backyards with children, some peeping curiously at me out of the windows. Ya, I was the only stranger in town :)

I forget the names of the dogs. But how can I forget 'Woody' - the 3-legged, 1-eyed sentinel of the Nock home. Woody was supposedly shot in the eye around 7 years ago, presumably when chasing sheep, by a farmer (it is legal in this part of the world to shoot a dog if he chases sheep) and subsequently must have been run over by a vehicle. But this is life - and there is a silver lining - Woody found his present family - the Nocks, a beautiful family.

In this part, they also have dinner around 6.30 pm. So by the time we reached home, it was supper time. Roland is the cook of the house - or shall I say, the best cook in the house, to quote Margaret. Like she says - Woody is the best dog in the house. Cooking apart, Roland takes care of household chores - buying stuff from supermarket, fixing the roof, clearing the table, washing the cutlery.

My first english meal - Vegetable soup with bread, followed by Masala rice with pickle. On the dinner table, I was introduced to Rachel - sweet 16 and sweet otherwise. After meal, we cosied ourselves (all of us: ) around the fireplace. The Nock home is presumably a 1850s place - battered over the years, but still standing proud and warm. Imagine walls flooded by books - a terry pratchett here, a paul coelho there, from 'killing a mocking bird' 'to Sir, with love', 365 ways to make world a better place to Einstein, all varieties of the bible, an introduction to hinduism, visitor guides to all countries, from gordon ramsays' recipes to the best in indian recipes - I was overwhelmed. Atlas Shrugged. Was i feeling like Alice in wonderland ? Even the toilet has a book-shelf. No exaggeration. You will only understand what I am saying if you ever squeeze into the Nocks small hall with a firplace, a computer, an incubator for chicks, hundreds of books on one of the side walls, and the 5 of us.

Roland enquired about how I came to the UK - how I got settled and so on. Memories flooded back to my Imperial days. Roland offered wine - but I preffered coffee. Rachel and Michael did have wine.
Small talk drifted to fine nuances of catholicism (nocks are catholics) and anglican church. From rome to london. Roland had been to Gaya and I described my fascination of Ajanta and Ellora. Beautiful talk this - I would relish it. And so on we chatted upto midnight. The Nocks knew a lot about India - they have travelled on the trains - from Kalka to Shimla, from Nagpur to calcutta, calcutta to gorakhpur and so on .. Had it not been for my south indian adventure oddessey late in 2003, the Nocks would have known more about India than me :). and in some sense, they still do. They have been to puntamba village, I havent. They have seen people make candles - as their only source of light at night - I havent. So it was interesting, to say the least, to learn about my backyard from people born thousands of miles away. That is beauty.

An then the best part of the trip - I still get goose-bumps thinking of it - I watched the Milky way galaxy across the sky for the first time in my life. All the years I had heard that it takes a clear winter nights sky away from city lights to see the Milky way - and now I know. Me, Roland and Woody identified the summer triangle - deneb, vega, altair, cassiopiea, perseus, jupiter, castor, pollux, I was wondering if we could see the black hole at the center of milky way in saggitaurus. After a short walk through the neighbourhood and woody having finished his chores, we were back to cosiness and warmth.

Margaret wished me 'Nos da' before going to bed.

The Irish lessons continued the next morning when Margaret and Roland took me to the economic area of the village - the biggest shops in the village. Roland bought stuff for fixing a leaking roof that was dampening up a whole wall in the kitchen. These people here are extremely DIY (do-it-yourself). Unlike us, they dont call plumbers, carpenters to fix stuff - they just do it themselves. I like it. I wander through the shop looking at DIY equipment.

It is decided I will walk back home with Margaret and woody since Roland has some more shopping to do. For the first time, I take the leash on Woody. As Woody wandered around, margaret continued reading the welsh signs to me and explaining their meaning. I did not know Welsh is such a different language. I used to think it is just a variant of English. But no - its all gyr, Dim and gyyffl and stuff. The pronouncation is very different too.

On the way back, Margaret narrated me stories related to each house on the way. Woody came across two boxer breeds on the way and was pretty animated. I handed over the leash temporarily to Margaret.

Back at home, Roland had already prepared soup and rajma curry for us. With the stomach content, I dozed off the rest of the afternoon lazily even as Roland was busy waterproofing the terrace. The siesta meant I was alive and kicking in the evening to participate in discussions. Roland showed how to make paper planes and helicopters. He said this is how he communicated with children on indian railways and they used to love it. Last night I had showed interest in Margarets' activity - spinning. And today I was given lessons in 'plying'. Proud to say that I mastered the art of 'plying' fibres on the miniature 'charkha'. I realised once you get the knack of the activity, it is a very fruitful excercise - is spinning - helps to focus the mind. Perhaps that is what Gandhiji wanted to convey, we concluded. All this while Michael was busy playing some computer game and Rachel delved into a Terry pratchett novel.

