Thinking out loud

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


- By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Doors of Perception

A deeply moving thought by Aldous Huxley...

"We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies -- all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Are we prepared, indeed?

A few months ago, I wrote about our unpreparedness for facing disaster - natural or otherwise. We have just been demonstrated just how unprepared we are. The recent downpour in Mumbai and nearby areas have brought the state and crucial services throughout the country, to their knees.
Local railways in Mumbai are always closed down for a few days each year. This year was a totally different story though. News clippings showed trains, but no signs of the tracks. People had to be evacuated using ropes - cliffhanger style. Some people walked 23 hours from the trains to their homes, with luggage on their heads. The roads were flooded to knee level at some places; and shoulder level at others. Homes did not have electricity or drinking water for days. And this was the condition in India's biggest metropolitan; the business capital.
Conditions were much worse in other parts of the state. Some villages were completely wiped off. And apparently these villages were not even on the maps of the government, let alone on their radar.
Cellular phone networks went down affecting the city even more in the time of crisis. SBI's ATM service across the country collapsed because their central server resides in Bombay. Our hostel mess was flooded with water; and remained so for about 2 weeks - thanks to L&T construction.
At this point, I'm not blaming the government or private enterprises for inaction. Enough people across the country have done that. What I'm more worried about is the state of our engineering. One wonders what civil engineers we are producing; The infrastructure they build have no way to cope with heavy rains - let alone floods. One wonders what kind of reliability engineering we are doing that heavy rains in one city affect banking operations across such a huge nation. We don't have redundancy measures in our systems. We are incapable of delivering communication services in a crisis. We are incapable of running rescue operations in a crisis.
It is true that several villages are built without consent or knowledge of the government. However, I cannot understand how they can remain out of sight of the government. Today perhaps Google Maps flaunts better pictures of all of India than the Indian government itself. What is the state of the art in remote sensing that we have? Don't we have enough computer engineers that can write software to analyse such imagery and develop safety plans? Are we only capable of running Call Centers; solving problems in running MS Word or processing credit requests in the UK? It is hard to believe that this may be true; but as of right now it seems to be the case. Is it time we do something about it?