I wanted to write this post a few days back on the eve of India’s Republic day – 26th January. Better late than never.

A few days prior to that I had watched a few videos on Youtube like this one and this. A man went about asking questions about modern Indian history and independence movement to random strangers on the road. Most of the people were young in their 20’s, a few middle aged. The feeling that it evoked was of amazement as well as sadness. Amazement because the questions asked were not particularly difficult. You ask them to a primary school student and 9 times out of 10 you would get the correct answer. Maybe people forget these things they learn in school. Secondly, I felt sad, because of the same reason. Barring a few people, nobody in the video seemed to be even remotely knowledgeable of Indian history, or even be ashamed at not knowing basic history.

I refrain to use the word ‘shame’ as a feeling that I had because (a) it is a very strong word and (b) it would not do justice to many people like me who would not like to be associated with the junta that does not value history or would even take the time to learn about. Also, my feeling is that every country in the world has people who do not value their freedom and the associated (relatively) easy life.

But let us come back to the main idea of this post. A poem. A beautiful poem.

I was talking about the history of India with my colleague at work a few days back. He seemed to be somewhat interested and so we had a conversation for a few minutes. Towards the end we discussed M. K. Gandhi. Yes, the man we all should be indebted to. Because, before Startup India happened, before Liberalization and many other things happened, that put India on the world map, this man put us there. Not because he wanted something for himself, but because he wanted freedom for all of his fellow countrymen and the way he chose to accomplish that. Only by being himself, by leading an exemplary life.

Today is Martyr’s day (30 January). We pay homage to all martyrs who fought for the country’s independence and it also marks Gandhiji’s assassination at the hands of a fellow Indian on this very day in 1948. But before we became a free country, during tough times of struggle, what would Gandhiji have been thinking. There were many who supported a separate country; today we call it Pakistan. What would have been going on in the mind of this great man who wanted peace and non-violence to prevail. He lived his life for these principles. I told my colleague that it would be unthinkable in today’s world to have another Gandhi among us. To live with and for truth and peace all one’s life is nearly, if not completely, impossible.

Today morning I woke up earlier than usual for today is a Saturday. I went to straight to my books and, with morning sunlight pouring through the window blinds, picked up this excellent one: Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore. (Amazon link)


I have had this book since 2012 and read it from time to time. It is a collection of poems by the great poet, author and yogi. It also won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the first non-European to receive it. Every time I read a poem I fall in love. It provokes different thoughts and I spend time with different emotions for a few minutes. Today morning was one such time.

I read poem number 35 in school in my English book.  “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…”. But today, I want to direct your attention to another poem.

Number 32:

By all means they try to hold me secure who love me in this world. But it is otherwise with thy love which is greater than theirs, and thou keepest me free.

Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me alone. But day passes by after day and thou art not seen.

If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee in my heart, thy love for me still waits for my love.

I meditated for a while after reading it a few times. And finally I settled on a thought. This poem fits Gandhiji’s life very well. I could imagine him thinking about an independent India while the country while the country was reeling under British rule and going through a turmoil among its own people searching for an identity.

Thinking as a person during that time: The masses love him because he felt their pain and dedicates his time, efforts and every breath to uplift the common poor Indian. But some Indians oppose him, specially disagreeing with his non-violent peaceful methods and the idea of all people living under one roof. But he thinks about them too and accepts the love they have for their motherland. Maybe they do not agree with him on some things but still love him for his devotion to the cause. He would think about their love, for him and for the nation. Their love sets him free from fear and prejudice. But he knows that the nation waits for his love, no matter what. Love is worship, dedication and work. And they expect from him and wait for his love. And history is witness that he did not disappoint. He showered them with love. He did not discriminate. He did not tire. He did not relent. He only loved. And you cannot love something that you do not believe in; he believed in freedom of every human being.

When I wrote earlier about people not knowing and relating with our freedom fighters, this was an important point to consider. Maybe they do not feel the love in a way that people did before. The kind that makes you free. Maybe today people are less free than they were before.

This poem made me think about those hard times, about the challenges that Gandhiji faced. Gurudev (Tagore) would have thought about such things while composing such beautiful lines. His poetry is simple but thought provoking and I wanted to share this gem with you all on this day when we remember our martyrs who laid down their lives not only on the battlefields, but also speaking to the masses through their literary works. Today is a good day to remember all such freedom fighters, defense personnel who have laid their lives on the borders and people like Rabindranath Tagore who force us to think, make us feel deeply and introspect ourselves. My respects to the heroes.

