India’s second favorite sport
See Akshay's Trivial Matters.
See Akshay's Trivial Matters.
K. Kunjunni Raja, the doyen of Indian Sanskrit scholars, passed away yesterday. He was 85.
Kunjunni Raja started studying Sanskrit with his uncle C. Kunjan Raja, a well-known Sanskrit Scholar, and Sanskrit poet. His first doctoral research, in Sanskrit, was done under the supervision of Kunjan Raja at the University of Madras. Later Kunjunni Raja was at the SOAS, University of London, where he got his second Ph.D. in Linguistics, working with John Brough. His thesis, Indian Theories of Meaning, is considered as one of the best works in that area. He has authored around 30 books, and more than 200 research papers, and his books include the much acclaimed The Philosophy of the Grammarians (with Harold Coward) and The contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit literature. Kunjunni Raja was also the moving spirit behind compiling the early volumes of The New Catalogus Catalogorum, a remarkable ongoing project in manuscripts research. He was also the recipient of the 'President of India award' for outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.
After retiring from the Sanskrit department of the University of Madras, in 1980, he was associated with the Adyar Library and Research Centre, in Madras, run by the Theosophical Society. As honorary director of this institute, Kunjunni Raja also served as the chief editor of Brahmavidya, one of the leading international journals in Indology, till a few years ago. Failing health made him move to Kerala, his home state.
Kunjunni Raja was sort of a father figure to my father, who's also a Sanskritist. In his visits to Calicut, he used to stay with us. I have fond memories of his encouraging my sister and myself to recite shlokas. On his visits, after dinner, we used to take our chairs outside, and under a star studded sky, he used to tell us stories from the classics. He also used to take a keen interest in my tiny stamp collection, many a time bringing stamps to me in his visits.
Anybody who has met him once would know about his simplicity and forthrightness. In the higher echelons of academics, a world also of personal egos and group-think, Kunjunni Raja was a remarkable exception. He had travelled widely, lecturing on Indological topics. Those who have been fortunate to be associated with him are going to miss him very much.
Update (June 1): Here's a report from The Hindu.
Rajasthan government thinks that Sati is a source of strength, and is planning to promote Sati temples as tourist spots. See this Indian Express report.
Strange things are haunting Rajsthan these days. A week ago, Indian Express quoted a Government magazine that the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje "occupied the post to avenge the death of a relative in a battle 300 years ago". And, it seems, Vasundhara Raje has "a direct hotline with the Gods".
Guardian brings estranged Hitchens brothers together to discuss sibling rivalry, politics and reconciliation. When questioned whether they two are friends:
Christopher Hitchens: The great thing about family life is that it introduces you to people you'd otherwise never meet.
So, why did the Malayali cross the road?
Christopher Lydon of Open Source is interviewing Amitav Ghosh on the June 6th. Chris Lydon will be talking with him about "empires old and new (including the US) as well as Ghosh's take on India". The show will not be transcribed, but one could listen to it streaming live or via the mp3 file that will be posted on the Open Source site afterwards. The idea of the Open Source is
For exact timings, check here.
Met a lot more bloggers yesterday. There were Aadisht, Amit, Dilip, Gaurav, Nandan, Ravikiran, Saket, Vikrum, and Yazad, whom I have met before. There was Rohit whom I knew via mutual friends and e-mail. There were Charu, Harini, and Rashmi, whose blogs I've been reading for quite some time. Then there were Devendra, Rohini, and Sudheer, whom I hadn't met or read before. A well-spent long Sunday evening it was.
Yazad did a splendid job in organising this get together. The venue, just ten minutes from home, suited me well too!
Sudoku is a relatively new puzzle. In its current form it was developed two decades ago by a Japanese publishing house. The word means "number single". The rules of the game are very easy:
I do think it's interesting, but I do not understand the hype. Perhaps when one's absolutely bored, and in no mood to blog, one could attempt Sudoku! Anyway try it out once. It might take 5-10 minutes.
If you like to see the answer to the above puzzle, click here.
Update (May 23): Dion Church, a Telegraph sudoku enthusiast, has come up with 'the ultimate Sudoku', a 3-D version of Sudoku. It's called the Dion Cube. All the rules apply but now in three dimensions. Here's the first Telegraph Dion Cube.
Then Theroux goes to a Secoya village, a village beyond a long reach of a river, and in the late evening,
"This is Secoya land," I said. "How can they be drilling for oil?"
And much more ...
Read the full thing.
Now that would be a better title for Ram Guha's Telegraph columns! From this week's column:
I just watched a video of this Calfornia car chase that ended in the driver's death in police gunfire. The video showed the guy being repeatedly shot at. No, I wasn't watching one of the American channels. I was watching a new Malayalam channel, Amrita TV, launched recently by Mata Amritanandamayi's followers. Whenever I watch these high speed chases I wonder whether it's news or entertainment. I guess this is what they call infotainment. And I guess TV channels show these incidents as there's a market for that.
But then Amritanandamayi is a spiritual leader with millions of followers worldwide. One would expect her followers not to go by all that that sell, right? I was curious and checked what Amritanandamayi had to say about launching this channel. In her message, she said:
Annu Jalais' article on the Morichjhapi incident -- Dwelling on Morichjhapi -- is the leading article of the latest issue of Economic and Political Weekly. Morichjhapi is an island in the Sundarbans, and the Morichjhapi incident refers to the forced eviction of 'illegal settlers' there, in the late seventies, in which hundreds are believed to have been killed. Amitav Ghosh's 'The Hungry Tide', about which I had a post some time back, deals a lot with the Morichjhapi massacre. Nirmal, whose diary is a main thread in the novel, had worked among the island settlers; Kusum, perhaps the central figure of the novel, died in the Morichjhapi violence, etc. In fact it's in the acknowledgements section of 'The Hungry Tide' that I came across Annu Jalais' name for the first time.
