Archive for the ‘Reference Desk’ Category

Off to reading the History of Medieval India

September 16, 2012

I have torn a book in three.  I should have done this much earlier.  I had a big old copy of “An Advanced History of India” by Majumdar, Raychaudhuri, and Datta—a tome of 1100+ pages—1990 print.  I tried to read it several times, but could not do that with any consistency with its size and huge scope.  The book covers the Indian History from pre-Vedic ages up to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.  Due to this wide spectrum of period, and due to my personal inability to hold on my efforts over such a long read, I could read only parts of this book here and there.  In an effort to manage it in a decent way, I tore it in three, and what I am going to read is only part II, viz. Medieval India—from around 1100 to 1750s. AD.


Advertisements Yeah, it’s good!

February 26, 2012

When there is widespread stereotyping about something in the society, we inadvertently fall prey to it even without knowing ourselves.  Some are liberal enough to accept their mistakes and prompt to correct them; others remain clung to their own misconceptions. - Mmmm, tasty URLs! Current issue is the “ethical” URL shortener and one such misconception in its ethical policy that I noticed a few days ago. is one of the leading service in URL shortening.  It is created by Richard West, a freelance developer and technologist.  I am a long-time fan of this service for their simplicity, and just for their look.  But a few days ago, I found something in their policy that upset me.  It read:

Many short domains used by URL shorteners are owned by nations under Islamic law which don’t enjoy the same freedoms we do in the West.

I found this sentence very much objectionable.  I felt somehow it implies that Islamic countries do not provide freedom of speech and also that freedom is predominantly a Western concept.  But what could I do?  I just stopped using and instead started using, which is owned by Libyan domain, an Islamic country, just as a gesture of protest, self-sufficient to myself.  But firstly, I didn’t like the feel of, and again I thought it won’t solve the problem.  I really loved and I felt I should try telling them about this glitch.  Their site noted that the mails are replied personally by Richard, so I thought to give it a try.  I mailed Richard this morning: (more…)

Shivaji: Saffronization of a secular king

February 20, 2012

Yesterday was the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1627-1680).  It was celebrated with great joy all over the Maharashtra and by all Marathi-speaking people wherever they are in some form or other.  Shivaji was one national hero of who is still revered by millions above cast and creed.  Indeed Shivaji is a towering name above all, and if you ask anyone to give just one name that binds all Marathi people together, it would be that of Shivaji without a second thought.

Let him remain as he was.  Don't color him saffron.

The popularity and greatness of Shivaji’s character have given rise to a typical phenomenon in the modern India.  Each and every ideological group want him colored in their own color, and unfortunately the far-right saffron Hindutva folks succeeded in it.  They distorted his image so much that he is almost deified as an incarnation of God who took birth “to save the Hindu people from the tyranny of Muslim rulers”; and this is far from truth.

This needs to be checked against historical facts and people should be made aware about this.  This has become more important in the post-1992 and post-Godhra India where Shivaji is again and again projected as a destroyer and enemy of Muslims.


Mahatma Phule and Savitribai Phule

January 2, 2012

If you live in India, you must recognize this couple at a glance (and if you don’t, you should take a brick and split it on your head!  You deserve it).


A bit more than 140 characters

December 18, 2011

The week passed, and it passed quite quickly.  It’s too difficult sometimes to keep up with the pace of life.  A lot of things happen that you may want to note, and life just passes by!

These are a few things that kept me occupied over the last week, the things certainly a bit longer than 140 characters of Twitter, and I could not work on them to a full-fledged blog posts.


Lest we, the people of India, forget…

November 26, 2011

November 26! The Constitution of India was adapted and enacted on this date in 1949; exactly 52 years ago. Surprisingly, most of my fellow citizens do not know the importance of this date and those who know tend to forget it for some reasons (it would be a topic for a separate post)!

Constitution of India, the supreme law of the land, is the document of foremost important to us. It’s the originator and the guardian of the rights we enjoy: The freedom of expression, freedom of religion, right to equality, just to mention a few. While all of us benefit from these rights, most of us conveniently fail to attribute the due respect to the Constitution of India. Most of us just think that we have this freedom because it has naturally been such for ages.