Evening meal was special - with candles on the table to remind me it was lakshmi pujan. Me, Rachel and michael played as much as we could with the wax flowing around. Michael made a new candle out of recycled wax and we made Margaret proud :). Margaret is big time into recycling and sustainable technology. She is part of the local group called 'Transition Time', making strategies for a oil-free future.

Towards night, Margaret showed be what a Moebius band is. She made one out of paper and asked me to cut it along the center line. On the first iteration, it leads to ... (DIY) and on the second iteration, one ends up with two inter-twined loops. It took me until next morning to figure out the mathematics of the moebius, whence I presented it to her over the morning coffee.

Margaret was impressed. She narrated to me funny tales of previous guests (ya, I wasnt the first person to be hosted by the Nocks) being apprehensive that the Moebius thing is some kind of mystic magic. I was 'thinking' - resisted the temptation to blurt out my new found 'theory of everything'.

It was sunday morning. I asked permission to take Woody for a walk - and the Nocks laughed. "Woody would not go out with Michael and Rachel - he goes out only with Roland", said Margaret. But seeing my persuation, I was allowed to attempt. And so me and woody went for a distant walk, past shops, newsagents, a childrens park, right upto a cemetry some 15 min away, until he wanted to go back. On the way, I was stopped by a couple of elderly ladies (aka Queen Elizabeth). They presumably knew the dog and were thus very curious - "You are not the owner of the dog - are you?". So I had to impress them with my story and background and how I got Woody to come along with me. They were impressed and wished me all the best.

When we reached back home, Woody wanted to walk even more. so I called Roland and a surprised Roland, joined us for the rest of the walk. Apparently this was a new Nock household record - Woody going for a walk with a stranger.

Margaret asked me if I would like to join for the church service and I jumped at the idea. My first experience of a church service. Felt very beautiful. learnt a bit about Luke. And more importantly, got introduced to Brenda, the grumpiest granny in town (in margarets' words). Margaret treats Brenda as her mother and inverse. Brenda stays alone in a beautiful bungalow. Margaret was telling me how last winter Brendas' walkway was covered with snow and she had to send Michael and Rachel to clear it - and how Brenda detested the help.

Very nice to talk to Brenda. She enquired about my studies and wished me all the best.

Continuing from the church, me, Woody, Roland and Margaret went for a walk in the countryside and to Paxton Tower overlooking the countryside. Perched atop a cute hill, Paxton tower was built by a showy local to treat his guests to lavish dinners. It used to overlook his countryside house - now it overlooks a big greenhouse. Margaret was telling me that at one time is was the biggets greenhouse in britain. From atop paxton tower we enjoyed views of the rustic carmarthenshire countryside. The hills are nowhere as rolling and high as the South downs or the Lake district, but retain their own charm.

Now came another memorable part of the trip.

Margaret is taking part in a weaving competition. The idea is to recycle an existing cloth and make a new one. So Margaret pulled apart an old coat and is sewing a cosy sweater for a 3-year old. She has the incumbent child in mind, but doesnt have the exact measurments. so off we head in search of carol. Carols parents' Richard and stacey must be the most amazing couple I have heard about. They stay in a wooden house (aka Flintstones) in the countryside - I fall short of words here. A rivulet runs through - they plant their own things - make their own bread. Everything is sustainable. The fuel they use for their car is bio-fuel made from recycled vegetable oil. Roland showed me their mechanical workshop - complete with a foot-operated lathe. A winding dragon made out of wood - now hidden by wild shrubs - A thatched roof shed - spiralling wooden logs line the ceiling like spokes on a bicycle wheel. And Carol is home - educated.

On the way back, Roland takes me to the 'Farm shop' - one of the biggest shops in the county. Margaret had previously explained to me its history - how it was owned by cousins - and I cleared my fundas about who are called 'farmers' - one who grow crops or one who rear sheep. I am still confused. Anyways, these were the 'sheep' variety of farmers. And Roland wanted me to try the 'stinking bishop' - the most stinking cheese in wales.

Back at Nock home, Michael was busy figuring out the objective of his computer game, I found a rubic cube to while away time, while Roland cooked. I had my first taste of home-made yorkshire pudding.

That evening we spent time reliving the 70s british tv series on which Margaret and Roland were brought up. From wombies to clangers, Dr. Who to 'who do you think you are', 'Goodness gracious me' to listening to ukulele band, youtube has all. I liked the clangers and their innocent world-view. Roland wanted me to hear the vividh-bharati equivalent of radio - the music played at 5.30 am on bbc - a combination of welsh, english, scottish and irish. We talked politics - how to become a 'lord', the 'cash for honors' saga, the protest permit requirment for protesting in westminster square and so on. Michael seems interetsed in forming a political party.

