Category Archives: just my thoughts

Confessions of a battered suitcase

This is an extract of the privileged communication i had with my faithful VIP suitcase which carried my heavy luggage during our mandatory Winter study tour as a part of our professional training to become able administrators…

I was born in a hot, crowded and happening factory somewhere in the outskirts of Nagpur. Even before I could figure out what was happening, I was transported to a small, sleepy town called Palakkad where I waited with my siblings for someone to come and adopt me. I am a VIP suitcase and I am going to tell you my adventures in the last two months when my owner took me on a journey of a lifetime.

I waited for days and months on end but no one chose me. “This suitcase is too big”, most of them would declare. My long wait ended when this boyish looking guy came with his dad to get a big suitcase. My owner was a new recruit to the Indian Administrative Service named Gokul. Others said. ‘He will take you around the world during his official tours’, my peers said with a tinge of envy. I was happy beyond words. But he had other plans for me. As soon as I landed up in Mussoorie carrying almost 40kg of his things, he locked me up in a corner of his cupboard. He went for treks, village visits and other outings. He took my friends, the black American Tourister bag or the Reebok backpack on these journeys. I lay in one corner, unnoticed. On December 16, I was taken out and once again stuffed with things. I weighed around 30 with that. I thought Gokul was going home. It was when I was taken up to the academic area on that night that I knew that I was going for a two month study tour across the nation.

While there were only 16 Officer Trainees in our group, there were around 50 of my compatriots for the two month adventure. These included the ‘twice born’ laptop bags also. They were never kept on the floor and always enjoyed the coziness of their owners lap. Let me introduce some quirky characters in our group. One is the fake Jaguar bag which Anugraha madam picked up from somewhere in the busy corner of Karol Bagh. Being a fakie, he was mistreated so badly that he can’t even stand properly on his feet now. My peers were the American Tourister and Samsonite bags which belonged to Dr. Vijaykumar and Aravind. We were the biggest in the group and always supported the rest of the group when we were fitted into the luggage compartment during our tours. There was this bag that belonged to Sourabh Raj that was just 3/4th of my size but carried at least 5 kilos extra.  Some of them always ended up on the heads of porters in the railway station but I was always carried around by my owner.

My first adventure came with the army attachment with the Gorkha rifles in the northern part of Sikkim. I was put on a 2.5 tonner truck along with my heavier compatriots. We were escorted by the soldiers of the Madras Regiment on the journey. The full day journey from New Jalpaiguri to Lachung was tiring but the company of the soldiers who kept on telling about their adventures in Kashmir kept all of us entertained. They told us that in case of an emergency this was the same route that would be taken by our soldiers to reach the borders while the Chinese soldiers can reach the border in half the time from Lhasa. Our owners seemed to have forgotten us and sped away in Innovas. So we took our sweet time and stopped to enjoy the beauty of the Teesta valley as we progressed along its banks.

I hate air travel. You will be unattended for a long time and the staff throws you around like anything. On top of all these you will be thrashed for being overweight. Fortunately most of our travel was by train. Gokul would bind me to the rail berth to prevent some unsuspecting souls to explore what secrets I am holding. The few air journeys turned out to be eventful. The first one was the journey between Guwahati and Aizawl.  My owner frantically took out stuff from me and filled it in his Reebok backpack. The Reebok was bloating with things sticking out on all sides and reduced my weight to 20 kg. But on reaching the airport, it was found that the free limit was 15 kg. This prompted more frantic rearrangement and I was looking sleek at 16kg. The aircraft was a sight to behold. It was a small ATR 42-300, a trifle larger than a mini-bus. The cargo cabin was like that of a Volvo bus. It felt more like a chartered flight as the cargo cabin contained just 2-3 bags other than 25 of us. One of the rare occasion in which we were treated good in a flight. I hope our owners in the flight cabin were also treated well. After all, Air India is in serious financial crisis as per newspaper reports and you can’t expect they airhostesses to be pleasing when they have not been paid their salaries for the last 2 months.

