So Is This A Real Story?

Whenever we hear a story, the first question that comes to our mind is to know if it is the real story or the made-up one. But is there anything like a real story?

To understand it better, let us take a look at the following situation.

In a class, there were two good friends, Sukant and Sushant. For an exam, both of them scored ‘A’ grade and thus, planned a party for their friends. At the party, when friends asked Sukant how he was able to score well, he replied:

“I had planned my entire study efforts. I did lot of hard work to prepare notes, and spent good amount of effort in revising all the subjects. Finally, due to my hard work, I was able to get good marks.”

All the friends appreciated Sukant’s hard work and then asked the same question to Sushant. He said:

“I regularly meditate and pray to GOD to help me in understanding all the concepts properly. GOD has always helped me in life and due to his support, I was able to score well in the exam”.

Here, we have two stories, Sukant’s story and Sushant’s story. As per Sukant’s story, hard work is all that matters. On the other hand, Sushant’s story suggests that one should believe in GOD. Which story is the real one?

For our modern and so-called “secular” thoughts, the first story appears to be the real one. But the second situation gives a different picture:

In their next exam, both of them could not score well and ended up with “C” grade. This time, there was no party (of-course), however their friends wanted to know what went wrong with Sukant and Sushant. They replied with:

Sukant: I had actually worked harder as compared to the previous exam. However, this time, due to difficult question papers and strict corrections, I could not score well.

Sushant: I think I was proud of my success in the previous exam and GOD didn’t like it. Thus, GOD gifted me with lesser grade as part of his punishment for my ego.

Now, we again have two stories. This time, both of them clearly accept that their earlier stories were not valid. Sukant accepts that personal hard work is not the only thing that shapes the final result while Sushant accepts that prayers and meditation alone does not help completely. So do we have a real story now?

Frankly speaking, all our stories are based on our viewpoints. Our viewpoints are based on our experiences that we remember. What we remember is based on the capacity of our memory, which is influenced by our interests. We all have different interests and as such have a limited viewpoint.

Thus, I prefer to look at any story for what it is, just another story that describes the viewpoint of a storyteller. For me, there is nothing like a real story.

The need of Religion/Dharma

Around us, we regularly find people coming together and helping the society in the name of religion. However, we also find them fighting over the same topic. On the other hand, we have a third group which is trying to believe that religion is one of the worst thing that has been created by mankind and should thus be considered obsolete in the modern secular (so called!) societies. This way, we can now classify all of us into three groups:

  1. People who believe that religion bring us together
  2. People who believe that we need to fight to show our faith
  3. People who think religion is an obsolete concept

The emergence of these three groups can only make the situation worse. The interesting fact is that, this division happens in the name of religion only, whether you believe in it or consider it to be obsolete. How are we going to solve this problem? Is religion really a worst thing that is created by mankind? Is religion supposed to unite us? Is it justified to fight in the name of religion? Good or bad, in any case, we need to make an attempt to understand it. For those who consider religion to be evil, just remember the fact that in order to gain control over the evil, you still need to understand it first.

Religion vs. Dharma

For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider the term in Vedic culture called “Dharma”. It does not literally mean “Religion”, but can still help to understand it better.

First, lets take a look at the world excluding all living beings. We notice that all the elements in the universe can be defined only in terms of its properties. For example, Water can flow and make other things wet. If it doesn’t flow or make things wet, you won’t call it water. Similarly, Fire can burn and provide heat. If it does not burn or provide heat, you won’t call it fire.

Any object that has mass can exhibit inertia and gravitation. The objects, which do not have these properties, are simply called mass-less objects. In Vedic philosophy, these properties that define the entity, is called its “Dharma”. It means, “to uphold”. Since every object upholds their own properties, it can be said that they follow their dharma.

What’s the benefit of following Dharma?

Let’s try to understand it through an example. Try to answer the following two questions:

  1. Is water good or bad? While it’s ability to flow is responsible for life, it can also cause destruction in the form of flood and tsunamis.
  2. Is fire good or bad? While it helps us to stay warm and cook our food, it has also killed people and destroyed forests and properties.

The obvious answer will be, it’s neither good nor bad, but it’s required. We do not hold water or fire responsible for all possible destructions since we understand that they were simple following their properties without having any intension to kill people. Similarly, they do not follow their properties in order to support life. If that were the reason, then they wouldn’t have acted in destructive manner as well. They simply continue to follow their properties and thus, their effects cannot be termed as good or bad.

What about humans?

In case of living beings and especially humans, the situation is not so simple. We are capable of thinking, have desires and emotions. With the ability of intelligence and communication, we also have the capacity to make impact on our environment. Since every human can think differently, have variety of desires and act with different levels of intelligence, we cannot expect two humans to act in an identical way in a given situation.