It remained to make use of my new photographing machine - and so I clicked the silver apple yards (variety of ducks) , hens - Roland showed me how he feeds them and looks for eggs everyday, the muscovies and the quails (breaking news: eaten by a fox :( ). . I gradauted from eating the nasturcium flower to eating the spicier seed pod. I graduated from eating bluberries to eating sloes.

I graduated from plying to spinning - and failed. Spinning fibre from raw wool is not straight-forward. And I ended up tangling a bunch of wool until it was knotted into itself. Finally I gave up - it was a better idea to watch 'Phantom of the Opera' played on TV by Rachel - than struggling a ball of yarn.

I was already having a sore throat by then and feeling extremely sleepy. It was time to say 'Nos da' one final time. A final adieu to Michael and Rachel - with an invitation to visit India in 2020 - to see a different India. By this time, Michael had figured out the purpose of his computer game - or precisely, the purpose of the character he was controlling in the game - 'to save the universe'. I wished Michael luck and best wishes for his birthday - which was now an agonising 90 minutes away. But I had to sleep. For I had to catch the 5.10 am bus next day.

All that remained was to write up a farwell message in Margarets' visitor book. Which I duly did early next morning -
I am carrying with me memories to treasure for a lifetime -
Of Roland, the best cook in the house ..
Of Michael and Rachel, the most well-behaved children in the house ..
Of Margaret, the best spinner in the house ...
And last but not the least,
Woody, the best dog in the house.

At 5 in the morning chill, Margaret walked me back past the cinema and the old-age residential home to the stop where she had recieved me only 60 hours back - what a 60 hours !
Heartfelt thanks to the Nocks for giving me a peek into their wonderfully natural world. I will never forget Richard and Staceys place and the lessons it rings for a sustainable future.
So was my festival of lights this year - unique and beautiful.

Quotable quotes

जसं politics चे महत्व कळायला ’ रंग दे बसंती ’ बघायची गरज नव्हती,
तसं आयुष्या वर नेहमी हसायच असतं हे उमगायला britain मधे यायची गरज नव्ह्ती.

A teachers work, at any rate, is not to put a lid on a pupils' imagination.

School is a place where both teachers and students learn -
teachers through students questions,
students through teachers answers.

जसा समाजाचा बदल घरातून सुरु होतो,
माणसाचा बदल मनातून सुरु होतो.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Quotable Quotes

Beauty is the hallmark of Truth.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

quotable quotes

Everything is easy if you think about it. Thinking is not easy.

Einstein said ..

"It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry: for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. It is a great mistake to think that a sense of duty and compulsion can be conducive to finding joy in seeking and learning. A healthy carnivore animal would have refused food if by cracks of a whip he were continually compelled to eat meat, particularly if the compulsively offered food were not chosen by him"

*source: "On A.N. Kolmogorov", V.I. ARNOL'D, Golden Years of Moscow Mathematics, History of Mathematics Vol 6., American Mathematical Society.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A fuel called desire

I came up with this thought when going through photos posted by a friend of mine on facebook. My friend, Nia, is a britisher and has recently been to Bangladesh. she has posted not only the photos, but a meticulous narrative of the different places she has been to - Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet etc. Just going through her descriptions, gave a wonderful feeling .. A feeling of stepping into a new world .. A world where everything was tangible and yet surreal at the same time ..
One could feel the sense of adventure in her and I couldnt help but feel inspired ..

so my thoughts drifted .. how could Nia gather the courage and motivation to undertake this journey .. is this just a stroke of luck or good fortune .. I guess not ..

This is not the first time I heard of Nia's adventures - In the past she has told me about visiting Kolkata, enjoying views of ganges from Howrah bridge, how crowded the station was .. how good the chai was .. and so on .. and therein lies the answer .. It all starts with the desire .. desire not just to travel to geographical locations .. but more than that .. desire to get to know different cultures and traditions .. desire to experience life in a completely different place on earth than what you have seen till now .. desire to connect to people .. desire to understand their lives .. oh how I would love to do it ..

Off course, I am sure, such back-packing requires loads of advance planning - researching the areas .. researching the historical background of sites .. tons of formalities .. so on .. But I guess the overwhelming requirment is the the fuel - the desire ..

The overbearing feeling I got while marvelling at my friends' adventures is that - life is not controlled by unknown forces but rather we make our own destiny ..

Go ahead - light the flame !

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The trials of phd ...

A message for all fellow travellers caught in the pursuit of that elusive 'phd' :

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Managing news

Recently I have come across this useful website for keeping up to date with news stories.
newsmap pulls data from several news websites and uses the power of google to sort the news.
In one glance, you can get an idea of whats in the news currently. Clicking on the news box takes you to the source of that story.
This saves the hassle of going to different sites (bbc, timesofindia, expressindia, ndtv etc.)
One can choose to customise the type of news you wish to see (World, health, sports, technology etc.) and also for a particular nation.
I have noticed that the search feature is very useful too. Eg. searching 'infosys' retrieves all recent news related to infosys.