Monday, April 28, 2008

The Knife Conundrum

I read this in The Economic Times a few days ago and found it to be an intriguing question.

Assume that you have a knife. An ordinary knife with two parts to it: a wooden handle and the steel blade. Now, after a few years of use, you find out that the blade is in a bad condition, has lost its edge and must be replaced. So you go ahead and replace the blade with another piece of steel blade.

Considering that the blade is the more 'essential' part of the knife, would you say that it is the same knife or a new/different knife?

Ok.. let's go ahead.

After another few years, you realise that the wooden handle of the knife too needs to be replaced as it has weathered considerably. You remove the wooden handle too and replace it with a new handle.

What now? Is it still the same knife?

Interesting, isn't it?

Now, let's consider the human body.

Considering that after every few years, almost all our body cells die and are replaced with new cells, are we then the same person or have we finally found an answer why man 'changes over time' ??

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Post no. 250: Vande Mataram

I happened to hear the 'Vande Mataram' at least 3 times on the way to work today morning. It wasn't the A. R. Rahman soul-stirring version, but the soothing violin rendition that one used to hear on All India Radio in the mornings.

The National Song of India, 'Vande Mataram' has always been one of my favourite songs in Sanskrit (not that I know much of Sanskrit - just a couple of 'shlokas' and a few couplets here and there). However, the beauty of Bankim Chandra's song from his great novel "Anand Math" has always captivated me. Here's the reason why:

'Vande Mataram' - translation by Shri Aurobindo

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.

Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Thou who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman drove
Back from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.

Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Though art love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nerves the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine
In our temples is but thine.

Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleams,
Dark of hue O candid-fair

In thy soul, with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Loveliest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free

Friday, April 25, 2008


"Hamlet: The Prince Of Denmark" is one of my all-time favourite plays. I studied Hamlet as a part of my English syllabus at the ISC level (my love for "Great Expectations" also arises similarly). Of the many fond recollections that I have of the play, the one that strikes me the most is when I argued with my English tuition teacher.

He was of the opinion that some of Hamlet's 'madness' were mere projections to throw the likes of Claudius, Polonius and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern off-guard; the rest of the time he had perhaps actually lost his mental balance owing to

a) his father's unfortunate (and perhaps untimely) death; and
b) his mother's little hesitation in getting married to his uncle, Claudius.

I argued with Sir (my English tuition teacher) that why put the blame on Hamlet, when such an accusation can be made towards most 'normal' human beings. Don't we all act most practical at times, only to act stupid and emotional at other times and not see things as they really exist?

Anyway, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" is one of the most famous soliloquies ever; it has every right to be so. However, I personally liked his first soliloquy more than his second. The following is Hamlet's first soliloquy from Act I Scene II:


O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

[link courtesy:]

But the one speech which I came to like the most in the whole play comes from a very surprising source: the foolish old man Polonius. His advise to his son Laertes, who is leaving for foreign shores for higher education, is something which I greatly liked. Here it goes:


Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

[link courtesy:]

Monday, April 21, 2008

You don't need to be a Dhirubhai... be an entrepreneur. You just need to be a passionate believer. Here's something I came across earlier today.


Detroit School Of Rock Success Story

(FORTUNE Small Business) -- If you think you can't launch a business in these tough times, think again. I recently met an entrepreneur who confirmed my belief that anything is possible if you have the right idea and sufficient passion.

A few weeks back, I listed some office furniture on Craigslist. A friendly guy named Jason Gittinger responded moments later. He was on the prowl for a good deal. Gittinger described himself as "just a drummer" but also mentioned that he was starting a business.

He stopped by the next day, and I found myself completely taken with him. Of course, it helped that he'd used as a key resource to write his business plan, but what interested me most was his incredible, contagious passion.

Based in Royal Oak, Mich., The Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music is Gittinger's dream business come true. The newfangled music school launches this week and promises to eliminate much of the drudgery of learning to play an instrument.

Instead of traditional music lessons, Gittinger's for-profit school immerses students in an actual five-member band of similarly skilled wannabes who jam together regularly, supplemented by practice sessions with a "music mentor."

Yes, the music usually sounds a little off, but the rising rock stars have a blast, which is critical to keeping them enthusiastic and engaged.

While the secret ingredient to Gittinger's business plan is this fun factor, the secret to getting the business off the ground - even in spite of the tough economic time - has been his passion.

Unlike so many who write business plans but never put them into action, Gittinger successfully scrounged all the key ingredients he needed to hang the "Open" sign on his door.

At every turn, his passion - verging on obsession - was pivotal.

