Friday, August 26, 2011

A fine meshwork


It has been a long time since i have blogged. Largely because i have been busy in multiple things over the past months and i have not found a blog-worthy topic.

This is going to be a commentary (a rather opinionated one) largely on governance of India and the aspect of redundancy of governing institutions.

India is the largest democracy in the world and by being so, it incorporates the classic framework of democratic governance. I am talking about the the multiple overlapping branches of governance. There is the parliament with the upper and lower houses, there is the cabinet which is designated by the ruling party/alliance. There is the president (who, in Indian system does not have very strong powers except that of declaring emergencies). There is the judiciary who is appointed by the parliament. There is the police and the armed forces. In addition to this, there are independent bodies such as RAW, CBI, the election commission etc.

The most important reason why these work together in a democratic setting is the overlap and the redundancy among these institutions. Neither one of the above-mentioned institutions are singularly powerful over others. I.e. there is not one single body which does not have any interference (for a lack of a better word) from another. This is the key to having these work together in harmony. I should mention here that under conditions of Martial law, the president and the armed forces do become supremely powerful. But that's an exception.

The reason i am mentioning this redundancy is because of the recent events that have occurred in India about the so called 'Jan Lokpal Bill'. I am a novice in reading about bills and laws etc etc. But what i gathered from the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) is that the institution of Lokpal that people want created will end up having an absolute power over all the other institutions. And in my opinion, that will not be a good thing. Not that i am saying that the Govt Lokpal Bill is great. They are trying to give the Lokpal as few powers as possible in order to avoid scrutiny. But i think that JLB is aiming to create an absolute governance body. And that is undesirable.

The reason i said that redundancy is critical, is the fact that if there was one absolute institution, that can rise in power and become an effective dictatorship. Whereas, in a democracy, the only institution that can and should control governance is the people. So if the ultimate effective governance is from the people, then a question of dictatorship does not arise (unless there is a revolution). Another problem with having an absolute body is that, if that body becomes corrupt, then there is no stopping that. Take the example of the Nazis. The Nazis were in the beginning true to their name 'National socialist party'. But, because they were allowed to have an absolute power, Hitler could use that and turn the government into a dictatorship.

JLB is petitioning to create the Lokpal which will have jurisdiction over all other institutions. If the Lokpal becomes corrupt tomorrow, then all the other institutions will be under its control, which will make the system deviate from a true democracy, so i think that JLB as it is should not be passed. However, if created, the Lokpal will be a fresh institution and will prove to be effective in stemming corruption, as long as it does not have absolute power. Which brings me to my next point.

One of the caveats of the 'meshwork' of the democratic governance is that it is inherently prone to spreading corruption. Imagine a network of tubes filled with water. If you add a drop of ink to one of the nodes, it eventually spreads to the entire network. And such is our system. But then how will the Lokpal be effective? It will be effective by manipulating the same caveat. Now imagine a network of tubes filled with ink. Add a node full of bleach to it. The bleach from that node will spread throughout and start clearing the entire network. This is a very crude analogy, but in this case, the bleach will be the intent and anti-corruption activities of the public. So in my simple analogy, as long as there is a constant supply of bleach to this meshwork, the result should be effective clearance of ink.

The beauty of our governance system is that each node can be influenced by any other node without existence of a direct connection. To borrow a quote from a completely unrelated movie (Those of you who are avid fans, will recall), this is the system's greatest strength and the greatest weakness.

I shall end this post by urging all Indians to think objectively about what the JLB is proposing and also to not blindly follow it just because you want to steam off the anti-corruption emotions.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Music to my ears


In about a month (in fact, less than), i will take my oral qualifying exams. I have to submit a 10-page proposal by end of the month, and about week after that, i have to defend it in front of my committee. Well, its a big exam (in some ways actually more important than your actual thesis defence).

Anyway, the point is that i am doing everything but study for the exam. Mundane things like looking for apartments, labwork and cleaning the kitchen seem much more exciting than studying. But i think progressively i am getting better at preparing for the exam. One of the things which is helping me get through the boredom of this is, of course, music.

