An Apology to Indian Amateur Astronomers

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I first explored the world of Astronomy on the Internet when I was 17 years old. I registered in the forums of Astronomy.com and wrote a few posts there urging the Indian amateur astronomers to collect data. Well, this was a point I made to various amateur astronomers across India when ever I had the chance to meet them. I re-iterated that it was the collection of data that seperated us from the amateurs in the West.

The concern is real. There is really very little online data available. However, where this changes is the doing. While I had a concern, and shared it with a few like minded individuals, I never did anything to fix the problem.

I never progressed to observational astronomy. I never observed – much less collected data – night in and night out. I never sought to do this even in a notebook offline. Given this, I realised that I am not the right guy to suggest that amateur astronomers in India must rigorously collect and store data.

This realisation hit me pretty hard. It is a realisation from which I have still not recovered. I realised I had no idea what I was talking about. I never stood in a dark place which was kilometers outside of a city and looked up and observed the night sky. I never have sketched what I saw through a telescope’s eye piece. I have never setup a telescope and let other people observe the night sky. I have so far only looked up and urged others to look up.

I have had this realisation only recently. Three months ago. I have been totally numbed by this realisation. I have not moved an inch beyond what I have written in the above paragraph in the last three months. This is because I felt I had done something wrong. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all the amateur astronomers in India to whom I have suggested this.

Who is Giachand Motwane?

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I usually link to Wikipedia articles when I mention things that many people outside of a certain region/religion/group might not know about. Yesterday, while writing the article about my listening to the radio, I tried to connect to the article on All India Radio 107.1 FM channel. However, the article was not helpful and did not make any sense connecting to.

It did not make any sense because the page was for AIR FM Rainbow which is what AIR has named its FM stations that are broadcast to 12 metros in India and did not have anything unique on the Mumbai transmission.

Being a Wikipedian, I wanted to fix this. I hence went back to the page on All India Radio and read it up. That seemed in much better shape. Most of the information seemed link to a bunch of documents that All India Radio had put up on its website – interestingly, in Hindi and English. Reading up on history, I found out that Radio Club of Bombay was credited with the broadcast of the first programme in India in June 1923. Being from Mumbai, my interest was piqued.

There is no Wikipedia page on the Radio Club, nor is there much scholarly work written about this broadcast except by one Dr. Alisdair Pinkerton from the Department of Geography of the Royal Holloway from the University of London. The paper (found here), titled, “Radio and the Raj: broadcasting in British India (1920-1940)”, credits Giachand Motwane as the first person who made a recorded radio transmission in India in June 1923. These were apparently made under the call sign, “2-KC”. Unfortunately, Pinkerton states this solely on the basis (or has referenced it so) of the website of a company that Motwane later founded.

I later looked for more information on Radio Club and wondered if it is the same as the social club in South Mumbai called Radio Club. It seems it is. Currently called the Bombay Presidency Radio Club Ltd, it seems to be the same club that did some pioneering work in broadcasting in British India. So, I am still looking for more sourced information on who was Giachand Motwane.

Listening to the Radio

This blog post was written on an earlier blog – http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using the Wayback Machine

I filled my empty days in high school by listening to the growing crop of radio stations on a Sony Walkman which could otherwise play a tape cassette. I didn’t have money to buy too many cassettes and didn’t like playing the ones that I had more than twice or thrice a week. This meant listening to the radio. The private players were not mature in the field yet and their programming was not of any good quality. This pushed me to the only good radio station I could recieve in Mumbai, 107.1 FM All India Radio. Now, called AIR FM Rainbow.

A long time has passed since then. The programming on the radio stations has changed significantly since that time. On all stations. Private radio stations have significantly improved on using their platforms for tackling local social issues, connecting commercial vendors with sales opportunities and is increasingly moving in to the areas of personal advice. The All India Radio stations though are moving into areas of news and current affairs, covering areas rarely covered by other services, primarily because they are prohibited from doing so.

I like to listen to music during my morning walks. Even with 50-60 songs on my phone’s MP3 player, I get as tired of listening to these as during my tape cassette days. I started listening to the radio again. The early morning programme Subah Savere on AIR FM Gold channel is what I listen to. A programme in English and Hindi is a variety talk programme that covers among other things, news, literary subjects, this day in history etc. I have not expanded my radio listening to other time slots, yet. Though, I think it will be useful exercise for my ears to listen to and retain what has been said. I will report here on further developments, if any.

In the meanwhile, I also want to devote some time in trying to re-engage with my high school desire to get a ham radiolicense.