Another interesting thing happened during the flight from Port Blair to Chennai. This time the trainees decided to pool in their luggage and do group check in. I tried warning them of the possible free rider problem that may crop up due to this. I overheard this while they were doing combined studies for the FC exam. The final weight tally came to around 40 Kgs in excess of the free limit and they were made to pay Rs.10,000 for that. While people were vey careful in the previous journeys and carried 2-3 hand baggage, many were simply strolling into the aircraft this time carrying just a book. I think they deserve the amount lost for the carelessness.

Getting all us out at railway stations was a major task and let me tell you that within 1-2 stations, the trainees had devised a fool proof and efficient way to do this. The task became more difficult when the stoppage time in the station is 1-2 minutes and we had to give way for passengers to board also. This was put to test in Chandrapur station in Maharashtra where the stop was only for a minute. We were split into two groups and were taken out through the two exits of the compartment. One trainee would hand a bag down to another standing down. He will hand it to the next one who will keep it away from the train. I timed the whole process once and they were able to completely take out around 50 bags and 16 people in 55 seconds. Necessity surely takes efficiency to newer heights.

Uttar Pradesh sprang up a different surprise. There were around 10 policemen to receive us at the railway station, some of them armed. In a land where lawlessness is the law and people get killed in open daylight, I wondered why such a huge contingent was needed just to escort ‘not even confirmed’ trainees holding no independent responsibility to their hotels. We had lesser number of people guarding our backs in the naxal affected Gadchiroli. But of course, IAS officers know their job and U.P is supposedly the best cadre. So I guess I will find out the reason sometime later during my long association with my owner.

I got back to Mussoorie after a short visit home on 19th February, 2012 with just a few minor scratches and discolorations here and there. It was an incredible 2 month journey when I travelled over the mountains and the seas and saw people and places I may never see again. I hope my owner takes me out for more such adventures as he is getting ready to lock up in a similar cupboard two floors above my old room. Till then, Adios…

Public Administration for CSE

Disclaimer: Let me start off by posting a disclaimer!! The preparation strategy and methods for Public administration varies from person to person. This is my experience with Pubad which gave me 337 in my first attempt without coaching. <Disclaimer ends>

Public Administration is one of the most popular optionals in the civil services exam. It has a very short syllabus and it overlaps with the syllabus for general studies. Also, a good understanding of the topics in paper 2 can help you in essay and interview also.

The preparation strategy and books varies between people, but from what I understood, the focus should be on understanding the basics, supplementing it with recent developments and reports and presenting it properly. Answer writing is a very important part of Pubad preps. Sufficient time should be devoted to this before you go for the mains. Even if you manage to attempt all questions, the quality of answers can stretch the range of your marks between around 280 to 360.

It’s advisable to use as less standard books as possible. Questions in paper 2 and in section B of paper 1 will be general in nature. Make notes on all the topics mentioned in the syllabus and be ready to answer any question that may come from that topic. For eg, The syllabus says ‘Citizen Charter’. The questions on that topics may be ‘How does citizen charter help in reducing corruption’, ‘Has Citizen charter empowered the ordinary citizen vis-a-vis the govt. employee’ etc. Your notes on citizen charter should give you the basic idea to tackle this question while your answer should be spot-on. It should not be a short note on citizen chapter, but a crisp, direct answer to the question.

Book List

Paper 1

  • Public Administration : Theory and Practice By Sharma & Sadhana
  • Administrative Thinkers By Prasad & Prasad
  • New Horizons of Public Administration by Mohit Bhatacharya
Paper 2
  • Indian Public Administration by Ramesh Arora & Rajani Goyal
  • Indian Adminstration by S R Maheswari
  • Reports of 2nd ARC
  • Other recent reports of administrative reforms committees

I read a few topics which are missing in these books from the BPA material of IGNOU. Check out previous years’ papers to see how questions are asked in every sections.