P.S.: There is another poem that I read today. Number 61. More on that in another post.

Posted on by Pranab Narayan Jha | 3 Comments

On the startup culture in India and Government support #StartupIndia

Recently, I read an article (the Wire webiste) on Indian government’s new incentives for startups. The article is written by Purushottam Kesar who is an alumnus of NIT Hamirpur, my alma mater. The recent developments in this area in India is very intriguing and also because  Purushottam is a senior from my college, I took the time to read it. He sums up the factors behind success of places like Silicon Valley and Eindhoven (Phillips) in fostering the startup culture.

I am very much in favor or startup being supported by the government. But currently, the startups in India are only derivatives of original ideas, as mentioned in the original article. This is evident from the huge number of consumer market-driven startups that have come up recently and are based on the models that have been tried and tested in the US/Europe market.

The government needs to foster an environment where creativity is encouraged, specially at the universities and regional colleges – both technical and social fields. In his inaugural speech PM Narendra Modi mentioned IIT Madras having an incubator for startups, but I feel this is just a one-off place. Other institutes need to be set up, either by the central government or states. This can be based on a concept of ‘Special Startup Zones’ similar to the famous SEZs in India, but only in educational institutions (and without directly disturbing the local socio-economic life). All premier institutes need to be well funded for innovative research to take place. Purushottam Sir mentioned in his article that the cream students leave for USA/Europe in search of higher education and some even get involved in startups there. Maybe the lure of better higher education is a key aspect for this still-ongoing brain drain. 

As someone who is currently working for a startup in USA and is witnessing the growth in Indian startup scene from a distance, in my personal view the following steps are very important to give incentive to innovation in a long-term and sustainable way:
1. The state will have to give impetus to higher education and research.
2. The generation of ideas from this process will have to be protected adequately, locally as well as against large corporations.
3. Providing an environment to bring these ideas to the market and scaling them is the last step.

The government, without taking action on the first two steps, has tried to jump on to the third directly. Of course, being a country of ‘jugaad’ people, there will still be some winners who emerge out of this flawed and unsustainable system. But it is highly unlikely that first generation ingenious startups will come out of this model. If we look at the system as a tree, the government needs to water the tree first before pruning the leaves and trying to eat the fruits soon. I talked with a few of my friends and the perception that I got was that the startups in India today is only driven by the market. Some over-valuation is also taking place, which might lead to uncertainties in the next few years.

You can say that the government is trying to manage a publicity event and also increasing entitlements, but at least there is a first step in the general (not absolutely correct) direction. Once the current consumer market frenzy ends then the industrial groups will themselves realize the instability of such a system. But the government will have to be only fair, transparent and a watchdog for that to happen, instead of trying to facilitate one step more than the other, just because it makes market tick in the short term.

I will keep tracking the Startup story in India with enthusiasm. It will be interesting to see in the next few years if and how much the Indian economy is driven by the startup culture and if any new ideas originate from this leading to an international influence.

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What do skyscrapers, tractor-trailers, and precision flow meters have in common?


Here’s a hint: Can you name this natural phenomenon of swirling vortices, pictured below in the clouds around the island of Guadalupe? (I’m looking at you aerospace engineers!)

Island Vortex

A Von Kármán Vortex Street, so named after famous engineer and physicist Theodore von Kármán for having the patience to do the hard math of determining the conditions under which these swirling patterns occur.

A vortex is the natural result of fluid turbulence within a certain range of flow velocities, specifically only within a certain range of Reynolds numbers. For example, the satellite photo above shows a vortex that only appears during the warmer half of the year.

Because vortexes are a function of Reynolds number, a dimensionless quantity, they can form on vastly different scales. From storms on Jupiter many times larger than the Earth, to turbulent liquid flowing through a tiny pipe.

I know, I know… that’s a neat tidbit of…

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Inculcating a new hobby

A few months back I bought a camera. This is the Fujifilm Finepix SL1000. This is my first ever high-end camera. Although, this is not really a very “high-end”, for me it is. Not quite a Digital Single-lens Refelx Camera or DSLR, it has many modes and gives you the option of setting only the aperture, or the shutter speed or both at the same time.

I found a very handy guide to using such camera’s here: http://digital-photography-school.com/megapost-learning-how-to-use-your-first-dslr/

Today, I tried to take a picture of the moon with full zoom. That is 50X. This is the one of the best features of the camera I think.

Here is a sample. This picture has been cropped to about 30% of its original size. No other effect has been added. I set the shutter speed to 1/500 sec for this. ISO-800 was the default setting. The camera ‘brain’ chose the aperture size of F/6.5 for this setting (do not know much about this, how?) No flash was used.

