Showing posts with label A Diary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Diary. Show all posts

Dr. Sneh Raj - Sneh Mausi - Bua - Daadi - is no more.

My Mausi, Dr. Sneh Raj is no more. She died at age 91. She went on her own terms. She said she did not wish any tubes or artificial means of respiration (and such) and her family respected her wishes. All her life she has battled the circumstances she found herself in cheerfully and with enthusiasm. She decided when it was time not to battle any more. 

She made a family and community across three countries -- India, US and Canada. 

When I first landed in Columbus, she was there to pick me up. When Tejasi was born, she was the Daadi available to look after us and to teach me how to wrap Tejasi in a blanket and hold her properly. And was available in every visit to the US and every marriage in India. Her empathy, sympathy and good humor was legendary -- she shared herself generously with all of us. 

On her 90th birthday, her daughter, Madhulika Raj, together with Madhulika Agarwal, made a book of wishes for her. The picture above is the cover. Click here to  download a copy. I had written there what I wanted to say to her. 

Here is an obituary published in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Mausi was the youngest of three sisters. After them three brothers followed. It is difficult to accept that all three sisters -- Kusum Mausi, Mummy and Sneh Mausi, left so soon after each other. All three sisters in their own way were forces of nature. Their force multiplied because of each other. The three Shaktis of this family. 

Their passing is the end of an era. 

Lest we forget them (Edited) - By P. K. Ghosh

An email Asoke and I sent with a link to P K Ghosh's article "Lest we forget them". I have previously written a book review of PKG's novel: On returning to desh.

IITs of India are known worldwide as excellent academic institutions. For several decades, IIT Kanpur was the leader in this group. Those who were fortunate to have studied there, would fondly remember the ambience, the Halls of Residence, the Central Library, the canteens, the lecture hall complex...and certainly the teachers. They were great men, and sought to ignite the spark in kindred spirits among younger souls. Among them, Prof. P. K. Ghosh stands out as one who always maintained a high standard in teaching and research, and demanded the same from his students. The attached booklet gives a glimpse of his time in the Chemistry Department at IIT Kanpur, where he and his students created one of the highest resolution optical spectrometers in the country, an unusual programmable microprocessor for training, data acquisition and display, wrote several monographs which have been praised internationally, among other things. Prof. Ghosh has recounted those days in a delightful booklet "Lest We Forget Them."

Who are the people whom he doesn't want us to forget? What else does he not wish to forget? The mood. The vision. The bravado. The students who will go on to achieve great success and renown.

For details, you must read the booklet.

Here is a link: 

Best wishes,

Asoke and Gaurav 

PS. We would appreciate it if viewers and readers can identify themselves and comment below. Any messages to PKG will be forwarded to him along with your contact details. I will have to `approve' the comment. This is to avoid spam.

PPS. This is an edited version. Some pictures and letters have been edited from here.If you know PKG personally, he may share with you the complete article. Please send a request for the same to Asoke. 

Asoke Chattopadhyay
Department of Chemistry
University of Kalyani
Kalyani 741235
(MSc integrated, IIT Kanpur) 
asoke dot chattopadhyay at gmail

Gaurav Bhatnagar
bhatnagarg at gmail com

Thank you, Dick

From R to L (facing camera): Ae Ja Yee, Bruce Berndt, Dick Askey, Shaun Cooper, Michael Schlosser, and me
At Alladi 60 conference at a conference reception at the Alladi residence

Howard Cohl and Mourad Ismail created a Liber Amicorum (Friendship Book) to present to Richard Askey. Askey is not well, and he and his wife Liz have moved into a Hospice in Wisconsin. Askey is our leader, the leader of our field, and of the people in the field. 

UPDATE (October 9, 2019): Alex Berkovich and Howard Cohl informed that Dick is no more.

My entry for his book is here: Thank you, Dick

The title is appropriate. When Dick autographed my copy of the book, Special Functions by Andrews, Askey and Roy, he wrote "Thank you for your work, early and now". (Here is my book review of this book.) He gave extensive comments on receiving a draft copy of my unpublished book "Experience Mathematics" and tried to help me get it published. My paper "How to discover the Rogers-Ramanujan Identities" is essentially an expansion of something that took Dick a couple of paragraphs. 

When I returned to mathematics, I hung out with him in many conferences, and he was very supportive, coming for my talks, making remarks. In general, he was very welcoming. I have missed him the last couple of years. 

