Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ashwin Sanghi - 'The Krishna Key'

Two months back I read the preview chapters of 'The Krishna Key'.

I wasn't excited.
Neither gripped.
Neither shaken,
Nor surprised.

All I knew was that a wave was on its way, ready to engulf me. Each day longing to grab a copy of this book. Little did I know those preview chapters were just the shore-line, beyond it lay, a vast ocean ready to be explored.

My review is divided into two parts. It is so as to give you the best perspective and analysis. I recommend you to read the part to which you belong.

If 'The Krishna Key' happens to be the first book of this author you are about to read

This is the third book by Ashwin Sanghi. His previous two books 'The Rozabal Line' and 'Chanakya's Chant'   had bowled me over completely. His writing style can be correlated to 'Time Travelling'. The author keeps juggling you back and forth in time. At one instance you are in the battlefield, a few pages later you will find yourself in a lecture room, then you are back again in a kingdom. This style has inspired me a lot and this is one of the reasons which make this book a page turner.

Believe me, it is a page turner. I am a voracious reader and it took me just 9 hours to complete the entire book (464 pages of content). I was so busy flipping pages that I skipped my dinner.

To begin with, the essence of the book is a single mythological character 'Krishna'. You realize it as soon as you progress. A fast paced thriller is based on exploring certain facts : 
Was the eight avatar of Vishnu really a myth ? 
The history we know is it truly true ?
Mahabharata : Is it just an epic to pass down values through generations or the events actually took place ?  
What about kalki and the divine 'brahmastra' ?
And several other questions which will ponder in you mind even after you complete the saga.

Sounds boring, huh.
Nope it isn't.
After all you are not reading a book on mythology. It is a thriller.

The entire event is triggered by a serial killer who takes you on a journey, slowly uncovering his secret.
A historian Ravi Mohan Saini is caught in between the web of murders of his associates.
Priya is a PhD student under Saini who is willing to go to any extent to help him out.
Radhika , an ideal cop who takes up this case.
Few more characters[ including an IITian Nuclear Physicist :) ] and a dark secret which finally ends with some soul searching.

Filled with scientific correlations. Lots of illustrations.
A time comes when you encounter a sudden twist, midway (around page 233). 
Pairon ke neeche se zameen hi khisak jayegi!

It is a true delight to read.Go grab your copy today !

Continue reading if you have already gone through other works of Ashwin Sanghi
I am a die hard fan of his previous work 'Chanakya's Chant'. 
'The Rozabal Line' has the best time traversing narration style I have ever come across.
'Key' is good, but surely not his best work. After reading the 'Chant' I had enormous expectations from the author. He drew correlations back and forth, but they were too scientific and at times drag. Somehow I felt that a human touch was missing as it was evident in the 'Chant'. It was great to see his cool trademark crypts like 'La Sara Kali' of Rozabal. The conclusion seemed to be open ended, maybe intentional, leaving a future scope to build over it. But, after reading 'Chant' I surely expected a better ending. 
Anyways it was an awesome read ! 

-Blogged after reading 'The Krishna Key' the second time. Do put your feedback below :)
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Antaragni Leadership Initiative [The Questionnaire]

"The Antaragni Leadership Initiative is a campaign aimed at igniting the social consciousness of the college youth ... blah blah blah .."
I'll cut short this description. You can read it here.

Well this year Antaragni folks came up with this really nice concept, especially for the IITK folks as every second person in our campus thinks he is a great leader heading a three tier student organisation  .

The first round comprised an online questionnaire submission.
I just got over with it. Some of the questions were really intriguing and thought provoking.
So I am sharing my form below.

1. Current Affairs 
Politicians should not play with educational institutes and their functioning. How far do you agree with this and why? (Max. 100 words)

About a thousand years ago India ushered in the field of education. Students from all across the globe came to study in the Nalanda University which made it the greatest center of higher learning of its time. Nalanda had its own autonomous body who made all decisions in order to take the institute ahead and the king showered it with the signs of his respect. It was at the pinnacle for six centuries. In modern scenario politicians think they are the kings, but they have forgotten that what our educational institutes need today is patronage, not intrusion in their functioning.

2. Creativity
You have the power to eliminate one problem being faced by modern India. What will it be? Briefly mention the steps you would take in this direction. (Max. 100 words)

Education System in India is still a major issue and it will not progress into a dynamic field unless the problems inherent in it are identified and solved.
To eradicate this problem, I would take the following steps:
Create a transparent, but rigorous regulatory system that will focus on the academic standards and the learning, not just on structural aspects.
Encourage private participation in education by creating incentives for them to focus on the social and developmental needs of the country.
I think the simplicity, elegance, and effectiveness of this solution is something which can make an impact.

