Blog 23: Nothingness and Beyond

Recently I did one bicycling ride. A long one. Into an unknown terrain, with unknown people (then) and with lot of skepticism (then). This was mind-blowing..! It changed me quite a bit, as a person. It modified my thought process in many ways and made things look very simple..! Through this blog I embark you all on this journey!

Well it started with one of our family friends (Yogesh) telling me about one group through which he and his wife (Gauri) had done several bicycling tours in different parts of the country. We all are sports-lovers. I love to play, do gym, jog and bicycle. Pune is becoming more like a cement city and has less to offer in terms of good bicycling trails. Hence I would follow a standard route mostly through the city each weekend. The pollution, traffic and noise would keep me alert on the roads and was happy doing the same each week, until Yogesh and Gauri spoke to me. I have a busy schedule, professionally, and hence I barely gave any thought to their suggestions. However, I did see their videos and photographs and it did interest me. I met Gauri and she told me about the upcoming ride to Bhuj and Rann of Kutch, in Gujarat. I still procrastinated and didn’t respond. She told me about the wonderful train journey and bicycling through infinite roads. This time, I put an enquiry to the organizers (www.speakingwheels.com) and got some information. This way I met Rahul, one of the organizers, over phone. Rahul was in no rush. Very slowly and steadily he explained the scope of tour to me. I had called him to tell him that I will not go; but the call ended up with my confirmation to go! “I would rather travel with unknowns, rather than the known, if I wish to explore in life”, was the sentence from Rahul, which was the turning point! Now I was set to explore on a journey with 20-odd unknowns, into an unknown terrain and with almost zero expectations!! And the day arrived.

Travelling from Pune to Mumbai, I met Rupali, who was as new as me, but knew the group well. We had wonderful journey till Bandra station. I saw a railway station after two decades and it looked different. It was quite busy, but since it was late night train, comparatively one could concentrate on details of the station. It looked clean. There were electric carts for old people to commute between platforms. The platforms were well lit, displays were clear and coach positions were clearly electronically marked. I was impressed!! In the train the coaches were clean and Indian Railways provided neat and clean bedsheets, blankets and pillows. Each one of us (20+) had different coach/seats and arrangements. Hence, we would not have met for the entire journey at all. Anyways I didn’t know anyone, except Rupali, by now. But Rahul came in to chat. Amit, who was another organizer, also came to my seat for a chat. Many of our troop gathered around and I found that each one was on their own journey into the unknown. Amit also made me comfortable through his conversations. We got talking to the Gujju family in my compartment. They shared their Theplas and laddoos magnanimously. They didn’t look very well-off… but “being Royal has nothing to do with being Rich”!!

We reached Bhuj and in a small autorickshaw travelled to a hotel and settled in. I got introduced to Netra who was sharing my room along with Rupali. I was sharing a room, also, after a decade, with someone. Netra had come from Jodhpur and her bicycle had come from Pune, which was rented. She was on an exploratory trip, next-level! I was impressed.

As we started the drives, I realized that it was utter fun!! Some snoring in the rooms, great food during the stay at each place, people whom we met in Bhuj and Rann, the artisans and artists we met, the wonderful back-up vehicle people and infinite memories created during the next four days were just amazing. Aboli, one of the co-participants, a doctor by profession, was amazing! She accompanied me in an extremely boring patch of track. A wonderful person with a mix of maturity and fun-loving nature at the same time! Everyone enjoyed the place by afternoon and evenings in their best attires and infinite photographs were taken.

The cycling through Chari dessert was the best!! It was literally patch of sand track. It had no vehicles. Just camels, bullocks and few foxes! This stretch of land had no habitat. The Infinity-road was also the same. It was a long road of more than 30 kms of stretch with no vegetation, trees and traffic. As you drive by yourself, you experience something which you will never feel in any city/town. Driving through nothingness, emptiness, blankness and still consciousness. You are only with yourself. This is a unique experience. Thoughts just come and go and slowly they disappear and you are into entire consciousness with bliss. This is a meditative experience. This is the state in which you are not tired, thirsty nor hungry. You are just in your own zone, with yourself. As I travelled through this terrain I thought, all co-riders are just fellow travelers, enjoying their own journey, which sometimes coincides with mine. We travel a while together, talk a bit, exchange our ideas and views, and then we continue our own track. I am not expecting anything from them and vice versa. It’s just pure chat, eat and enjoying together. Make good memories together, joke out on the situations and live in the instances and pass by. It appeared so simple. In fact, we all were together, and yet were independent!!

The highlight was the ride on the Independence Day. The drive towards India-Bridge which is Indian Border was magnificent. The day had a ride of almost 90 Kms. This was the most bicycling I would have done in my life, on one single day. I did it quite comfortably and reached the destination. But on that turn, Amit was waiting. He said we have to go 10 kms more to complete 100. I said “no-way”! 90 is also my first time. He said 100 is great and I should do it. He will come along. With hesitation I agreed and he pushed me to complete it. Conversations, jokes and observing terrain around made these extra miles look less tiring and we completed 100!! Was a great feeling. I came home with new energy, new lessons and new experiences.

I realized that if I had gone with some expectations, I would have had something to compare and the experience would have been biased. If I did not had Amit to push me to 100, I would have missed the experience. If Rahul had not convinced me to “venture with unknowns”, I would have missed a great experience. If I had not travelled infinite terrain with 360o views, I would not have “found myself”. I feel that our life is actually this simple. If we live it with zero expectations, it will keep on surprising you and make your journey interesting!! You will find good people at every turn and corner of this travel who would push you to do better, guide you to new routes and just let you be with yourself!! Sometimes you will also find “sweepers” who would assist you through the travel in difficult terrains. Such journeys will slowly give you an opportunity to be either one of those who helped… to boost your fellow-mates, to sweep and upbeat the lagging riders, to assist others for arrangements and scheduling. Just like your professional experience makes you mentors!

It was a wonderful bicycling experience which helped me realize the simplicity in life..!! Therefore, as I always say, atleast one road in our life that we should choose, has to be a dirt-road!! This road helps you self-realize, re-boot, meditate, take your own stalk and explore your horizons! It gives you a perspective from Nothingness to Beyond..!! Thanks to team Speaking Wheels!!