Mathematics and Life: A Speech

On August 27, 2018, I was invited by the Millennium School, Noida to their investiture ceremony. I have previously taught mathematics to Class 11 students in another campus of the school. At that time, I instituted a "Mathguru Prize" for one or two students who did well in mathematics in Grade 10. (The first winner was my student, Ayush Tripathi, who was in the first graduating batch of the school). Every year I buy some books to be given to the winner, with a copy for the school library. 

Here is a speech I gave at the occasion (with some editing). 


I am a mathematician, so I speak here only in terms of mathematics. Today we will be awarding the Mathguru prize to two very bright students. The first thing I wish to tell you is something they know very well.

To get 100% in math, you have to do two things. 
  1. Solve all the problems in the book
  2. Write the solutions in a way that others can understand it. Even you should be able to understand what you have written if you read the solution after 6 months. 
The second thing I wish to tell you is something which Professor Littlewood said. Littlewood was a famous mathematician, who played a big part in Ramanujan's life. He said that if you are trying to solve a really hard problem, then you may not make much progress in a year or two. But you will certainly make a lot of progress in 10 years or so.

Keep this in mind when choosing problems to solve.  Know that even if the problem is very tough, if you keep at it for years, you will make a lot of progress.

Finally, the third thing I wish to share are some words of George Polya, another famous mathematician. Polya said:
Beauty in mathematics is seeing the truth without effort.
So one must aspire to understand things so well, that we can see the beauty of it without any effort. The same goes when we are presenting something that we have understood. 

I speak in terms of mathematics, but I speak not only of mathematics. Much of what I said is applicable in other domains of life.

Best wishes and good luck to all of you, as you pursue your aspirations.


PS. I may have been influenced a bit in the way I phrased certain things by a book I just finished reading for the nth time. The book is called Shibumi, written by Trevanian. 

Interview in Annulus - Hindu College math department magazine

This is an email interview with Annulus, a magazine taken out by Acuity, the mathematics society run by mathematics students of Hindu College, Delhi University. Most of it was published in the magazine. I thought it was meant as a tribute to Saroj Bala Malik, who taught me 4 classes when I attended Hindu, from 1984-87, but they edited out the question about her in the final article.  

Tell us about your time at Hindu College. What made you pursue Mathematics here?

I wanted to become a mathematician. I joined Hindu college because it was the best college where I managed to get admission to study Math. It was the best! And I had the most wonderful time.

Hindu was a most liberal place, where a lot of leeway and freedom was given to students to figure out their own approach to life. Teachers did not impose upon us. The students came from all kinds of economic and social backgrounds, which was great for me, because I had gone to a somewhat elitist school. The cafeteria those days was really a park in front of the hostel, with a few chairs, but plenty of sunshine. A lot of people (even from other colleges) just hung around. A lot of time was spent in ‘CafĂ© Hons’.

The key highlights was the annual ‘trip’ which was 4-5 days of concentrated fun, followed by discussions of what all happened there for the rest of the year. Plus, of course, Mecca. One year in Mecca, we took out a daily magazine called ‘The Quark that Quakes’, consisting of mathematical puzzles, limericks and bad jokes. It was a big hit.

What career option were you looking for when you decided to take up Mathematics?

I wanted to be a research mathematician. I knew that all that I had studied in school was essentially stuff known to Newton and Archimedes many centuries ago. I wanted to reach the frontiers, whatever that meant. I had no idea what it takes to discover and prove your own theorem. I just thought it would be cool to have one I can call my own!

Questions on whether I could become rich, or even survive financially, didn’t really enter my head. Perhaps the practice—prevalent in Hindu—of treating our friends’ money and possessions as our own, contributed to this attitude.

How hard was it to make it to IIT Delhi back then? Any tips that you would like to share with the students?

I don’t recall having studied at all for the IIT entrance. The exam was so tricky that it was fair game for anyone. About 250 students took the test, and 20 were selected. My rank was 2, so I suppose I did quite well! The test required understanding the basic ideas/definitions rather than extensive knowledge of the subject. In fact, I recall that one of the questions was to state and prove your favorite theorem, so they were looking to see if you liked math and what you liked in it.

An idea that works for me is to find one book that gives a historical overview of a particular subject. After going through it in a week or two, I am able to understand what’s happening for the entire semester. There are books like this for algebra, analysis, complex analysis, number theory—you just have to find one that you like.

If you do this, then you can begin to appreciate the beauty of the subject, and are able to understand why you are doing what you are doing. The subject becomes easy, and you will be able to answer the kind of questions that examiners are looking for.  You will also be able to slog through the difficult theorems and proofs, because you have a sense of where you are going.

