Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Swayambar

Swayambar is a Sanskrit word, Swayam in Sanskrit means Self and Vara means choosing or wanting. It is a practice in which a girl of marriageable age chooses a life partner amongst a list of suitors. In an epic like Ramayana in Hinduism, princess Sita chose her life partner Lord Rama out of hundreds of other eligible bachelors (prince or kings from other kingdoms) by subjecting them to take a tough test.

Recently the reality show by an item-girl (weird nomenclature, means an actress who dances on cheesy songs in movies) Rakhi Sawant brought back memories of the hundreds of years old tradition. She confidently hosted the show – subjected each of her suitors to tests, and finally chose one of them to spend her life with. I was impressed to see the audacity of a relatively new actor to sell an idea like this which has been long forgotten. She impressed me in her honesty and integrity in reasoning to reject many and then finally select one.

I do not deny that the show was a bit dramatic at times – but surely not as dramatic as some other Indian soaps are (i.e., the K series). I do not deny that she might have used this serial to improve her image from an item-girl to a girl dipped in Indian values – but what is wrong in that. I do not deny that nobody used to consider her seriously until this happened and this too people brushed off as a publicity gimmick – but what is wrong if she showed us that we can come up with hit serials on indigenous ideas instead of always copying what exists.

She impressed me by bringing forward something we had not thought of. You may agree or may not agree, but you simply cannot ignore.

Just now I saw a news clipping on Rahul Mahajan, the son of the late Pramod Mahajan, a well respected politician going to kick off a similar concept. I know I was impressed with Rakhi, but somehow Rahul embarrasses me. I foresee that we will now start making movies / serials / shows on this same concept until the concept rots and begs to be forsaken. People out there will keep showcasing dummies to exploit this idea as much as they can until somebody like Rakhi breaks the chain and brings something new to the platter. However, I will be keen to change my views on this.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What's in a definition?

I just managed to stumble upon this in my email - an article I had written 4 years ago. Sounded interesting and relevant so thought of posting it here.

Somebody asked me, "What is Mathematics?" And queer enough but true that I did not have a prompt readymade definiton framed in a few words for mathematics as you have for the other subjects. Being in the 'elite' company of mathematics for nearly five years now I still do not have a concrete idea as to how mathematics can be actually defined. I say 'elite' because people tend to look at mathematicians as esoteric and absent-minded geeks totally lost in their world full of theorems and their proofs. Either they carry an image of a mathematician as Prof. Calculus of the Tintin comics or mistakenly believe that calculating prodigies like Shakuntala Devi are mathematicians. Okay so let me try to define it here.

Greatest mathematician Carl Freidrich Gauss once said, "Mathematics is the queen of all sciences." True to every word indeed. Well mathematics is the science behind every imagination, the spark for every thought and the logic behind everything bizzare. But does it sufffice to call it a science? The morning tea you make, the yoga postures, the bus to work you take, the phone calls you attend, gardening in the evening or switching off the lights before going to bed all use mathematics in some form or the other.

Mathematics these days has its presence in a wide range of human activities. Theory of chance and probability are extensively used in predicting which team will win a cricket match or what will be Anand's next move in chess! Optimization theory has found wide applications in industrial production and marketting scene. Advanced mathematics is used in fields as wide as astrophysics. Invention of calculus aided the study of motion of planets or the well-known theories of Relativity or Gravitation have their base on mathematics. From stock trading to running an economy mathematics is everywhere. Be it natural sciences or earth sciences or social sciences or no science at all mathematics can be traced. Theory of warfare has got excessive importance these days and is a product of mathematics. From counting of election votes to calculating dates of historical monuments or fossils or predicting the next Tsunami, mathematics reigns. Can I actually stop somewhere. No. The list goes endless. Very correct is a saying in Sanskrit whose English translation goes like,

"Like the crest of the peacock and the jewel of the serpent,
Mathematics stands at the head of all sciences."

But wait the examples I cited surely must have made you accept that mathematics is not just a science but an art too. From music notes to drum beats mathematical theory finds a role. We say that giving examples does not mean definition in mathematics though. So I still have not got an answer to that somebody's question.

So let me try again, "Mathematics is a science...or rather its an art...or a vocation...(still confused).......ladies and gentlemen so this mathematics and it can confuse anybody anytime and hence keeps you engaged all the time.

Dated - 5th Sept 2005