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Blog 21: Starry Constellation.

Did you know that around 2,200 satellites are already looking at us? Just the way in which the stars and planets look at us from very far? You may not see them, but they are always watching you. And this number is set to increase to 12,000 and further, up to 42,000!!! And mind-you, they are not as far as the “real” stars. They are near to the earths surface and they are “in-communication” with each-other. They are 550 Kms from earths surface, which is called as “low-earth orbit”.

Taken from: Things-To-Know-About-Starlink-and-its-Internet-Services-In-Detail

Welcome to this technological miracle developed by Space-X, the Elon Musk’s aerospace company. This is called as Starlink Mission, which started in May 2019. Each satellite is called as a star and this group of stars form a constellation. These satellite constellations have connected more than 32 countries, so far, which have poorest internet access, otherwise, sheerly due to their geographical location and economical status. Thereby, Starlink has connected the entire world to each-other, well.. almost! Every Star in this constellation comprises of the following technical modules

1. Antenna arrays

2. Solar arrays

3. Ion propulsion system

4. Navigation sensors

5. Debris-detection and collision-avoidance mechanism

6. Laser-based internal communication system

When we (a normal user, using his/her cell phone or computer) send a request for internet access (for google browsing/shopping/calling a friend / watching movie / banking etc), depending upon our location, using the antenna structures, one of the star satellites will receive the Internet signal and understand its final destination (depending upon the receiver address). Further, using laser-based internal communication system, it identifies the destination satellite, which is closest to the destination user. The communication of next leg is done by that satellite and destination user gets the data transferred. This communication, which happens within the constellation itself, does not require the signal to transfer back-and-forth onto the earths ground station satellite (which was the traditional way of signal transfer in conventional satellite communication, i.e. 3 geo-synchronous satellites). This reduces the delay tremendously and hence the latency is minimal, and the speed is very high.

There are a series of mega-constellation also, which are the satellites moving in the higher orbits, again, mostly launched by SpaceX / NASA. The Starlink satellites are always in touch with about 4 such mega-constellation satellites, at any given time.

Let us see what are the functions of the main components in these satellites:

  1. The phased array antenna allows huge data transfers in minimal time and since these satellites are located much above the earths surface, they can reach remotest location of the earth, where, otherwise the signal cannot reach (This is just like a man on the top of a watch-tower can see the farthest).
  2. The in-built navigation sensors are used to identify the exact coordinates of the location of internet users and optimal identification of nearest star-satellite for target receiver.
  3. The ion thrusters allow the satellites to move in orbit, maneuver  in space and also de-orbit during their end-of-life. The satellites are equipped with krypton-fueled Hall thrusters which allow them to de-orbit at the end of their life.
  4. The debris-tracking system helps the star to avoid collision with other space objects, thereby securing their safety. The satellites are designed to autonomously avoid collisions based on uplinked tracking data.

Difference between SpaceX technology for Mars Mission v.s. Starlink in terms of re-entry strategy is very interesting l!!

Following concepts have rapidly evolved, world-wide, due to multiple satellite programmes, missile programs and advanced data communications:

  1. Laser-guided communication
  2. Concept of Ion Thrusters for propulsion
  3. Communication with higher constellation orbit satellites

We will understand all these technologies, one-by-one, in upcoming blogs. At this stage, I would just say:

The way in which data communication is taking over every human, exploiting the human hunger towards Internet facility (not only for entertainment, but also for e-commerce and industrialization-cum-globalization), we are giving away every inch of our privacy to these stars who are constantly looking at us!! Imagine the power of these stars!! Imagine the amount of data these satellites are collecting and storing.

On another note, we do understand the Starlink programe because it is created by us, the humans. However, think of those actual stars which are also continuously looking at every spec on the earth’s surface. Are they doing anything which we do not understand? Let us also recall that the ancient Indian Pandits have told us that the stars and planets in the universe actually rule our lives, and decide our future in some mystic way…

Just as a common man in any country is innocent about the way in which his/her cellphone is catching the signals, are we (all humans) ignorant about some facts/missions of the “real” stars and planets in this universe?

What do the “real” and “unreal” stars and the planets doing there (wherever they are!!)? Are we “subjects” to them? Are these stars and planets also reading us and who are “we” in this humongous universe? Not only this Blog wises to catch your attention to technological advances and the gain of absolute control of big giants over every common individual, it is also trying to struggle and understand our very existence in this vast universe.

I do not pretend to understand the last line in earlier paragraph, but the technological advances made for such missions, especially the Mars Mission and the Starlink project are phenomenal. I shall unfold some of these concepts in the upcoming blogs.

There is a thick philosophical underplay to this blog, which I shall try-understand-and unfold. Everything is finally going to make sense!!! I mean, I hope so…

Blog 24: Omnipresence

I have been wanting to write this blog for a long time. Maybe for last two months. I kept postponing it, deliberately, so that I am able to write with a calm mind. This is about my father (baba), who left us for his journey abode (this is the way people put it) in December 2022. With a big vacuum in my life and with the infinite memories in my mind and with frequent wetting of eyes, I thought it is better to postpone. But now, I guess it is good time to write this small blog.

Like most of us, I had a wonderful childhood while he was around. He had a unique feature of being protective towards me and my brother, Uday. We have countless memories of he taking us out for nice evening dinners and ice-cream stops and also to movies and marathi plays. I remember him taking efforts to make me join University, while I was thinking of some diploma course. I recall him taking efforts to ensure that we both are well educated, get an appropriate life-partner and so on. Nothing new, perhaps.. every father does it. But many-a-times, the expression is poor and we fail to realize it. If this realization is late, it can be very painful. But if it is not, and if we, as children, get an opportunity to realize and give-back, even 5% of what parents do for us, I guess, we are very very fortunate. The peace within us is immense and very satisfying.

As he was sick during his last few days (maybe for ~ 3 months), I had very close association with him. Me and my brother (along with our mother and Narendra (my husband)) took care of him and I spent lot of time with him. Uday was not around for long. But whenever he was, he gave 100% of his time to him. Even while baba was so unwell, baba never complained. He did not express much of his pain and we would keep him happy showing him our old photographs, videos, old songs and movies and reading books for him. Uday was highly instrumental in making me aware of such small things which we could do, as his children, and make him happy and smiling. I cannot thank Uday enough, for making me realize that the quality of time we spend with him is important, and not only the medicines and treatments which we give (anyways, even a nurse would do that). Narendra was my baba’s favorite and baba would answer all questions which Narendra would ask him, religiously (It was a way to understand if his memory is working fine, and Narendra used to ask him standard questions to gauge his health parameters). Madhavi (Uday’s wife) would be in touch continuously to check on baba’s well-being.