Any Dr. Saroj Bala Malik memories?

SBM has been one of the most influential teachers in my life. In our first class, she asked questions and I was one of the two or three students who answered her. The same day I met her at the bus stop, and she recognized me. I told her I want to do research in mathematics. And from that day on, she took it upon herself to help me in whichever way she can.

Our entire batch was her favorite. It wasn’t that she was all mushy or soft on us. She practiced what is called ‘tough love’. She worked hard at her teaching and demanded we work hard at our learning. She asked a lot of questions. She praised us when we could answer, and, well, took our trip, when we couldn’t. She went out of her way to fund our activities, and covered for us in case we got into trouble with other faculty members!

However, there were a few rocky moments too. I used to organize a weekly puzzle contest. Every week, I would post a new puzzle, along with the answer of the previous puzzle, and the names of those who got it right. All went well for a few weeks. Until one day, when SBM got (in my view) the wrong answer! Her view was that the question was wrongly worded. She demanded that I correct my mistake. We fought long and hard. It wasn’t pretty—but it was interesting, and kind of fun!

The question above was not included in the printed interview.

Tell us about your time at IIT Delhi.

I spent only a year in IIT Delhi. IIT was mostly about very brilliant lecturers and a fun hostel life. But I did not learn much there, because I did not work very hard. Most of the time I was busy applying abroad. I got a scholarship, and left without finishing my MSc. But there was one important aspect of my year at IIT. I met the person whom I eventually married. So all-in-all it turned out to be a good year!

What was the experience at Ohio State University like?

Ohio State was truly the best educational experience possible. There were many famous mathematicians who taught me, among the best people in their area. My Ph.D. advisor was Steve Milne, who had given the first combinatorial proof of the Rogers-Ramanujan identities, thereby solving a long-standing problem. My story with him was similar to SBMs. He gave a talk about his area, and showed how he had extended a famous result of Ramanujan. Right after his talk I went and told him I wanted to work with him for my Ph.D.

The biggest truth I learnt at Ohio State was that mathematics is learnt by doing mathematics. Your professor can be the most brilliant lecturer in the world (or not), but you will learn only if you do all the problems of the textbook on your own.

In our department, there were people from all over the world; plus, I interacted with hundreds of American students as their Teaching Assistant. Living in the US, with enough money to have some fun, and hanging out with many people of many different countries—I think that was the most amazing and enjoyable part of doing a Ph.D. in the US.

From Modern School to Ohio State University, how has Mathematics shaped your life?

When I was in class 11, I took a Math Olympiad exam, where I happened to crack a problem I had never seen before. And I felt wonderful! I had got an exhilarating high, and it happened because I got a creative idea in mathematics. I figured that I want to have this feeling again and again, for the rest of my life. So I decided to become a mathematician.

From Modern to Hindu and IIT, and on to Ohio State, I stayed with this for nearly 15 years.

But I forgot about this after returning to India after my Ph.D. After a year in ISI, Delhi, I took up a job in the industry and thought I cannot pursue math any more. This went on for a few years, and I was totally miserable, and didn’t know why. Then one fine day I got a project to write a math book, and got reminded about this exhilarating feeling again!

That is when I realized that math is what keeps me happy. Now, despite a full time job, I look to do something mathematical, whether it is research, teaching, writing books, articles or papers, or even reading math books.  The thrill that comes from solving a math problem—especially a tough math problem—has never gone away. That is what keeps me happy.

The generation of today is somewhat reluctant to pursue Mathematics as a subject. What will be your advice to the students who are looking to or currently pursuing Mathematics?

My advice would be to do as much as you can handle, and then a little more. If you cannot do math just for the love of it, then consider the following 5 things that a math education does:

#1: It teaches you to question. 

Why prove theorems, when they have been proved a million times before? Because, as our teachers tell us, you need to see for yourself that the theorem is true. This is so unlike the real world, where often people tend to prove things to you by intimidation, or by asserting their authority. However, unless you question things, you will not get creative ideas. And in math, we question everything!

#2: It teaches you to reason. 

We learn to apply logic to prove theorems. In the real world, people frequently confuse a statement with its converse, and don’t believe that if ‘A or B’ is true, then both ‘A and B’ could also be true! Your capability to reason correctly and think clearly will quickly get you noticed.

#3: It teaches you to communicate clearly. 

The practice of understanding mathematical definitions and proving theorems teaches us that words have a precise meaning. Being able to communicate clearly is perhaps the most important requirement for success.