The moon

The moon

So I found out a new use for my camera, apart from taking pictures on trips to random places.

About the above pic: Did some searching on the internet. Found some information and as a result, have some more questions about the moon.

The big crater visible on the right (east-southeast) of the moon is called the Mare Crisium or ‘Sea of Crisis’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mare_Crisium The nomenclature comes from an Italian astronomer: Giovanni Riccioli (you can wiki this). This Mare is also visible by naked eye.

On this webpage: http://lunaf.com/english/live-data/moon-phase/ the shape of the moon is correct for the present day (2nd June, 2014) but is rotated by about 45 degrees from the picture I took. I do not quite understand why, although that should not be a very difficult aspect to fathom, about the revolution of the moon around the earth, and its visibility from different parts of the world. The Moon is illuminated about 20% today, but the disk (2D) is only about 14.8% of the total. The zodiac sign is Leo.

I will try to take some more pictures of this satellite of mother earth, and post here.



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Cover letter for a journal submission

Cover letter for a journal submission

A guide to a cover letter to go along a manuscript submission in a journal. Very handy for me, hope this helps others too. 

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certainly an engine

certainly an engine

This is from a while back, but interesting take on Linux. Dr. Lienhard has some good comments. Just wanted to post this as some information for all.

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For young scientists

For young scientists

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Pure Inspiration: Visually challenged student bags top honours at IIT Kharagpur

This is a very inspiring story coming from one of the best Engineering/Science institute in India. Mr. Pratish Datta has made us all proud. He has also proved that, given proper infrastructure to the physically challenged, they are lesser in no way than anyone. In fact, he has proved that they have the determination and effort, that some people might take for granted.

The Hindu : Education / College & University : Visually challenged student bags top honours at IIT Kharagpur.

Kudos to him and IIT-Kgp for supporting him.

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Morning Raag

What is a Raag or Raga? It is melody. It is a piece of music played using one or more instruments. But what makes a raag different from any other piece of music. It is the emotion associated with a particular raag. The feeling, the feeling that it renders is unique.

So this incident occurred yesterday, while I was driving to school in the morning. I usually listen to the desi radio, Hum Tum city. The lady RJ immediately recognized my voice when I called on the show to request a song. So we started talking for a few moments, and I just went with the flow, so it was decided that she would put on a song from the movie Swades, called “Yun hi chala chal raahi”. Then she suddenly asked me what song I originally wanted her to play, when I called on the show. I said I wanted to hear the melodious voice of Lata Mangeshkar singing “Lukka Chuppi” from the movie Rang De Basanti, as I was thinking of my Mother when I called on the show.

The video is available on Youtube. A little background of the song: a mother has lost her beloved son, who was a air-force pilot, to an unfortunate accident. Her son’s belongings are returned to her by two armed forces personnel at her residence. Seeing them in uniform reminds her of her son and she could not control her emotions. This song is an emotional dialogue between a Mother and her Son, who is now in his own world and does not want to come back, but the mother wants him to come back to her.

So the RJ, hung up after that and played my dedication to all mothers. And this was the point her voice started trembling due to her emotions. She started describing how she was very fond of her mother and loved her a lot. And how she would want her mother to be a part of her own life forever, knowing very well that that is an inevitable truth every one has to face some day. One could easily hear her voice breaking on the air as she could not control her emotions. This was a surprising ‘Morning Raag’. There was an air of emotion (pun?) about it, to which all the listeners could associate.

She somehow managed to pull herself back and continued on with the show.

After my song was played, another caller called in. The RJ could not even speak two lines with this guy. The only thing she asked him was “Which song do you want to hear Sir?” and the reply was “Main kabhi batlata nahi” from the movie “Taare zameen par”. Then the call hung up and the song was played. I could easily make out that the last caller was also very emotional at this point of time.

Half the song in, I had to stop as I had already reached my destination: the economy parking lot of my university. I gathered my stuff, still struggling to hold back the tear in the corner of my eye.

Thank God for the cloudy day. I braced myself for the mile-long walk ahead to my office.

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BREAKING NEWS I’ve just become Manchester United’s latest summer signing! You can too. #SIGNFORUNITED today!

BREAKING NEWS I’ve just become Manchester United’s latest summer signing! You can too. #SIGNFORUNITED today!.
Best news possible!!! There is a ‘saying’ in Hindi that day dreams certainly come true. Is it true, really?

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