Sunday, 14 February 2016

S. Chandrashekhar on Patriotism

Oh, I knew him [CV Raman] moderately well, but not really as well as one would think. His role essentially was to bring my attention to science. Of course, you see, the general sentiment in India at that time was quite curious. I mean, of course, it was the time when Nehru and Gandhi and others were active in politics; and like all young men, I was also very involved in that. And it was also a time when India was very proud of its men. For example, I knew about (Srinivasa) Ramanujan and his life, and that he became the first Indian to become a Fellow of the Royal Society (in 1918).  
It was all very much in the air, and of course, we were - i.e., all young students - all very proud of men like Nehru and Gandhi. It was a part of the patriotism of those times to try and see what Indians could accomplish with respect to the external world. Accomplishment in science was one way of expressing what Indians could do, you see. And I would say that this motive was present. Patriotism is a word which is not a very popular one to use these days; but Patriotism, as it was understood in India in the twenties, was one in which it was a part of everyone's wish to show that Indians could be accomplished, in a way which the outside world can recognize. To accomplish in science, to show what one could do in science, was a part of my feeling. And certainly that was one of the early motives that I had. But of course, motives in science change as you grow older. I mean, that attitude towards science is not present in me at the present time, but it was present in those days. [Bold italics mine].

S Chandrashekhar became a naturalised US citizen, and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his work on the Chandrashekhar Limit. One of NASA's four Great Observatories [the Chandra X Ray Observatory] is named after him.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Tagore on Nationalism

Where The Mind Is Without Fear

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.

The Sunset of the Century

The Last Sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred.
The naked passion of self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium of greed, is
dancing to the clash of steel and the howling verses of vengeance.
The hungry self of the Nation shall burst in a violence of fury from its own shameless feeding.
For it has made the world its food,
And licking it, crunching it, and swallowing it in big morsels,
It swells and swells
Till in the midst of its unholy feast descends the sudden heaven piercing its
heart of grossness.

The crimson glow of light on the horizon is not the light of thy dawn of peace,
my Motherland.
It is the glimmer of the funeral pyre burning to ashes the vast flesh, - the self-love of the Nation, - dead under its own excess.
Thy morning waits behind the patient dark of the East,
Meek and silent.

Keep watch, India.
Bring your offerings of worship for that sacred sunrise.
Let the first hymn of its welcome sound in your voice, and sing,
'Come, Peace, thou daughter of God's own great suffering.
Come with thy treasure of contentment, the sword of fortitude,
And meekness crowning thy forehead.'
Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful
With your white robe of simpleness.
Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul.
Build God's throne daily upon the ample bareness of your poverty
And know that what is huge is not great and pride is not everlasting.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Of News and Other Stuff-22*

  • Economics reporting in India (at least in the generalist newspapers) is quite poor. I am not still talking about the lack of op-eds here. I am talking about vanilla reporting. For example the Indian Express and the Hindu both reported that Raghuram Rajan expressed skepticism about the new GDP series. What he said was, that if two mothers baby sit each others' kids, and pay each other, their wage gets added to the GDP. If they cared for their respective kids, the same activity would not be considered as a 'market good' and would be excluded from the GDP numbers. This is, quite obviously, a problem with the concept of GDP calculation itself, not a criticism of a particular methodology to get there. Similarly, Rajan has reportedly said that having a state backed Asset Recovery Company would cause moral hazard. The Indian Express in its edit on 2 Feb, explains this as the unfairness of taxpayers taking the hit for corporate wrongdoing and lack of banking sector due diligence. But more precisely, moral hazard is the situation where the corporate/ banking sector, expecting to be bailed out when in trouble, does not take adequate action to avert the trouble.
  • KN Raj was 26 years old when he co-authored the first Five Year Plan. How does that make you feel, you bunch of millenials?
  • I am generally quite proud of the lack of extreme religiosity in my family, and most of the Bengali community I know. But even I am uncomfortable about how my mom's philosophy of performing Saraswati Puja is to wing it. 
  • Amartya Sen is an almost disappointing public speaker. But maybe I would be really disinterested too if my all-adult audience did not know that it was polite to keep their phones on silent during lectures. [I also want to snark about the not-too bright person who introduced him, but since I don't even know his name, I will leave him alone]. 
  • You could be a Bharat Ratna and a Nobel laureate, the writer of multiple books, and really, really smart, but you will still fail in the Bengali popularity sweepstakes to Sourav Ganguly and Subhas Bose. Because you and your Bengali wife got a divorce and then you moved on. 
  • No I did not forget to mention Tagore. Just that nobody beats Gurudev at anything. (Incidentally Tagore christened Sen).
  • Did you know there many Bengalis keep a photo of Tagore hanging on the wall? Like the Gandhi picture in government offices. I think I spotted in Piku's sets as well, though I am not completely certain.
*Because I figured you are not keeping track of the post numbers anyway.