The paper, in the author's words,
'Dwellings on Morichjhapi' describes, in some detail, how the would-be inhabitants of the island were promised this land, and how they were betrayed later. It also talks about the spirit of bonhomie and solidarity between refugees and islanders "whose similar experiences of marginalisation brought them together to bond over a common cause which was to fight for a niche for themselves" while they occupied the island. This was "an experiment, imagined not by those with learning and power, but by those without", as Amitav Ghosh writes in 'The Hungry Tide'. (Indeed reading this article refreshes one's memory of reading 'The Hungry Tide'. For instance, Annu Jalais quotes a villager: "Were we vermin that our shacks had to be burned down?". In 'The Hungry Tide', Kusum's anger is very similar: "the worst part is to sit here and listen to the policemen making announcements that our existence is worth less than dirt or dust".)
All said and done, I must add that I find the "anthropomorphisation of tigers" theory that Annu Jalais seems to be endorsing, a bit unpalatable. This theory argues that tigers initially were fine animals that were afraid of people, that they were compassionate and were agreeable to the fact that the products of the forest and rivers were to be shared with people. But due to the legitimising of killings in their name, they had turned egotistical and did not hesitate to attack people. Now tigers were no longer the neighbours with whom the forest had to be shared but 'state-property', and backed by the ruling elite they had begun to treat the islanders as 'tiger-food'. That explains the man-eating nature of the Bengali tigers! I'm willing to be persuaded though, for, Annu Jalais, otherwise succinctly portrays and convinces me of "the dilemma of being a Bengali, yet not a bhadralok" faced by the Dalit settlers of Morichjhapi.
Amitav Ghosh's handling of Morichjhapi is of course much subtler. As Amardeep Singh wrote, "the specific political actors and discourses that lead to events such as the massacre at Morichjhapi are downplayed" as
Update (May 13): Annu Jalais writes in:
Just see the depth and breadth of this blog. Economic reforms, movies, books, power crisis, driving (& hence roads, petrol, diesel), Linux (& other techie stuff) ... ...
A very good piece by Dipankar Gupta in The Telegraph.
... ... ...
It would be incorrect to say that only bright minds are produced in the western hemisphere. Countries like India fall behind in scientific production because we lack the basic ethical quotient necessary for being modern. This demonstrates that social relations of modernity thrive particularly well when there is greater economic parity between people. So if India is to move towards true modernity then it is important that we overcome economic and status differentials of the kind that prevail in this country. Modernity, in the ultimate analysis, is not about affectations, or about personal dispositions, such as being scientific, irreligious, or philanthropic; nor is it really about building big industries and dams. Modernity is essentially a sociological concept as it emphasizes, above all else, the conditions under which social relations based on ethical equality can be realized as a universal principle.
... may find this interesting. Check out Ujjayini.
What prompts this post is the discussion taking place at Yazad Jal's AnarCapLib. This would have been ideally a comment over there, but I thought perhaps this one is a bit too long for that. Do check out Yazad's post, and the comments over there.
Yazad's post starts an interesting discussion on whether or not the Indian economic reforms have benefited the poor. In particular did it help in bringing down poverty levels? The post follows Dilip D'Souza's and Yazad's Rediff columns on the same topic. An interesting question that was asked was to what extent one can trust anecdotal evidences.
I like to think that anecdotal evidences do not count. I also like to think that only figures, facts, graphs, and charts count. Then one realizes that, in real life, anecdotal evidences do matter. Many a time only anecdotal evidences matter. I found this out once again recently, when I had to write a reco for a former student. The program chair made it clear that she would like to see my "anecdotes" about the student's overall performance, and I shouldn't be stressing on the student's grades etc. Incidentally, the student was applying for an MS in Statistics! Life would be certainly much easier if everything can be put into percentages and neatly columned tables. But it's too complex for the statistical tools to tame it.
Perhaps that's one reason why having certain figures at hand do not end a debate on social issues like poverty eradication. Obviously, a sizeable population of "otherwise sane" people are not willing to buy figures of this kind in order to come to a conclusion. We do not debate election results here in India because we trust absolute headcount. The very fact that we do debate data on poverty does say that an absolute trust in such data is lacking even from the perspective of some one who endorses the data at hand.
Not to say that statistics do not tell you anything right. They do, but not always. Chances are that a majority of those who are just above that "poverty line" wouldn't buy that statistics! Also which one to buy? For instance, Narasimha Rao govt had maintained two different numbers at the same time; one was twice the other! In another instance, nine consecutive surveys do not show any reduction in poverty, but the tenth one shows a ten percentage points reduction. I believe that statistics can give you meaningful, truth-approximate results, if you care for it. I do not believe in this sort of figures in general as it's almost trivial to manipulate the starting criteria. Must say that Disraeli is often vindicated these days!
So have the reforms benefited the poor? I guess there's no blanket Yes or No answer here. Have the reforms benefited the rich, the upper middle class? You know the answer, right? Now does that say anything? Also, has the inequality increased? Or is it that equality in itself isn't a great thing to have?
Apparently, the voters do not like the reformists. Natural guess is that this is because the reforms haven't benefited the majority. The only way to sell the reforms to more and more people is to tell them that these reforms promise a bright future. But then who doesn't promise a bright future? People wouldn't buy that therefore. Do the govt figures come handy then? Perhaps not. India did shine in figures. That helped India to shine in opinion polls, but she did not, when it came to actual voting machines. Mass propaganda statistics got reflected in mass media statistics, but beyond that, statistics did not count. Perhaps in elections too, as in the case of the reco I wrote, it's anecdotal evidences that matter.