I have seen many of my friends thinking the Constitution of India is only to benefit a section of the society while they see it as an obstacle for growth their individual growth. But my dear friend, if we need to grow as a nation, we must keep in mind:

The growth of individuals does not constitute the growth of a nation; if we must grow as a nation, we must grow as a whole.

And if you are on the sufferer’s end, then someone needs to be there. If the nation asks a part of your individual growth for the growth of the community, you must be the happiest person to offer it.

On this November 26th, let’s pay our tribute to the supreme law of the land; lest we forget it is the Constitution of India that makes us what we are!

Of potatoes, eggs, Ahmadiyyas, and Pakistan

October 26, 2011

I was casually going through BBC News website last evening and found a news about a YouTube video “Aaloo Anday” (potatoes and eggs) getting viral popular in Pakistan. What so special about a video, first one by the unknown-until-now band, to be so popular that BBC making a news out of it. I watched the video on YouTube. It’s a satire on the current sociopolitical situation of Pakistan. It’s in Punjabi, I couldn’t get it’s meaning by mere listening to it. I further googled to get some insight. The video itself and the situation surrounding it have obsessed me so much that I had been thinking of it almost every moment since I watched it.

The video starts with three school-going-looking boys opening their lunch box finding the same “Aaloo Anday” in them as usual. They put off the lunch boxes and start with the song: “my mother has cooked aaloo and anday. I don’t like them. I want to each pieces of chicken.” The video further takes a hard stand on some tough issues in Pakistan. They talk of a country where Mumtaz Qadir (one who assassinated a liberal minister) is treated like a royal nawab, where Ajmal Kasab has become a national hero, and of a country where no one talks about Abdus Salam, the first Noble laureate from Pakistan who won Noble Prize for Physics in 1979.

Abdus Salam (1926–1996)

Dr. Abdus Salam

Although the most part of the song made only a little appeal to me (as I am not that aware of the situation there), I must give the guys full credit for talking about Abdus Salam.  Abdus Salam was one of the most important scientists Pakistan has ever produced. He belonged to Ahmadiyya community, which is declared non-muslim in Pakistan by law of the land. Ahmadiyya is a community within Islam that believes Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahamad (19th century) to be the Messiah and hence denies the finality of prophethood of Muhammad. They believe in the oneness of Allah, they believe Muhammad was a prophet of Allah, they believe Quran to be the book sent by Allah, but deny the finality of Muhammad as a Prophet. Pakistan has about 4 million of Ahmadiyya population; and these people are declared non-muslims by law.

And what does it really mean? By law, an Ahamadiyya cannot pose himself to be a muslim in Pakistan, or he can have a jail of up to 3 years. An Ahmadiyya cannot say “Assalam walaykum” to someone else; an Ahmadiyya cannot call their place of worship a “masjid”; an Ahmadiyya cannot keep a copy of Quran in his home; an Ahamadiyya cannot quote the verses of Quran in public; an Ahamadiyya can in no way pose himself to be a Muslim. Anyone who applies for a Pakistani passport has to sign an oath stating that Mirza Ghulam Ahamad was an imposter and not the prophet of Allah and his followers are in no way Muslims.

Ahmadiyya are often a target of social malignity in Pakistan. In 2010, there was a suicide bomb attack on a Ahmadiyya place of worship and about 100 people were killed.  Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the deceased “our brothers” in his condolence speech.  Eleven political parties together have protested his calling Ahmadiyyas “our brothers.” The prejudice against Ahmadiyyas is so intense that they often try to keep their Ahmadiyya identity hidden in their social life. In short, Ahmadiyyas are the Jews of modern Pakistan and living in almost the same situation as the Jews were living in the early Nazi regime.

Grave of Prof. Dr. Abdus Salam (1926-1996) in ...

The gravestone of Dr. Abdus Salam. The words "Muslim" are removed by a judicial action.