Strategy

As the questions asked are mostly general in nature, I thought of using as less text books as possible and write general answers quoting from current affairs and recent reports. The problem with PubAd is that most of the aspirants would have read these books already and thus writing good answers can be a difficult proposition. So try to improve as much as possible.

1. Studying:

Paper 1 : Sharma & Sadhana is a fat book that contains almost all the topics of PubAd. There are other fat books like Fadia & Fadia. Please stick to one of these fat books. Read topic wise from these books rather than going cover to cover. Add on to that by reading the relevant sections from Mohit Bhatacharya and IGNOU material. IGNOU material will have good diagrams also. All the chapters of Administrative thinkers have to be studied except for the one on Karl Marx.

Paper 2: A good understanding about the constitution is needed for this paper. This would be already covered if you have read DD Basu. Use Goyal & Arora for studying about Chanakya, Mughul administration and evolution of Indian Administration. For the other topics, read from Goyal & Arora and read the relevant section of 2nd ARC. ARC has given constructive solutions to the major administrative problems that we face. For eg, under the topic, ‘District Administration’, Goyal & Arora will give you an idea about district administration in India and will highlight the major issues. The report of the ARC will give you the solutions for these problems. Hence the report can be a major add-on.

2. Answer writing

  • Write crisp introductions. Finish it off in 2-3 sentences for 20 markers. Write a small paragraph for 30 marker and a fairly large paragraph for 60 marker.
  • I started off in a paragraph. Then wrote under various sub-headings and then concluded in a paragraph.
  • In the body, be precise and to the point. DONT BEAT AROUND THE BUSH.
  • Draw some diagram for every question. Even basic block diagrams is fine. After all there is no harm in adding a diagram. You can prepare some diagrams under some topics before hand. Use your imagination and believe me, Google image search will also help.
  • Conclude by putting forth your view again to the question asked.
  • Use your GS knowledge extensively while writing. Write from an Indian perspective. Quote examples from recent happenings as much as possible.

That is pretty much all that i did. I spent more time on Physics. I did self-evaluation for my answers after K.Biju (IAS, 2006) gave a broad idea about answer writing. I could see my answers improving. You can take professional help at this stage or if confident, go for self-evaluation. All the best!!

To be or not to be : Choosing civil services as a career

A career in the Indian civil services is still one of the most coveted job in the nation. The number of applicants for the 900 odd posts every year is increasing exponentially. Just about 6 lakh applied for the 965 notified vacancies for CSE 2010. After a one year gruelling process, the UPSC recommended 920 for appointment.  Of which only those who end up in the first 100 will get the coveted IAS/IFS and the remaining may end up appearing for at least one more attempt!! And even after getting through, you work under severe constraints. IAS and IPS officers works directly under the supervision of elected representatives. Their decisions are to be guided by political sensibilities as well as real-time requirements. Added to all this, there is no fixed tenure at any of the posts. The not so favoured among the officers may end up getting 3 or 4 transfers every year.

So one should be very sure about the requirements of this examination and well as the requirements of this service before deciding . Given the competitiveness of exam, there is no other way other than full-time preparation. One need to start 7-8 months before the prelims and the exam process takes one whole year. Thus atleast two years need to be completely devoted towards the preparation. While we hear about the inspirational stories of the toppers and the successful civil servants, what is lost out in the noise is the failure of tens of thousands of aspirants and the intense dissatisfaction with which many officers continue in service.

So I request the would be aspirants to spent some time contemplating on these:

