Sunday, February 19, 2012

Going to India today

for some of the first songs I remember and hope to listen again.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dirac's advice to Nehru in 1955

From page 354 of The Strangest Man:
"A common language, preferably English. Peace with Pakistan. The metric system."

Frank Close interview on the Infinity Puzzle

Can physicists crack the big puzzle?.
Somewhat technical book but still can get the gist of it.
Reviews The Infinity Puzzle by Frank Close in "Uncertain Principles" and The Infinity Puzzle in "Not Even Wrong".

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Guru-Shishya interaction

From Annapurna Devi - Lady Shrouded in mystery:
"Pradeep Kumar, a sarod exponent at the Films Division, and a student of Annapooma Devi relates his experience which throws some more light on her eccentric behaviour, if one may call it that. "ln 1974 I started learning the sarod from her. For five years I tutored under her and she became very fond of me. To such an extent that she even started teaching me Ustad Allaudin Khan's style of playing, the Dhrupad Ang. Around '79 my parents fixed my marriage and at a quiet ceremony I was engaged. I did not tell her this and one day suddenly I told her that my marriage had been fixed. She took it very calmly and told me that it was time I took a break and that she did not feel like teaching me! I was aghast! Why, I asked her. ' It was your duty to tell me about your engagement, wasn t it? A guru is not a simple word, it means more than you imagine it does,' she said sternly. I realised it was entirely my fault.

"After this I kept visiting her, pleading with her all the while to take me back but each time she would tell me that she was not in a mood to teach me, 'dil nahi karta hai' (I don't feel like it). >From '79 to '86, seven, yes, seven yes, I kept visiting her from time to time but to no avail. My parents also came to plead with her a couple of times but she wouldn't yield. She never once said she won't teach me, it was always 'I don't feel like.' Then one day, last year, I went to meet her once again and asked her to teach me. She gave me her usual reply. And that was it! I couldn't take it any more and burst out crying. oh, how I wept! I was sitting in the hall and she was in her room. She came out and scolded me, 'kya aurton ki tarah rote ho. Chooriyan pahen lo (why are you weeping like a woman? Go wear bangles). And then she relented 'I never said I'll never teach you, did l? I just kept postponing it. okay get up now. Come tomorrow with some flowers, garlands and a box of sweets we'll begin again. "That's how she is. The way she is with her disciples she will be the same with her son too, if it comes to that. To me she is the ultimate, a maun saadhika (silent saint). But a very hard taskmaster. In all the five years I was with her I learnt only two ragas, Bhairavi and Yaman. Her favourite phrase is: 'you people want everything in a short time.' "
It seems that Namita Devidayal(the author of The Music Room) had an easier time.
P.S. More about Annapurna Devi in Notes from behind a locked door)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jonah Lehrer on colloborative work

Just one aspect of colloboration from the interesting article Groupthink:
"Jones’s explanation is that scientific advances have led to a situation where all the remaining problems are incredibly hard. Researchers are forced to become increasingly specialized, because there’s only so much information one mind can handle. And they have to collaborate, because the most interesting mysteries lie at the intersections of disciplines. “A hundred years ago, the Wright brothers could build an airplane all by themselves,” Jones says. “Now Boeing needs hundreds of engineers just to design and produce the engines.” The larger lesson is that the increasing complexity of human knowledge, coupled with the escalating difficulty of those remaining questions, means that people must either work together or fail alone. But if brainstorming is useless, the question still remains: What’s the best template for group creativity?"
The artcles different types of colloborative work in different fields from science to art and even measuring the efficieny in some cases. In my own case, out of forty years in resarch, I colloborated mainly during the last years. I found it certainly beneficial both in terms of learning and solving problems that bothered me.
P.S. See the discussion in

A wonderful lecture on music

TEDxMumbai - Dhanashree Pandit-Rai - 04/03/10 via

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some books and articles that I have been reading

mostly picked up through John Harriss papers, trying to understand development in India in rural and urban settings and how caste, class and power work. The articles of Jeffrey Wittsoe mentioned in a previous post give some idea about how things work in rural settings. The papers below by Benjamin, Roy, Harris discuss various aspects of functioning in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai respectively. It is interesting that some of the topics like caste which are frowned upon in polite company are openly discussed in some of these articles. So far the impression is that apart from power relations however they might have arisen and attempts to preserve or perputate them, the actual working vary greatly from place to place and rural to urban settings and changes over time. All this is preparation for the coming trip to India since usually I do not seem to understand from discussions with Kamma relatives or academic friends.
Power Matters:Essays on Institutions, Politics, and Society in India by John Harriss From the review Politics, power and society :
"There is an increasing tendency today among international organisations, some sections of academics and policy makers to regard politics as dirty, not truly representative, and of course as an inefficient system for delivering development. There is growing emphasis on civil society, social capital, and participation. Against this backdrop, this volume strikes a very different and refreshing note. It is fundamentally a vigorous defence of the issues that are coming to be sidelined by mainstream development literature — politics, power relations, culture, and class analysis. "
Governance, economic settings and poverty in Bangalore By Solomo Benjamin(April 2000)
Representation and Development in Urban Peripheries: Reflections on Governance in Ahmedabad Suburbs by Indrajit Roy (October 2006)
Antinomies of Empowerment:Observations on Civil Society, Politics and Urban Governance in India by John Harriss (June 2007)

The next two are books that came out in 2011 probably based on earlier seminars.
Understanding India's New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? Edited by Sanjay Ruparelia and others, also available in Kidle books.
A Companion to the Anthropology of India edited by Isabelle Clark-Deces , seems available through Wiley online.