For example, Gittinger needed to finance the build-out of the space. The drummer-turned-entrepreneur succeeded in getting an SBA-backed bank loan, which is no easy task. How did he do it? Gittinger not only wrote a business plan, but also created a 500-page training manual for the teachers whom he planned to hire. When he tossed that manual on the banker's desk, it became obvious that Gittinger wasn't your average drummer.

When he found his dream location, he got the owner excited about his concept for the school and put that "warm fuzzy" to work. He was able to negotiate the monthly rent down from $3,800 to $2,900. And because the owner took a shine to his vision, Gittinger was able to arrange for a portion of those monthly payments to be allocated to a future purchase of the property. Smart.

Next, how to furnish the place? It needed the "cool factor" musicians crave and insulated spaces where they could jam. Gittinger heard that the dilapidated Michigan State Fairgrounds was being demolished.

He got in touch with a foreman and offered to remove the wooden basketball court floor before the building was destroyed. Another sweet deal. Now his school would have gorgeous wooden floors, suffused with local nostalgia.

And on the way back to the school, he found two brand-new warehouse windows at a garbage dump, and threw those in the truck as well.

But now, how to pay for the labor to lay the floor, hang windows, build walls and paint everything - not to mention wiring, plumbing and making sure everything was up to code?

Again, Gittinger's passion played an unexpected but instrumental role. One day while he was screwing in the emergency exit lights, a 20-something guy walked through the front door. He was an aspiring guitarist who had heard about Gittinger's school.

"Dude, got any extra paint brushes?" he asked. "I'd be happy to help."

Many other volunteers helped out along the way. This wasn't just a business, people sensed. The launching of the school had become a cause, with Gittinger as its evangelist.

All in all, Gittinger estimates that he added about $1 million worth of improvements to the facility - but he spent only a tenth of that to get it finished. Better yet, he already has 90 applications from musicians who want to come play at the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music. Not bad, considering that landing those first customers is the single most difficult task for any startup.

Based on his projections, Gittinger is now on the verge of leaping from the dollar-poor life of a drummer to the six-figure life of a drummer entrepreneur. Yeah, there's doom and gloom in all the major economic indicators. But does that really matter to Gittinger? Frankly, I'm not even sure he knows there's an economy out there. He's far too focused on his grand opening.


Jhumri Talaiya

1. Received this SMS from a close friend today afternoon: "It is said that we know the meaning of being happy only once we've known what it is like being sad.. then how do we know that we are living till the time we experience death?"

Completely stumped, I could only recommend her to read up the works of Bertrand Russel and/or J. Krishnamurthi.

2. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is well and truly underway. It has been a much bigger hit than I had thought it would be; what with the damp squib that the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) turned out to be. I believe that after the opening match of the IPL (Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Bangalore Royal Challengers), Brendan McCullum has become an overnight sensation in Calcutta (I can't wait to go back to Cal to hear how they pronounce his name in the padas.)

And today, of course, they won at the Eden against the Deccan Chargers. Oh how I wish I were there!!!

3. I was speaking to Ravi today. He was complaining to me how terrible the heat and the humidity in Calcutta has become. I knew that he was absolutely spot-on 'coz only day before yesterday, a colleague whose parents stay in Cal was telling me the same thing. Moreover, Mom too was complaining about it over the phone today evening.

My mind rushed back to a few years ago when I was travelling around Cal in May and I was thinking to myself how awful it would become in a couple of years. And it has been that way!!! And I blame deforestation and unintentional ecology harming 'developments' for this.

I have resolved to do something about this as soon as I reach Cal. I've already asked a few friends and they too feel that something needs to be done urgently. It would be great if you could give me any inputs.

~folded hands~ Samaachar samaapt hue.

P.S. If you're still wondering why I mentioned the once major mica mining town of Jharkhand as my title post, it's because I couldn't think of anything appropriate for the disjointed post contents.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Story of 'Man'

Today, I chanced upon the Vivekananda Vedanta Network website after a long, long time. Searching for inspiration, I desperately wanted to read some of his works.

Although not exactly what I was looking for, the following article really surprised me. Plus, towards the end of the piece, I also came across a story of Manu. I have of course heard of stories of the great sage Manu, but hadn't known about this one.


This lecture on Jnana Yoga was delivered by Swami Vivekananda in London on June 21, 1896, and is reproduced here from his Complete Works, 2: 70-87.

Two Options: (1) Nihilism or (2) Seeking the Real

Two positions are possible. One is to believe with the nihilists that all is nothing, that we know nothing, that we can never know anything either about the future, the past, or even the present. For we must remember that one who denies the past and the future and wants to stick to the present is simply mad. One may as well deny the father and mother and assert the child. It would be equally logical. To deny the past and future, the present must inevitably be denied also. This is one position, that of the nihilists. I have never seen a person who could really become a nihilist for one minute. It is very easy to talk.

