Two historical events, connected by a common theme, changed my life for good. My real-life experience of 19 Dec. 1978 motivated and inspired me to complete and publish my magnum-opus on 1 Feb. 1980. Maybe it was because I was just lucky enough, or because I was in the right place at the right time. Luck often plays an important role in our achievements.
I cast the same pearls again, in 2021. And I discovered some more swines to add to my list:
- St. Andrews School, Bowenpally
- NSKK High School, Ferozeguda
- Kendriya Vidyalaya, Airforce Station, Begumpet. No website found for this school. It is unbelievable that such schools exist even today.
- Pallavi Model School, Bowenpally
These schools were chosen due to their proximity from where I live. The announcement and reminders were sent about two weeks ago. My sympathies and apologies to students who missed an opportunity to discover the joy of mathematics and an inspiring intellectual giant.
They say, 2 can take the horse to the water, but ….. In fact, even 200 cannot take the animal to the water, if it is a stubborn and unwilling swine. I am happy that I tried. Never mind, I failed once again. I will try again next year, Insha-Allah. I do not give up so easily. I owe this experience to the great Ramanujan and to the mathematics he gave us.
You have not yet reacted or responded to an important announcement I made about the forthcoming National Mathematics Day (quoted below). I infer that you are either not interested or deserve this opportunity. Ignoring communications from a well-intentioned and senior person, of international repute, is a rude,
uncivilised and impolite act. I take this a personal insult. Your behaviour reminds me of an old saying about “Casting pearls before …”. See:
to understand what I mean.
This conversation is closed now.
Don’t look before you leap #2
It was sometime in 1998. India had still not entered the Internet like we see today, or rather the Internet had not entered India like we see it today. There was still no public or private enterprise giving access to the Internet. The communication infrastructure was in an unbelievably pathetic state. Not every house had a phone connection. We were still living in a world of fixed landline phones and snail mail technology.
IEEE started activities vigorously in Hyderabad, at about the same epoch. It was necessary to reach out to as many people as possible. The w-w-web was found to be an inexpensive but effective option. I proposed voluntarily to create a presence for IEEE (India Council) and IEEE Hyderabad Section on the w-w-web. As usual, I did not look or hesitate before I decided to take the leap. There were of course many unseen and unknown hurdles which could have ruined my dream.
I recall some of the major obstacles which came my way:
0. I knew I was developing a high-visibility, long-lasting product for an audience of highly competent professionals. So I had to be extra careful at ever step. All the work had to be done by myself, single-handed, without any help from anybody. Web technology itself was not known to many people at that time.
1. Internet access was through remote terminals connected to the server via shell access. Familiarity with command line tools was a very helpful skill. Dial-up modems using slow, unreliable phone lines were the only choice we had.
2. Web technology itself was in HTML 3.x age. The browser I had to use was a purely text-oriented one : Lynx. The browser had many limitations, it could not even parse tables (or frames). No graphics, no colours and none of the fancy features commonly used today by everyone.
3. We had to be contended with dial up modems (over pulse-based telephone lines using ATDP commands). The mail client available was only mutt. Only serial-line protocols e.g. kermit were available (at least to me) for downloads/uploads.
4. Very little scope for browsing and obtaining online help. No way to Google for answers you didnt know.
5. Content for populating the website had to be collected and organised from scratch, almost all alone.
In spite of all the above obstacles, I managed to create fairly exhaustive websites for IEEE India Council and IEEE Hyderabad Section. This achievement received appreciation from all users, and also recognition by IEEE Headquarters in the form of an international award presented at Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). The citation said “for providing excellent websites for IEEE India Council and other Indian Sections”. I am proud to note that IEEE Hyderabad led IEEE India to find a place on the web. This was further confirmed by another award from IEEE for outstanding achievements and contributions
The seed I sowed on 1998, has grown to be a lovely tree and is now helping many activities of IEEE in India.
This is one more evidence of the power of positive thinking, and taking the leap without hesitation.
Anti-climax :: I had to discontinue my 35 year old relationship with IEEE, because of a humiliating/insulting gesture by the Chairman of IEEE Hyderabad Section. They say “the axe may forget, but the tree cannot”.
