Writing is like T20 batting. If you block, you might as well retire to the pavilion! -- Pete Langman
Expat in Germany

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mangalyaan, a product of success!!?

"Remember remember, the fifth of November
 of India, ISRO and an ambition..
 We all know the outcome of that ambition...
    -- Anonymus 

I am a student at one of the largest universities in Asia in terms of area. The distance from my hostel to the classroom is three kilometers. My classes start at 9 AM so naturally I start from my hostel at 8:55 AM on my bicycle. I guess in order to reach class on time and to listen to the lecture from the first word, I should know precisely how long it takes me to land down the stairs of my hostel, unlock my bicycle, ride as fast as I can, park it, lock it, run towards the classroom, take out the handkerchief, swipe my sweat, go to the last bench and sit. I should be very calculative in order to achieve all this under five minutes. Quite an achievement.

Now, imagine, instead of three kilometers, a distance of about 200 million times that. And a vehicle some hundred times the weight of my bicycle and ten thousand times the complexity. All this in 300 days. Hell of an achievement! This is exactly what those scientists in Bangalore, Sriharikota, Thiruvananthapuram, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad etc have achieved! The fact that India is the first country to put its satellite in Mars orbit on first attempt proves it. The statement made about Mars Orbiter Mission(MOM) or Mangalyaan by China, 'It is the pride of India. The pride of Asia' proves it!!

Picture sent by the MCC on Mangalyaan
On November 5 2013, the Mangalyaan was put into a heliocentric orbit by the PSLV C25, ISRO's most successful launcher. The idea was to keep it in Earths orbit, keep increasing the distance from Earth (apogee) and then fling it towards Mars. Once flung, the engine was shut off for three hundred days. Of course, the moment the 440 Newton engine successfully fired without complaining a day before the D-Day confirmed the success of the mission. Keep your car in one corner of the garage without disturbing it for a year and notice the difference. You will agree about the degree of achievement(more about the placing in orbit, later). The orbit is a 421 km by 77000 km one for the next six months. The payload consists of a Mars Colour Camera which already sent beautiful photos of the 'red planet.' The methane sensor and the infrared spectrophotometer will I am sure give a good amount of information about the methane, hydrogen, deuterium and the mineralogy of Mars. Even though MOM is 200 kms away from its counterpart, MAVEN(sent by NASA), it will still send down some really important data about the Marsian atmosphere. This is a brilliant step by India and the world, a huge leap towards Mars-kind!

One thing saddens me though. When multiple GSLVs failed, ISRO was criticised. This was answered by them recently by successfully launching a geosynchronous satellite. Those who did not stay with ISRO during their failures are now rushing ahead to congratulate us! To shake hands with us! Is this the result of success?? Only as long as the mission is a success are there praises about the project being cheaper than a Hollywood movie or about the charge per kilometer!! Failed? Forget consoling, you would get criticised for misusing public funds on an over ambitious mission to Mars. Everyone is praising ISRO on the success of MOM. What about during ISRO's bad times?? Are we ready to support it? In its good and bad times?? Only time will tell.

Nevertheless, all thanks to every ISRO scientist who made the INDIAN proud!
From the prime minister's words, "We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and imagination INTO THE UNKNOWN"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Patriotic or Nationalistic??

It is quite enlightening to hear people give the "subtle" difference between nationalism and patriotism.
"Patriotism means loving your country in a passive way.
 Nationalism means to show your love towards your country in an active and political way."
Thanks for the summary by those people who feel that Nationalism is a threat.
I did not care until now if patriotism and nationalism are different. I always "actively" loved my country. So probably I am a nationalist. I would not mind considering politics if its for my nation.

There is a pot analogy regarding this. A plant in a pot feels that it is lucky to have been born in that particular pot. Well, I say, that pot can be any pot. It need not be India you love. If you are born in China, you are free to love your country. By the way, for a plant grown in one pot, it is very difficult to transfer it to another pot. Most likely it will not survive. There is of course a bonding the plant gets with the environment it was born and grown in. The benefits of growing up in a diverse culture like India, the great grand mother of tradition are immense. That is what we love about our country!!

Patriotism is to love one's country in a passive way. So, does this mean that I go to the Middle East, earn millions, wish my friends on August 15 and feel that I am patriotic? If nationalism means that I stay in my country and take up an active role for its progress in whatever way I can, I go for it. No caste, religion, race. Only the country. Yes, I say, I shout and shout loud from my rooftop that my country is the greatest in the world. It is, for me. The budget talks in India must be given more focus than to stall parliament sessions to know what the government stance on Gaza issue is! However, just because I say I love my country (Nationalistic love!!, new word?) does not mean that I hate every other country. We(nationalists) stood by the innocent, non armed kurds of Iraq who were brutalised by the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant(ISIL). When Japan was devastated in the latest Tsunami, we 'nationalists' helped them in anyway we could. So was the case in thousand other situations. We love our country and mankind!