#4: It teaches you to think abstractly. 

As you grow in responsibility in an organization, you need to deal with a large number of facts. However, the time to deal with them is finite. At this time the ability to think abstractly becomes hugely important. Abstraction is a key requirement of any leadership position whether it is in academia, industry or the government!

#5. It gives you confidence. 

If you have done well in mathematics, or even reasonably well, you should take a huge amount of confidence from this. For someone who is a master of epsilon-delta proofs, point-set topology, or abstract algebra, most management or technical problems at the workplace are a piece of cake!

In short, a good mathematical education gives you an unfair advantage in the real world. So if you can handle it, go for it!

On Returning To Desh

Book Review: A Long Day’s Night, by Pradip Ghosh, Srishti Publishers and Distributors (2002) Rs. 295/- Reissued by Rupa (2009). Available on Amazon.

As a grad student, whenever I was with a few of my friends, three pegs down, discussing this and that—work, courses, the Buddha (I mean, of course, the advisor), teaching, research, the job scene, or whatever—we often brought up the topic of returning to desh.

We talked about the systems in oosa, and the lack of them in desh; of the good times we had in the hostel, the fundu guys we grew up with (now all in the US) and the Ajit jokes they had invented. Those who had “worked” in India were determined not to return, the others were not so sure. The nature of ABCDs was discussed, and horrors of having ABCDs as children listed. (The children were yet to come: most of us were not even married.)

I read a book recently that reminded me of these discussions.

The book is “A Long Day’s Night”, written by Professor Pradip Ghosh—formerly of IIT-Kanpur, and currently in the University of Hawaii. It is about being a research scientist in India. One day in the life of Professor Virendra Chauhan, our hero, should convince most people that the probability of returning to India AND hoping to have a research career—without considerable misery—is vanishingly small.


The setting of the story is the campus of an engineering school. IITK junta might find it somewhat familiar. The story is about an experimental research scientist who has bought a major piece of equipment for the lab, and found that it never met the specs. An engineer from the company is visiting to solve all problems, and the story is all about the day of this visit.

It was a long day. The visiting engineer first tried to convince Professor Chauhan that the company had made no mistakes, and the equipment meets the specs. But he dodged these arguments and constrained the engineer to admit the lapses of the company. Work began on the equipment.

And then they began facing other difficulties, all of which had to be overcome in a few hours, since the engineer had to take a flight back in the evening. Professor Chauhan doggedly refused to allow the visitor any excuse to leave the task undone. He even undertook a trip to the city in the hot afternoon, to get work done by a capable machinist.

You will have to read the book to find out whether the piece of equipment worked or not, and for the reasons why the faulty equipment was bought in the first place.

And about the night that followed the long day.


Pradip Ghosh’s book is just delectable. Once I began the book, I couldn’t stop, and as soon as I finished it, I just HAD to re-read the end.

I found myself really respecting the character of Professor Chauhan. So much so, that I feel calling him Virendra in this review might offend him, though I know he is a big enough guy to know that addressing him by his first name has nothing to do with the respect I have for him. This shows the skill of the author, in creating such an impression about his characters.


Reading about Professor Chauhan’s hot, tiring day, I came out with a lot of respect for those who are able to do good work under our desi system. I bailed out after only one year in an Indian research institution—and that too when my work was theoretical, only requiring pencil, paper, TeX and Mathematica. And here was this scientist who goes on and on. Even after buying the equipment his research requires, he is unable to make it work for years. Still, he goes on.

I have no doubt that most scientists working in Indian institutions face these difficulties. It is remarkable that so many still have the energy to continue doing good work.


The book also has advice for budding scientists—about choosing an area of study, an advisor, a research problem, etc., etc. Gyan dispensed by the wise Professor Chauhan, while having chai with his US bound students.

There are many other issues there that I have not described, but you may find interesting. Consider the story of Harjinder Singh, a colleague of Professor Chauhan:

Harjinder Singh, on the other hand, was a totally different kind of character. An electrical engineer specializing in circuits, thoroughly domesticated with a family of wife, two daughters, and a son, involved and astute in family matters, socially conscious, professionally active, almost perpetually unhappy about the milieu in which he lived. He struggled in a set-up in which he found that it was the system that determined and limited his professional accomplishment and not his innate and acquired abilities. He rejected, he rebelled, but totally because of social and economic constraints, could not kick and leave the system. Beyond this anguish, which was not limited to Harjinder but to many colleagues of Virendra, Harjinder was a person of much sensitivity.

