Monday, June 29


So I went to this quiz yesterday. The team came second. I was invited by Salil my friend who has just written a book on Bangladesh and in particular the killing of sheikh mujibur in 1974. So the quiz was for raising money so that this team can help make a documentary on the birangonas. An estimated 200000-400000 women were raped by the razakars and Pakistani army during the operation searchlight and then the war of independence in 1971.
These poor women were damaged twice. First by the Pakistani soldiers and razakars first. And then second by their Bangladeshi men and society who shunned them, abandoned them, murdered them. About 50000 women were forcibly impregnated. I met with an old Australian doctor who carried out late term abortions on these women. If they had given birth to children of their rapists, then the child would have been killed along with the mother or would've gone through pain.
The women suffer silently. They don't have a channel to express their grief. Nor does the society care. For them they are a reminder of their fragility and weakness and honour. And now, 44 years later, they are dying off. Without their stories being told.
So what these 4 women are doing is to make a documentary on them to show off their stories and try to change society. An extraordinary mission
Just 4 women. Came together and decided to do something. That's what I like. People who DO. Not just talk about it. Or press the like button on Facebook. Oh and sheikh mujibur named them birangonas. War women. Aptly named.
So I've offered my help with fundraising or photography or historical research but looks like they are well covered in that area. So let's see how I can help. But it was an amazing evening son. Seriously affected me.
There was one photograph in particular about a birangona. She was holding a rifle in one hand, a baby in her arms and a small child was holding on to her Aanchal. She was silhouetted against the sky. A black and white photo. Looking off into the direction of where the soldiers had gone. And that was a punch in the gut. She was woman. Who fought to protect her kids. And got raped. And would be abandoned by her husband. But if you want to think of raw courage that's it son. For her to keep loving her kids, living in abject poverty, but in silence. Now there is courage for you.
Anyway. I came out and went for a walk along the 10pm night time next to the Thames. The tide was in and the lights of the O2 and other areas were glimmering on the wind swept surface of the river. Curious son curious. Events of nearly 50 years back and echoing across all those years and so many kilometres.
Made many new friends and a new avenue to explore and learn.

Friday, June 26

Book review. Ibn Khaldun Muqaddimah

I can't believe I haven't read this book before. And that too so late in my life. Reading this was quite interesting. It's a book written by a very opinionated Islamic scholar in 1400ad. This is few centuries after Islam was born and had two of the empires born and died already. It had expanded to close to its maximum. But before the ottomans expanded much more and a bit more before the Mughals would expand in South Asia and South east Asia will fall under the sway.
What I read was an abridged one volume version of a three volume translation of the original. So much water has flowed under the bridge and all these translations and abridgements have obviously caused much loss of clarity.
But that said it's an amazing book. You can see how he influenced people like Toynbee and Huntingdon and Carr and Robert Kennedy who were the stalwarts in the 20th century history and trying to draw broad sweeps in history.
IK doesn't talk about history as a dry enumeration of facts. Or a sequential series of dates and events like say a Thucydides or Herotodus.
Hey writes about themes. Like how dynasties rise and fall. Or about natural resources. Or economies. Or sciences. He is a great believer in cycles. That things happen in cycles. Things start in the desert like with the Arabs and bedu. And then they capture urban lands. And third generation becomes sedentary and too wide and big to control. And fourth generation is decay.
He is a believer. Don't make the mistake of thinking he's a dispassionate secular reporter. Nope. He believes in Allah Quran and Mohammad. But he's very clear headed and tells off crap like alchemy or magic. Or the shia. Or older historians.
It's not something you'll want to read if you wanted to read about the history of the Abbasids or the Spanish moorish kingdoms . More recent books will give a better picture. But you want to read this just because you want to read Josephus or Thucydides or Herodotus. How history developed. And you will be amazed at the sheer audacity intelligence and passion of this man. His thinking is missing even now. What an amazing man. Read up his biography as well.