Normally, as we grow up and engage in this society for our own professions, our own children and for our family chores, we tend to forget the root of our existence, which are our parents. The time when most of us realize this, it is probably very late. I am lucky to have my aai and baba close to my house. I could meet them almost every day and sometimes twice a day and could chat with them for long hours. Not everyone could be so fortunate. Towards the end of his journey, Baba would insist that we all stay close to him, talk with him and pray together. It was a time which I will never forget. As he left us, he ensured (in some mystic way) that we were fast asleep and did not feel his departure. He left gracefully and again, protecting our emotions. I felt very sad and so also everyone in the entire family.

Now that some time has passed, I do not see a single day on which I wouldn’t remember him. Initially I missed him and it felt like a vacuum in the life. But slowly I got over it. Some say that it is the natural instinct of humans to come to a path of minimum pain and hence we tend to remember only good memories. However, something interesting struck to me while I was travelling (for work, or leisure or adventure). It so happened that while I was alone and by myself, his memories would come in, in such a way that it was almost like him just being around. I could relate a part of him in the people whom I met, I saw on the streets, in the cool breeze that passed me, in the silent waters of rivers and sea, in the golden sun shining and setting in front of me. I just thought that as a person is born, just the way in which it is made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, naturally, as he/she dies, it just gives back to the nature, the very same ingredients. In that sense, nobody is extinct. Everyone just would change the form and be around. Therefore, my baba, I feel, in the same way, is omnipresent. Whenever I would be alone, or in unknown territory or in trouble, I guess he would be around to hold and help and assist. The form may be different, but his presence will be felt. The feeling was quite refreshing..!! And how does he show his expressions then? Well, as I see my brother’s calm face, I recall baba’s calm face. Baba is (in some sense) expressing himself through Uday. As I see myself in mirror, I resemble him. Therefore my smile, Uday’s habits, style of talking, walking, dealing with problems, everything will have his expressions. Therefore he is surely living through us now..!!

Such a wonderful feeling was this, which relieved me from the grief of his loss. There is nothing to lose, because nothing is lost from this universe. The presence is omni.. enveloping this universe and our own personal universe..!! As he lives through us now, it is a moral responsibility of ours to be of same type. Caring, responsible, passionate about our work and taking responsibility of the well-being of aai..!

Does the universe ever get filled up with presence of such all those who leave us, physically? I do not know. But my baba is omnipresent, for sure. He will be at peace when we are at peace. It is time to live with good responsibility and happiness…!

Blog 22: Illusive Likes and Dislikes

Recently I was watching a very interesting episode called “Our Planet” by David Attenborough. The episodes are mind-blowing and they are streamed on Netflix. Those who have seen such episodes, even like one on National Parks or Wild Babies and so on, would know the level at which the photography is explored and the number of geographical areas these teams cover to bring the best of the best to us. It is a treat to our eyes, ears and to our brain…!

Courtesy: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/phyto.html

One such episode connected me to the deep-rooted existence of our own species and the way we have been in illusion, by ourselves, via brain engineering. This story starts with moving plants called as Phytoplankton. These are wonderful plants found in seas, and are widely existing near the surface of water. They create oxygen through photosynthesis; and that is why they need sunlight. Since sunlight can travel only few meters from the sea surface, phytoplankton are not found in deep seas, but only till few tens of meters from the sea surface. As they emit oxygen, this is used by fishes and other marine life in the seas. It is said that the oxygen level maintained in the seas is mainly by these phytoplankton. Not only that, this emitted oxygen also contributes to the oxygen level in our atmosphere. The percentage is not very small. It is said that at least 40-45% of the oxygen in air is contributed by these plants. So, we can understand the importance of them!

Now how do these phytoplankton grow and survive? Well, they depend on the nutrients given by droppings of Dolphin fishes. Dolphins survive on smaller fishes like Lanterns. On similar lines, droppings of Ray fishes, Whales and Sharks also are used by these plants, as food and nutrients, to survive and release oxygen in the water and in the air. This is a fantastic and a closed-loop ecosystem, in which the fishes breathe via phytoplankton’s and in turn offer nutrients to them to grow. Going ahead, the phytoplankton creates a beautiful layer of particulate matter just above the sea surface. As the sea water evaporates due to sun, the water vapors condense on the surface and due to these particulates, clouds are formed. These majestic clouds travel up the sea level and grows to bigger and bigger clouds, which bring rains. Rains help the wild forests and oceans, and the entire nature thrives!! A lovely ecosystem of plants, birds, wild animals, aquatic life of fishes and plants and jungles live in perfect synchronism!! The dance of this cosmos can be seen on sea surfaces, in the interior of jungles, in deep seas and also on mountains!

Where is the disruption then? Humans bring it, in a big way! We all want to eat fishes. The small ones, like Tuna and the big ones like Sharks and Rays. We do ferocious fishing for this, and we disrupt this entire ecosystem. As we eat big and small fishes, lesser nutrients are available in water. Lesser growth for phytoplankton and hence lesser oxygen formation. This disrupts everything! Oxygen in atmosphere and life of aquatic animals. We disrupt the ecosystem, merely because we wish to “taste” fishes.

I am aware that many of us know about the synergic ecosystem and we do know that we have disrupted it. Let me go one step ahead. As the Lantern and Tuna fishes count goes down, new species in water, namely Squids, start populating. These look very pretty. But bigger fishes, actually do not like them. They do not have enough nutrients. Dolphins, Rays, Whales and Sharks “compromise” with squids, as food, since the favorite ones are not available. This amounts to lesser nutrients to the planktons and the aquatic system becomes “unhealthy”. But let us remember that squids look pretty! Just as humans, the big and small fishes have started (in some sense) tolerating them. Nature, suffers, though.