Though from one perspective, it looks to be messy and confusing, it also has an interesting advantage. As we all have different emotions and physical capabilities, we tend to have specific interests along with motivation to devote our time and energy over it. Thus, we tend to get extremely specialized in a particular domain or a field. On the other hand, we also have specific desires without any capability to satisfy it directly. Thus:

  1. We have interest towards one field and emotional motivation to work on it
  2. We have desires towards things but have no capacity to satisfy it directly

Again we face a problem, but not for long. If we notice it carefully, through our desires, we create demand. On the other hand, through our specialization, we can create supply of good quality products or services. This allows for a trade and the entire society can benefit from it. Personally, it makes us wealthy and happy as our desires get satisfied due to our interests.

However, this works if and only if, we accept that everyone is different. We are different because we have different interests and point of view. Once we understand how this difference can help us to be happy and satisfied, we realize that every individual and his/her point of view is important and special.

Conflict between different points of view

Often, we think that somebody’s point of view has no value or can be dangerous for society. This happens when we get too attached to our own point of view or ignore the experience from history. How to gain control over our attachments is a topic of spirituality and will be handled in a different post. But we can definitely consider the experience from history:

  1. Long back, when computers were invented, lot of people didn’t see much value in it. Decade ago, when certain organizations like banks started implementing solutions based on computers, lot of people considered this as “BAD” idea as it would have destroyed jobs of many people. However, if we think of it from today’s perspective, then considering today’s population and number of customer’s, it would have been impossible to manually handle the millions of transactions that happen every second. The banking process would have become so costly to manage, that it could have simply failed to respond to the growing demands. Thus, even though some people loose their jobs at that time, it helped the society eventually.
  2. When the Government had started the process of getting Konkan railway to Goa, lot of people had considered this to be a “BAD” idea as it would have increased the inflow of people from other states and possibly increase the incidence of robberies. Today, people consider Konkan raily as boon and can’t imagine the life without it.
  3. From our history, we also learnt that people invited other kings to help them defeat their own king as they thought it would be a “Good” idea to take help from other kings to get rid of “BAD” government from their own king. Eventually, people realized that it was their biggest mistake and few of them had to again fight the war of independence against the new rulers.

What do we learn from these experiences? We should realize that at any moment, we cannot decide on which point of view is good and which is bad. Only time can answer the question. In Puranas, we find Asuras worshipping Devas to get their wishes satisfied. Most of us still think that Asuras were the bad guys and find it strange that Devas used to grant their wishes. If we read those stories properly, we realize that they never said that Suras were good and Asuras were bad. They were simply two groups having two different situations and viewpoints. These stories also bring out the fact that even Suras have troubled the world out of their ego and have been punished as per their Karmas. This clearly describes the fact that at any point of time, we cannot decide on who makes the valid viewpoint. If that was the case, then Deva’s would have never granted the Asuras’ wishes.

Recently, in one online group, a member said that if we wait for the time to decide, then many things would get destroyed. Well, the only other way he could have pushed his point of view would be with the help of force. This is how some of the people actually try to practice dictatorship under the hood of modern secularism and democracy.

So can a point of view be a “Dharma” or a Religion?

The point of view can be considered as “Dharma” if and only if we try to follow it regularly without being self-focused. I have seen some students who believe in helping weak students and try to do so. However, during the time of examinations, they focus only on their studies and ignore their friends. In this case, their point of view of helping weak students cannot be termed as act of “Dharma” since they did not uphold it during the time of their exams.

Conclusion

We can see that by realizing that the point of view of every single individual is important and special, we can have a progressive society. This is why our ancient texts have taught us to follow dharma and all the stories actually share this wisdom. Unfortunately, the books today have reduced them to the stories of fight between good and bad and our education system does not give it proper importance. The proper education of Dharma would have made people realize the importance of respecting other’s point of view. Since we all have believe in different ideas, we cannot have a secular system. The only way we can live together is by following Dharma and not by ignoring it. In this post, we have seen how Dharma can help society. In the upcoming posts, we would also see how it can help us at personal level and also why the so called Secularism is not a feasible idea.

Mistake Or No Mistake: Part 2

This is the second story in the “Mistake Or No Mistake” series (You can read the first part here). While this story might be the simplest in the entire series, it forms the base for the conclusions that we would make at the end of this series.

Mr. Vijay Gupta, a senior software manager in a reputed production company, is walking towards his office. He was slightly late today so he was trying to walk as fast as he could. As usual, he was dressed in formals and was carrying his laptop. Suddenly, while walking on the foot-path, he slips over banana peel and falls down. Ooooops!!

