1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising

I recently read Mrinal Pande’s English translation of Vishnu Bhatt Godshe Versaikar’s “Majha Pravas“. It’s called “1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising“.

I couldn’t put this book down. The translation was good – I felt I was reading Vishnu Bhatt’s experiences as he had written them down, and not be slowed by the translation. The book is about his experiences while traveling in central India, and the events that he got caught up in.

The lucidly written details of the various people, their personalities and qualities, battles between the British army, and the various Indian princely states, the suffering of the people as a result of such battles – the looting, massacres, and pillaging, by both the warring sides – gave me a rich perspective of that time.

Some of he details which I ended up mulling about, or stayed with me, after reading the book were:

  • The parts where he talks about the Ganga – sparkling clean waters, the intense emotions that he felt on sighting the river for the first time, and the associated spirituality.
  • The preparations for war, by the Hindu kings, always included elaborate rituals and offerings to various deities, and Brahmins. Reasons for a defeat, and subsequent pillaging and destruction were attributed to Fate, or a displeased deity.
  • The war machine of the local rulers seemed to lack the discipline, single-minded purpose, and industriousness of the British war machine.
  • A major reason for Brahmins to travel or migrate was the lure of making some money; at some location or the other there was a ruler or rich person who wanted to perform a significant “yagna”, or rituals related to death, or to commemorate a milestone in life.

This book reminded me of the unadorned details from the first hand account of the Peloponnesian War

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Beginnings

Pigeons stir; their throaty gargling sounds,
The church bells; fading resonance,
The azaan, at times soulful,
The shrill fresh notes of the koel,
I need to get up,
My child, her innocence accentuated by sleep,
Fills me with a warm glow.

(Mis)connections

Cell phone buzzes. An SMS in the morning.
“Good marning! Wishing you a good day.”
This is not from a number in my contact list. Who can this be? Mild irritation for a few seconds, and then I ignore it.

Next day. Buzz. “Good marning!”
What’s going on here. I reply “I think you have the wrong number”. Commend myself for sending out a courteous response. What’s wrong with this guy.

Wait! Why am I convinced that this is a guy. Maybe if the messages stop, it is a girl. Girls are usually reticent about continuing with such things, after being asked to stop. Or do they? Shouldn’t I be getting ready for work already.

Next morning, I expect another SMS, and my mind races through a set of stronger responses to put an end to this nuisance.

Nothing.

Looks like my earlier response was sufficient to stop this. Nice of this guy to stop. How do I know it is a guy, and not a girl? Maybe it is a girl. I was spending a lot more time thinking about this, than I would care to admit.

Three days later: “Good marning! Have a nice day”.

This is a bit too much, I need to yell at this guy. What’s the deal with this “marning”. Is he infatuated with someone, and thinks he is connecting with that person through this message?

But then, the poor sod is only trying to wish someone a good day. Why not assume he is just spreading good cheer, instead.

I smile.

Functional Conference, Bangalore

Thanks to Twitter, I came across an announcement for a Functional Conference in Bangalore. I usually do not attend conferences, but then a conference focused on functional programming and ideas was a novelty in India. Quickly took a look at the people behind this conference, liked what I saw, and booked a place for myself. This was back in June 2014.

Coming to the conference itself, the registration process was a breeze, and the conference venue was a rather good hotel, with decent conference room facilities. Most of the talks listed at the conference were rather interesting. I attended the following sessions:

  • Functional Reactive UIs with Elm – was curious about Elm, and the presentation content was interesting enough, though the presentation of the content was not engaging.
  • Applying functional programming principles to large scale data processing – application of “lambda architecture” for data processing. Would have liked to see more depth/details in this session. In any case, it introduced me to the phrase “lambda architecture” – I was using the “functional-style-of-architecture” in my design discussions earlier.
  • Compile your own cloud with Mirage OS v2.0 – creating a “unikernel”; where the OS is treated as a library, and is statically linked to the user application; and all of this runs as a single binary. Wow! I wanted to attend this session because OCaml was mentioned in its abstract, and this turned out to be a session that got me thinking about possibilities, and something I continue to think about. This was a session that gave me a lot of vocabulary and ideas for what I was once proposing within IBM – the concept of “Lean middleware” – the idea being to reduce indirections, and to use the OS as a library.
  • Property based testing for functional domain models – I have been following Debasish on twitter, and reading the lucidly written entries on his blog. This session was presented rather well, and I got to learn about “property based testing”, and “dependently typed languages – Idris“. Something I want to use, the next opportunity that I get.
  • Code Jugalbandi – this was an interesting experiment; a quick introduction to the idioms in different programming languages – Scala, Clojure, Groovy.
  • Learning (from) Haskell – An experience report – liked the way this was presented, and learnings that were applied to improve code quality; reinforcing best-practices / idioms in a language of choice – Python / Ruby, etc
  • Pragmatic Functional Programming using Dyalog – It just so happened that I had installed Dyalog, and played with APL a couple of months before this session. So, the APL terseness and unique syntax was something that I was aware of. This session was one that made me re-think how important concise, yet readable, code can be. The demo where Morten – the presenter – scraped Wikipedia content to create a FOAF network was really interesting.
  • Monads you already use (without knowing it) – an introduction to Monads.
  • Purely functional data structures demystified –  a very good introduction to a rather dense topic, and inspired me enough to look up the work that Okasaki has done in this area.
  • An introduction to Continuation Passing Style (CPS) – the topic started off on a rather simple note, and quickly developed into something that made me sit at the edge of my seat – intellectually stimulating topic.
  • Keynotes – I liked the engaging keynote by Daniel, where my key take away was “approach new topics with an open-mind, and treat people with kindness”.

Overall, the Mirage OS session, Property -based-testing sessions were the ones that engaged me the most, and ones which got me thinking about possibilities.

The conference was a well organized one, and one that I would attend the next time around too.

Etruscan Places – D H Lawrence

The first book of Lawrence‘s that I read was “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” . His style of writing and expression made an impression on me; he has a certain earthiness, an empathy for all things natural, and a disdain for morals.
The second book was “Etruscan Places”  – his travelogue through the places associated with the Etruscan civilization, in Italy. There is a passage in the book where he emphasizes that death and life are continuations of one another, and that constructing palaces, or as he calls it “phallic symbols” on the face of the earth, are of no consequence when compared to the blade of grass and the life that it sustains. This is when he compares the qualities of the Etruscan civilization and their celebration of life and death, with the rather material and ambitious focus of the Romans who succeeded them. I was constantly thinking of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass“, when I read through this book.

#NGYS2014 conference

Went to the National Geography Youth Summit, 2014, in Bangalore, and it was good to see the range of talks and workshops being organized there.

  • Attended the “Introduction to open-source GIS.  (Mr. Bharat Settur, OS-GEO India)” – the introduction to QGIS, though at a rather hectic pace, gave me a sense of what it takes to use this tool, and its effectiveness. This is something I will take another look at, and will learn via the online tutorials. The workshop should have “instructions”, so that the presenter need not run through all the steps, but rather help participants if they are stuck with any of the instructions.
  • Paper presentation on “Agriculture Market And Marketing System In Pushkar Region Of Ajmer” , by Sandhya Mantorio: Rather interesting to know that most of the agriculture patterns in Pushkar are towards rose cultivation (for exports and national consumption), and that this in an area with a receding water-table and absent-landlordism. Sandhya mentioned that this work was to help the farmers understand that they are “Caught up in a trend to cultivate roses, and that they do not see the big picture – the number of middlemen involved, and the low value they earn from their efforts”.
  • Paper presentation on “Changing Population Trend With Topography”, Mohammed Hafiz: The gist of this paper was that people move from the highlands to the lowlands, for jobs and better quality of life (healthcare, education, etc). The paper was a bit sparse on the possible datapoints used to arrive at this correlation (between migration and topography), but atleast gets one thinking about this scenario, and its implications.
  • Paper presentation on “Analysis Of Age-Sex Pyramids In West Bengal 1961-2011”,  Indrita  Saha, with Ashis  Sarkar: A useful paper to understand how tracking the age-gender structure in the population provides better insight into issues related to unemployment, social development, and the like.

I wasn’t able to stay for the rest of the day. The conference is packed with other interesting sessions for the next couple of days: http://tiigs.org/ngys/program-panels-sessions-final/. Will attend some of those sessions.

Also, live-tweets about the conference #NGYS2014