In the very same way, just shift gears and imagine a sunrise or a sunset. We all wait for this sight either at the horizon, or behind the gigantic mountains or at the edge of sprawling oceans. We want to see the lovely spread of orange light throughout the sky, isn’t it? But how many of us realize that orange light is a signature of “polluted air” and yellow is a signature of “pure air”? We know this from science books. But we like that wonderful “Orange”. We have started liking the polluted colors and have also started enjoying it…!!

On similar lines, as we travel on roads, we see these lovely looking yellow flowers all around the edges of the roads. They look very pretty and cover the entire land with a carpet! The scene is magnificent, especially in winters and start of summer. However, how many of us know that they are mere cosmos? They grow aggressively and do not allow other natural biodiversity plants to grow? We should, in principle, cut them and allow the vegetables, flowering plants like Roses, Lilies and Jasmines to grow. These cosmos plants and flowers repel butterflies and bees. The cross-pollination is hampered and the biodiversity gets killed. But look at humans. Again, we have started liking these cosmos flowers. Instead of cutting them, we are enjoying them! Same is true for Palm plantations, for which huge jungles are cut. Palm plants are grown for oil, in an un-natural way. We are now “okay” with palm oil, with a fragrance and inorganic additives of groundnut or safflower, rather than the original safflower and groundnut. We have compromised our tastes without even applying our brains there.

Therefore, we all eat, drink and breathe everything which is un-natural. We have broken the ecosystem to generate these polluted products and environment, and still, we “feel” that we are perfect…!!

Un-natural production of poultry products, chickens, goats and others, including aquatic life is a route towards disaster. Imagine that depriving the nature to grow naturally is indirectly leading to depriving ourselves from our healthy existence…!! But if we still think that we are enjoying the fishes, chickens, mutton, orange sunshine’s and hazy climate, then we are going towards destruction, rapidly.

Seas are around 70% of the total earths surface. The changes therein create humongous changes on earth. They are powerful, merely because they are huge. But nature is resilient. It can very quickly regain their original potential. Humans cannot. We had to survive many generations, just to come out of nuclear disasters like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The generations are still paying the price. If we have to survive and thrive, we have to take care of nature and its natural ecosystem. We have to be aware of our tastes using our brains, which (we say) is very powerful!!

I remember a dialogue in one movie called “Agneepath”, where the villain Kancha says “This Mandava town people have chosen a Monster and they have started liking him. Now even if they see God, they are not going to like him…!!” We all should be worried, careful, responsible and grounded to Live and Let Live..!

Blog 20: Side-Dish

As a child I remember that I used to like roties (wheat tortillas). The wheat roties. My aai (my mother) use to make them fresh and right from the hot Tava (hotplate), it used to come in my plate. The smell of it was like heaven!! I do remember that I used to eat more than 3 to 4 such roties and it hardly used to matter, as to what goes with it. My father used to eat those with milk cream. I often ate it with dal or vegetable with even ghee. My objective was to eat roties..!! It was my main dish and rest all were side dishes..!! Slowly, as time passed, I started liking bhakris (thicker tortillas made of local Indian grains such as jowari or bajari) and vegetables and dal more. I also became aware of eating more of green leafy vegetables.

Main and Side dishes..

As exercises became a part of my routine, I became more careful to watch the ingredients I eat. Life went on, and my likings also changed. I do not know if I liked what I ate, or I ate what was good for better health. I think it became my tendency to like what was good for health, and not necessarily which was good to taste.

Hence now I tend to eat more of dal and veggies (sometimes, a mix of both) or even salads (with variety of dressings), than roties. The side dishes became the main dishes and things changed and reversed.

Similar things happen in different modes of journey in our life. I recall, when I was very young, I wanted to become a writer. I wrote articles on scientific discoveries and innovative concepts (miracles, as I thought, at that age), like on Kaleidoscopes, planets and black-holes, to name a few. I thought I would become a writer as I grow up. But as time passed, I became a Physics person with teaching and research as my main profession. My skill of writing was still used, for writing research papers and project proposals; but was quite different. Writing became my side-dish and main-dish was my own profession (and all the paraphernalia which comes along with it, including administration, student mentoring and applied research). I enjoyed it thoroughly (and I still do!!) and hence my main-dish was quite sumptuous and satisfying. However, as time passed, I took to writing again, and try to write on various topics of varied domains; this blog is also one of them! This is a shift from main dish towards a side-dish!!! Similar things happened with my sports activities, when I shifted from playing badminton to gym to marathon-running and now bicycling.

I find this very interesting!! As a college-going student, we never think of our school buddies. We think that their paths are different now and they are “not relevant” to us, anymore. Slowly they are side-tracked. After few years of professional experiences, we again get attracted to those old buddies and they give us happiness, which is much different and pure. A shift occurs. We happen to take some important steps which are indications of this shift of “dishes” (these are like our preferences)!! It may be exactly this reason for people to change their profession dramatically at some middle age. The hobbies become a profession and the primary profession gets converted into a side-dish!!

There are several aspects and reasons to this phenomenon. One may be the boredom of the routine. Other may be an urge of every human being to try new things and explore new excitements. One another reason may be that we wish to explore new people and places around. I personally feel that even though all these reasons may be correct, it is basically “you” who is changing. It is said that after 7 years of life time, each cell within your body is new..! In that sense, you are a totally new person. You wish to have different experiences and also wish to have new people around. You want to explore new hobbies and therefore your side-hustle (side dish) tries to become main profession (main dish)!!

Many Roads.. many Options..!!

Let the passion be our priority and may courage drive us towards unknown territories: be those of food, profession, hobbies, geographic locations, arts or culture. As one walks through typical paths, whenever we see multiple routes ahead, its nice to choose a route which is not well defined. It is good to choose a small track, which is less-taken. Maybe it will surprise you and offer you a great dessert-like side-dish!!!

Blog 19: Getting Extinct

This blog has been on my mind for a long time. I thought of it and then gave up, because I thought it became less relevant as the global affairs slowly opened up and people started becoming more mobile. However, with new recent news of a new virus variant reported by South Africa, the same stream of thought clogged my mind. Let me share and vent off!!

