Monday, October 17, 2005

The jumble

Warning: I apologise for the spelling mistakes which I made. This article is still under development and need to be pollished.

Have you ever seen astronauts (or rare cosmonauts or more commonly taikonaut) walking in other planets of the solar system ? The first thing you will notice is the sophisticated space suite. Some of the main purpose of these space suites are to protect the taiknaut from harmful radiations, chemicals particles present in the atmosphere of these foreign planets, to provide clean oxygen for inhaling and to store and recycle the carbon-di-oxide exhaled, also in some cases sophisticated camera and lighting arrangement to increase his visibility and make sure he can walk on the space easily without falling into a deep crater (and 'mostly' no one will be there to help him out, which SETI people will disagree).

The bad part of the story is that this foreign or alien planet which I was writing before could increasing be our dear planet, The Earth. Yes. The indicators are that we are strongly on this path. The temperature of the planet and more sadly (our) India is rising rapidly to record levels each year. The indicators are that the average temperature of large part of the country had increased by a degree or more in the last decade. Increasingly these days the weather is getting more and more extreme and if we can project this trend to coming 15-20 years, we can expect the weather to be really bad (polluted, hazy and extreme ) in many major cities in India including Bangalore. So as the mercury of thermometer touches 50-60 degree which could burn our skin we need to protect ourself by "earth suites". The "earth suites" will be very similar to space suites containing build in AC to protect for excessive heat, build-in air purifiers and harmful chemical extractor, fog and visibility improvement infra-red cameras. These stuffs will be affortable by rich people only. What will be the status of poor people ?? Let me stop continuing to paint this kind of picture like a pyched up cynic. What I want to mainly point out is that many environment disasters which are waiting to happen unless or until we show some seriousness in handing with the atmosphere. So what are the main issues we need to deal or understand ?

First and foremost we need to remember is that this planet is not ours. We have borrowed it for some time from our ancestors and we need to give it safely to our future generation in atleast the same condition and not as a ruined and decaying hell.

Second, we have to get away from the attitude of let the diaster strike us and then we will have the courage and resources and willingness to deal with the diaster. For example, let the Tsunami strike us and then we will worry about the tsuanami avoidance system, let the earthquake cause some havoc reguarly then we will think about building earthquake protected buildings, let the drought and pollution of water strike us and then we will think about how to manage or live with it. This is NOT the attitude we want. Many things are irreversible in nature (like death, large scale water contamination) and so prevention is better than cure. Let us not let the same thing happen or otherwise nature will take its own action. Let us work and cooperate with nature so that both us the human beings and nature can coexist peacefully. I see that many of the problem or issues which we face regularly CANNOT be handled separtely ignoring the others issues. The problems of development, pollution, traffic, water scarcity, poverty are unfortunately not independent. These we tightly related to each other and are heavily inter-dependent. We cannot tackle them one after another. We need to concentrate simultaneosly on all these fronts to make optimum choices. Mathematicans who work in optimization problem will know that it will be easy to solve the problems if the number of variabes in the problem are few and as the variable and dependencies increase it will be more difficult to find an optimum choice. We are facing such a probem that all the issues I mentioned are tightly inter-related and growing.

Third and most importantly, the so called developed world will NEVER care about what happens to us. They will NEVER care if we die in poverty or AIDS or drought. They will NEVER care if the pollution weaken the brain development of our children. They will NEVER care as long as the problem is global in nature and will affect them (like the story of terrosim). Also we should not be waiting and expecting some foreign soul to come and rescue us from the deep embroilment we are facing. WE have to deal with the problem ourself. We need to collobrate with like minded countries around us who are willing to tackle similar problem themselves (like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Srilanka). Atleast we can make an agreement with Pakistan that we will have a ceasefire for another 50 years and promise them to have a plebicite in Kashmir after that. By then some of the resources which we are pouring for security and defence can be re-directed to increasingly important issues we are facing with. My above solution for the Kashmir problem might look ridiculous, but this need not be done overnight. We can gradually change the focus from one issue to the another with heavy understanding and involvement from all parties (importantly with Pakistan). And NOW is the time to do it as they can understand the importance and significane of handing natural diasters and tacking existing problems before creating new probems. Also by another 50 years, the poor Kkashmiris will get more time first to heal their wounds, live some normal life and then free their mind from fear to decide on which way to go (either India, or Pakistan or independent). Why did I diverge from the pollution and dealing with nature to terrosim and relation with Pakistan ? This is to point out that at this stage one problem is not independent of another. They are so tightly inter-twined. This is almost like a totally mixedup and jumbled strings of thread. We need to tackle all of them or atleast most important knots at the same time, rather than waiting for it strike hard or waiting for others to come and solve it or adding more knots/jumble.

After critising all these issue, it is important to see what can be done. I want to point out that the solution which I will be describing are not at all new. They are the same good solutions suggested by very many brilliant people. The difference is in general mentality and proactiveness to listen to them and implement them seriously as all are facing the same or similar challenge. Sadly this is similar to the increasing attention world (read USA) is paying to overcome terrorism even though India was shouting for some attention for more than a decade. So how are we going to tackle the problem(s) ?

First, the chief of all the problems is the population. Population puts lots of strain and pressure on rare resources. Either we do something about it or nature will do its job.