  • Know about the services. Talk to serving and retired bureaucrats. Read memoirs or articles. There is more to the services than Lal bathi and huge bungalows. Be sure that you will fit into the service.
  • Know about the requirements of the exam. Make a realistic assessment of the efforts that need to be put in. People don’t start as equals as far as this exam is considered. People with a good general knowledge base, opinions and ability to express their views definitely stand at an advantage over others.
  • Make a rational self assessment. Dont do it based on your past laurels and achievements as this exam is not testing intelligence as defined in the conventional sense. Its looking for broad-based individuals with opinions.
Thus be very sure before taking the plunge. But once you have made the choice, there should be no looking back. You will face failure, pass through highly depressing stages, doubt your ability to make through, may have to start from square one after reaching upto the last stage….Thus is it a test of your mental strengths as much as it is of your intellectual abilities. The whole process of preparation and exam is a life changing one, whether you come out successful or unsuccessful. You get to read and learn about things that you would not have done otherwise. There is nothing other than knowledge that makes you feel more humble by the virtue of having more. I feel much more closer to my family, my close relatives and my friends than ever before. Think and discuss before starting. All the best for the aspirants.
@Aspirants.I will be writing about my experiences and strategies for each of the subjects in this page. Please refrain from sending me messages and friend requests in facebook. I think it is not the right platform and I also prefer to keep it personal. Please follow this blog and post comments if you want to clear any doubts. As someone who found it hard to get proper guidance in the beginning, I am only happy to help. But please use this blog as the platform.

Book review: India Development and Participation by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze

The book cover

The amazing growth story of India in the new millennium and the countless problems that we face have spawned a cottage industry of books about the opportunities and the challenges faced by the nation. It has become very difficult to get the right book that identifies the challenges in the right perspective and suggests constructive solutions.

One way to choose is by looking at the profile of the author(s). Hence the work by the renowned economists Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, who also have a good field experience in India was an obvious choice when I came across it in a book fair. The book India: Development and Participation is one of the most comprehensive work on the challenges faced by the nation in the socio-economic front.

Citing statistics and making comparisons with other parts of the world, it talks about the challenges in education, healthcare, women emancipation, liberalisation and decentralisation. The authors expose the myth of the inclusiveness of our growth story by showing that we lag behind sub-Saharan Africa in most of the  health and nutritional indicators. The inter-state disparities is also brought into picture. Each chapter ends with a case study of the state in India that has been able to make definite progress on the subject when compared to the other states. A comparison with China, which has similar problems like us also help us in putting things in perspective.

Are we on the right track?

Even as they applaud China for its success in the socio-economic front, the authors are unambiguous in their disapproval for the authoritarian methods used by then to achieve the ends. By noting the achievements of Kerala which has better indicators than China, they call for local, community based approaches to the major issues.

The chapter on women emancipation talks about an issue that is conspicuous by its absence in other similar discourses: the problem posed by widowhood and prospective widowhood that leads to choices like male-child preference. As the life expectancy of females are higher than males and because of our patriarchal norm of large age gap between the wife and the husband, this is a very serious issue in India.

The current edition was published in 2001. Hence the statistics are old. Interested ones can dig up the latest statistics from the original source that is given under every table. Also having written in 2001, it doesn’t talk about Naxalism which has become a serious problem off late. Being a result of the socio-economic and governance problems in the rural hinterland, an additional chapter on Naxalism can be added in future editions.

Hence as a whole, this book is one of the best written books on the socio-economic challenges faced by India. Written by eminent authors with good field experience, backed by authentic statistics and put in the right perspective, the book is a must read not only for people interested in public service but for every Indian so that we are not blinded by the glitz of our ‘growth’ story and lose sight of the humongous challenges we face.

Google before you Post

 

The image belongs to its owner

Scaremongering messages and status feeds has become the order of the day during times of disaster and tragedies. The latest has been the message spreading through facebook and sms saying that the nuclear reactors in tsunami stricken Japan has given away. Networking makes it easy for such messages to be spread. And more often than not, people accept it without a hesitation. Not all such fake feeds need be harmful though. I also happened to come across a note, supposedly authored by Harsha Bhogle which turned out to be fake. And also a comment attributed to Sachin (supposedly made after the Indian debacle against South Africa), ‘‎ I was still changing out of my sweaty clothes and taking a shower and was shocked to see the whole team back…’ which on googling showed up just ‘social networking sites and blogs and not any credible source by which it can be attributed to Sachin.