How do people normally die? If we talk to older and wise people, they say that those who die naturally normally die of pneumonia. Pneumonia is caused by micro-organisms like virus and bacteria. They induce infection in our body, which is indicated by fever, breathlessness and lung infection which results in end to the life. This is like slow organ failure. More like a war, which is normally won by the microbes and lost by the human life. I am sure, most of the readers would guess, where this blog is going..

There is a close connection between microbes and humans. Experts believe about half of all human DNA originated from viruses that infected and embedded their nucleic acid in our ancestors’ egg and sperm cells. Microbes occupy all of our body surfaces, including the skin, gut, and mucous membranes. In fact, our bodies contain at least 10 times more bacterial cells than human ones, blurring the line between where microbes end and humans begin. Microbes occupy certain parts of our body (like the gut, liver etc) and establish their colonies. These colonies help the human body by offering beneficial roles; for example, microbes synthesize vitamins, break down food into absorbable nutrients, and stimulate our immune systems. And what do they get in return? They get to establish themselves and flourish inside our body. It is a synergistic arrangement and a positive collaboration. Now this becomes a “tendency” or “prakruti” of our body and therefore, these microbes have found their place in our DNA as well..!! They transfer to new generations as well.. and hence they are integral part of humans..! Therefore, if you have a diabetic tendency, for example, your next generation will also tend to have the same.

As the person ages, the immune system is not that strong. The functions of various organs also slow down and then these resident organisms find it hard to survive in less-balanced environment. Cough and fever is the starting point, after which, these microbes start to multiply. External agencies (like hospital infections) also help them for their rapid growth and slowly they take control of the total body, occupy the lungs and person dies. This is like “Population Inversion” phenomenon which we study for Lasers..

What is the message here… I think it is this that a perfect balanced physical body has microbes which are like “Heroes”, helping the body to do well, remain healthy and do the functions with best output. The same “Heroes” become “Villains”, as they find feeble organs and lesser nutrition to thrive on. They then take control of the internal organs and result in disaster. The mission is then to fund another host… However, not to forget, they have already sent their signatures and representatives in the next generation… It is a cycle…!!! New offspring is born with certain tendencies which are hereditary..!!

Now let us see the Mother Earth..!! Let us imagine it without humans. It is a perfect system. Microbes are in the environment and in the ground soil. They thrive on animals and plants. They decompose certain food (like dead leaves and animals), which enrich the soil. They help nitrogen cycle, they fix the carbon-dioxide and help in natural degradation of all those entities which are dead, to convert them into basic entities like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen. This is synergy, which keeps the earth rich, alive and very vibrant.

Humans are a part of all this. They are supposed to live with basic amenities which are food, shelter and clothing. And earth gives them these things in abundance. However, humans are greedy and search for more. Technological advances have created much havoc. Huge earth excavations have given tremendous stress to the foundation of the planet. Large forests have been cut and biodiversity is widely affected. Automobiles and their pollution have changed the environmental air ratios. Natural resources are being depleted. Cement and concrete is prohibiting basic breathing mechanism of soil. Well, this is not new. We know this, but we refuse to “feel it”.

There is a bigger challenge, further ahead. Humans are also like microbial colonies. Each human being is nurtured in specific environment and hence, with specific genetic material. Their “Tendencies” are highly dependent upon their ambiance (both culturally and spatially). The ecological balance is also set. However, with huge advances and globalizations, people move to various regions and different countries. They carry their tendencies also. As they interact with people, nature and other entities in the new environment, their internal systems also are subjected to a different environment. In the efforts to cope-up (with different food and weather and external stimuli), new variants are propagated. The resultant variants, so generated have a hybrid colony culture, which is hard to imagine. Probably the microbes mutate in this way..!! They develop natural resistant to a new ambiance and hence they survive. Humans are thus responsible for these mutations. They get added inside the human and inside the planet. The behavior of these variants is quite unpredictable. Further, the ecological cycle is disrupted as well; the natural environment is then not able to take care of these new variants, which start occupying different colonies, in different animals, plants and humans. Before a medical expert is able to “see” these and act upon them, these microbes “take over”! Migration, pollution, skewed carbon footprint, de-forestation and extreme earth and sea excavations makes the planet weak. The effects are untimely rains, increase in sea level, and decrease in water levels (at some other places), temperature variations, pollution and decreased vegetation. We slowly approach population inversion..!!!

Who is the first victim? It is the nature. With the tremendous effects on its basic ecology, the planet suffers due to deprived air, water and rich soil resources. This is a signature of “diseased nature”, which is slowly controlled by unknown strains of microbes. These strains if leave their harmonious nature and expand their colonies, the nature, who is the mother of humans, will struggle for its existence. This will, ofcourse take a long time… But just as a diseased body cannot hold life, a diseased planet cannot hold human life (any life, for that matter). Humans may become extinct in such a scenario and only after that the nature may then get a breather… out of industrialization, excavations and pollutions. It may reboot itself, and humans may need thousands of centuries to reboot.

We still have time. We can avoid this by mindful industrialisation and growths. Green energy is hence so important. We may not (which we should) care for mother earth… but even if we care for our survival, we can help and avoid microbial propagation and stop viral growth and contain the variants. We have to stop the variants becoming a part of Earth’s DNA.

Life inside the human body and life on this earth is not different.. and it’s horrible to get extinct… Let us take care.. Remember Dinosaurs???

Useful Links: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209710/



Blog 18: Mystic Valley

It is often said that “of all the roads you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt!”. What nature can teach us, nobody can.. After having travelled a lot, in multiple countries, I have come to find that India is one of the most beautiful, culturally rich and historically oldest countries. The most amazing parts of India are the Himalayas!! They are beautiful and mystic.. !!! Umpteen stories of Kailash Parvat and Himalayan ranges talk about Lord Shiva, where he used to sit for “Tapasya”. Entire Himalayas was like his “home”.

Those who have visited Uttarakhand know for sure that the ranges are beautiful and are also very dangerous. It is not only the landslides, but also the steepness and difficulty level of trek that one has to do to reach Ghangaria or Hemkund or Valley of Flowers. The roads are well-made.. but still there are patches where you need courage, stamina and immense desire to reach the top. The weather is unpredictable and it rains quite heavily at any given time of the day. The heights are ~14000 feet, where the oxygen supply is rare and hence your lungs capacity has to be good.

