Amalgam of Thoughts

"Cogito Ergo Sum" - I think therefore I exist
-Rene Descartes

02 August 2006

Book Review: Code Name God

To be frank when I was told to read this book, the name was the first thing that struck my mind. I am not the religious kind and I dont want to read some book speaking about God and the religious path to see and feel him. But looking a little below, when I read, Spiritual Odyssey of a Man of Science, I knew I had to read it. He is the person who was the co-inventor of LASIK, a Laser surgery performed to correct your vision.

The first thing I recollect about a book after reading it is what defines the book for me. In this case, it was the resolve of a teenager, born in abject poverty in a caste-ridden society, to break through the shackles of hunger and poverty. With just a crumb of bread available to eat due to the famine of 1943 in Bengal, to becoming a multi-millionaire, Mani Bhaumik's journey of triumph is truly inspiring. His life is replete with acquaintances with eminent personalities, two of them being, Mahatma Gandhi and Satyendranath Bose (after whom the Bose-Einstein Condensate is named) and how they influenced his thoughts.
But to think of the book as a victory of richness of poverty and hunger would be incorrect. The facet that makes it different from other success stories is how the author realises what he had with him even when he had no worldly possessions and what he truly missed when he got everything he ever wanted. Spirituality is something which is ingrained into the mind of a person born into a religious family. But soon he loses the course drifting farther and farther away from it, craving for material possessions. There are different methods to become spiritual, but to find spirituality through Science was completely new reading for me.
Mani Bhaumik has used the latest developments in the field of Quantum Field Theory to explain how he perceives God. Quantum Field Theory earlier showed us that there were 4 basic Fields/Forces

  1. Electro-magnetic Forces

  2. Gravitational Force

  3. Strong Nuclear Forces - force which keeps the protons and neutrons inside a nucleus and

  4. Weak Nuclear Forces - force which cause nuclear decay

It was however difficult to find correlation between all these 4 forces. But lately some discoveries have shown that at extremely high temperatures or at sizes as close to Planck's Dimensions (10 X -34) all the 4 forces unite and are a single force - i.e they can no longer be distinguished as separate forces. This is what he calls as the Primary Source, as this is the source that has made Life possible. The fact that at the minutely basic level we all are made up of that single primary source can be equated by the Hindu philosophy of Aham Brahmaasmi.
It is the author's travel from spirituality to a void and back which makes the book a thrilling read. You just cannot put it down.

17 May 2006

QLC - your take on it?

I turned 25 couple of months ago, and I assume most of my fellow-bloggers are also in the same age group. Most of you would have heard about the term 'Quarter-life crisis' or QLC and would probably have read this e-mail forward before. When I first read it, I was overwhelmed by how true it was in my case and soon found out that most of my friends think the same. After a while though, it does appear bit far-fetched to me at some places, but still I must say it does a good job of catching the general mood of this age, termed by an author (in Marathi) as "emotional sea-sickness."

Few questions arose in my mind regarding this, which I am trying to jot down here. First of all, is QLC really a crisis or is it something which is being hyped a lot? Is it a totally new thing or did it exist before, unknown to us? And is it felt by all or just a particular group of people?

And why particularly at 25? I distinctly recollect feeling dejected when I turned 14 thinking that I have already lived around 20% of my life without achieving anything worthwhile. At 19, I was bit sad that I was out of teens and now in mid-twenties with receding hairline and expanding waistline middle age seems to beckon me with its own Pandora's Box. So, at every age we tend to evaluate ourselves. I guess, the reason behind all this is; however insignificant our lives be as compared to this incomprehensibly huge universe; they are of utmost significance to us and as a result, on special occasions like birthdays we tend to look back and think about the achievements, the failures, how things would have been et al. (I like the Sanskrit word "Simvhavalokan" for it. A lion usually looks back over his shoulders after walking few steps each time, hence the term.) And it is the human tendency to be overly self-critical while looking back (and on the contrary, being overly naïve while being nostalgic.)

So, what is it with 25 which warrant so much attention? My guess is that's because this is the age at which you are in the middle of perhaps the most significant transition of your life.

I cannot resist myself from mentioning an analogy which one of our Physics teachers had pointed out during 12th standard classes. While teaching about the electrons falling from unstable state to stable state, emitting energy in the process he drew our attention to progress of human life seemingly trying to reach stability. Nature, he said, strives to attain stability at the cost of energy - be it in case of electrons or our lives. Consider a class of KG kids, a class of engineering students and a pensioner's club. You will see the progression of stability at the cost of energy. At quarter life, you are in between. Trying to seek the stability in personal, professional life and losing the energy of yore - like an electron caught in between the stable and unstable state.

