Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

“The Making of the Title” – Special Blog Feature.

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2008 at 11:48 am

I always title my web-pages, blogs, photo-share etc, with Appoose’. Note the apostrophe appears at the right most bit.  The syntactical correct form should be “Appoose’s”. However, ever since I made the initial typo; I have fallen more and more in love with the apostrophe at the end.

The reason. I love to consider myself as a plural being. Different pieces in constant argument, motion and reverberance to form a amazing self-organising network called ‘me’. The plurality comes in many domains; for example, biological, intellectual and social. The one aspect I love to track about myself is the flow of ideas inside me, across me and through me.

Now coming to the second word; ‘perturbations’. I am person who think very ‘locally’. Unfortunately often the task of finding a global picture or its placement does not come naturally to me. And, I have to struggle hard; especially if the local and temporally short live thoughts have not been captured and recorded. Moreover, I believe I am at my best when I am thinking locally. The moments in which the strains of thoughts suddenly make a weird collage in my mind, uniquely perturbed from my earlier mental models. These perturbations are special and essentially constitutes a major portion of me. The very perturbations I am trying to capture; motivated by the fear that I will loose it if not recorded.

For example I just re-noticed, my classic affinity towards trios (refer to the last two sentence of the paragraph earlier) or maybe this affinity is something my local universe has imparted on me (for eg, ‘for the people’, ‘of the people’ and ‘by the people’). The ol’ fashion narcissist in me will like to re-mix it as, the purpose of this writing is to capture the sentiment (’for me’ , ‘of me’ and ‘by me’).


A critic on Blind Conservatism.

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2008 at 3:11 pm

“Preserve our {culture|faith|values}”

Every time this quintessential conservative and right-winged argument gets hurled into public arena, a pang of fear+concern wave rips over me. The surprising fact is that I do not have a major disagreement with a community expressing such a sentiment. In-fact, in a good number of ‘specific’ cases I can empathise with such a statement. `Apprehension to change things that are traditionally and historically found to be working reasonably well, providing an order, structure and support system’ is a valid and an essential one. However, the problem with the typical main-stream right wing arguments are their unwillingness to specify what they need to preserve.

Whether it be the RSS/VHP’s attempt to ‘conserve’ the Bharatiya Sanskriti (Indian Culture) or be it Islamic terrorist’s attempt to wage Jihad to ‘conserve’ Islam or be it Raj Thackery and co trying to ‘conserve’ the Marathi pride or be it American right-wingers attempt to ‘conserve’ the American and family value; what is lacking is a good enough specification of what they are trying to ‘conserve’ (and why).
Let me take Sangh Parivar as a case study. The question that I want to raise is what do you mean by Indian Culture and Tradition ? (and the second question is why do you want to preserve it; however this question is irrelevant if the first is not answered). There are off-shot questions like `What constitute the act of conservation ? ‘, `Why should a majority remain a majority and minority a minority ?’. However, I am not going into such sub-questions.

I came to IIT around 5 years ago. Almost all of the 23 years of my pre-IIT life I lived at Kerala. So suddenly, I was thrown into a cultural and traditional landscape totally unknown to me. The belief systems, traditions, festivals that are celebrated, food habits, language dialects all were alien to me. Now isn’t it natural that when someone calls for the preservation of the culture of India, I find it extremely ambiguous and confusing!

Is it the culture of Kerala (if it may be defined) or is it it culture that I see around at Mumbai (if it may be defined) or some other place, say Delhi our national capital that I need to preserve!!! In fact, personally I found that I connected with a western (Australian) culture more easily than I could connected to the Mumbai culture. In my personal metric (dare I generalise to upper-middle class internet age south-indian) cultural distance between South Indian culture to North Indian culture. super-seeds the cultural distance between South Indian culture to Western culture (dare I generalise again!).

But to make my argument more concrete, let’s start by asking ourselves, what do you mean by the term `culture’ ? Wikipedia gave me two related definition

  1. “Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Cultures can be “understood as systems of symbols and meanings that even their creators contest, that lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another”
  2. “Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the art.”