While the latter ones make good humour, spreading fake news as in the case of Japan creates a fear psychosis which can be counter productive in times of real need. The most distressing aspect of this phenomenon is that all this can be avoided by the simple act of googling up the relevant data. The fake Japan message had ‘BBC alert‘ in it. That makes very easy to check for authenticity. Copy paste the first few lines of the message and add BBC or go directly to their site (bbc.co.uk) and find out.

While information super highways have truly made the world flat and has made available all the information ever collected by mankind at the tip of our fingers, we seem to be satisfied by the unreferenced messages coming from strangers through the social networking sites.

Remember the last time you were reprimanded by your parent or friend for a careless comment and reminded of the need to ‘Think before you talk’. Well the basic rules remain the same for your online identity also, but with minor differences in the terminology:

So please

GOOGLE BEFORE YOU POST

The Pseudo science

Few pseudo sciences enjoy the kind of popularity and belief as astrology. Although variants of this pseudo science is practiced in many parts of the world, the Indian brand would definitely

Image courtesy the universal press syndicate

outshine its competitors in terms of acceptability. That such a belief system which believes that the fate of a person and his character is determined by the position of celestial bodies at the time of his birth baffles reason. Even naming this brand of superstition as ‘astrology’ with close resemblance to ‘astronomy’ is itself a fraud on science.

From deciding on the compatibility of the bride and the groom to fixing the date to start a journey, from deciding on financial transactions to naming a newly born, it seems all past, present and the future are decided by a few celestial bodies hanging from the sky. Genes? they don’t exist. Which force is used by the bodies to set all these? a mystic force other than the four fundamental forces. BULLSHIT.

What bothers me is not the total absurdity of the subject but how it is accepted by the public including highly educated persons and the high decibel statements made by interest groups that ‘astrology is a science’. Astrology is not only restricted to the hindu community alone. Reliance on it by members of other major communities is also on the increase.

What made me write this post is that i came across a paper prepared by Jayant Narlikar (Founder director of IUCAA) and three others on a simple statistical test on astrology. The full paper is here:

http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/mar102009/641.pdf

Its a basic principle of statistics is that only similar entities should be compared. The team rightly chose to compare whether astrology or tossing a coin has a better statistical chance in correctly predicting a particular event. Yes you guessed the result right. The study found tossing outperformed the sacred science of astrology.

Astrology is not a personal superstition but rather its harm is extended to innocent others also. Marriages cancelled after engagements, financial deals cancelled after finalizing the agreement etc are just a few cases. Giving a scientific look to this superstition was widely pursued by the BJP govt during their 1999-2004 term as a part of their divisive hindutva agenda. They went so far as trying to include ‘Vedic astrology’ in the university syllabus.

Superstitions challenge the foundations of our knowledge base and if let free has the potential to destabilize the basic tenets of our social life. While blind faith and irrational social compulsions will keep the believers hooked to it, various interest groups will fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.

 

 

 

Food, Inc : Warnings for India

Happened to see the academy award nominated documentary Food, Inc today. It was about how corporate farming has replaced traditional agriculture and how it affects both the people and the environment. Together with advocating changes in the system, the documentary calls for transparency to let people know what exactly they are eating. It’s completely about agriculture in the USA. But it definitely has warnings for a developing nation like India which, I feel is slowly heading towards that stage.

Compared to other developing nations and developed ones, agriculture in India is one of the least productive and income generating. We need solid changes in the way we manage the sector if we are to redeem a sector in which 58% of our population depends for sustenance. But rather than looking for strong and solid long-term steps, the shift of approach is ostensibly towards the supposed panacea of market solutions. In the process, a number of changes are happening in the agricultural sector that make the situation described in the documentary quite possible in the near future. Although the changes are very small when compared to the scale of agriculture in India, one should not miss the warning signs which clearly shows a shift towards corporate farming.