Harjinder once told Virendra that he wanted to study history formally, but there were social forces that worked against it. Relatives, even his father, first asserted and then ruled that he should study engineering, because of better job prospects. He did well in the entrance examination to a regional engineering college, and that sealed his fate forever.
How many Harjinders do you know? I can identify many from my own friends.


After reading the book, you may wonder if anyone will want to return to desh. But still people do. Why do they return? Why did I return?

People keep asking me why I returned to India. Other people whom I meet, who have studied or worked in the US and have returned, are also asked this question all the time.

I really don’t know how to answer this question. Sometimes I answer: I wonder, man, I wish I had more sense. Sometimes I throw it right back and say: Why do you wish to stay in another country? Many times I just stay quiet, and leave the question unanswered.

There is only one thing that I am sure of. In our long discussions with other desi friends, we always missed the point.


Here is an extract from Eric Segal’s The Class explaining the urge to return home. In the words of Professor Finley, discussing Odysseus’ decision to return home from the enchanted isle of the nymph Calypso:
"Imagine our hero is offered an unending idyll with a nymph who will remain
forever young. Yet he forsakes it all to return to a poor island and a woman who, Calypso explicitly reminds him, is fast approaching middle age, which no cosmetic can embellish. A rare, tempting proposition, one cannot deny. But what is Odysseus’ reaction?”

“Goddess, I know that everything you say is true and that clever Penelope is no match for your face and figure. But she is after all a mortal and you divine and ageless. Yet despite all this I yearn for home and for the day of my returning.”

“Here,” he said, at a whisper that was nonetheless audible in the farthest corner, “is the quintessential message of the Odyssey…”

A thousand pencils poised in readiness to transcribe the crucial words to come.

“In, as it were, leaving an enchanted—and one must presume pleasantly tropical—isle to return to the cold winter winds of, shall we say, Brookline, Massachusetts, Odysseus forsakes immortality for—identity.”

All in all, I don’t think Professor Chauhan is unhappy in India, despite facing long days as a research scientist. This is where he belongs. He enjoys the natural beauty around him, and enjoys the company of his students and colleagues. This is evident from the author’s description of the world around him. The author is silent about the happiness that Professor Chauhan’s family brings him. But they are there. As the author says: “His is a mixed lot, like everybody else’s.”


I think that is enough about Professor Chauhan. Lets let him be for now.

But maybe the next occasion where you are with friends, three pegs down, discussing this and that—the invasion of Iraq, black and white, colonialism, the linear or cyclic nature of time—you will bring up A Long Day’s Night for discussion.

Pradip Ghosh, A long day's night, book review

Book Review: A Long Day’s Night, by Pradip Ghosh, Srishti Publishers and Distributors (2002) Rs. 295/- Reissued by Rupa (2009). Available on Amazon.

From the Diary of a Netizen

My day began at my daddy’s tea stall at 6 am and the big guard gave me fifty paisa as a tip. I bought a chocolate toffee from the corner shop on the other side of the orange office building.


The children from the school near my house laughed at me because my shorts were torn. I hid behind the wall and aimed a stone at the boys, and ran into my house.


I am nine years old. I don’t go to school because I have to help my father and elder brother run the tea and cigarette stall. Today I was able to give change—to someone buying cigarettes—without asking my brother or father. You don’t have to go to school to be able to do arithmetic, I guess.


While playing cricket, our new ball went over the top of the wall, right into the manicured garden of the office complex. A tall auntie with a long sharp nose wearing a saree gave it back.


Today a strange man came and distributed packets full of a pink liquid. My old man drank one too many, fought with a friend, and got a black eye in the bargain. The man promised to bring something for my mother and me next time. My brother told me that he is a politician.


Today three people came and made a hole in the wall of the orange building. They have put a computer there. Guddi, Raju and I went to see what we can do with it. It’s a little TV screen with pictures on it. They showed us a little black square on the side. By moving our fingers on this square we can move an arrow on the screen. It feels like it is made of thick rubber.


My father got drunk and beat up my mother. They fought so loudly that I went away and ate at Bina and Guddu’s house.

Ramu, the big bully in our colony, will never bother us again. Today we made so much fun of him when he slipped and fell into the big pile of cow-dung lying in the middle of the ground. He tried to catch and beat us up but we ran away.


We moved our cricket playing so that the ball does not break the TV screen. Renu Aunty came to ask whether we like the computer. Raju said he liked to play games on it. Guddi did not say anything.