Now, coming back to our question, who do you feel was at fault here? Was there any mistake from Vijay’s end or did he pay for mistake from someone else?

Mistake Or No Mistake: Part 1

Long back, we were told a story about a man who goes to jungle for adventure. The story was more like a question to make us think and force us to enquire.

Once upon a time, there was a doctor who used to enjoy making regular trips to a nearby jungle for adventure and studies. However, on his 100th visit to the jungle, something happened.

That day, he left for jungle early in the morning. There was nothing new here as, he always used to leave early for his jungle/study trip. With him, he had carried all usual stuffs like first aid, communication devise, camera and binoculars. Soon, he was deep inside the jungle.

Though he had visited this area before, on that day, he noticed a tiger in that area. The tiger was lying down near the river. The moment the doctor noticed the tiger, he got scared and cried for help. As a result, tiger got up and started staring at the doctor. The doctor, in order to save his life, started running as fast as he could.

Next day, police found his dead body in jungle….

The story ends here. We were then asked a very important question, “Who do you think was at fault? Do you think it was Doctor’s mistake? Was there a mistake or no mistake?”.

When we heard the story for the first time, we were so much disturbed that our first reaction was, “No, Doctor didn’t commit any mistake”. However, as we enquired further, we learnt a very important lesson.

I would like to ask the same question to all the readers of this blog post. Who do you think was at fault? Do you think it was Doctor’s mistake? Was there a mistake or no mistake? Kindly reply through comments.

Fact-Based analysis of our current social and legal issues

As far as human nature is concerned, it tries to define the problem and it’s corresponding solution based on the way his/her preferences and understanding of the problem. At any point, while it is true that we cannot really say which definition and solution is right, we could at-least try our best to be rational and form our conclusions on basis of facts.

Let’s consider few cases.

  1. Traffic problems:We face traffic problems everyday and at every point in time, we blame government and police for that. If we think rationally, we would notice that the laws are already in place to enforce the lane discipline, Helmet and seatbelt usage etc. But the question is, do we follow them properly? Use of helmet or seatbelt is for our own safety but we still do not use them regularly. At this point, most people would claim that the cops should monitor and fine the rule breakers. But then, the reality is, people tend to wear helmet or seatbelt only when they notice that there is a police vehicle in front.On Mandovi Bridge, I notice this particular problem everyday. Whenever there is a traffic slowdown, people try to occupy the other lane completely without even a rational thought that this would simply convert it to traffic jam. At the end, we do get traffic jam AS EXPECTED.
  2. Social Equality: We know that this problem exists everywhere. In India, since we believe that law can help everywhere, we have reservation systems in place. Most claim that certain communities did get benefits out of these laws. But a conscious and rational observation would show us that majority of people are still suffering from social inequality. Remember the participant in the show “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, where he mentioned that his community is still not allowed in village temple. All this, while the required laws are in place.
  3. Criminal Activities: While the required law and enforcement agencies are in place, we still observe these cases around us.
  4. Eve teasing: This occurs everywhere and to almost every girl. Even though every brother knows that his sister has experienced this trouble, he would ignore such incidents when it happens to “some other girl” or he himself might get involved in eve teasing activities involving “some other girls”.
  5. Attack on parliament: We could literally say that the people involved in this have raped our national pride. As per the law, the criminal involved is already sentenced to death 8 years ago, but not yet executed.

Why am I talking about all these problems at this point in time? It’s because, all these observations bring about a larger picture. It highlights the true reality. Even though laws are in place, it has not helped in getting rid of any of these problems in first place. Now, what can we conclude with help of our rational thinking and observations?

As it could be seen, all these issues could be traced back to the individual behaviour or awareness towards social responsibility. Though we have required laws in place, we have not made any advances in raising the level of social awareness and building up of individual character.

Most of the schoolgirls face the problem if being teased by her own classmates. Most schools try to take strict actions and often follow strict punishments to avoid it. However, the problem continues. My father was principal of a school, which also happened to have such cases. However, he decided to try out a completely different solution.

While the strict actions and punishments were being taken against the students involved in teasing girls, he went ahead and started celebrating “Rakhi” festival with aim of raising the sense of brotherhood. In few days, it was noticed that it helped in making students realize their mistakes and thus, reduced the number of such cases dramatically.

When only the strict actions were being taken, students used to be careful only in school premises, but not when they used to be out of it. However, the effort to build up the character and sense of brotherhood in every boy and girl did help to handle the “out of school” cases as well.