Tuesday, June 2

The benefits of less space

You must have heard about the quote, "work expands to fill the time available"? Its like that with living space. It was brought home to me over my previous trip to Asia and now I am flying over Pakistan again on another one month long trip. With 1 suitcase and 1 backpack. Literally, that's sufficient for me to live on. But of course I need bog rolls, I need a place to sleep, I need a bicycle. But pretty much everything is provided to me, so how much possessions do I need to live on? Not much.
I am a bit of a squirrel, specially with antiques and books. You have seen how i love purchasing those things. And keeping them with me. I feel a good feeling when I am on the couch reading a book and then raise my eyes and observe the rows of books, they are like my old friends. But that means that we have a big house. Well, its not such a big house, but given the availability of e-books, do I really need every book? In physical copy? I don't think so.
Second, more possessions you have, the more complicated your life becomes. More you need to worry about things. More you need to insure. And if you think about it, its more to do with showing off to people rather than actually needing things, son. Think about our car. Do we really need it? No we don't. We can get rid of it, but its been paid off, its in fine fettle, cost of running it is very low after 11 years of keeping it, its a workhorse. I don't need to show off to people that I am a rich man by having a beamer or merc. Its there, faithful old chap. But if I will travel around like this, we don't need the car. So keep that in mind. I make that mistake so many times, son, buying things we don't need. Think of the bloody watches I buy. Or the cufflinks. With almost 25 watches, I found that I tend to come back to 4-5 of them regularly. So I figured I was being an idiot and stopped buying them. Same with books. Stopped buying them. At least till I have done reading all the 3-400 books that I haven't yet read :), learn from my mistakes :) So do tell me off if I am buying stuff that I don't need, like what Diya does to me.
At end of the day, I calculated that if we had moved to a bigger house all those years back, we would have ended up spending about £5k more per year  minimum and more like £10k per year. So there you go, a saving of £25-50k, all of which will help you if/when you want your own house or want to start your own business.
Till then, see me live out of a suitcase :)
By the way, you look really handsome without the braces. You are looking like a man and a handsome man at that. I feel so happy and proud of you that I keep giving you hugs and kisses and running my hand over your head. Don't mind it, its just my love and blessings for you, son.

Early Retirement Extreme

The benefits of less space
Posted: 15 May 2014 03:01 AM PDT
One of the, perhaps not so surprising, benefits of moving into a smaller place — two persons and a small dog in a 34′ RV — is that the question is no longer whether we can afford to buy something. Thanks to the difference between living in a house and living here, we have $1000+ more each month.

However, now the question is, do we have space for this. This question guides most buying decisions out of necessity. If storage reaches critical mass, it simply becomes too much of a hassle to deal with “things” as they start falling out of the cupboard or the become either hard to find or hard to store. Often this means that something simply does not get bought. In particular, buying something unless it needed or absolutely replaces something else becomes paramount. In turn, this also saves a lot of money. To wit, do I need an extra thingamajing? No, because I already have one, and there’s just not any room for it.

Tuesday, May 26

Geography Lesson


I saw this poem on fb. It's a beautiful poem son. Talks about great teachers and their dreams. 

Follow your dreams son. Don't have regrets :) be there where you always wanted to :) 



Geography Lesson
by Brian Patten

Our teacher told us one day he would leave
And sail across a warm blue sea
To places he had only known from maps,
And all his life had longed to be.

The house he lived in was narrow and grey
But in his mind’s eye he could see
Sweet-scented jasmine clinging to the walls,
And green leaves burning on an orange tree.

He spoke of the lands he longed to visit,
Where it was never drab or cold.
I couldn’t understand why he never left,
And shook off the school’s stranglehold.

Then halfway through his final term
He took ill and never returned.
He never got to that place on the map
Where the green leaves of the orange trees burned.

The maps were redrawn on the classroom wall;
His name forgotten, he faded away.
But a lesson he never knew he taught
Is with me to this day.

I travel to where the green leaves burn,
To where the ocean’s glass-clear and blue,
To places our teacher taught me to love –
And which he never knew.

Thursday, May 21

The beauty of palm leaf manuscripts (3): storage and preservation

As I've mentioned to you earlier kids, we have three old old manuscripts. Not exactly a full library which will need retrieval eh?

But information retrieval is very important these days. If you do computer science, one of the first things they will teach you is to how to do information retrieval and searches. In a variety of areas, you need to know how to categorise information so that you can retrieve it easily. There's no point in having information and not being able to get to it.

Think about it. People Google for information but they have forgotten that Google also filters and arranges information. So for example if I'm looking for a film or museum opening hours, yes Google is fine. But if I'm looking for say information relating to film or collections, I'm not going to start there. That's where Google scholar comes in. Or science direct or other search engines where more detailed and particular information is served up to you.

SEO. search engine optimisation is an entirely newish field where your content is served up. More efficiently.

But here we hark back to an older age where we have Palm leaf manuscripts. How do you store them? One of my ladies, Hypathia, who I've spoken about before, worked in the library of Alexandria. Can you imagine trying to retrieve a scroll from those towering cupboards? Difficult eh?