After all, we are mankind. But I have a certain jurisdiction only in which I can form my own laws and enjoy certain rights and importantly perform my duties duly. If I am seeking freedom, it is possible only in MY country. That is why the affection. I have certain liberty in and with MY country which I miss with other countries! This is the place where I can demand for employment and this is again the place where I can turn to for a supporting shoulder whenever I am in need. But what pains me the most is how selfish one can be, putting aside the nation that gave everything until then! People go to the middle east to make a lot of money and remain as a "passive" patriot. But when war tears up, India has to shift them to a safe place-India!!

What is wrong in actively loving one's country? I am eagerly waiting for the ISRO's indigenously built Mars Orbiter Mission to reach Mars. Such achievements make me want to be a part of the organisation. I know that NASA has achieved a lot more than ISRO. But the victory of ISRO gives immense satisfaction. After all, it is OUR taxes which helped build the country. I have a sense of ownership towards my country. We better help in its building as a nation. There might have been nationalists in the history who started wars but there were nationalists who won hearts!

Maybe I am a nationalist!! If I am, I am very happy about it. I love my country.

जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Up in the Air...my first Journey alone on an airplane

"Just two thousand?!!?" It costs me almost the same amount for an AC class train ticket to Delhi. I will go by flight I thought, not realising that it would the first time I would be traveling alone on an airplane. I traveled once before but that was when I could comfortably stretch my legs in my seat without the occupant of the seat in the front warning me not to hit his legs! This time it was different. Because, all I knew about catching a plane was that it was no train journey where you could do the 'a minute before departure' arrival and jump into the train!

All I knew was to watch a flying airplane open mouthed. On my first journey when I was a kid, my mother took all the necessary steps for a flight journey and I only remember watching through the window, the vast green, brown and black blocks below. But as I sat inside the plane for the second time in my life, I realised how beautiful and worse a flight journey can be. But one thing always drives me crazy. The fact that at six in the morning, I am in Hyderabad and by eight, I am in Kochi or Delhi. It took me sometime on both the occasions to realise that I was hundreds of kilometers away from Hyderabad by the time I was fully awake. One fact that equally scares me is that if I get used to traveling by air in future, I might find train journey strenuous! I love both modes of transport and I haven't yet traveled in a ship!

Since this is my first time on a flight alone, I was in the airport by 3:30 AM to catch a 6:05 AM plane. As the 'metal bird' carrying me accelerated, my whole body warmed. As it took off, I felt nothing. But as I saw the things I felt huge on the ground gradually become small, I realised I was high in the air. I felt I belonged to the air. 'What a take off!! Maybe everyone felt the same.' I thought and looked around only to see that half of the passengers deep asleep and the other half reading the newspaper or waiting impatiently for the coffee trolley. My neighbour was angry about the sudden and hard take off!

The sunrise was spectacular. I did not care to close the window flap to watch it. It was not like the one at Kanyakumari but it was new and nice! I started taking pictures of whatever I never saw from the top. Hills, forests, clouds, reflection of the rising sun in water bodies and airplanes! The air hostesses were performing their routines trying their best not show their bored faces, hiding them behind smiles! The pilot was detailing us about our journey, turbulences and the time of landing and announced that we were just few minutes away from Delhi and would landing soon. Wow! So fast! It felt nice. What a journey!! I guess I belong to the air!

No. It did not feel nice. It started just then and it felt like hours. Ear pain! I have never experienced pain in my ears to such extent. Then I remembered that my mother stuffed cotton in my ears last time and gave me chocolates to chew. My thoughts were again interrupted by stinging pain in my ears! This vehicle does not even have a chain to pull in emergency!! I occupied the window seat and could not even move into the aile because the two persons beside me were happily sleeping. How!!? People were still were drinking coffee happily and chatting. How!?

We descended over Delhi, my ear throbbing at its maximum. The morning Delhi was already on the move on the ground. And none among them have ear pain. I could hear nothing through my right ear and I was sure it would remain so for atleast a day. It did too. Maybe I belonged to the ground. Then we landed which I thought was the hardest thing for me that day!!
'Now, that's a smooth landing,' said my neighbour. 

Sunrise amidst the clouds

Reflection- water bodies

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Non-Stick University

The university has engrossed itself in a trendy flavour of pink for the past three days preparing for a massive event organised in it by the government of the newly formed Telangana. I was promised some fifty varieties of food unique to the state. But all I got is chicken, that too badly cleaned one. But it is not about the okay-ish food or the excellent cultural shows that I got to experience but it is about that pinkishness that the university, its walls and roads had to embrace, through posters and flags! Thanks to one of my very good friend, I realised the relevance of 'where-to-stick-the-posters!'

Its a door, not a notice board!!