3. Critical Thinking 
65 years ago, We had resolved to establish a sovereign, secular, democratic republic with justice, liberty, equality and fraternity for all. Have we as a nation been able to live up to those ideals? (Max. 150 words)

Today, UN ranks us 134 and 147 in terms of Human Development Index and Education. The Gender Inequality index tell us that inequality is predominant. Even the party which claims itself to be secular is backed by religious sects. Justice exists, but by the time it arrives, it is already too late.
"What we had resolved, we haven't been able to live up to those ideals !" 
I disagree. 
Its not about talking about India in terms of statistics, its not a propaganda. The whole point is that India is the nationalism of an idea. Its an idea of an ever-ever land, emerging from an ancient civilization, united by a shared history, sustained above all by pluralist democracy. That is a 21st century story. If there is anything worth celebrating about India it is this fact that India is a rare example of successful management of diversity in the developing world.

4. Self-appraisal 
If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be and why? (Max. 40 words)  

I yearn to do something innovative and out of the box. And I'll definitely succeed in my quest someday. My story should be named 'Aiming Beyond Infinity' because that is the motto of my life. I live by it everyday.

5. Additional Question 
Answer any one of the following two questions (Max 150 words) 
  • In your opinion, is the dollar value increasing or the rupee value decreasing?
  • What do you think the youth of the country can realistically do to make it better?
The Indian Rupee is in a downward spiral. Not just the dollar, it has depreciated against all major currencies. 
When I read that rupee is sliding against the US dollar, the first thing that came in my mind was that the dollar value is increasing, but how come the rupee is also sliding against the sinking Euro.
Price of any asset is a function of its demand and supply. The growth in Indian economy has slowed down global investors shunned Indian equities. India imports majorly  crude and gold which is bought and sold in dollars. Thus, increasing imports increase the demand for dollars and people sell rupee to buy dollars. This puts a downward pressure on rupee. 
The problem however is the not the Rupee slide itself – the fall in the Rupee is the symptom of underlying problems and we have to look at those problems to find solutions.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Impact of 'The Third Wave'

Well I had an awesome day today :)
After winning the best blog post prize in the Blog Writing Contest organised by Association of Mechanical Engineers this summer, 'The Third Wave' won yet another laurel.
This time it was judged as the best entry in the story/fiction category in a contest held by Book Club of our institute. They received more than eighty entries for this competition and my third wave surely had an impact.


Printing The Third Dimension

I mentioned about 3D printing and the RepRap project in The Third Wave.
Its significance was over-shadowed back there, so I thought it might be worth sharing some awesome stuff which I came across while working on that piece.
Check it out !

RepRap Project Official Site
The Economist - Manufacturing - 1
The Economist - Manufacturing - 2

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Last Question

"How to read a binary file using Python?"
"Use open(filename, 'rb') to read a binary file." - Quick came my reply.

"Any other question ?" - I announced.
"Why should I use Python instead of C/C++/Java as it is quite slow?"

"Because life is short and you need Python !" - I smiled.
"It maybe slow, but you save a lot of time when you are coding. Something which can take you a year to write in C++ might take you just a month in Python, which makes it an excellent prototyping tool." - I added.

"Time is running out so now I will take one last question. Anyone ?"
There was silence for a couple of seconds then a lean guy sitting in the back slowly raised his arm. He shuddered then spoke -
"I was quite happy to see in your last slide that you are a mechanical engineer. We have a software in our department called Abaqus. I needed some help regarding scripting. It is based on Python. I have searched the net, but could not find any tutorial or example on how to go ahead with it."
"Well if it is based on Python then it is not possible to not even come across a single tutorial. Moreover what I taught you in the past four days, might be sufficient to give you a head-start."
"No, it is not like you are thinking." - His voice softened as he completed the sentence.
I smiled and ended the lecture. A guy sitting in the front row applauded, others followed.
My first lecture series in IIT K came to an end.
I was happy.
I was feeling proud.
But somewhere deep down I had some remorse. His helpless look passing my mind time and again, and his last question, which remained unanswered.

14 months later ... in a slightly better lecture hall.

"So with this we come to an end. In this lecture we explored the tremendous potential of this software. How Abaqus can be used in Computer Aided Engineering to design better products."
"Any Questions ?"

Someone darted a question.
"How can we vary the seed density for meshing? Suppose I want more density of seeds on one side."
I quickly gave him the solution demonstration.
He beamed.

"How can I add a fixed boundary condition at a node?"
"Well you can use the selection toolbar and activate 'nodes'."

"So now I will take one last question. Anyone?"
No hands were raised, but this question triggered a memory. It was as if I was still searching for that person a midst the folks sitting in front of me.
I addressed them softly - "If someone needs any help with Python scripting in this software feel free to contact me."
It took me such a long time to figure out the answer to that last question !