The beauty of palm leaf manuscripts (3): storage and preservation - Asian and African studies blog
(via Instapaper)

In my two previous posts on this topic, I looked at palm leaf manuscripts from central Thailand and the northern Thai regions. In this final post on the beauty of palm leaf manuscripts in Tai manuscript cultures, I will take a closer look at traditional retrieval aids, and storage and preservation methods. Some temple libraries held large numbers of manuscripts which were stored in specially made furniture. Due to the fact that many manuscripts were wrapped in a piece of cloth, and the title or contents were rarely mentioned on the front leaf or front cover of a manuscript, quick retrieval of a particular manuscript was only possible if certain finding aids and methods were in place. For example, the manuscripts could be arranged in a systematic order within one cabinet, and several cabinets could be placed in a systematic order in the library building. One important finding aid was the title indicator. A title indicator, which could constitute a beautiful little work of art itself, was attached to a rope, and the rope was wound around the manuscript.    


Wooden title indicator covered with black lacquer, and text incised in Tham script on gold background. Lanna, 19th century. British Library, Or.16555. Acquired from Dr Henry Ginsburg’s bequest, in memory of Dr Henry Ginsburg.


Title indicators made from wood or bamboo were important means of identifying manuscripts when these were stored together in large numbers in wooden cabinets. The length of a title indicator could range from 100 to 400 mm. Bamboo and wooden indicators were often simple strips with the title and list of contents of the manuscript incised or written on, but sometimes wooden and ivory indicators could be carved with beautiful floral ornaments. Often they were lacquered red or black and decorated with gold leaf before the text was incised.    

Indicators Or14528-9

Two wooden title indicators covered with red lacquer, with text incised in Tham script on a gold background. Lanna, 19th century. British Library, Or.14528-9.

The Kim Kardashian Liberals


This is a classic column written by a friend of mine. It's a very simple elucidation of rights and liberalism.  I talked yesterday about how people got upset with me for saying rent control is stupid. It relates to natural rights.

This is why I hate religion. Because it doesn't respect natural rights. Frankly you cannot be religious and avoid being a hypocrite. And inconsistent. Idiocy. And more importantly they know it. Which is why, when pressed, they almost always descend into violence as if that's the final solution.

Classically liberalism means that you need to respect your own rights and others.

See the election cacophony at the moment. Everybody is out trampling my rights. Everybody. Without exception. That's what we have as leaders. In the land where liberalism was born. Along with France. And USA. Thomas Paine comes to mind.

Also read up the rule of but. It's a really great rule. In your debates and discussions with these idiots and hypocrites who use 'but' to qualify assertions, use this. It just makes them completely befuddled. Brilliant thing.

As for Kim kardashians butt, that's a work of art.

Look forward to speaking with you son. We are going to go to the garden centre today and are going to get some flowers and stuff. Do up the garden.



The Kim Kardashian Liberals - The India Uncut Blog - India Uncut
(via Instapaper)

This is the 13th installment of Lighthouse, my monthly column for BLink, a supplement of the Hindu Business Line.

You can hold a currency note up against the light, if you have been trained well, and detect whether it is real or fake. Is there a similar test that can help catch and expose a counterfeit liberal? Yes,  there is. It is the ‘but’ test. A counterfeit liberal is one who will espouse a liberal principle but then, immediately, before putting a full stop on the sentence, add the word ‘but’. And there’s always a universe after that ‘but’.

For example, a faux-liberal will say, “I believe in free speech, but…” Or “I believe in free markets, but…” That ‘but’ invalidates all that comes before it. Anyone who says he believes in free speech “but…” is not a liberal but a hypocrite. (And he doesn’t believe in free speech, obviously.) I have a term for these kinds of people, who abound in the Indian intellectual space. I call them Kim Kardashian Liberals. Too much But.

Wednesday, May 20

The Gruesome and Excruciating Practice of Mummifying Your Own Body

This is an extraordinary practise. Forget the religious back-story behind this but what caught my attention son was the amazing dedication and perseverance these guys showed over years and years of diligent fasting and diet control. I find it so difficult to control my diet. Forget about mummification I just want to lose weight but it's difficult. And here people are dieting with an eye for immortality? Bloody hell.



The Gruesome and Excruciating Practice of Mummifying Your Own Body
(via Instapaper)

The Gruesome and Excruciating Practice of Mummifying Your Own Body

way to preserve a person’s remains, whether to be worshipped or because they’re planning on using that body at a later date. But some people have gone to incredible lengths to prepare their own bodies for mummification while they were still alive.

Top image: Daijuku Bosatsu Shinnyokai-Shonin.

Why have people practiced self-mummification?

National Adjunct Walkout Day: Should We Feel Sorry for Adjuncts?