Abdus Salam was a proud Pakistani and a Muslim. He went to receive his Noble award in the national dress of Pakistan. He had quoted a verse from Quran in his Noble speech. He departed from the country in protest when Pakistan declared Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims. Afterwards, he lived in United Kingdom. He kept constant contact with his motherland for all his life. He died in UK. His corpse was brought back to Pakistan and buried in his hometown. His gravestone read “He was the first Muslim Noble laureate.” This was unbearable in Pakistan. He was an Ahmadiyya; he cannot call himself a Muslim even after death. They dusted out the words “Muslim” from his gravestone by a judicial order leaving it to nonsensical “the first Noble laureate.” Every attempt was made to clean out his name from the public memory; even his hometown was renamed. And such an important public figure in Pakistan was rubbed out of history, just because he was an Ahmadiyya, a non-Muslim. The prejudice against Ahmadiyya is so intense in Pakistan that a blogger satirically wrote a public sentiment like “we can convert the Hindus and Christians to Islam; we do not want the Ahmadiyyas.”

One can easily make remarks against political leaders; they are soft targets. A little more courageous can talk even against the military, but to talk against the public sentiment–it takes a great deal (think what kind of comments those got here in India who argued against the Anna Hazare movement). The aaloo anday guys must be congratulated for taking up such an important issue. It may not change the situation in a while, but it can set start a debate. The video ends with the lead singer holding a placard “If you want a bullet through my head, like this video.” Unfortunately, it is really such a case in Pakistan. Take care guys, may God give you a long life.

Codeine cough syrup abuse in Nagpur

October 23, 2011

I was quite disturbed when I had found an empty codeine cough syrup bottle lying in Reshimbag ground[1] a few months ago.  It was apparent from its overall appearance that it was gulped as a single dose, clearly for recreational use.  As a medical graduate, I know what codeine is, how dangerous are it’s side effects, and how addictive it can be!  Over the last few months, the number of such empty bottles lying there have significantly increased and you can find several bottles thrown there on any given day.

Opioid-containing cough syrup bottles found at Reshimbag Ground

Opioid cough syrup bottles at Reshimbag Ground

Codeine is an opioid drug, which is used for symptomatic treatment of pain, dry cough, or severe diarrhea.  It’s primarily an analgesic that also suppresses cough and causes constipation as a side effect.  It is used as a symptomatic treatment of a nonproductive dry cough where the cough is so harsh that it causes pain with continuous coughing, even vomiting with cough, or sometimes even a rib fracture with severe bout of cough.  It is never used with mild cough or the cough productive of sputum.

Codeine is a weak opioid as compared to morphine, but quite harmful on it own account.  Drug abusers use it for the temporary euphoria it gives, but it is addictive and can cause severe physical and mental side effects.  Codeine causes drowsiness, even confusion, and hampers the ability of an individual to perform complex actions needing coordination such as driving or operating heavy machinery.  The effects of codeine get even more severe if it is combined with alcohol or other benzodiazepine drugs; and the user–if driving or operating heavy machinery–can be a great harm to himself and others.  At higher doses, codeine can cause respiratory distress, which can be life-threatening.

Codeine is addictive.  It does not leave the abuser easily.  It causes severe withdrawal symptoms if attempted to quit suddenly, with severe physical symptoms–even greater than mental symptoms–acute appetite loss, constipation, shivering, and most importantly drowsiness.[2]

Codeine is a prescription drug and should be used only if really needed.  There are a lot many safe cough syrups available and codeine-containing stuffs should be reserved for only when they are really indicated.  The bottles found at Reshimbag Ground must apparently be bought from some nearby medical shop.  Such higher-than-average sale of an opioid agent must not go unnoticed by the authorities.  It is quite concerning that your youth can get such addictive opioid at just 68.20 rupees a bottle.

Easy availability of codeine can attract new users to experiment with it, and newbies can soon be habitual users.  It is too easy to get addicted; detox is too difficult.  We don’t have good detox facilities, and a complete detox would need at least a month’s inpatient stay in the hospital.  Hope the authorities would notice it soon and curb any unindicated/over-the-counter use of opioid drugs.

1.  A well-known ground in Reshimbag, Nagpur, near Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha headquarters.
2.  See this personal experience by an addict on Yahoo Answers

Vijaya Dashmi of an iconoclast

October 6, 2011

Today is Vijaya Dashmi, one of the most important festivals of India.  It marks the victory of Rama over Ravana in the battle of Ramayana.  It is celebrated all over the India with burning the effigies of Ravana.  Huge 10-faced effigies are burnt in grand spectacular ceremonies.  It would be reasonable to go over some facts around this issue on this occasion.

