Sunday, November 29, 2009


I recently visited Vegnation - Palimar Restaurant's new avtar at Gemini Parsn Manere, Chennai. I found the fare quite good and quite easy on the wallet too. CavinKare has taken over its management. It is open from 11 AM.

To know more, read about it in The Hindu Metroplus at


Don't surrender your loneliness / So quickly. / Let it cut more deeply. / Let it ferment and season you / As few human / Or even divine ingredients can. -Hafez, poet (1315-1390)

Cotton and Rice

Sir Arthur Cotton and Benjamin Rice were two great British officials who did yeoman service in India. Recently their great-grandsons visited India and The Hindu group covered them.

Read on


I finished readily recently Tamil translation of Pallavi Aiyar's Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China. It was a very readable translation by Raman Raja. Kizhakku Pathippagam has published this book. One gets a feeling of reading the book in original, kudos to the translator for lucidity and free flowing character of the book.

A little backgrounder about the author. Delhi-born Pallavi Aiyar was the first Chinese-speaking Indian journalist based in Beijing. After studies in Britain and the United States, she arrived in Beijing to teach English and went on to become the China correspondent for The Hindu.

The book is at once an autobiographical narrative as well as sociological snapshot of China.

The author encounters yoga practitioners, hotel workers, lives in Hutongs (n Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences), businessmen, Tibetans and paints an engaging portrait of China - booming economy, McDonaldization of China.

I found fascinating the chapter on her travel on The Qinghai-Tibet train. "The Qinghai-Tibet railway has unlocked the gate to the roof of the world and unleashed with it a torrent of admiration and criticism. It is the world's longest and highest highland railway, an engineering marvel that the Chinese government says will bring about an economic renaissance in a region that has thus far remained poor and underdeveloped. Critics have, however, raised the alarm regarding the destructive potential of the railway for Tibet's pristine environment and unique culture."

She never fails to bring Indian perspective into play throughout the book. Where has India failed where China has succeeded enormously ? Is democracy proving a hurdle to progress in India ? Dragon versus elephant debate has always been interesting. One can on reading this book appreciate Chinese ways to tackling their contentious issues, how they are succeeding in propelling their economy at a dizzying pace. She also has pointers on China's future. Will China's run continue or will it collapse ?
She says Chinese Communist party is playing its cards well and is working towards its goal of staying in power and at the same time carry their people with them.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in China.

You can buy this book online at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pranav Mistry

Here is a write-up on him in The Hindu few days back:

The Indian genius researcher from MIT, who unveiled his futuristic ‘Sixth Sense’ project earlier this year, made a significant announcement at the first-ever TED (Technology, Entertainment and Development) conference in India.

Pranav Mistry told his spellbound audience that he would open-source his project (make the code freely available) in less than a month.

For months now, technology enthusiasts have been fascinated with his invention. His revolutionary project prototype promises to take computing to the next level, standing at the threshold of Web 3.0. Videos of Mr. Mistry clicking snaps with his bare hands, checking email on his palm or flipping through multimedia reviews while rummaging through a library shelf have been doing the rounds. Yet when this shy researcher took the stage and showed how his pendant contraption lets him use natural hand gestures to perform computing tasks that require hardware interfaces, the audience went berserk. In Mr. Mistry’s augmented world, any surface doubles up as a multi-touch screen and the world is his computer.

But why go open-source with it now, much before a product release or even spinning a revenue model around this out-of-the-world concept? “There have been many offers, but money means little to me. If this product could be taken forward and fuel greater innovation, that would be my reward,” he says in an interview to The Hindu. Swamped with corporate offers, he says he would be “most excited” if the Indian government was to approach him. “What could be a better way for me to take this technology to the masses!”

So is the product as simple as it appears? The apparatus comprises a small contraption that can be worn like a pendant around your neck, connected wirelessly to a simple smartphone in your pocket. This apparatus helps you carry the digital world with you, wherever you go, as Mr. Mistry says. The pendant holds a camera, mirror and powerful projector. The camera captures the physical gestures (users can customise it to understand different commands), sends the information to the mobile computing device for processing, and the output is projected. The downward-facing projector projects the output image on to the mirror, which reflects it on to the desired surface. Thus, digital information is freed from its confines and placed in the physical world.

In its current form, the project costs less than $350. A large part of this is the projector cost, and that is set to decline soon. However, cost is not the only issue. Before this dream-like product can be brought to India, there are hurdles to cross: the most important one is wireless connectivity is not a given factor in India, and smart phones are expensive.

Mr. Mistry, who studied at a Gujarati-medium school in Palanpur, Gujarat, attributes his innovative spirit to his architect father who built him his first video game. “Unlike other children, I did not get a branded video game. Mine was an open circuit that even buzzed.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Claude Levi-Strauss is no more

Here are the two links:

‘I only want to enjoy my childhood, ma’

This article by Inumella Sesikala appeared in The Hindu on Nov 8, 2009. Go ahead and read it for yourself:

Dear co-parents, some of us might hear a small, fading voice making yet another attempt to reach us)

Amma, I don’t want to go to school.

I am just a child, Ma. I want someone to tell me stories and teach me. I want to watch tadpoles and butterflies and know what they eat, where they sleep. I want to climb a hill and catch a cloud to see what it is made of.

I want to wait with my hands in the stream and feel the fish swimming.

I want to run with the puppies, sing with the birds, and play with paper-boats in the rain.

I want to lie down on the soft green grass and hear the wind whisper.

Only then I want to learn more about them from the printed word.

Only after my imagination is fired, my thirst to know more has begun, a seed of ‘Why?’ is planted in my brain.

Amma, I feel trapped in the prison-like classroom. I feel my spirit slowly weakening with the monotonous teaching. Often, when I ask a basic question our teachers say, “No time for all that. Let us finish the syllabus.”

I get tired of studying just for marks without pausing to truly understand.

I want to go to the museum with my classmates and hear my teacher explain the stories of the artefacts.

I want plenty of nature trips where real Biology classes would be held.

I want to see colourful videos of volcanic eruptions and deep-sea dwellings.

I want our whole school to visit together the historic and cultural places in my city.

I want to learn astronomy after looking through a telescope once.

I don’t want to just read them in my textbooks; I want to see, hear, touch, smell and taste whatever I can. I want to experience.

Why can’t the school make at least one such trip every year?

And, I cannot stoop down anymore to carry my school sack. My back is ready to break. Why should I carry all the books everyday? Why can’t we have only two subjects per day? Or, why don’t we have lockers like in the Western schools? And, why should I squeeze in that over-crowded auto?

But, Amma, growing up no longer seems to be fun. I see only more of homework, winter projects, summer classes, weekly tests, monthly tests, quarterly, half-yearly and annual exams, external competitive exams, more tests, more competitions, more pressure, more stress…

When can I sing, paint, dance, swim, or cycle?

When I can just play cricket or even hide-and-seek?

What happened to that minimum sleep that you always say a child needs?

Why should I always study, study?

Amma, I am scared of increasing atrocities by untrustworthy teachers, ragging-raving seniors, acid-loving nuts, perverted adults…

Ma, right now, I don’t want to be a doctor, engineer or anything else.

I just want to feel safe and secure, play and learn without any stress before I become an adult like you.

I only want to enjoy my childhood, Ma.