We will take the second argument, since the first definition innately writes QED for the non-conservative argument.
Similarly, what do you mean by the term `tradition’

  • “On a basic theoretical level, tradition(s) can be seen as information or composed of information. For that which is brought into the present from the past, in a particular societal context, is information. This is even more fundamental than particular acts or practices even if repeated over a long sequence of time.”

Now, the starking common feature from the both these definitions are that, culture as well as traditional are multi-dimensional in nature. So let’s break down by dimensions.

Can we (or the right-wingers) defined what qualities are measured in each dimensions ? Let’s for the time being assume we can. The next question is can we sort out these dimensions according to a relevance score based on amount of preservation that we need to do. Again, let’s assume we can do so. What are the optimal value (positions) that we should set as bench-mark ? Note, here I am not questioning the rationale of converging to a particular value (which opens up another huge lot of moral arguments), I am merely asking to specify what is that we need to converge.

The hate-mongers does neither of these three. The lack of specification is an effective tool, in-fact it is when the extremes of two social forces meet, anarchism packaged as conservatism; nothing can be more potent that that! It is dis-heartening to recollect that how in past couple of decades our nation has ripped apart; by poisonous and under-(nil)-specified {political|religious|geographical}-bogus arguments.
ps: I wish a wikipedian order can transcend to our public political and debate space where I can express my [[citation needed]] tag freely and liberally.


In Uncategorized on October 20, 2008 at 1:15 pm

`To appreciate a good idea’. (You cannot be a good cook, without enjoying food)

Having done PhD in Computer Science (primary an engineering discipline) my pre-PhD notion was that I would hone up my objective thinking skills. However, this turned out to be quite the contrary. I found the field to be too vast than what could fit in my intellectual horizon. This awoke the pragmatist inside in me and had to concentrate on a minor sub-sub-problem. Many often I had to make subjective (based on gut intuition supplemented by statistically significant inputs) decision.

My appreciation of the current field is more post-modernistic, rather than absolute. In-fact I believe majority of researchers I have interacted share this belief. The vastness of field, coupled by the incomplete understanding brings upon a new interesting notion that you do not ordinarly associate with science. `Personality’. Your scientific-personality is exposed in the form of the ideas you are playing with; however more importantly how you connect the ideas and how you mould them to a tangible and useful form and structure.

There is a sense of extreme beauty in how a good researcher goes upon solving a problem. Akin to Michelangelo taking a slab of concrete, chipping away peices and retaining only the relevant form, and finally polishing the sculpture, a good researchers prunes away irrelvant details and domains from a given problem; builds upon (or create a new) framework to give a form for his solution and fine polishes each elements in the process.

PhD – a spiritual journey

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2008 at 3:17 pm

I am on the verge of submitting my thesis (hopefully in another couple of months’ time). Last 5 odd years have been a tumultuous , enjoyable and almost surreal (nevertheless extremely real) ride. Today, in a department function I was asked to summarise whether I enjoyed the last five years of my PhD life and given a chance (in a hypothetical second life) will I dare to do a PhD again. The answer to second question is clear, ‘yes’ I will dare to do a PhD again. However I would love to take a gist of experiences I had learned during my current endeavour to my next/parallel life, to make that experience more enterprising and rewarding. The question regarding the enjoyment quotient of the PhD process is hard to answer. In fact, I really could not formulate an answer  (and I suspect, the chances are slim that I will converge to a reasonable answer in future also). It really has been a love and hate relationship for me with the PhD process. There were times when despair and panic made deep in-roads in me. Let me be honest, the thought of quit-ing PhD did cross my mind multiple number of times.   And there where times when the process was enthralling, exciting and extremely enjoyable.

It is almost impossible to condense experiences from the last 5 years into blog-post(s), without being overtly verbose. Hence I am not attempting to do so.

There are few qualities (good as well as bad) the process of doing PhD has instigated inside me. I see, hear and understand things very differently from what I used to 5 years back. The attempt of these posts (hopefully I will follow this up with many more) is to briefly touch upon the qualities that I am proud of having acquired in the past years. It is a more of a meta-physical counterpart to my thesis, however with a stricter adherence to Occam’s razor. I am candidly acknowledging that the posts are self-indulging (and this is intentional!). So my prior apologies for that.