Never has Pink Floyd been more appealing to my brain than now. Like I mentioned in the post 'Brain Damage' is becoming one of top 10 floyd songs for me. Ironically, 'Comfortably Numb' is one of the few being played the most. 'Stairway to heaven' and 'Whole lotta love' are reminding me of the sheer brilliance of Led Zeppelin. The Beatles with their 'A day in life', 'While my guitar gently weeps' and 'Come together' are adding to the harmony. These songs along with The Rolling Stones 'Stuck in the middle with you' and some southern swagger of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free bird' are helping me forget the pain that this exam is. To add icing on the cake, Jimi Hendrix with 'Foxy lady' and 'All along the watchtower' and momentary change of tracks with some Aerosmith and Guns 'n Roses is satisfying my ears.

The point being, once again, its classic rock which is helping me concentrate on my work (Well if you call it concentration if i blog randomly in the middle of reading a paper). Just wanted to write about the awesomeness of classic rock. To end this blog, I am going to use those immortal words by AC/DC.

"For those about to rock, We salute you"

Keep rockin'

Monday, April 4, 2011

My poems to her

The beginning

On the hilltop he waited
Every shadow he saw
Every footstep he heard
He waited eagerly for her

And then she came
Her hair flowing in the wind
Her eyes glowing
She told him 'The wait is over'

She brought colors
He brought paper
And thus it began
The art without borders


When the shoulders are tired
And the burden is too much

When the world is against you
And obstacles as such

Hold my hand and walk with me
I will be your crutch

To guide you or to support you
Even if all you need is just a touch


On a cold morning,
Full of fog and mist
Waiting at the street corner

Walking ahead,
With your hand in mine, I know
Sunshine is around the corner

The spark

The spark that was,
It still is,
Hidden under a layer of clouds
Like a lightning waiting

The clouds that are,
They won't be
Light can not hide for long
Through the fog it will shine

The seasons that change,
They will
Guised as a spark
Breaking the monotony

Revisiting Pink Floyd

Wow, it has been a long time since i wrote anything. I think the last post was in August of last year. 7 months with a writer's block.

A lot has happened (as always, one might say) in these last 7 months. Ups and downs as usual. In fact, i think i got so used to ups and downs, i stopped thinking of these as special events. Hence nothing to overcome my writer's block.

So why now? Well, no reason. Just that it feels like somehow the block has passed.

I am here in lab, deciding topics for my orals, reading a bunch of papers and listening to music. Of course you must have guessed by now, i am listening to Pink Floyd. Well, true and false. I am listening to the Pandora Station 'Wish you were here'. Its mainly Pink Floyd, Led Zep and other favourite bands of mine.

I was listening to 'Brain Damage' by floyd and ironically, at the same time i had the inspiration to write. So to acknowledge that song, i am going to quote a few lines from that song.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

Ok, so revisiting Pink Floyd seems to have done the trick. Hopefully now that i have posted something, i will keep on writing.

See you on the next post.
So long.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


For those of you who have read my last poem, 'defeat', it was about science defeating me in the battle. However i didnt lose hope and kept on fighting. And it paid off.

When i wrote the poem, i had just come across yet another failed experiment, the same one for which i have been trying to get a positive result since an year ago. But last week, i finally got it. And that is vindication for me...

That also reminded me why i am in science. The exhilaration i experienced after looking at that piece of gel was exactly the thing i was fighting for. One small gel at the end of the day and that relieved the stress i was going through for the last few months. That is what science is about. I always like saying this 'If everything works for the first time, then a paper would be written in 6 months. But behind every figure in a paper, there are atleast a few failed experiments'. I experienced this firsthand. It is the one experiment which works and kicks off a whole series of further experiments that one always hopes for.

So with that feeling in mind, i am writing this, not only to remind myself of this in future when i am struggling to get experiments working, but also for my fellow  men and women who have taken the challenge of science.

At the same time, as i said in my poem, science is saying to me 'You may have won the battle, but not yet the war'

So long

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I lay down my weapons today
Sweat on brow and blood on sword
In front of the familiar foe
Reminding me how much it cost

My eyes flaming, matching his,
With vengeance in mind I tell him,
"I might have lost the battle,
But the war is not yet lost"

Life out of a laundry basket

You can't tell the difference between new and clean clothes and old and muddled clothes when you live life out of a laundry basket.

-This thought is inspired and contributed to by Ragini