Vastu-shastra (aka vaastu shastra) is not pseudo-science. It is neither science, nor pseudo. It is real-rubbish. Here is how I prove my point:
I write this article in 2021, about a house I built in 1985, 36 years ago ! When I started this project, a whole lot of well-intentioned, respectable and honourable “friends” warned me and explained to me the need to respect vastu shastra as they knew it. I heard all of them attentively and even took notes. The idea was not about ensuring compliance, but to make sure that I break every one of these rules. I wanted to make sure I did not obey any such rule, even by oversight.My friends thought I was hopelessly doomed, and that every misery would fall on me, sooner or later. I and my family have lived here for 36 years and still wonder what all the hullabaloo was about. If I see any one of those doomsday prophets again, I will certainly take them around the house and point out all the “vastu flaws” in my design. I will challenge them to show me all the misfortunes I have faced in all these years because of violating their sacred psuedo-science (aka real rubbish) predictions.
How is it that I and none in my family faced any serious illness or healh issues ?
How is it that I and none in my family faced any grievous accident or injury ?
How is it that I and none in my family had to go to jail or face any criminal proceedings by law enforcement agencies ?
How do you explain that the house has seen three joyous occasions in the form of marriages : my son, my daughter, ourselves (60th anniversary which in Hindu customs is celebrated like a marriage) ?
Why did we never face any major monetary loss like theft, burglary, fraud, in all these years ? Or, why did we not suffer any natural calamities like fire, lightning, earthquake, floods etc. ?
I must admit that I do not know what is in store for me, but I have waited for 36 years and found nothing remarkable. Neither have I gained great fortunes just because of my refusal to join the vastu chorus. Vastu, for me, is nothing more than a fart.
Vastu believers have a right to their beliefs. They also have a right to appear like donkeys when their doomsday predictions go wrong. But, they can also save themselves from their disgrace by not imposing their views on people who do not believe in their so-called pseudo science.
36 years is a lot of time, to support the predictions about vaastu. No one can brush aside the above experience as an isolated case of coincidence.
Beware of superstition sold under the name of vastu the pseudoscience.
The latest news about Deepavali festival in India (Nov 2021) proves once again, the filthy and dangerous nature of religious festivals in India.
Today’s Indian Express (6-11-2021) reports in its Headlines page :
- Foul air at 5 -year high, Delhi can’t breathe
- Hyderabad sees five-fold spike in post-festival pollution
Their cartoon is self-explanatory and highlights the pathetic state of things.
This is what we have to pay, for enjoying religious liberty. When will we learn to respect social responsibility ?
Sounds counter-intuitive to what they taught you at school ? It is not always a good idea to “look before you leap”. You may keep looking and decide not to leap. You may give up even before trying.
Looking back, as I blow my own trumpet, 41 years after my bold step, I would never have thought I would succeed. I would not even have tried. Thank GOD, I did’nt look or hesitate. All options were stacked up against me when I took up a mission to do my PhD, in France (Grenoble):
- I was young, immature and inexperienced. I worked in an alien land. I knew nothing about their culture and customs, except a sparse smattering of their language. To make matters worse, the weather and the diet were not the ones I had grown up with. I had to live a frugal life, within a modest scholarship/allowance.
- Those were the primitive days of computation, aka “the stone-age of computing”. We struggled with stand-alone computers which were programmed with punched cards. How many of you have seen or used punched cards for programming computers ? I have.
- How many of you have worked on a real “teletype” terminal from Teletype Corporation ? I have.
- How many of you have used a punched paper-tape to boot up your computer ? I have.
- I had no idea of what I had to achieve, nor how to go about it.
- It took several months of groping around, to zero-in on the specific problem I had to attempt. A lucky incident gave me the clue on which way I had to go.
- Access to essential devices like a photocopier was rare or was very limited.
- There was no Internet or web. I spent several days in the library thumbing through hundreds of journals and perhaps thousands of articles, and copying/taking notes by hand.
- Getting a reprint of a publication/paper involved writing a request (on a postcard) and sending it to the author by post. It would take a week or ten days or more for the letter to reach its destination, and another ten days for the reply to reach me. Add to this, the time it took for the author to notice my request and send me the reprint (if he/she wished to).