Having said that, one reason why this so-called 'crisis' is getting noticed more recently is the increased demands from an individual in all respects of life. So does someone from my age-group who is well-settled in life (well-settled in his dream job for 4-5 years, married etc) feel the QLC the same was as I do? May be yes, may be no. So, what I am writing next might be applicable only to a small group; but that's what I feel could be one of the major reasons of this QLC talk.

The increased competition is forcing quite a few people to continue studying till their mid-twenties. Finding a job after that, securing it and excelling in it, is becoming more and more difficult. Till 20-21, you are safe in your cozy world of family and friends, mostly protected from the big bad world outside. Suddenly you find your friends and you have parted ways and there are very few things that are now common between you; and you are now on your own. The fact that there is no one in the world for you but yourself - not even your parents, best friends and family members sometimes, is hard to digest; but you learn it (sometimes hard way) at this juncture. (No; this statement is not overly cynic and it does not mean your parents/friends/siblings don't care for you.)

[As regards with frinds - over the years, you can test the verity of the idiom 'birds of the same feather, flock together.' Barring few close friends, you and your earlier friends find that you are getting out-of-touch with each other. It might appear little harsh, but even the close friends - in most of the cases at least; tend to continue on the memory of their old friendship. Meet your close friends from school and college - you will be delighted to meet them and will exchange the pleasantries, tell what you are doing currently, discuss and decide unanimously how the time spent together was great etc, but that's that. It is a fact that they have ceased to be a part of your daily life causing the distance to grow a bit, however unwilling you/they might be to accept.] Bit of digression here, but in short the age of settling - achieving the holy trinity as per Indian middle-class standards of 'finishing your studies, finding a good job and getting married' - has gone up, in general, from early twenties to the late twenties/early thirties causing confusion (termed as QLC) becoming more frequent.

Is it really that simplistic a reason? Perhaps not. The reasoning is certainly not comprehensive and might even be flawed. But then that is the aim of this blog -- to do some vichaar manthan (churning of thoughts). So, we look forward to your comments, thoughts and reasons.

24 March 2006

Hello! How may I Hell you?

A major pie of the call centre outsourcing has been coming the way of India. Some say, it goes to show how benevolent Indians are. But are they as benevolent to our own people? Satwik just got a whiff of incompetent customer service from Airtel - one of the more popular cellular service providers here in India. Read his story (Nandan's comments display the irony I speak of!)

The Helpline employees of most of these Call Centres spend hours and hours on speaking fluent chaste English. But they forget to learn what they have to speak about. Just place a call to the Customer Service and ask some simple questions, you will be sweetly guided to wait for some moments and while you listen to some boring tunes, the customer service employee digs for answers on his terminal.
What was more ludicrous in Satwik's case was the attitude of the Service employees, who went as far as saying "Go ahead and complain to Airtel Head Office. Tell them people out here are incompetent". You dont know if you have to be enraged at the situation or pity them. So much for Professionalism. And Airtel's punchline is - Express Yourself

I've faced such un-professionalism with Hutch too. After having cancelled one of the Hutch connections at our office in Dec '05 we still keep receiving bills for that number. Last month, after visiting the Hutch shop to lodge a complaint something truly amusing happened. One of the irate customers started censuring one of the Hutch employees for misguiding him. Panicked, the employee ran behind the counter. The executive dealing with my complaint went to attend the enraged customer. After waiting for half an hour when the irate customer left, we could finally see the meek employee pop his head from behind the counter. I didnt lose the opportunity to lambast the executive who wasted my precious time.
It turns out that the Billing software most of these cellular providers use is utterly disgusting. The very fact that, after having disconnected Satwik's phone and our phone 3-4 months back, the bills kept being generated regularly goes to show how bad the software is.

Seeing all this incompetency one begins to wonder if Privatisation is after all the best answer. Ofcourse, it provides competition to Public Companies, but it is only in terms of Price. The ease of registration, Billing, Customer Service in these Public companies (e.g BSNL) is truly unmatched, least by Airtel, Reliance or Hutch. They have a lot to learn from BSNL or MTNL.

12 March 2006

A Precedent of things to come!