Keep in mind, the laws can be broken and in most cases, they either help only after the incident has occurred or end up causing a bigger harm. For example, in order to make the best laws, we have only made the entire system so complicated, that a wise man has to think twice before going to court.

Law is not a medicine. Law is only a process. Following the law and order, is again an attribute of individual character or level of social awareness. Since we have failed at building up the character or social awareness, it’s pointless to ask for new laws.

Another best-known human nature is the ability to forget. Last year, there was a protest against corruption. It seemed as if we would definitely see some results. However, at this moment in present, I have no clue what happened to that protest or what’s going to happen next. There is a saying that time heals everything”. I would just add “including the good things” to it.

When there is a loss of individual character and lack of social awareness, the laws tend to be useless. This leads to a political advantage:

  1. First make an issue out of any incident to gain political benefits
  2. Once the issue starts affecting you as well, simply try to divert the issue with other related but less important thing, till the issue itself is forgotten. We are best at forgetting aren’t we?

Dealing with situations:

We can deal with situations either in reactive way or proper way. The reactive approach is often the result of instinct and can lead to unwanted outcomes. For example, the chance of a person getting drowned in water increases if he acts reactively. Similarly, a person beaten by snake can die before he could be treated due to his reactive actions (faster heart beats due to fear of death).

Thus we need to deal with situations in proper way. Unfortunately, we cannot think about proper way or provide proper help quickly. Thus, we should be in a position to handle the situation, till we identify a proper way, rather than being reactive.

When person is under medical emergency, First Aid is applied. If we happen to see it from other angle, we realize that it might sound stupid, as First Aid itself, does not save life. It is of no use to just apply First Aid and provide no medical aid. It just helps us in buying time before we provide the right help.

Similarly, in case of war, soldiers use a concept of cover fire. They are not aimed at a particular person, but help the group to relocate to a better location.

In martial arts, certain actions are followed only to confuse the opponent and divert his attention. Such techniques are to be followed in case the opponent is stronger as compared to you.

In industries, people try contract negotiation as a technique to buy time to properly understand the requirements and allocate team members.

Conclusion:

Lets consider it from the perspective of the recent unfortunate and horrible rape incident in Delhi. People have been:

  1. Doing the March protest: Good way to unite people and express opinion, but such protests cannot be sustained.
  2. Asking for a new law: On what facts and rational thinking do we believe that it would help to “Solve” the problem.
  3. Discussing about what certain religious entity said about it: Isn’t it the easiest way of diverting people’s attention from the real problem? Ignoring all the efforts taken to raise individual character and social awareness by these entities, why spend time on discussing a “misunderstood” statement? It would not help in solving the problem but would indeed help political actions to be able to divert the attention.

Time has come to stop teaching others on what to do and what not to do. We all need to follow the path of proper enquiry to understand the world and the problems while increasing our individual character and level of social awareness. My new year’s resolution was not to change the world, but:

  1. To follow proper enquiry to learn from past and current issues
  2. Act myself whenever a thought comes to my mind saying “Somebody should do something now”.

Story of Google map’s driving directions and a missing turn

Day before yesterday (29th June 2012) evening, I had to travel from a location in Margao (marked as point A in the screen-shot below) to Mickey’s in Colva (marked as point B). As I had not been to the place before, I took help from Google Maps App in my Samsung Galaxy S2 to identify the path between the two points. Google Maps marked the path as shown in the screen-shot below.

With the help of GPS tracking in google map app, I started following the path. Everything went fine till I reached the turn identified with red circle in the screen-shot above. I was surprised to notice that there was no road for the turn at that point.

Fortunately, I was little familiar with this area and thus was able to identify the alternate route which could connect me to point B. Following screen-shot will show you the alternate route.

Luckily, I was familiar with the location and thus, was able to identify the alternate route quickly. But the people who use the app to find paths/directions while travelling to a different state or an unknown location may not be so lucky.

While using the applications like google maps, we all need to remember that it is just a tool, which help us only to find a solution to the problem, but it need not be the best or the most accurate one. In some cases, we may be presented with wrong results as well.

Thus, if you are using google maps to plan your next family trip, make sure you verify all the information properly. Otherwise, your family trip may convert into an interesting adventure trip.

Airtel 3G With Samsung Galaxy S2 : My Alternate Source For High-Speed Internet

Can you imagine life without high speed internet access? Without it, we won’t be able to:

  • Enjoy services provided by sites like Youtube
  • Download free and opensource applications
  • Make video calls through services like Skype
  • Share screens and work from home (I hope you like it)

Seriously, high speed internet adds significant value to our daily life. Like most of my friends in India, I use BSNL Broadband to access high speed internet service at home. It provides pretty good connectivity in terms of speed and quality as shown in the screenshot below:

However, during monsoon period, I often face connectivity issues which can cause problems, especially if I want to work from home. Thus, I prefer to have alternate source of high speed internet connection as backup. I prefer this source to be wireless and stable while providing good internet speed.