- There was no email. There was no way to ask queries, give/receive feedback, get updates or news.
- There were no laser printers of the kind we see everywhere today. My thesis was the first to be typed on an IBM selectric typewriter with a golf-ball print head (a remarkable innovation in those days). . Changing the font or the characters-set involved changing the “golf ball” under use.
- No presentation software or LCD projectors were available. All presentations were made using transparent acetate foils projected using a back-lit overhead projector. My foils were prepared using a flat-bed Tektronics plotter (considered as a glorious innovation in those days) !
- There were no word-processors around. The tool called LaTeX was made available much after I had completed my thesis. LaTeX is today’s defacto tool for writing theses and technically profound documents. The technology I used was limited to a pencil, cutting and pasting text exactly the way it meant literally.
- Writing a Ph D thesis in formal French needs much more than a working knowledge of that language. This was to be followed by a much more stressful and frightening experience of standing
in front of a jam-packed amphi-theatre and an eminent jury, to present, justify and defend your work (in French).
Luckily, it all went off well. They gave me my doctorate with the mention “tres honorable et les felicitations du jury” which roughly translates to the Latin honour “magna cum laud”.
I would not have taken the leap, if I had thought of all these obstacles before hand. Thank GOD, I did not look before I took the plunge. I did not fall on my face. Sometimes, ignorance is a bliss.
In fact, an unprecedented and dramatic event helped people realise the practical relevance and importance of my thesis. I now know why they say “Fortune favours the bold”.
All I had to do was to keep my eyes open and tenaciously keep up the effort. Reminds me of the famous story about G B Dantzig. That is the power of positive thinking, or rather not thinking at all about the possible hurdles you may have to clear.
See :: What a coincidence ! (Part #1).
Que : Why is 2 November, “a day of coincidences” ?
Ans: Remember these coincidences:
- It is the birthday of a great man, known for his humility and modesty (me !).
- It is also the birthday of a great mathematician/logician George Boole.
Boole is the father of Boolean algebra, the basis of all modern computer systems.
(click on the image to know more about George Boole)
See: the illogical death of a brilliant logician. (pdf file)
- It is the day when George Bernard Shaw (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw), died. Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature (1925).
- It is on this day, Christians (Catholics) around the world celebrate “all souls day”, as a day of prayers and remembrance of all departed souls. At bedtime, the supper is left on the table for the souls.
- Recently, I discovered that my day of birth was a Thursday. The famous Indian mathematician
Srinivasa Ramanujan was also born on a Thursday
(click here to know more about Ramanujan).
No wonder, I am inspired by these giants !
On 2 Nov. 2022, I celebrate my 72nd birth anniversary, as I step into my 73nd year on this earth.
PS: You can add this to the list of “History’s strangest coincidences”
They say, the great Hindu guru Ramanujacharya was born on a Thursday. The famous Indian mathematican
Ramanujan was named so, because he too was born on a Thursday. I discovered that my day of birth
happens to be a — you guessed it : Thursday ! That’s a coincidence which makes me legitimately proud.
And, there are other discoveries I made recently about this date. Watch this space, or take a look here.
Want to know more about Ramanujan ?
Now, you know why I admire Ramanujan so much.
PS: Like Ramanujan, my father’s name was Srinivasan. He was also an Iyengar, like Ramanujan’s father. I was born in the same neighbourhood where Ramanujan once lived. But no one thought about giving me an inspiring name. Who should I blame ?
Also see: What a coincidence — Part #2 !
And also see : Recognise a mathematician vagabond
Recently, I posted an article about mathematicians. We spoke about the kind of things mathematicians do, I call each type of mathematician as a “flavour”. I did not know where I stood in this classification, since I was clearly a misfit in any of the “flavours” I had mentioned. So, I added one more flavour to suit me — mathematics missionary. This is the type who pretends to know mathematics, just waves his hands and talks endlessly whenever he sermonises on mathematics. You can also call him a mathematics vagabond
To borrow a religious metaphor, he is an evangelist who implores all to follow his GOD, mathematics. Whether you care for what he says, or disagree with him, he does not mind either way.