Rama is considered as an avatar of Vishnu by millions of Hindus.  For them, Rama is not mere a character of some epic tale, but an incarnation of God.  He is referred to as Maryada Purushottam, i.e. the best limit of the man.  Ravana was a demon king of Lanka.

Ravana kidnapped Sita, the wife of Rama, and this provoked a war between Rama and Ravana.  This is a common consideration.  But what made Ravana to kidnap Sita?  Did he really kidnapped her only because he wanted to marry her?  Or because he just wanted to take animosity with Rama?  Was there some other reason?  Was the animosity started by Ravana alone?

We should not forget the story of Shurpanakha in this context.  Shurpanakha was a sister of Ravana.  She was widowed.  She saw Rama in the forest while the latter was in exile with his wife and brother Lakshmana.  Shurpanakha got attracted towards Rama and made him a direct proposal to marry her.  She was a demon lady, she was a widow, and her act was not totally against the customs then, but what Rama did with her was totally mischievous and something that we would never expect from a Maryada Purushottam.

Rama told her the truth that he cannot marry her as he is already married and is with his wife; but at the same time, he referred her to Lakshmana saying that he is young and handsome and is still unmarried (akrit daara अकॄतदारा was the exact word used by Rama in Walmiki Ramayana).  Rama certainly knew Lakshmana was married too, still he cunningly lied to Shurpanakha.  Even if we cannot justify her attitude towards Rama, we should not try to justify Rama’s behavior towards her too, especially when we call him the Maryada Purushottam.  Lakshmana too talks mischievously with Shurpanakha and finally cuts his nose with his sword.  Can his act be justified?  Shurpanakha was straightforward in her demand.  She had asked Rama directly about her wishes.  One would really expect Rama to make an honest rejection in such a case, but he played mischief and Lakshmana cut her nose.

In consequence, she went to her brothers complaining about these two brothers, and then unfolded the further story of Ramayana still the battle of Lanka and defeat of Ravana, that’s not a topic of our discussion today.

I just want to state that we should stop deifying Rama and should see him as a protagonist of a wonderful epic of India.  He even can be a superhero, but not a unquestionable God.  He was as good and bad as I am, as you are, at least not a Maryada Purushottam.

This elaboration may seem out of context, an act of infidelity to someone, but the cruel use of Rama’s deified image over the recent decades in India makes it necessary to be told to people.  Rama was a human being, if he ever existed.  If we chose to worship him, let it be for our good, for our spiritual exaltation rather than to create animosity between two communities.  In the present context, the cry of “Jay Shriram” reminds me of nothing but some crazy young people demolishing a mosque standing upon it, some sadhwi (female ascetic) dancing joyously in front of media after this demolition, common Hindus of Gujarat made insane with this deified image of Rama killing their own brothers in mobs, some Varun Gandhi making belligerent gestures on a public platform.

Hope the day would come when I won’t need to be an iconoclast anymore!

Just another number: 526315789473684210! A multiplication trick!!

September 18, 2011

Yesterday, Gaurav (@giitjee) posted on his blog about a very interesting number happened to him, i.e. 381654729.  This post is as a followup of the little conversation we had in the comment section there.

There is a simple trick with number 526315789473684210.  Once you learn and remember this number, you can multiply it by any number less than 19 just within seconds.  It would take more time to write down the number than the actual calculation.  For example:

526315789473684210 x 17 = 8947368421052631570

526315789473684210 x 13 = 6842105263157894730

The trick is simple:

  • Multiply by 5 to the number by which we are multiplying.  In our first example, 17 x 5 = 85.
  • Look for the the number just a little greater than 85 in the original example; that is 89.
  • Write the number starting from there ahead: 89473684210.
  • Add the previous part of the number subsequent to it: “89473684210”5263157″
  • Add a zero at the end: 8947368421052631570
  • That’s the answer.

Try it yourself and leave me a feedback!!

Any proof?
I don’t know why does it happen.  I know the number is deduced as a reciprocal of 19; 1/19=0.05263157894736842…. It must have something to do with the trick.  It also happens similarly with the reciprocal of 13, just we need to multiply by 6 and look for a number little lesser in that case.

Leave me a note if you know the proof or it is already somewhere on the net.  Thanks 🙂