Second, we need to increase the coverage and penetration of trees, not just in jungles, but also in cities. People might criticize that water is already a probem and how can they expect to supply water to these new trees. The answer is as I mentioned before, one problem is not independent of other, we cannot forget one issue and solve the other because of the complexity. Just because one child of you need some attention you cannot allow the other child to rot and die. Will you ? We need to also increase the focus of nature and vegetation in our education system so that kids make a special relation or bond with nature. These kids should not end-up saying that apple is manufactured in tropica factories or water comes from coke or something stupid like that. The schools and colleges could come out with various innovative techniques to concentrate on this front like more regular eco-tourism, school gardens and trees maintained by the students teams, not just asking them to write some essay on how trees are important to human life and eco-system.

Third, we need to encourage the use of alternative fuels and start having metro transportation system in big and growing cities, and also have the traffic system in cities support the cleanest of all kinds of transportation, the humble bicycle. Can you without fear of accident ride a bicycle in a busy city traffic ? I don't think so.

All these efforts need to start from the ground and percolate to the top. India needs to tackle the problem by bottom-up approach. In other countries the top-down system might work well. What I mean by top-down is that the central government issues a plan directly to state, state to the district, the district to the municipality and the finally the distilled, filtered, use-less, skeleton of the plan goes to the people and is implemented without all necessary things, which is almostly good for nothing. Alternatively the bottom-up approach can work pretty well in India and has done lots of wonder to our country. In the bottom-to-top system the people will act as role model for the government rather that the opposite. This would give some directions for the confused leaders at the top chewing pans and spitting against each other. IT, green revolution, water-shed systems are some of the finest examples of such bottom-up system. Of course once things start rolling in the right directions the politicians will come and support (and might take the credit too). They have to do it to win the election. These things are happening and springing up at different places but rather at low scale. Such initiative could come from all over the country and by this we can shape our own destiny and come out of the mess or jumble created due to past action.
I hear someone asking me what have I done to improve the problems which I was vociferously shouting before ? Good question. Not at large scale but at personal I do not litter the public places like stations, bus-stand, gardens, temples etc. And also doing many good things suggested by the famous Tamil movie called Anniyan. Think about it !

Sunday, October 09, 2005

First mile of the marathon

As of now 3 weeks had passed since I left my job and moved to university to start a PhD. I should say overall the experience had been good. I can split the whole experience into three parts (A) self (B) research (C) others.

(A) In the self front:
I am doing my best to stream-line my life. For doing a good research, one needs to have a stable mind and a creative mind. Unfortunately, the association between creativity and stability is not easy. If you are a poet or a music composer, you need creativity but sadly not stability. But to be a good researcher, along with creativity you also need stability. Stability in thoughts means, one is able to come to good decision, able to understand different arguments, and come to some logical conclusion. A stable mind is nothing but a logical mind and a sound mind which is able to analyze the pros and cons of a given problem. I am confident to say that on the creativity front I am good. But I am weak in the logical front. So I am into an exercise to improve the logical part of my mind. The main requirements for a mind to think logically are the following:

(1) A serene and calm mind is absolutely needed. An agitated mind does not think logically. An agitated mind might think creatively but not logically (For e.g.: A 'stoned' singer may compose a mind-blowing tune but he cannot differentiate between day and night). Thus an agitated mind does not take any good decisions and also decisions taken with an agitated mind are usually very poor. So I am practicing the meditation technique proposed by Sahaj Marg (this was introduced to me by my friend Harish in Eindhoven) to improve the concentration. What is Sahaj Marg ? I am not learning this from a master/guru, but by reading the books found in and also listening to the recordings of the leader called Shri. Chariji. Also I am learning about meditation from various books by Shri Chinmoy and Shri Deepak Chopra. From my initial experience, reading from books is very easy. But practicing is very very difficult. I try to practice every day in the morning, afternoon, evening and night. By means of meditation, I want to develop concentration, awareness and a balanced mind so that logical decisions can be made. Also doing meditation reduces the level of stress, anger, frustrations, worry, jealousy, and other kinds of negative forces which constantly fight and reduce the efficiency of the brain. I have been recommended by friend to try Art of Living course. The course fee is $200, which I think is very expensive. If it is a good and useful course for the improvement of humanity it should be cheap or at least affordable. I wonder what is the reason for keeping such high fee, which is only affordable by well-off people. In any case, I will do some research on their teachings, try to read something about the way of breathing recommended by them and finally join the course if needed

(2) Eating good and a balanced food is very important to keep the mind and body fresh. Food with excess of sugar like ice-cream, chocolate, smoothes, all causes cravings for that kind of food and also eventually they slow your brain's power. Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, milk and vitamin rich pulses improve your brain and also makes sure that your body is not starved of basic minerals. Eating at the correct time and also correct amount of food is extremely important for a balanced body which does not interfere with the mind process. I make sure that these conditions are met and I eat properly. Body is the vessel which contains the spirit/soul/mind. If the vessel is defective or weak the rest of the system will sink (meaning will not be able to do its job effectively).

(3) I try to see all my activities and behavior with an open mind. This is some kind of third eye which watches all my actions. I try my best to make sure that my actions are not just certain pre-programmed erroneous behavior.

(4) Time management. Ah!!! The most difficult practice which is always eludes me. At least, I have taken the first step in this direction. I try to write down all the pending tasks and make sure they are finished by the schedule time. At least I make sure trivial bureaucratic tasks are completed. This gives some satisfaction. I also constantly remind myself not to post-port or push-aside simple tasks. Do today's task today is the motto which I am trying to follow. Also most importantly, I have an organizer in which I store all the appointments and dead-lines so that I follow them correctly. The biggest problem because of wrong time-management is that not only you but others are also affected. And I am trying by best to avoid effecting another person’s job or responsibility due to my wrong time management.

I will continue to the research front organizations and decisions in the next part.