Having had taught in several universities in several countries, son, this is indeed an issue. Most professors don't like to teach. They prefer to research. The boring job of teaching is frequently pushed on to adjunct professors or doctoral or postdoctoral students. You yourself have been undergoing this phenomena.

Personally speaking I think academic staff need to do all three activities ideally, research teaching and administration. But what happens if that as usual specialisation happens. Some people do more in one area. And as economics will predict, their earnings will differ.

And yes people pile into doing a PhD without thinking through the implications. If you do a PhD from a good school and in a good area then you're good. But think about it. I'm embarking on a history PhD. If I'm lucky I'll get a job as a school teacher. Forget teaching in a university. Even on an adjunct basis. How many students want to study history eh? So sadly, this area is suffering. Finance. Mathematics. Economics computer science all top of the heap.

Anyway. We are but the choices we make son.



National Adjunct Walkout Day: Should We Feel Sorry for Adjuncts?
(via Instapaper)

Thesis: Adjuncts are victims of their own bad choices.

Caveat: Universities are run badly. Brown was run like the Russian government, and Georgetown is run like the Catholic Church. Universities suffer from a wide range of public choice-type problems. I mean it. I’ve even given public lectures (e.g., at a SUNY school last month) elaborating on the what and why of their persistent wrongdoing and mismanagement. Everything below is written with that in mind.

Tuesday, May 19

20 Greatest Cricket Sledges of All Time


Did I mention how much I love and adore your quipping, joking, punning and funning ability. It's just brilliant. Keeps me chuckling for hours on end. Here are some more teases and gentle insults for you to read.

As you grow older and start talking and communicating and discussing and debating and getting people to listen to you, jokes are very important. They get the audience comfortable. And more predisposed to you and your argument. And most importantly they like you. Laughter is a great emotion. Too bad it's not pushed much.

Oh and another thing. Having a quip or gentle tease ready at all times helps people give you respect as well. They can never take you for granted. People don't know how to handle people who can make them laugh. Strange behavioural trait that I've found out.

Anyway have fun reading these legendary sledges in cricketing history.

May your days be full of chuckles and laughs.



20 Greatest Cricket Sledges of All Time: 20 Greatest Cricket Sledges
(via Instapaper)

It's been decided! After much research and drama, after a 2 week poll in which over 5000 cricket fans voted, we bring you the 20 GREATEST CRICKET SLEDGES OF ALL TIME!
Unsurprisingly there are alot of Australians in this list, and coincidentally Merv Hughes seems to keep popping up... Anyway, here are the 20 greatest cricket sledges of all time as decided by you:

20. Malcolm Marshall & David Boon.
Malcolm Marshall was bowling to David Boon, who was having a bit of trouble against the fast bowler and had played and missed a few times. Marshall : "Now David, are you going to get out or am I going to have to come round the wicket and kill you?".

19. Merv Hughes & Graham Gooch.
Merv Hughes was all over Gooch in one test and proceeded to say: "Would you like me to bowl a piano and see if you can play that".

Old Cairo: the Capital of Faith

I think I've mentioned this. From couple of years back, there are more people living in urban areas than in rural areas. So it's going to be interesting to see how they grow and develop. Middle Eastern cities have such a long history. Damascus is considered to be the oldest city going back 7k years. Read the book on Jerusalem by montefiori. Fascinating layers of history. Same with Cairo. It's a fairly young city comparatively. But it has several layers to it. It has the ancient Egyptian one. It has the Greco Roman layer. It has the fatimid Shia layer. It has the Sunni layer. It has the Jewish layer now sadly almost totally vanished. And then the Christian layer. Christianity spread out from Israel and took deep roots in Ethiopia and Egypt. They are some of the oldest churches in the world. And one that I haven't seen to my regret. But then again there's so much to see there. It's on my bucket list :)



Old Cairo: the Capital of Faith
(via Instapaper )

The genesis of Coptic Cairo is a story of life and light. The stars of the story appear in the Bible and in the Quran. Thanks to its exceptional location, you may explore the sophistication of every treasure at your leisure with pleasure beyond measure. There is an exuberant mix of mystic and domestic architecture in a hearty harmless harmonious fashion.

Once upon a tower, around the seat of power, in the fortress of Babylon, the Babylon of Egypt, a house worthy of worship was founded in the name of Virgin Mary. The Hanging Church of Virgin Mary, the most beautiful in Egypt, is still suspended in time and space on the remains of the southern gate of the Roman fortress. As people congregate at the gate that is ornate to promulgate the message, they read above the entrance: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. We ascend to the church through a flight of steps that led western pilgrims to call it the Church of the Steps. Before we climb, to the left we see a modern mesmerising mosaic relating the old story of the miracle of moving the Muqattam mountain.