My mother hung clothes to dry and my shirt flew over the roof. She held up my two-year old sister so she could clamber up the asbestos roof to bring back my shirt. She nearly fell down but mommy caught her in time.


Today I somehow shut down the computer. An uncle from inside re-started it. We closed it again and asked the guard to re-start the computer. I showed everyone how it could be done. For some reason, Vivek Uncle was in a smiling mood that day.


There are many aunties and uncles in this office building. They all come in Maruti cars, and hang around the front of the building drinking coffee or tea. The guard told me they have a machine which can make tea.


Sanju Bhaiyya, who lives near my house and goes to work, made a picture in the computer. He knows a lot about the computer. But all I wanted to do was to play with Mickey Mouse. In the evening some older people came and asked us to show them how to play with the computer. But they left soon after, because they could not understand anything.


My mother’s sister came over from the village, with my mausa and Tejali. They will live with us until they find a room for themselves. My father and mausaji had to sleep outside in the cold.


Something went wrong with the computer last evening and Raju cut the touch pad and spoiled it. Somebody complained to his father who gave him a thrashing. I too cried that night.


Today another politician came in an auto-rickshaw and gave pouches of a red drink to my father and his friends. He gave us children small flags and we ran all the way behind the auto until it turned the corner. My father and his friends laughed and shouted boisterously all night.


Today, an uncle came and took our photograph. He asked Guddi whether she knew how to use the computer. I told him that she is a girl, and not too interested. He asked my name. The next day Raju, Guddi and I were on the front page of a newspaper. Vivek Uncle and Renu Aunty were very excited, but Guddi thought her hair was not looking too good.

Vivek uncle put a page in Hindi on the computer. It had stuff written in Hindi, but no pictures. I closed it and went back to playing the Tarzan game on Mickey’s site. We found some Hindi film songs on the internet and some movies.

Today was the market day of the week. A naked beggar snaked his way through the crowded bazaar. I saw the Aunty with the long nose drive her Esteem through the crowd, trying to avoid the crawling beggar on the road.


Some foreigners came to see us and talk to us. They were shown round by an uncle wearing a suit. I showed them how I wrote my name in English on the computer. They were quite surprised.


Ran into some uniformly dressed schoolchildren again. This time their jokes did not bother me much.

The characters and events mentioned above are a creation of the author’s imagination.

However, they have been inspired by conversations with colleagues conducting an experiment in Minimally Invasive Education, at a slum adjoining the NIIT Corporate office, in Kalkaji, New Delhi. Children who live in this slum were given access to an Internet Kiosk. This experiment received wide media exposure, following the front page headline: Rajender Ban Gaya Netizen (by Parul Chandra, The Times Of India, May 12, 1999).

How To Have Smarter Parents

by Tejasi Bhatnagar

In your neighborhood bookstore, or at a nearby web-site, you will find many books concerning parenting: A New Life, Bringing Baby Home, Baby's First Year, and so on. However, there are no documents at all about How to Train New Parents, Calming Mommy and Daddy when they are Freaking, Don't Let Them Sleep, etc. Since I was born so recently, I decided to keep notes of the event, and a few days after. Of course, your parents will be different, your grandparents will be different, their friends will be their own, so much of what I say will not apply to you. But, I took notes anyway.

First, some notation. New users of any computer software are often referred to as newbies (pronounced: new-bees). I call my new parents newpies, pronounced new-pees. Other unfamiliar words may be found in the Lingo Section.
The Birth Itself
Dr. Moorma told my parents that I was due on November 26, 1995, with an expected error of a fortnight. She also warned them to be ready a month in advance, which advice they disregarded completely. As an example of the lax attitude of many parents, let me reproduce a conversation between my parents on October 26 (or it could have been a day or two earlier) before The Birth:
Priti (mom): Gaurav, When will you get a pager, so I can call you in an emergency.
Gaurav (dad): Yeah, OK, soon.
Guess what. At 1:00 p.m., Thursday, October 26 1995, my mom was in Labor. She was in her office. Toiling in the fields, so to speak.

Its not that I had not warned them. A few days ago, mom had spent four hours cleaning up her office. She just felt the urge to clean up: a classic example of what is called the nesting instinct. She told my dad, and they laughed it away. Mom said: "Why would I clean my office." Now you know.