The First race of the Formula 1 season just concluded at Bahrain. If you glance at the winner and see Fernando Alonso you'll feel "Ah! This year's gonna be the same ". But take a look at the names of those who followed him and you get an idea of how the season might go.

Schumi & Ferrari - Back with a bang!
Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are back. The 37-year old Schumi managed to get the pole position, and his new partner Massa managed 2nd position. But a quick start and some amazing driving saw Alonso overtake Schumi for the top spot. Until the 2nd pit stop Michael was holding up very well, although his team-mate spoiled the show for Ferrari fans. In the hindsight, we can expect a lot more competition from Ferrari this season, who had a string of lacklustre performances last year.

Deja Vu?
For McLaren, especially, Kimi Raikkonen it seemed that his (Bad) luck followed him to this season too when his car gave away in the qualifying and he had to start from the back of the grid. But the fighter that he is, he just took one stop and kept creeping higher and higher on the race position and finally managed to hold his 3rd position from Button in BAR Honda. Juan Pablo Montoya, however, seemed very dull and sluggish although he finished 5th. On the whole, Mclaren managed to get both their cars in points. But seeing the manner in which Kimi was able to make most of the situation with his car, we can guess that Mclaren too has a competitive car.

Rookie of the year?
Rosberg of Williams was the person who got everyone's attention in todays race. On his debut race, he drove with determination and in the last 8 laps did 2 excellent overtaking manoeuvres to grab the 7th position. Apparently, as the commentators pointed out, his father was a world champion. That makes it certain that this is the guy who is going to grab the limelight this year. His teammate Webber finished 6th. So a good start for Williams too. Which means bad news for Narain Karthikeyan who with grave difficulty salvaged a 2nd test driver position at Williams.

Huge year ahead
If this race was a precedent of things to come this year, then kindly buy yourselves a seat belt for the chair you sit on while watching F1. Its going to be close, real close and we hope no team complains that they didnt have a good package to compete. Finally, it is possible that the race will be of the ability of the drivers and not the engineers! Good Luck to all the teams

29 January 2006

Will India allow US to blackmail it?

If you were asked to point out one event in the past decade that has metamorphosised Indian image in the Global scene, what would your choice be? I would like to choose India becoming a Nuclear Power. The reason would be very simple. People bully you, if they find you to be weak. But when you show them what you can be capable of, they start noticing you. This was very well understood by Indian scientists and politicians who decided to make India a Nuclear state.

First Blood
The fact that there was a cold war between India and Pakistan back then, definitely created flutters with the World not willing to view another Hiroshima/Nagasaki. The sanctions imposed in 1998 are still in place, with the major military related organisations still considered illegal. With India unwilling to sign the unfair Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it showed the World it was no longer going to show the other cheek.

Technological Progress
From then on, Research has been going on nuclear reactors, both civilian and military ones. Of special note would be the unique Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam. Uranium not being abundant in India, and sanctions disallowing Legal import of Uranium deposits, there had to be a method of continuing the research. Thorium was abundant in the country and the Fast Breeder Reactor utilises this element to generate nuclear energy.

The "Agreement"
In 2004, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited the U.S and the media suddenly announced the signing of a Ground breaking agreement between the Indians and the US. The details of it were not disclosed. It was only told that India would have to separate its military and civilian facilities and put the Civilian facilities under the scanner of International Atomic Energy Association(IAEA). As a civilian, people like myself had no idea what the role of US was. All that the Bush Government said was "We will try our best to mend our rules".

It is understandable that India wishes to get rid of the sanctions so that more research can be done on this source of energy that could be the only saviour in the ever-increasing energy needs of developing India. For that to happen, it does need access to Uranium deposits. But when it accepts to put itself on the IAEA scrutiny, it also asks to be treated just like any other Nuclear state.

So the question is, in acceding to the demands of US, is India losing out on the original motive of emerging as a power centre in the global scene? Lets face it, being under IAEA scanner means being under the nose of US Spies. We are not only exposing our nuclear prowess, but also our years of research. The US, obviously, has asked India to put the Kalpakkam Nuclear Plant under the civilian category.

The Iran, Syria angle
It appears that from the recent talks, US has got peeved at the unflinching stance of India and has started to blackmail India. India's earlier vote against Iran came quite as a shock and now US has become so bold as to say that if ONGC takes a stake in Syrian Oil company then it can forget about the agreement. So it remains to be asked... "Will India allow US to blackmail it?"