Then there is the other position--to seek for an explanation, to seek for the real, to discover in the midst of this eternally changing and evanescent world whatever is real. In this body, which is an aggregate of molecules of matter, is there anything real? This has been the search throughout the history of the human mind. In the very oldest times, we often find glimpses of light coming into the minds of people. We find men and women, even then, going a step beyond this body, finding something which is not this external body, although very much like it, much more complete, much more perfect, and which remains even when this body is dissolved. We read in the hymns of the Rig-Veda, addressed to the God of Fire who is burning a dead body, "Carry him, O Fire, in your arms gently, give him a perfect body, a bright body, carry him where the fathers live, where there is no more sorrow, where there is no more death."

The Concept of "The Fall"

The same idea you will find present in every religion. And we get another idea with it. It is a significant fact that all religions, without one exception, hold that we humans are a degeneration of what we once were, whether they clothe this in mythological words, or in the clear language of philosophy, or in the beautiful expressions of poetry. This is the one fact that comes out of every scripture and of every mythology that we as we are now are a degeneration of what we were. This is the kernel of truth within the story of Adam's fall in the Jewish scripture. This is again and again repeated in the scriptures of the Hindus; the dream of a period which they call the Age of Truth (satya-yuga), when no one died unless they wished to die, when they could keep their bodies as long as they liked, and their minds were pure and strong. There was no evil and no misery; and the present age is a corruption of that state of perfection.

Side by side with this, we find the story of the deluge everywhere. That story itself is a proof that this present age is held to be a corruption of a former age by every religion. It went on becoming more and more corrupt until the deluge swept away a large portion of humanity, and again the ascending series began. It is going up slowly again to reach once more the early state of purity. You are all aware of the story of the deluge in the Old Testament. The same story was current among the ancient Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Hindus. Manu, a great ancient sage, was praying on the bank of the Ganga, when a little minnow came to him for protection, and he put it into a pot of water he had before him. "What do you want?" asked Manu. The little minnow declared he was pursued by a bigger fish and wanted protection. Manu carried the little fish to his home, and in the morning he had become as big as the pot and said, "I cannot live in this pot any longer." Manu put him in a tank, and the next day he was as big as the tank and declared he could not live there any more. So Manu had to take him to a river, and in the morning the fish filled the river. Then Manu put him in the ocean, and he declared, "Manu, I am the Creator of the universe. I have taken this form to come and warn you that I will deluge the world. You build an ark and in it put a pair of every kind of animal, and let your family enter the ark, and there will project out of the water my horn. Fasten the ark to it; and when the deluge subsides, come out and people the earth." So the world was deluged, and Manu saved his own family and two of every kind of animal and seeds of every plant. When the deluge subsided, he came and peopled the world; and we are called "man", because we are the progeny of Manu.

Retro parking lot

Twice now have I been pleasantly surprised to the sights at my office parking lot.

The first occasion was a couple of months ago when I spotted this Beetle.

There's something about a Beetle which just draws your attention to it. (Motee says that it always looks like the Beetle is smiling back at you.)

And then, yesterday, I spotted this Jeep which just brought forth a wave of nostalgia.

However, my office parking space is not half as spectacular as this. ;)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Til Kingdom Come

The 'Welcome Tune' on my mobile phone now for some time... and the song on my iPod in a loop.


"Til Kingdom Come"

Steal my heart and hold my tongue.
I feel my time, my time has come.
Let me in, unlock the door.
I've never felt this way before.

The wheels just keep on turning,
The drummer begins to drum,
I don't know which way I'm going,
I don't know which way I've come.

Hold my head inside your hands,
I need someone who understands.
I need someone, someone who hears,
For you, I've waited all these years.

For you, I'd wait 'til kingdom come.
Until my day, my day is done.
And say you'll come, and set me free,
Just say you'll wait, you'll wait for me.

In your tears and in your blood,
In your fire and in your flood,
I hear you laugh, I heard you sing,
"I wouldn't change a single thing."

The wheels just keep on turning,
The drummers begin to drum,
I don't know which way I'm going,
I don't know what I've become.

For you, I'd wait 'til kingdom come,
Until my days, my days are done.
Say you'll come and set me free,
Just say you'll wait, you'll wait for me.
Just say you'll wait, you'll wait for me.
Just say you'll wait, you'll wait for me.

-- Coldplay

Now playing: Coldplay - Til Kingdom Come [Hidden Track]
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Praise works in many ways

I realised today that praise can work in many ways.

To most, praise can only uplift their spirits and make them feel happy and elated.

To others, praise can actually be disappointing, if they feel that their efforts haven't been recognised enough.

And yet there are those who feel extremely disappointed and dejected at having been left out of the laurel sheet completely.