This climb cannot be much practiced before going to mountains. This is because the combination of mountains, rains and cold weather with thin oxygen levels is hard to simulate. As one starts to climb, they go through a combination of steep climbs and deep descends, walking through the waterfalls, walking very narrow patches of valley edges, where its mountain on one side and deep valley on the other. It is thrilling, exciting, dangerous and scary.. all at the same time.!!

As a friendly advice, while travelling, it is very very important to go slow, stop in between and feel the mountains… feel the weather and experience what mountains are trying to tell you..it is precious because as they say, “Mountains change you. The sights change your perspective of life… permanently”!!

So let me share few of my amazing experiences in mountains, and I bet that these won’t be new for those who have been to Himalayas.. This is the first one I write here. More would follow in coming blogs.

On the way from Valley of Flowers to Ghangaria, it was raining heavily. It was a gruesome weather since it was equally cold. Oxygen was thin because we were at about 14,000 feet above the sea level, and it was hard to breathe. Most of us were just climbing all by themselves.

They were fighting their own stamina and their own fear. The fear was of slippery stones, difficult climbs and extremely narrow pathways paved between huge mountains and deep valley. I was one of them and I had no one ahead or behind me for atleast more than 500 feet or so. I was walking on my own. Normally the organisors allocate a guide to each group. But the guide accompanies the person who is slowest and hence I had no company, since I was quite ahead of the group. Walking in heavy rains, with snow-topped Himalayan ranges in the front, I came to a path which was extremely scary. It was through a ferocious water fall. These waters were falling from the steep mountain and into the deep valley. The path I had to travel was a narrow road, of which, on one side was this tall mountain and on other side was the valley in which water was falling. The road must be like half-feet wide, just bare enough to enable one single person walk. It was a road which almost felt like impossible for any human to cross. But since this was the only path seen, there was no doubt that I had to cross this road under that water fall. Initially I was okay. I had a stick in my hand and I just walked under those heavily pouring waters. I came half-way through and the fear surmounted.. I was frozen due to the “realization” of the circumstance. It was so scary that I just couldn’t move. I couldn’t go ahead nor turn back. It was impossible to go behind because if I had to turn around I had no courage to see those deep valley, with waters falling just pass me and mountains on the other side, just clipping any space around.. I could not move ahead due to the gripped-in fear. I literally froze and water was pouring on my head quite mercilessly. It must be like 15-20 seconds, which seemed too long and I took out my left hand to seek help. There was no one.. absolutely no one, which I had seen well before I started to take this road in the waterfall. In the right hand I had the stick and since it was towards the mountain cliff, I could not take out that hand. Other hand was towards the valley in which water was falling. With that half feet road, it was impossible for anyone to come and help. Still, I had to do something and hence, inadvertently and subconsciously I took out my left hand to seek help. I knew it was a useless attempt, but I just waved it a bit (almost like a helpless fool). In around few seconds I felt like my life was over. Nobody could help me move, and I had no courage to take step ahead. It must be like atleast 10-15 steps before I could land up in a safer part of the mountain. But it was in vain and I was stuck..

And a miracle happened… a very strong and cold hand held me. It took a grip of my left hand which I had taken out onto the valley side and which I was hoping to take help with. The hand was big, very strong and extremely cold. This was a huge support. The hand took a strong grip and almost dragged me through those 10-15 steps rapidly. It made me cross that dangerous zone and next I found myself out of the waterfall and out of that narrow path between valley and mountain. I immediately saw behind and saw that the path was behind me now and I was safe amidst the jungles on left side and the mountain, ofcourse, on the right side. It was a big relief. I collected my senses and tried to see the “person” who helped me. I saw the hand, a strong one with white tight sleeves till the wrist. The person rapidly went ahead of me. Running with high speed. In few seconds, he was not seen. Nowhere.. at all.. He had vanished, well.. almost.. The path was again empty. Not a single soul around. I was so happy and relieved to have crossed the very dangerous route, I continued my journey further..

While walking, I thought to myself.. where did this person come from? There was no one around me while I entered the waterfalls.. How could he ever catch my hand from the left side, where there was a deep valley? Was there any place there atall, for anyone to come in? And how could he drag me? For that he has to go ahead of me, from the left..!!

How is it that he ran so fast thereafter that I did not see him? Who was he? Rest of my entire journey I kept searching for someone similar. I found none… none at all. He came only for those few seconds to help me and landed me in safe location…

It is often said that one cannot plan a trip to mountains, especially the Himalayas. They say that you need to be invited to go there. And hence, if you go by invitation, you have to be taken care of. Somebody has to ensure your safety. Who ensures this safety and who encompasses entire Himalayas?

As a scientist and a researcher, it is difficult to write such a blog. But the experiences do not lie. It was bright daylight when this incidence happened and those who have been to Ghangaria or to Valley of Flowers would recollect such a location as well.. Such experiences make you more humble, change you forever and help you realize the irrelevant and artificial world in which we normally live. These experiences showcase your fragility and miniscule presence in this gigantic nature. It also tells us that there are different kinds of energies around us which we do not even know. We can only experience it.. but, for that, we have to be aware and we have to be receptive…

It is exactly for this reason, it is said that atleast one of the roads we choose in our life time, has to be a dirt road…!!

Blog 17 : Nataraja..

A scientifically inclined brain is normally not aligned with mythology. However, as one thinks deeper, many things makes sense.. lot of sense. I recently read a book entitled “7 secrets of Shiva” written beautifully by Devdutt Pattanaik. As I went through the chapters, I was quite mesmerized with many parts of this wonderful book, of which I was completely unaware. So I read it again.. and again.. maybe atleast 3 times. I felt a strong correlation of many things written therein with deep rooted scientific concepts. But it was difficult to seep-in, because the brain has been trained to do “conventional” science for a very long time. With an urge to help me focus and to see if whatever I was thinking has any true relevance in nature, I looked through Google. And I found out that Nataraja , which is Shiva’s form, is installed in CERN, which is located in Geneva!! CERN lies on the French / Swiss border in European Organization for Nuclear Research.