Back to 1:00 p.m. Oct 26. Mom's water broke, and for a while there, she just lost it. I calmed her down, and she called Dad in his office. Completely a waste of time, and I could have told her that, since I knew he was in class, teaching. Luckily, I kept her calm and suggested she send e-mail to some of the desi junta in OSU, and look for Auntie Jennifer in the next room. In less than an hour, Uncle John K. and Auntie Jennifer took her to the hospital. (Tip: Don't let Uncle John give you a ride in his car, even if he buys you lunch.) Meanwhile, what of the desi junta?

It can be said, that at any given time, at least one Indian in the Math Department is playing on the computer. It was Prabhav Tau who saw mom's message, and proceeded to put Radha Mausi and Manav Chacha into a panic. To make a long story short, they found Dad, and everyone went to the hospital, all except Manav Chacha, who proceeded to show Dad's next class what Logarithms are all about.

After mom got comfortable in her hospital gown, the resident Doc said that labor has started, and that I was to be born soon after. That is, soon after Mom and me had gone through enough pain, and Dad had to watch and help. That's no triviality, mind you. Karan Chacha went yellow, and then green, when he came to visit mom, even though he saw her through only 2 contractions. After several hours of intense pain, mom took an epidural, and had a restful couple of hours. That was when my work started, and at 3:59 a.m. on Oct 27, 1995, I was out, and my newpies were born.

The First Hour
As I came out, the first person I saw looked like a green Darth Vader: In fact that was Dr. Wagner, who performed the delivery. Then I saw some blinding lights, and surmised that it must be Dad, taking pictures. I was a bit worried on how he will react when he sees me, since I was covered in some disgusting white goo, but Dad thought I was just beautiful, and so did mom. I was with them for just afew seconds, before a couple of nurses took me away. I was early, you see, and they had to make sure I was OK.

The nurses checked me out as they cleaned me up. My mom was being looked after by the Doctor, and Dad had of course started ignoring mom, and was busy taking pictures and talking to me. After the nurses pronounced me to be 5lb. and 2oz., and furthermore, all of 18'' tall, we both returned to mom, and we bonded.
The Ride Home
Soon after that, I was taken to the nursery, and mom got to nap for a little while. Dad went home to call everyone with the news, and tried to sleep a little bit. He returned in the evening after buying a lot of baby stuff, which he should have bought weeks earlier. I sent him out again to find some cigars. He bought a box of cigars, whose wrappers said "Its a Girl", and some chocolate ones for the wimps. In the evening, lots of Junta arrived, including Sneh Dadi (the one with the fancy haircut), and made a lot of noise.

Since there was so much activity in the room, a funny nurse was sent in to kick everyone out. I suppose she was still under training, for she did a pretty lousy job. Eventually, however, people left, and Iwas back to the nursery. Next morning, we were told to pack up from the hospital, and were back homeonce the newpies had figured out how to install me in the car seat. Vivek Chacha and Vidhi Chachi were there, helping out in the move. They just got lost once in the hospital.

Hunting for Food
It is well known that in the first week, all the female newpie can do is to feed her young. Meanwhile the male of the species cleans up, does the laundry, and hunts for food. In our case, Sneh Dadi cooked rotis which lasted for a week, and some daals which looked like nothing on earth, but tasted great. Besides, there was Latha Mausi, who got some great food, and Auntie Kim, who sent Uncle John (of the Took-Mom-To-Hospital-Fame) with a major dish. In addition, Vidhi Chachi boiled some water and added something which made it look a little yellow. When Uncle Ken looked at it, Dad assured him that it wasn't what he thought it was, but Uncle Ken did not risk a sip anyway.

Food being taken care of was a big relief and now I could concentrate on the most important job of the first week.


How to Have Smarter Parents
In the first week after being born, your newpies are most fragile, and also the most receptive to new stimuli. This is the time to be most careful in their care. This is also the best time to fully educate newpies. So do not let this opportunity pass.
Essentially, your newpies have four senses: Touch, Hearing, Sight, and Smell. There is a fifth sense too, but you can forget that (see Hunting for Food, above). A well thought out Newpie Stimulation Program should work on all these four senses. The program I describe requires very little effort, very few things to buy, and best of all, works for everyone. Here goes:

Sleep: If you stay close to your newpies now, they will be secure for the rest of their lives. One way to give them a feeling of closeness is to sleep only on top of them for the first few days, and then frequently thereafter. This also helps you acquire your Biological Clock, and helps your newpies get used to less sleep. You will spend most of your day sleeping, and newpies will love to watch you sleep.