1.GM crops: Nothing in the field of agriculture has been more controversial than the introduction of GM crops. Traditional cotton breeds have been completely replaced by Bt cotton. Today India has the fourth largest area under GM crops. One may not have forgotten the sheer callous way in which the govt gave approval for Bt Brinjal. If it was not for the organised protest of farmers and civil society and the commitment of an environment minister to move from the ‘rubber stamp’ image of the ministry, we would have seen the introduction of the first GM food crop in the nation without any on field trials, studies on the effects of humans, other crops and cattle (brinjal is used as fodder) and without any laws on labeling GM crops (so that people can know they are purchasing GM crops). Besides all such environmental and ecological concerns, both the crops are patented by Monsanto. As these crops are hybrids, seeds will not germinate and farmers will have to buy new seeds for every season from the company. As it has happened in the developed world and shown in the documentary, this would lead to a complete dependence on a few seed companies.

2. FDI in multi brand retail: This has been branded as the next big thing in India. The market retail business is estimated to be $400 billion annually. More than 30 million people depend on this sector for existence. Although the debate on this issue is a very old one, the ministry of corporate affairs has recently circulated a note to other ministries calling for a fresh debate on the issue. Experience in other nations suggest that although in the initial phases, the opening up facilitated good competition, removed inefficiencies and middle men and created value for both farmers and customers, gradually consolidation occurred leading to dominance by a few majors like Wal-mart, Carrefour etc. This meant that the competition that offered choice for farmers was no longer present and they were left with only two choices: either sell it to the corporate in terms set by them or let his produce rot. This micro control by corporates on farming issues is also discussed in the beginning of the documentary.

3. Changing pattern of agricultural loans: Lack of credit through proper channels is another problem that our agricultural sector faces. But inspite of this, P. Sainath notes that agricultural loans ranging between Rs. 10-25 crores is on the rise. These are not loans given to the ‘marginal’ (defined as one with agricultural land between .01-2.5 hectres) farmers who form 80% of our farmers but to big corporates for warehouses and corporate farming.

The need to feed one of the largest population in the world and the prospective increase in the size and nature of the demand as our economy grows is mooted as the justification for all these changes. But have we reached a stage in which the only way forward is the highly subsidized, unsustainable, harmful and intensive farming as followed in the developed nations. The answer i feel is ‘Not yet’ (and very much avoidable). The reasons are:

1. Famines and hunger in India is more a result of mismanagement of food rather than lack of availability. As the supreme court had noted, food rot in our godowns even as people die of hunger. The surplues grains stored in FCI godownsis more than 65 million tonnes. This can feed almost 50% of our population for a year. An effective way to distribute this to the poor through a leakproof PDS can go a long way in addressing our shortage.

2. We lead the world in lack of productivity. The productivity per hectre for almost all major crops other than rubber is way below global average. Fresh investment in agriculture has been abysmally low since the 1980s. The 2010 budget allocated just Rs.12,ooo crore to the sector. Improvements in the fundamentals like irrigation, dissemination of proper knowledge etc can greatly improve productivity.

The documentary shows the real side of agriculture and food market in the developed world. It should act as a strong warning for us to know what to avoid as we continue on the high growth path and join the leading economies in the world. And as most of the important, long term changes are often pushed through by the governments without meaningful debates and public discussions, it is important that we keep our eyes and ears open and keep our legislators accountable for changes in this most vital sector.

Brilliant Tutorial for civil services: desperately out of focus

People coming from science and engineering background tend to go for Brilliant tutorial material for preparation for civil services due to their familiarity with the same during their preps for entrance exams. Ready reviews about the material is not available in the internet. This is my experience from using their material for my preparation for prelims and mains of CSE-2010.

Science optionals: I had physics as my first optional. The preparation for any optional should be ideally from a mains point of view. Besides, you need to master all the topics for the science optional due to scaling and the ‘almost digital’ marking scheme. Thats were the problem starts with BT material.

1. Not all topics are covered ( This cannot be afforded as each question in the paper will consist of 3 separate questions in a 20×3 format. If you don’t know one sub-question, you can’t completely attempt the question) . I found often repeated topics like Rayleigh scattering, Difference between conductors and insulators by quantum method skipped.