Chanakya’s Chant

Just last October, I purchased and reviewed Ashwin Sanghi’s first book, The Rozabal Line. When his latest book came out, I wanted to purchase his book but had a huge back log of books to read. Hence, I held off. In the meanwhile, I signed up for BlogAdda’s Book Review Programme as well. Sanghi’s book Chanakya’s Chant came up whilst I was in the last few pages of How Starbucks Saved My Life.

I really enjoyed reading Sanghi’s latest offering. The book has a nice balance of historical facts and fiction. It weaves these in magnificent ways to bring out the political realities of today and the life of Chanakya, 2300 years ago. The repetition of Chanakya’s chant throughout the book gets a bit weary as one reaches in the middle, but after all it is the title of the book, and one learns to skip that part when it comes. Keeping the explanation of the chant towards the end of the book was a nice touch. Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book and I have already recommended it to someone who is reading the book now. 🙂

As I have said before, the book is an inter-weaving story between the present and a time 2300 years ago. The storyline follows the rise of Chandini Gupta to the position of power in New Delhi and Chandragupta Maurya to the position of power in Pataliputra in Magadha in an India 2300 years ago. Their rise is backed by the two ‘godfathers’, Pandit Gangasagar Mishra for Chandini and Chanakya for Chandragupta.

It is towards the middle of the book that the link between how the story was progressing in the present and 2300 years ago becomes clearer. Both proteges almost have similar names – Chandini Gupta and Chandra Gupta. The story moves slowly to the centers of power, New Delhi in modern India and Pataliputra in the India from 2300 years ago. The involvement of Pakistanand China for political gains within India parallels the help taken from the fictional kingdoms of Gandhar and Kaikey which share the geographical location by Chanakya. There was nice symmetry in the stories as well. Having a man achieve power in India 2300 years ago and a woman do the same in modern India.

The storyline is filled with political tactics employed by the godfather of the protege. I am not sure many of the tactics would work in the modern world. I am also not sure if many of the suggestions suggested or used to solve modern problems are practical. It was a nice instrument to offer suggestions in governance. The book also points to the idea of being okay with a little corruption for political gains while ensuring the work gets done mindset that several people in India have. I was a little uncomfortable with that suggestion. I understand that the idea was not to portray a clean Prime Minister but rather paint a more realistic picture of the position of Prime Minister.

I think the book is well timed, fast and inspiring read. At the back cover, the book asks a question, does Chanakya’s chant succeed in modern day India? I think that is for every reader to answer for himself.

How Starbucks Saved My Life

It was one of mum’s friends who recommended that she buy this book. I am not really sure about the reason. For this reason, I was not exactly looking forward to reading this book.

I really like the way that Michael Gates Gill writes. He writes very informally. However, I do not particularly like the narrative he uses for himself. He is self-depreciating beyond limit. His story lacks anything like a continuous narrative where he leaves several loose ends. He does not finish the narrative – anyone of the various story lines he develops. Perhaps, a way to look at it is that life itself is still developing with him. I might perhaps miss a better understanding because I do not know or have not experienced the Starbucks culture.

I do think that he does have a pretty good writing style. Like people talking over a hot cup of coffee on a rainy afternoon. He also puts things pretty clearly and is deliberate with his descriptions. However, he misses on developing his plots as a result of this. It is more like a what is happening now narrative.

This book, How Starbucks Saved My Life is something that falls into a very small but popularly growing category of books of modern failure in conventional jobs and people taking up very unprofessional professions to make a living. Opportunities are everywhere.

ISRO Annual Report – Space Access Component

What to do between work – scientific travel writing?

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on April 6, 2011. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

For quite some time now, I have been thinking about what to do generally between work. The thought of traveling did strike me as a useful thing to do. While I have not arrived at any useful direction on what to do for work, I have come to an idea on what to do between work or to take a break from work.

The idea is an extension on my “Telescopes of India” tour, which did not really work out so well. The idea is to travel to a country which has an astronomical observatory. What I would do next is not really very clear to me now. But, I think I’ll figure things out as I learn more and more about the observatory itself. I don’t know if there’s a genre called “scientific travel writing” but it would be an interesting genre to begin writing in.

There are many people interested in visiting scientific places – like observatories and laboratories. It’ll be interesting to see how an ordinary guy is given entrance to these facilities. This will be in addition to living with a scientist and learning about the “scientific culture” of the organisation. I think that’s how I would define scientific travel writing.

This is really the first draft of this idea but it sounds like an interesting concept for me to try and explore in the future. Since, I have been following the space and astronomy community, this is where I hope to begin probing. It’s a huge experiment.