Paradoxically, newpies do not know what is good for them, and they try to force you to sleep in a bassinet or a crib. Howl loudly each time they will do that, and quieten as soon as they put you to sleep on top of them. If Mom gets too tired, check out Dad. It makes him feel especially big and strong once you sleep on his chest. Right now do your best to encourage those feelings. After a few years you can tell him how short and flabby he really is.

Food: While the newpies' hunger is easily taken care of, thanks to helpful friends and relatives, your own food supply takes some getting used to. Just one suggestion: Keep the radio on a classical music station. They say this helps with your food supply. It seems there have been experiments with cows ...

Diapers: A baby book says, and I quote, "(Baby's poop) has a characteristic aromatic smell and may look like scrambled eggs". Even changing as few as 8-10 diapers a day will fulfill newpies' needs admirably, stimulating all four of their senses. Once you get going, give newpies this treat as many times as you feel like. And they'll come back for more.

Play: When you're not sleeping, eating, or being changed, its time to play. This is the reward newpies get for not getting enough sleep. It also keeps them awake a little longer, but I don't hear them complaining.

Happily Ever After...
After the first week things cool down appreciably, especially if Nani is able to come and help you take care of your newpies. By now, if you have stimulated them enough, newpies will be potty-trained, stay alert for relatively long periods of time, and feel refreshed if they can get even three naps totaling 6 hours of sleep.

From now on life will be much simpler. However, there will be surprises and challenges. By no means is your newpies' education complete: It is a lifelong project. From time to time, there will be crises, and you will feel the need for help in handling your parents. They will not stay newpies for ever, and before you know it, will become middle aged, and ultimately, senile. When the time comes, look for Newpies in Adolescence: The Mid-Life Crisis; They Call me Adolescent, But I Call Them Senile; How to Stay Out All Night (And Get Away With It), and other similar books. They should be available at a nearby web-site, or in your neighborhood bookstore.


Biological Clock: All humans have it. Newborn babies soon acquire it. Newpies lose it.

Chacha/chachi, tau/tai, mausi/mausa: In Hindi, the generic Uncle/Auntie gets split into more precise titles. For example Chacha stands forDad's younger brother, and could be applied to his friends. (Tau for elder.) Chachi would be his wife, thereby helping keep track of Who is married to Whom. Similarly, Mausi is mom's sister, and again could be applied to friends.

Dadi/Baba: Dad's mom/dad, my grandpies. They organized a big bash in my honor; over a 100 people, they tell me. Lots of singing and dancing and fun was had by all.

Desi Junta: Desi means Indian, Junta means crowd. This neatly identifies nationality, and since it is chosen by theIndians themselves, does not offend.

Nani/Nana: Mom's mom/dad, my grandpies. Nani took grandmaternity leave and flew in from India, bringing a suitcase full of goodies. Half of them she made herself, and the rest were gifted by everyone else. Thanks everyone, for sending her over, and thanks KLM, for not losing her luggage.

Roti/Daal: Staple desi food with no frills.

Tejasi: Tejasi means full of Tej, which in turn could be described as a combination of brightness, heat, glow, aura -- you get the idea. Still confused? Ask Dadi, she's the one who found this name.

Some Trivia: I was born on October 27, the birthday of P. R. de Montmort, of the Probl'eme des Rencontres fame. A coincidence? I am also the fourteenth in the third generation from the Yugal Sadan (if you skip 13), approximating pi to 2 decimal places.


The design of Tejasi's name has been made by Punya Mishra, He had made the basic design as a birthday gift for Tejasi's parents, when she was born. He has updated the ambigram as a gift for her, on her 21st birthday! 

Punya's gift is not the only strange one we received. The following was gifted by my friend Michael Schlosser. 

For the cognoscenti, its quite a unique theorem, which converts a multivariable sum into a product, and generalizes a famous result. The product is more "one-variable" than the sum. It appears in: 
Summation theorems for multidimensional basic hypergeometric series by determinant evaluations [Discrete Math. 210 (2000), 151-169].

Good News

Good News from Columbus, Ohio:
While analyzing data, and writing papers,
We found the time to learn some Bio.
A baby, incredible! Soon we'll be changing diapers.
What will the future bring? A Ramanujan,
An enduring genius, delighting a future generation.
A scientist or a writer--winning The Prize?
Or a philosopher (above such things) infinitely wise.
Who knows? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, back to our theme:
Feel happy, excited; smile, day-dream,
And worry: Will everything go well?
In November, whatever the Stork will bring,
Its already making our hearts sing.

This was written after we found out about Teji's impending arrival. A letter sent home. Obviously had read Vikram Seth's novel around that time.