Susarla Dakshinamurthy RIP

Tributes from TV-8:
TV9 - Sangeet Samrat Susarla Dakshinamurthy passes away at 90
Tv9- Chit Chat with Swara Brahma Susarla
and also సుస్వరశాల "నర్తనశాల" సృష్టించిన స్వర బ్రహ్మ శ్రీ సుసర్ల ఇక లేరు.
Some of his early songs like Challani Vennelalo can be found in Susarla Dakshinamurthy : Artist and oldtelugusongs site.
A cinemachat write up on the blockbuster Narthanasala contains many dance songs including Raaga Sudhaa Rasa Saaram.
Like Samudrala Sr., Kasinathuni Viswanath and many others Dakshinamurthy was born on the banks of river Krishna in Pedakallepalli. Many others are from Godavari delta. Perhaps the agraharams and temple towns contributed to the preservation of various art forms in Andhra Pradesh. Now they may be shifting to metropolitan areas like Hydrabad as it happened with the shift to Madras in Tamilnadu, but I do not know.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Corruption as power, studies from Bihar by Jeffrey Witsoe

Everyday Corruption and the Political Mediation of the Indian State: An Ethnographic Exploration of Brokers in Bihar (February 2012
An earlier article covering some of the same ground:
Corruption as Power: Caste and the Political Imagination in the Postcolonial State (January 2011)
P.S. Usually, the links seem to disappear after a while and EPW articles are available without subscription only for a few weeks. I will post passages from the two articles ( I think that they are excellent and I will come back to them several times later on) so that it will be easier to find them somewhere. From the first article:
"But what exactly is the role of politics and politicians in the everyday functioning of the Indian state and how does this relate to what is commonly called “corruption”. This article will examine the role of politically-connected brokers in mediating many people’s access to state institutions and in shaping everyday administration– what I term the political mediation of the Indian state. I focus on brokers as a window into political mediation because they are the visible face of this process – it can be much harder, for instance, to see behind-the-scenes control of the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). I argue that taking brokers seriously changes the ways in which we think about the Indian state and reveals some of thecomplex causes of corruption in Indian public life."
From the second (earlier) article:
"The image of a postcolonial state based on the promises of nation building, development, and rule of law but governed through networks of patronage that re-inforced upper-caste dominance (effectively undermining these promises) clashed with a politics of caste empowerment that sought to weaken development and law-and-order-related institutions thought to be controlled by upper castes, replacing them with alternate networks of lower-caste politicians, mafia figures, and an emergent class of political brokers. I argue that these two radically divergent modes of governance reflect very different ways of imagining the postcolonial state, representing alternative forms of political subjectivity."

Monday, February 06, 2012

John Harriss on poverty research

Building on the earlier work of Chambers and Jodha Poverty in India: concepts measurement and reality John Harriss argues in Bringing politics back into poverty analysis: Why understanding social relations matters more for policy on chronic poverty than measurement :
"If only – the implicit reasoning runs – ‘we’ can build a good scientific understanding of poverty, then ‘we’ will be able to solve the problem. But the reality is that poverty knowledge is profoundly political, as the contemporary debates over poverty trends in India in the 1990s so clearly show (Deaton and Kozel 2004). The problem is that even in the most sophisticated poverty measurements, long chains of assumptions are necessarily made so that these are always open to question. And the assumptions specialists most readily accept depend on value judgements. As O’Connor argues, poverty research, dominated in the case of international development by people educated in a small number of mainly American universities, is an exercise in power. This has been recognized in recent years at the centre of poverty knowledge, the World Bank, in its celebrated study, Voices of the Poor. But that study, which argues for a different model of knowledge as the basis for poverty action, has been ignored. Poverty research seems to indicate that the social sciences should not try to emulate the natural sciences (Flyvberg 2001). They are more effective in generating the kind of knowledge that develops from familiarity with practice in particular contexts, helping people to question relationships of knowledge and power, such as those giving rise to poverty, and subsequently to work to produce change. Such a view has quite profound implications for the design of poverty research."

Similar questions have arisen in the micro-finance debates In Which I Am Exposed As a Double Agent

P.S. N.S Jodha's article referred to above has appeared in EPW under the title "Poverty Debate in India A Minority View", vol.23,no. 45, November 1988. There iaalso anther article "Poverty Debate in India" vol.34, no.31. 1999 respondind to comments to a working paper from the Institute of Development Studies.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ken Grenda's gesture

From Meet Victoria's best boss who gave his staff a $15m bonus :
"A MELBOURNE boss has stunned his staff by giving them a staggering $15 million gift -- the ultimate pay-off for their hard work and loyalty.
Workers at bus company Grenda couldn't believe their good fortune when surprise bonuses averaging $8500 were paid into their accounts - with some staff receiving as much as $30,000.
But Mr Grenda, the major shareholder, modestly played down the "best boss" moniker, instead paying tribute to his staff.
"A business is only as good as its people, and our people are fantastic," he said. "This is to recognise that. We have had people here who are second generation, and one fellow in the same job for 52 years.
"We have grown from just four bus routes in Dandenong in 1945 to operating 1300 buses in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. You only get there if you have good people."
The family has been swamped with about 100 emails and countless phone calls of thanks from staff, who will all keep their jobs under the new owners.
Mr Grenda, who was awarded an AM for his services to the bus industry, said the gratitude was humbling."