After a talk about waste management, my friend, throwing her and another abandoned tea cup in the dustbin, commented on the poor state of the walls in the university. "I don't like posters to be stuck on walls." I asked, what was wrong in conveying message through a poster? A plain wall could be decorated with posters. She was not happy because,
1. Her undergraduate college had a better way to publicise posters. Apparently, they were never stuck on walls and were kept by the windows. Students later used them for rough work
2. The boards meant for sticking posters are not used properly and walls are used improperly.
3. The walls get really dirty

Looking at how every inch of the university walls are now covered with posters, I cannot agree less with her! I think there are other ways, much better ways to communicate with the "wall-media."-- Graffiti I don't think there is anything wrong in graffiti. Famous quotes should be written on walls but properly. Art students must be given a chance to put to use the stacked up colours for beautiful graffiti. They generally pass their time on flyovers. Go ahead. Fill the university walls. But keep it colourful and beautiful.  When our prime minister went to Kyoto as part of his Japan trip, a main point of discussion was Kyoto turning into a 'poster-free city.' Surprisingly but seemingly obvious, he was told that the Japanese values of cleanliness came from Buddhism. The PM then rightly pointed out that Indians might have conveniently forgotten the values of Buddhism.

When Buddhism offered solutions for cleanliness elsewhere in the world, why not in India, its birthplace!! Almost everybody is active on some social networking site. Posters can be posted on the sites and any communication through hard copy can be done with the help of pamphlets. Yet, there is a dire necessity of voluntary service. Service by both those who stick the posters and read them. For those who stick the posters to stick them in the prescribed areas, the notice boards and by those who read to say firmly that they only read those posters put up in the proper notice boards!
Or maybe, as a last resort use plaster to stick posters instead of gum!
As Kyoto pulls down the last two of its posters, let us pull down our first two and strive for a 'poster-free' university.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

All Time 15's!!!

"If a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous" said Acharya Chanakya. I did not read a lot of books and most of the famous and important books which one must read. However, since the time has come for me to tell everyone what I read and which are my favourites, I pretend to have read a lot of books.
I had no internet for one week and a lot changed since. I now realise that sensations can spread in a very short time. The #ALSicebucketchallenge way of nominating people has spread to various crazy things. One of them, this favourite book nomination and as I, with a mask of a 'venomous snake' am putting forth my ten favourite books. I only started reading very recently and of course read only fiction and not much beyond. Anyway, I give a shot.

I do not include my favourite epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata and other similar ones related to different mythologies; Fascinating books like the Arthasastra, IndicaLilavati and Mathematica and most importantly The Fountain Head  especially, Fundamentals of Physics by Haliday, Resnick and Walker only because I half read and half listened to these books.

Other than these, my best ten include (no order),

7. Trinetrudu, by Suryadevara Ramamohana Rao .... brilliant and inspiring two books. Narrates an inspiring story while giving live examples.

13. Kanyasulkam, by Gurajada Apparao ... for it being one of the best among the telugu literature and is very thought provoking.

9. The Harry Potter series ... of course it will be there on the list. Just one thing about this.. a must read for any body.

12. An Anthropologist among the Marxists, by Ramachandra Guha ... For telling through examples how a true patriot should be, would be and had been!! Though it is too Gandhian, well, after all it is Ramachandra Guha on the line.

4. Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less and A Prisoner of Birth, by Jeffrey Archer ... What an amazing story teller. The stories show the royalty of the British and they are so neat and perfect. In these two books, the plots are very beautiful.

11. Night Without End, by Alistair Maclean ... Believe me. On a 40-42 degree hot morning, as I was travelling in a packed compartment of a train to Guntur from Hyderabad, I read this book which is based in Greenland and I literally shivered as the author never cared to drop me back in the hot, crowdy train!!

5. Salvation of a Saint, by Keigo Higashino ... What a brilliant plot. If I felt I enjoyed reading his 'Devotion of Suspect X', I enjoyed this book ten times as much. Such a simple yet brilliant plot and especially when a Physicist is the one who cracks the case, it gets more interesting!!

10. Worshipping False Gods, by Arun Shourie ... for being the only book which dared to question B.R.Ambedkar's role in the Indian independence. Though I firmly believe in the only mission Dr.Ambedkar took up, I really think there are certain priorities and the country comes first!!

6. How I taught my Grandmother to Read and Write, by Sudha Murthy ... one of the first books I read. I did not know who Sudha Murthy was back then and like this list, I did not read the book in an order and it came quite as a surprise when I came to know who her husband is. Such a great, yet simple lady!!

15. Lilavati's Daughters, by Rohini Godbole,Ramakrishna Ramaswamy ... just for one reason. For introducing to me, one of the fantastic scientists I have ever seen, Dr.Rama Govindarajan. She is full of knowledge but none of unnecessary pride!

1. The Guide, by R K Narayan ... I could write many other books of his, but all are reflected in this one masterpiece

14. Kite Runner, by Khaled Hossaini ... I have read this sheer brilliant book, for A thousand times over

3. The Shiva Triology, by Amish Tripathi Such fantastic research and very good narration in keeping par with scientific explanations

8. Why are Things the Way they Are, by G Venkataraman Just for it being a 100 and odd page book with simple explanations.

2. Rafa, My Story, by
Rafael Nadal with John Carlin Purely for my love for Rafael Nadal. He however gives such a fantastic insight into his life, so much as telling about his arrangement of bottles during matches that it took me steps closer to him.

I am very sad for leaving out "The Monk who Sold its Ferrari," by Robin Sharma; "The Percy Jackson series," by Rick Riordan. That is it and I am trying to read more. Seriously!! :)