2. The approach for a lot of questions is not the standard one and wont fetch you 20 marks if you attempt.

3. Concepts are not properly defined in the beginning of a proof. Besides, they skip a number of steps in between and bring in unknown concepts without introducing. This is fatal as it will hamper one ability to study and remember the derivations. Conceptual clarity is given good weight during evaluation. One will end up writing bad answers.

4. Glaring mistakes in many solutions.

5. The change in syllabus has not been incorporated. The result: a lot of crap.

The only good thing that BT material gives you is that, appended to every chapter is a question bank of all previous questions from 1990. This is very important in knowing the pattern of questions and to fine tune ones understanding. Although the question papers are available at examrace.com, in the early periods of your preparation, the solved set can be a real boon.

I was studying optics from BT material, found it hard to continue and then found out the wonderful book by Ajoy Ghatak. I studied Electricity and Magnetism from their material, then had to relearn the chapter from textbooks after failing to answer questions asked from the chapter in the previous years.

So what is to be done? Use standard text books alone. Supreet Singh Gulati has written a good writeup on the textbooks in his blog.

Non-science subjects: The material for all non-science optional and GS is a big time mess.  The material is completely out of focus and it’s really hard reading through it both for the lack of conceptual clarity and the low quality print. The material is filled with copy-paste kind of material from all possible sources which has no relevance for the exams. They have science section for GS which deals has given the topics studied in plus 2 like thermodynamic, scientific names of all possible organisms and what not. All the model answers given at the end are just general comments which beats around the bush. A conceptual flow and connectivity that’s vital for subject like PubAd is hopelessly absent.

Concluding, if you have a science optional, the question bank can be useful but that doesnt justify the 15,000 rupees one has to pay. But if you are not taking a science optional, subscribing for BT is throwing your 15K down the drain…

 

The Miracle of Calcutta

Kolkata saw the worst of the communal riots before 1947 including the one on August 16, 1946, the infamous direct action day called by the Muslim League which sealed the fate on a united India. So when the date for the costliest amputation in the history of mankind was nearing, leaders feared that the flames of communal riots in Bengal would tear India apart. But Mountbatten didnt have forces to spare for Kolkata.
The whole of the Frontier force was deployed in Punjab and NWFA. When the Radcliffe line was announced, the relatively peaceful Punjab which hadnt seen any major communal clashes in the past went up in flames. As the Frontier force watched helplessly, around half a million were butchered. But Kolkata remained peaceful. Initial bursts of violence quickly died out. It was a one man army….a frail, half naked man in his late 70s, achieved through prayer meetings what battalions of armed soldiers couldn’t…..
Its said that its difficult to control a group a people, but when it becomes a mob its almost impossible. Gandhiji didnt give any elaborate talks or offer any rewards….He went into self penance of fasting and called prayer meetings. Acts as simple as that could change the mind of a murderous mob and caused them to go back. An incident of this scale would have never occurred in the history of mankind.
This might have been one of the many incidents that prompted Einstein to say, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.

Yes…The world is flat

Our mother earth is believed to be 4.5 billion years old. Throughout her life, her texture, composition, size etc have changed a lot. But it more or less remained spherical. Some call it lemon shaped, some others egg shaped and like that. It essentially implied that we never could look beyond the horizon. Some people tried getting onto the tallest building to see the bigger picture. Some others took to the sky. They saw far more then what their fellow mates standing below saw.

Then suddenly a few years back, people started laying pathways of light underneath oceans and between continents. Continent building forces are slow and takes millions of years to make appreciable changes. But as earth was encircled again and again by the pathways of light, something extraordinary happened:

The world became flat

It was a few days back that i thought of how much the internet has become a part of our life. More than anything else, it has opened the world of information to everyone. Everyone connected to the net became simultaneously the source and target of information. No single person can no longer hold the magic key to control access to information. And the result: we are more empowered than ever before. I am quite sure that this picture of the world would have never been in Tim Berners Lee’s mind when he proposed the idea of hypertext to connect a few researchers trying to accelerate ‘not to be seen’ particles to ‘never before achieved speeds’