 The function of CERN facility is to keep a watch on large Hadron Collidor, which is a huge facility to study particle-particle interaction. This will help us understand the origin of Universe. This is one of the biggest and greatest scientific research centers in the world. And interestingly, it has a huge statue of Lord Shiva, as Nataraja, in its main corridor of scientific study laboratories. I was thrilled to know this!! Now, one may say that it must be gifted by India and that is how it happens to be there. However, I intend to think otherwise. I think that there must be a reason of this specific form of Lord Shiva to be getting installed at one of the largest research centers in the world. Let us try to understand it a bit more.

Taken From : httpswww.freepressjournal.inindiamaha-shivratri-2020-why-cern-has-a-statue-of-lord-shiva

 So again, like every other blog, we will see two concepts and connect them at the end.

Lord Shiva is worshipped as the destroyer and transformer of this world. There are many other attributes towards his profound presence, which include the explanation of Rattle drum, infinite pillar of Wisdom, his body smeared with Ash, Serpent in his neck, Tiger skin as his apparel and Ganga flowing from his head. Each has a significance attributed in Hindu mythology, which, ofcourse, we cannot cover in this small blog. However, Nataraja is a pose, which is unique. The pose of Nataraja is that from the TANDAV Dance, which he performs to demonstrate his might or power. It is an exhibition of creation, preservation and destruction, which depicts the deep understanding of our universe. It symbolizes many things, and the most important part of it is that: it symbolizes Change. It symbolizes flow of energy (the dance form) and a balance in this flow. It demonstrates that the universe is continuously changing, yet is stable. It is a phenomenon which is taking place deep within us, at the atomic level. It is also a picture of such similar things happening in each organic and inorganic matter in the universe. The birth of this world, its maintenance, its destruction and its re-creation are the acts of his dance. The Chakras behind him depicts the births and rebirths of living things, which is a belief in Hinduism. Everything gets symbolized in his final pose, which is Nataraja.

From modern physics and also from quantum physics we know that matter comprises of atoms and molecules. We know that electrons continuously move around the nucleus and this depicts energy flow. As these electrons are shared and bonds are formed, there is a shift in the flow of energy and it forms a new molecule. Such molecules are also stable, if they have followed the laws of physics and the rules in thermodynamics. Take example of Sodium and Chlorine atom. Both have electrons moving and both are independently stable. They exhibit a flow of energy and hence “life”. As they form a bond due to electron movement from Sodium to Chlorine, they form a salt. We know that such salts are used to create new materials, when they reduce complex materials to new materials (for example, synthesis of nanomaterials). In some sense, these new materials “gain existence” and basic sodium or chorine atom are “destroyed”. This is happening at subatomic level. In human body, systematically and rhythmically, cells are performing their duties, and are constantly created and destructed. The flow of energy in humans, at a microscopic level is a fine balance of creation and destruction. The same is true for animals and every other living being. As these changes occur, it is a kind of dance, and one can only witness it. One cannot control it. It is medically said that after every 7 years, each cell in our human body is replaced by a new cell..!!  Just as the body eventually dies, so is the energy transferred into a new being. Very similar to Chakras. The fixed right leg of Nataraja depicts the soul, which is immortal. The left leg represents nature, which is constantly changing and due to which energy is flowing. The balance of this universe, amidst this dynamic energy flow, is the stability and tranquility as is seen in Nataraja’s posture and facial expressions.

It is said that Lord Shiva danced the Universe into existence. In this particular sense, it cannot be a coincidence that he has installed himself at this CERN Centre, which is dedicated to study the evolution of this universe..!!

There are many other questions like meaninglessness in the life, concept of Fear, Heroes and Villains in our life which is answered scientifically in the literature. Unification of Arts, Culture and Science can be found in such literature, which I shall continue to unfold, as I understand better.

These are solely my thoughts, which are inspired from whatever I read. I am sure that there would be many dimensions to the same phenomenon or scientific discoveries, which would be very interesting to know. Therefore, if there are such similar or even contradicting thoughts, please do put them in the comments box.

The more I read, the more I realize that scientific studies and their understandings are far far behind the knowledge this universe can offer..!! We continue to progress, though..!!

Blog 16 : Staying Relevant..

I was a bit free from my normal duty and was locked at home due to covid restrictions and work-from-home phase. Therefore, I saw this wonderful show on Amazon Prime Video, called as “One Mic Stand”. Popular young comedian-cum-writer, Sapan Verma is the host for this programme and the format of this event is to invite one celebrity to perform a stand-up comedy on a Live Stage for some time. Sapan will make the celebrity comfortable by giving him/her a mentor (who is also, of course, a well known comedian) and then put them on stage. The audiences are bubbling youngsters who would be out there to have some real fun.

The format was itself very good and I started this watch. And it was good..!! I could see popular faces here, from YouTube performers to music composers to Bollywood stars. They were very good and the programme was hilarious! However, the job of the entire creative team was quite easy because the celebrities were of similar professional domains. The only difficult part was their performance “Live”, which, with a good practice given by Sapan Verma, was done well.

Why should I write all this? Well, because one of the celebrities was comparatively out-of-box. And that was Dr. Shashi Tharoor. A politician by profession, highly learned person from Tufts University (Massachusetts) and of age of ~ 65! Quite a senior to do many things, but to perform at this Live Comedy Show. Sapan Verma was quite in tension, while he tried to rope him in and get him to agree to be a part of this series. I was amazed seeing the performance of Dr Tharoor!! His ability to reach out to the youngest of the audience and make him/her laugh was incredible. The millennial Lingos he used were just mind-boggling! The ability to connect to the audience kept me spell bound..!! And I was no different. Sapan Verma along with Kunal Kamra was equally zapped..!! The programme was a big hit. You should go watch it..! (https://youtu.be/LSwyY4ode0E)

Taken from:

Why was this so successful? It was because of the ability of Dr. Shashi Tharoor to remain “relevant” to the current generation of people. Be it the language, the style of performance, the slangs they use and ofcourse the Wit they like to listen to… everything! He was “in-sync” with the youngsters! And that too, at his age and stage of life! With the wisdom he brings due to his vast experience and high intellect, it became a powerful show, which no normal comedian can bring on.

“You cannot do today’s job with yesterdays methods and be in business tomorrow” is a very good quote. We can also say, “You cannot remain an interesting person for today’s generation using yesterday’s knowledge and past memories”. To remain relevant at any point of stage in life is very important. It can only come with Learning, Updating and Upgrading. Why do we become friends with few people who are about double our age (or even half the age)? That is because they have remained relevant to us. This can come with a constant urge to know more, develop skills, hobbies and be “student-like” in one corner of your persona.

