Friday, September 29, 2023

My first trip to the west

From Facebook: Ramarao’s post below reminded me of my first trip abroad to England in 1968. My English was poor (then and now) even by Indian standards and the first problem was English. I grew up in villages, studied in Telugu medium. When I went to study in Madras, the college authorities appointed an English tutor to coach me. It did not have much effect I think. I had the naïveté and stubbornness of the farming community I came from and was not fazed by what others thought of me. The reason for going to England was mathematics. When I was in Madras, I came across a book called ‘Set Theory’ by Felix Hausdorff and Brouwer’s theorems fascinated me. And I decided to learn topology. When I Joined Tata Institute, MS Narasimhan took some interest in me perhaps because he too grew up in Andhra for a few years. After I showed some promise he decided that I should go abroad for further studies. When he asked me where I wanted to go, I said Liverpool because I already read several papers of C.T..C. Wall. Then I got a Nuffield Fellowship after a bit of coaching by him and landed in London. If language was problem, food was more difficult. Only thing I could eat was toast and butter and coffeee was undrinkable. It was cold; it was September I think, and Nuffield people gave me some money to buy warm clothes and sent me off to Liverpool. By that time there was no place in university hostels and Wall took me home. Though one read books and saw films about foreigners, I did not really know or was coached about everyday living. MSN greatly neglected this aspect. I did not really understand the sleeping arrangements. I just covered myself with the bed cover and it was still cold and kept the heater on through out the night. Instead of a shower, there was a bath which I did not know how to use. But the food was better than in the hotel. The family must have got tired of cleaning the bath tub and after a couple of weeks, they found me accomodation in a seminary, where there were plenty of rooms since theology was not too popular. Thus my sojourn abroad started. A bit more about my life in Liverpool. Life in the seminary was good. The students showed me how to get in to the bed and how to make the bed. The food was ok. Not all the students believed in god. They introduced me to Bob Dylan and the pub culture. Terry Wall ( coming from india it was difficult to call him by his first name which I generally avoided) told me what I did was enough for a ph.d. So I took it easy and read what I liked and made friends in the department. One of the things I read was Wall’s long paper which was coming out then called ‘Surgery on non simply connected manifolds’. I even gave a course on it in Yale. I do not know how much I understood. Kervaire who listened to a lecture by me later told Raghavan Narasimhan that I did not know what I was talking about. But the English do not tell you that you are a fool even if they think you are. So I got along splendidly. I started going out with students for dinners and with some staff for lunches. With students I often went to Indian restaurants where the food was not that good. I asked the staff why they were making such food which was not really Indian. They said that it was the way the English liked it but they made a separate curry for themselves called ‘staff curry’. From then on we started having staff curry and the food problem was partially solved. The food situation has improved considerably since then. Soon I met a girl and it seemed better to shift from the seminary and I shifted to a room near Sefton Park from Birkenhead. I thought I was too old to fall in love. My office was next to women’s toilet and soon I started recognising her presence by the way the taps turned in the toilet. By the time I realised that I was in love, it was too late and it was time to leave Liverpool for Yale in America. So the last few months in Liverpool were tough. Even though I was always a bit rebellious, it was only in Liverpool that I realised how Indian I was. The first few months were lonely. I always hated Indian classical music and dance for what I considered gymnastics. But Ravi Shankar came to Liverpool and I attended the concert with John, an American. He thought that it sounded like cows mewing but it was all very sweet and like homecoming to me. Also I met Jo Marks and Peter Scott there and the friendships endure to this day. But Jo refuses to tell me any thing about that girl.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Lorca’s influence on Leonard Cohen

Larry Johnson on Russia’s slow approach

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

On Ukraine’s escalating Crimean campaign by asimplicius the thinker

Larry Johnson on Canada’s Nazi celebrations

Sunday, September 24, 2023

An atheist friend of Gandhi An jnterview in Telugu with his son Samaram

An old interview with M.S.Narasimhan it containa bit about our common teacher M.S.Narasimhan. MSN was my ph.d advisor but i was already interested in topolgy and worked by myself. we used to have beer on Daturdays for a while. He was like an older brother to me and was responsible for my trip to Liverpool.

Revenge mathematics

Revenge mathematics. I think that it was 1977, I visited England for a conference. There are some memories, but I may be mixing up with another conference. May be it was the conference Serre lectured and lights went out but he went on with the lecture. I was going back to india but stopped to visit a friend Jo Marks in Southampton. On the way, I stopped in London to visit Dillon’s, a bookshop which had a reasonable collection of mathematics books. Just then a book on 3-manifolds came out and I bought. As I browsed the book, there were no references to me though there were references to others who did similar work. I was upset and angry. On the train to Southampton, I started looking at open problems in the book( I think that I ended up solving some of them) and one caught my attention. It was about finding criteria for a surface subgroup of a compact irreducible manifold to be peripheral. I found a cohomological criterion for sufficiency and by the time I landed in Southampton, I had a theorem ready. But it was too easy and I was not sure whether it was publishable. Somedays later I realised that it was an important special case of a theorem of Johannson and he actually ave me preprints in 1974 in Bielefeld. and I happily published a two page note. It brought some attention but I could not prove the full Johannson theorem. It seemed to need a relative version of what I did. Much later I started working with Peter Scott and had a joint paper with Peter which was mostly his. He asked me to prove the relative version and it came immediately. Instead of some coholomogy group being zero, it needed a map in some cohomological groups to be the zero map. Peter completed the proof of Johannson’s theorem using some easy three dimensional topology. This was around 2000. I thought that was the end of it. Meanwhile we studied this kind of decompositions of Poincare Duality pairs and around 2019, we started wondering whether an analogue of Johannsion’s theorem was true for them. And in a few days a proof popped up. And it also gave a simple algebraic proof for 3-manifolds. Meanwhile fashion shifted and nobody noticed it though for us it was a pleasing conclusion after nearly 42 years. But I think that I have seen micro bundles, block bundles and various such fashions come and go but JSJ stayed for fifty years. P.S. I tried a relative version of my argument for over twenty years but could not do it. Yet when Peter asked me do it, I did with in a day. May be there is some thing in collaboration that increases the intensity of the endeavour and makes two plus two bigger than four. ...... The link below is the third of the papers. The first two papers are the references 20 and 16 there.

Simplicius the thinker mail bag

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Peter Scott passed away

in the early hours of September 19. it is a great personal loss for me. we collaborated for over thirt years and our interactions went beyond mathematics. The memories of him will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 18, 2023

From Indian Punchline

Military Industrial Complex Unraveled & Exposed, May be

by Helen Glass i checked some of the details from other sources like New York Times, Politico...

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Latest from Dima of Military Summary some commentors in Moonof Alabama suggest Dima is erratic.