While searching for another source of high speed internet access, I came across Airtel 3G. Following screenshot will show you the speeds that I get with Airtel 3G:

These screenshots show that Airtel 3G provides internet with speed which is half of what is provided by BSNL broadband. Depending on the quality of network, I can even get better speed.

To access this internet connection on my laptop, I make use of the “Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot” feature provided by my Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile phone. It’s a great device with lot of good features and this is just one of it.

I have been using the internet provided by Airtel 3G for around a month now and I am pretty much happy with it. Now I use it for most of my regular tasks and rely of BSNL broadband only to download large files.

Understanding and Applying Artificial Neural Networks : Engineering Perspective

Lasts week (15th November to 19th November), NITTTR (National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research) had organized a course on Artificial Neural Networks at Government College Of Engineering – Farmagudi, Goa. I was appointed as course faculty for this event.

Personally, I do not believe in concept of teaching. Humans are smart and intelligent animals and as such, they are capable of learning new things themselves based on their experience and observations. Thus, rather than providing a training, I preferred sharing my experience and knowledge on ANN with the members attending the course.

Considering the fact that this event was organized for staff of engineering colleges, the “Joint – Discussion” was titled, “Engineering Solutions With Artificial Intelligence Using A System Popularized As Artificial Neural Networks“.

Generally, we discuss Artificial Neural Networks either in theoretical perspective or in terms of purely scientific applications. However, the world of practical engineering is always different from theoretical or purely scientific perspective. The same applies to applications of ANN in perspective of modern digital engineering.

In this joint discussion, we spent first two days trying to understand the concept of artificial neural networks. To understand it practically, demonstrations were provided using the examples developed in JRuby. The code written for this purpose is now available on GitHub (The link is provided at the end of this post).

For next two days, all the participants were allowed to experiment with the JRuby code. Participants could play around with different training sets while modifying variables like learning rate, momentum, activation functions, number of hidden layers, number of neurons in hidden layers etc. They could also experiment with performing the same training using backpropagation algorithm and genetic algorithm. This helped them in understanding the challenges faced by engineers in practically implementing the solutions using ANN.

On the last day (Friday 19th, November 2010), we concluded the joint discussion by determining the capabilities and limitations of ANN based on the experience and knowledge obtained by participants in four days. At the end, a demo of OCR written in Javascript was given by Tejas Vernekar.

During the joint discussion, some of the alternative non-neural solutions for few problems were discussed as well. A ruby equivalent of spell checker (which uses statistical language processing) originally developed in python was also demonstrated. The ruby equivalent code is available in the code in GitHub Repository.

In case you are interested in JRuby code used during the joint discussion, you can download it from this GitHub repository.

Just Released: Maya Programming Language

Around one year ago, I had started experimenting with concepts of creating programming languages. I first started with building few DSLs (Domain Specific Languages) using Ruby and Boo. It was quite interesting to work on development of DSLs. While doing this, I learnt a lot about how the programming languages are developed.

Eventually, I thought of writing my own programming language. While I was in engineering college as a student, we had a subject on language translators. This subject taught us lot of theory on how languages are compiled or interpreted. However, we never got a chance to write even a simple programming language during our practicals. According to few, it was not possible to write one in one semester’s time.

That turned out to be my main motivation. I decided to write this programming language without using any compiler tools like LEX and YACC. I ended up writing my own lexical analyzer, the grammar parser and the language using the concepts taught to us in engineering college only. I worked on it daily for around an hour and within two weeks, I had the basic language ready.

Today, the code is released under GPL license. It’s available on GitHub at http://github.com/kamatanay/MayaLanguage

I hope it would be useful for students learning language translators.

Why did I name it Maya? Well, that’s the name of my sweetheart wife. Isn’t that a sweet name?

Fun: Adsense and Deepika Padukone

Yesterday I was reading an article on “How to Uninstall Symantec AntiVirus”. The article was from EzineArticles. While reading it, I suddenly noticed that the AdSense block is showing a complete unrelated ad on the page. Take a look at the screen-shot below.

adsense showing a completely unrelated ad

For those who don’t know, Deepika Padukone is a bollywood actress. The article I was reading was related to removing a software (Symantec Antivirus) which was not related to film industry or actors in any context.

I found this quite funny and thought of sharing it. Do you find it interesting as well? Let me know your thoughts through comments.

Enjoy!!!