Especially in our country, I find that vast percentage of elderly citizens who take pride in saying, “It was much better in my times”, “Hamare zamane mein..”, “I cannot use a credit card”, “My daughter/son do everything for me now”, “I am retired, you see. I have done enough. Now it is the turn of my children to pay-back”, “In my times, things were different”, “I don’t know how to use this cell phone! I don’t like it”, “I hate this loud music and senseless new movies”, “In my time, the singers were much better. New singers cannot sing”, “Now it is my time to look after grand-children”. These are signatures of mental retirement. These sentences bring an individual into “non-relevant” category, rapidly.

These pandemic times have taught us to read new things, develop new skills and hobbies, develop new friends, explore new people and connect to family. It is our duty to take care of our body as well as our brain. And brain needs re-assurance of its ability. This re-assurance is obtained from people around us. If we are relevant to the society and people around us, the feedback to the brain will be always positive. That happiness and positive energy will be a part of confidence we would wear in our persona. And then we would be likable, relevant and relatable to everyone around. It is a positive cycle.

So, next time if it feels like “How boring this person is..”, always remember that someone may also say the same for us..!! If we have to avoid this, Stay Relevant!! And that way you would also be “Staying Alive”!





prime video

sapan verma : https://www.sapanverma.in/

Disclaimer: These are personal views of the author. They do not intend to harm the sentiments of anyone.

Blog 15: Simple, Cheaper yet Effective Communication – the 5G Technology

Conventional communication has seen a paradigm shift right from a simple circular-dialled and wired phone to a recent handy, stylish cell phone with 4G and 5G connectivity. What is this shift? Well, we do not try to understand history. But we will try to know the recent technology, using simple puzzles and short stories. And as usual, we will connect all the dots at the end of this blog.

1. Imagine that there is a huge storm and wind is blowing like crazy. You are out on the road and you are standing very near a tall building; versus, you are standing on the road which is plain (like a highway). Where, do you think, you will be hit more by the storm?

2. Imagine that you are lost in a forest and you are trying desperately to find the way out. There are your 50-odd friends and relatives who are also out to find you. None of you have electronic communication equipment. Will it be easy for you to track them by giving our loud calls to help them reach you? Or it would be easier for all those 50 people to make a chaos and try to find you?

3. Imagine that in the same storm mentioned above, there are pieces of small paper chits and loads of tin sheets, both subjected to blowing winds. Which of these would be able to scatter faster to larger distances?

The answers to all these puzzle questions are simple. You would be hit more by the storm if you are standing on the highway road. You would be able to find the way out if “You” call out. Smaller pieces would be able to go in any nook-and-corner of the surroundings, as compared to the larger tin sheets.

These intuitive answers were quite non-intuitive in conventional communication electronics, unless someone started thinking out-of-the-box.

Conventionally, we have antenna in the cellular networks which take care of limited number of subscribers in their own region. Normally there are lesser antennas and more subscribers in a given region and the signals flow in all directions and try to catch your phone and offer connectivity. They face problems to reach people behind huge buildings and behind small hills. They travel with limited range, trying to manage the concept of cellular networks. In handling connectivity, they give rise to complicated antenna structures, higher bandwidths and more repeaters in between. Expensive components are required to handle these systems.

Welcome to 4G and 5G Technology and welcome to Massive MIMO / Adaptive Beam forming / SDMA technology. In this, small, cheap, low-power antenna units are used in array forms. Imagine a stack of 8 such structures arranged vertically. They all send out signals with a small delay (phase difference) with-respect-to each other. The idea is to use very small packet of information (like those tiny pieces of paper) and transmit it in air. They would reach the receiver, rather quickly, and a beam formation will happen, (like a constructive interference) to make the beam more focused at the receiver cellphone. The signal will hit the person on the highway much faster and with higher impact (just as the person hit by a storm on the highway). However, if the user is standing behind a building, even though the small bits will make the signal reach to his cellphone, the signal may be weak (just the way in which he will be less-hit by the storm). In that case, instead to one vertical array of antenna, researchers and technologists have devised an array of antennas like 64 elements with 64 trans-receivers, which create a 3-Dimensional beam of signal, which will be able to reach every nook-and-corner of the space around, including the place behind tall buildings. Hence the signal reaches everywhere; which is the beauty of new M-MIMO (Massive – Multiple input multiple output) technology.

Taken from :

Let us say that you enter a new network, say because your travel from one city to another. How would you be recognised? Conventionally, the antenna in that cellular region will trace you by sending signals which are called as “pilot” signals. But in the MIMO technology, your phone will send pilot signal and get identified in the network (just like the person lost in the forest). The technology is just reverse.

This is just opposite to the earlier approach towards communication technology. Earlier complicated electronic equipments, especially trans-receivers were used for far-reaching signals. Now cheaper, low-power electronic components are used in array form to get more directed energy using 3D beam formation technology. Smaller regions in space are used (through higher frequency) and polarization and time-delay techniques are used for better and stronger coverage.

Taken from:

Sprint Massive MIMO and Erricson are good examples of companies implementing 5G and above, using the frequency in the range of 24.5 GHz to 52.6 GHz, bipolar antenna arrays with base stations kept about 100 m apart in urban setups. Cisco estimates that by end of 2020 – as 5G rolls out to a mainstream audience – there will be 5.5 billion mobile users around the world, each consuming 20GB of data per month.

Following points are interesting in this new technology:

1. Number of antennas are much higher than number of users!

2. The technology uses cheaper and low-power antennas as compared to earlier ones.

3. Your cell phone sends signal to get introduced in the network (and not vice-versa), which is opposite to roaming technology earlier.

4. Space division is achieved using beam formation, which is an excellent solution after consuming Time-Division and Frequency-Division.

Where there is a will, there is a way..!! And nature does this all the time..!! Simplest example is photosynthesis using small leaves which work as solar cells. They are much cheaper, easily replaceable and are in abundance. Our antennas are doing the same..!!

We have tried to mimic nature… but we had to go through a large energy-intensive cycle of communication evolution before we “realized” how nature does it, just naturally..!!