Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quiz: The language of numbers

We've heard of the origins of algebra (Kitab al jabr wa'al muqabalah) and algorithm (Algorism, Al-Khowarizmi).

1. Unlike Greeks (and Indians) who thought of philosophy based on numbers, Romans used them for military purposes. They divided their army by numbers; for example, a section was a group of ten soldiers, a century comprised of ten sections. Discipline was very strong. If a section humiliated itself in battle, they were in for a terrible punishment. Each member of the section chose from lots. The one person on whom the lot fell was clubbed and stoned to death by the other 9 members of his section. What word in the English language comes from this cruel practice?

2. The Italians were famous for trading. Trading was done in public places and money was exchanged by the bankers on benches. Unfortunately, some of these bankers lost their liquidity and could not trade anymore. When this happened, they had to break the benches. What word in the English language comes from this practice?

3. Fibonacci encountered the Indian numerical system while he was a child in Algeria. He brought it back to Italy after he grew up. Quite obviously, he brought the mysterious zero with him. He referred to the number by its Arabic name. The Italians were (a) resistant to changing their numeral system (b) very confused about the usage of zero and were rather suspicious. Hence, a modification of the Arabic name for zero made it into the language of Catholic opponents as a synonym for "dark secret". This word has the same meaning in the English language today. What word?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gangubai Hangal interview

Interview in Frontline.

Gangubai once told film-maker Vijaya Mulay, in the initial years of television: "If a male musician is a Muslim, he becomes an Ustad. If he is a Hindu, he becomes a Pandit. But women like Kesarbai and Mogubai just remain Bais." I expected Gangubai to belt out feminist discourses: on the cruelty of the Devadasi tradition into which she was born, the brutality of the caste system, a decadent society, the struggles of a woman who has to straddle more than one world, the discriminating world of music which sets different standards for man and woman, and more. But she is not to take any of those confrontational stances. [..]

Inspiring story. Read the full thing.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


One of my favorite bloggers has done a very good deed. See this and this.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Why India still loves Wodehouse

Article in The Times, UK.
Wodehouse never wrote about India, but sells better on the subcontinent than in Britain, with pirated copies in common circulation. He is one of the most heavily requested authors at the British Library in Delhi and there are clubs and internet chatrooms devoted to him.