By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Monday, November 17, 2014

Anand vs. Carlsen : Half-way Through, The Odds Are Still 50-50

World Chess champion Magnus Carlsen finally made a big mistake  in Game 6 of the World title  match at Sochi, Russia,  which could have cost him the game;  but he was miraculously saved by an equally mysterious mistake made by Anand in his response.

In her admirable online live commentary on Game-6, Susan Polgar observed:  This is a devastating blow for Anand.  He had the win in his hands and blew it.  Anand is a great champion.  He came back from losses before.  If he can fight like a Tiger with no fear, he still has a chance. . . . 
I posted the following comment in Ms. Susan's live commentary on Game-7,  and she was  good enough to publish it:




Sunday, October 19, 2014

MOM, Mars And Comet : Close Encounter Of A Cosmic Kind

After posting the exciting story about India's Mars satellite on September 25, I have been drifting for a while without attending to this blog.  But today something is happening out there in the cosmos which reminds me with a jolt to resume these articulations online at once.

Three years ago, India's very first venture into space beyond 's the earth's magnetic boundary had caused a sensation by gathering, with American equipment, positive evidence of the existence of water on the moon.   And right now, India's second outer-space fling -- the Mars Orbiter Mission, alias MOM --  is getting a close view of the nearest-ever comet encounter of any man-made equipment, in the company of American and European satellites orbiting around Mars and a couple of American vehicles roving on the surface of  Mars  (see relevant news report below).

It is 11:30 p.m. in India on Sunday night as I post this, and just now the comet will be coming closest to Mars.

Surely, this is one of the most memorable actions I have ever taken in my whole life!

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19 October 2014

Tonight, MOM spacecraft will have a ringside view of Comet Siding Spring

On Sunday night, India’s biggest inter-planetary outing will have its ‘once in a million years opportunity’.

The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft will have a ringside view of a unique comet. The spacecraft has been at the vantage point since September 24. The teams at the Indian Space Research Organisation  (ISRO) have kept vigil for the impending visit of Comet Siding Spring since then.

The comet will be closest to Mars at 11.40 p.m. on Sunday (Indian Standard Time = 01-10 p.m. in New York) and the encounter will last 21 minutes.

"It is an opportunity that comes once in a million years,” exulted S. Arunan, ISRO’s MOM Project Director who has spearheaded the mission for over two years.  "The comet comes within 135,000 km of Mars, which is very close astronomically. We are at the right place at the right time and are extremely fortunate to watch this event.”

ISRO’s payload teams plan to operate four of the five instruments during this period, including the Mars Color Camera and the Methane Sensor for Mars and the Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer. . . 

MOM gets to watch the comet in the elite company of fellow orbiters: NASA’s MAVEN, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey; European Space Agency’s Mars Express; and NASA rovers Opportunity and Curiosity that are scouring the Martian surface.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

After The Exclusive Moon Club And Cryogenix Club, India Now Joins The Elusive and Elite Mars Club Also!

As the sun rose over India yesterday morning, the whole world's media were raving about the success of India's Mars Orbiter Mission (alias MOM), which pushed the tiny spacecraft 'Mangalyaan' smoothly into an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, after cruising in space for more than 300 days.  The objective is to study prevailing conditions related to the weather, minerals and methane gas.

So India has now joined the Mars Club as its fourth member (after America, Soviet Russia and Europe)  -- though juniormost, the  first one to gain admission on its very first application.  Out of 51 Mars missions undertaken so far in the world, 21 had failed;  but, of course,  ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) has certainly  learnt some lessons from the unsuccessful  attempts of other space agencies, as its Chairman has gladly acknowledged.   

That's all true so far as the solo Marsbound marathon run is concerned.   In terms of scientific objectives and achievements, ISRO's mission is admittedly modest and far less sophisticated than those of America's  NASA.  But of course, as the spectacular results of the Indo-American lunar adventure in 2010 showed, NASA does think of ISRO as a worthy associate.

On this very special and cheerworthy occasion, let me recall my comments on India's impressive space programs in three earlier contexts:


Articulations Online
20 Oct. 2010

Bravo, ISRO! Bravo, NASA!

When I started writing this online column last month with an awesome vision of the Internet's apparently infinite dimensions, I knew I would find it necessary to follow it up with some reflections on the impact of modern science and technology on individuals and society.  And I now realize it will have to be a very long series of essays, because the theme is extremely complex and bristles with so many intricate aspects.   But rather than risking mental fatigue by considering the same issue week after week, let us spread out the core series a little, and take up some other lighter topics in the intervals!   

In the context of the steady scientific progress made by India during the 20th century, I had made the following comment in the preceding essay (Psychology Of Turbulence, October 13):  "....  And in the frenzied field of the ongoing information revolution today, India seems to be running a neck-to-neck race with the most advanced countries of  the world".

Well, India today seems to be among the front-runners in other scientific fields also, like space exploration, for instance!   Its very first moon mission, which seemed to have been on the brink of failure last year, actually turned out to be a great success.

Troubles and....

I am, of course, referring to the unmanned lunar vehicle Chandrayaan-1, launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). which carried some instruments developed in India,  and also some others sponsored by NASA in America, ESA (European Space Agency), and BAA (Bulgarian Aerospace Agency).

Chandrayaan was launched into lunar orbit in October 2008, and was expected to remain there for a couple of years.  But within a few months,  there was serious malfunction of some vital systems (including solar panels and star sensors which were essential for power supply and direction-finding);  and there were no radio signals from August 29, 2009 due to failure of electronic components.   Meanwhile, the vessel had gone round the moon more than 3,000 times, undertaken various useful experiments, and transmitted more than 70,000 images to the earth, some of them with very fine resolution upto five metres. 

Back home, in India, there was great disappointment as the mission was declared closed prematurely.  But although there was some resentment that ISRO hadn't fully disclosed the troubles as they arose, by and large there was no hostile criticism of ISRO's efforts, as there was a general awareness of the immensity of the venture and the equal chances of success and failure.

In an editorial rather emotionally titled  Adieu, Chandrayaan-1, India's most responsible newspaper THE HINDU  made a rational assessment on August 31: ".... Yet these problems make what has been achieved all the more remarkble.  It is a tribute to ISRO’s mission management team that they could find ways to keep the spacecraft and its instruments operational for so long....  In the months and years ahead, data from the Indian probe will help scientists better understand the Moon’s origin and evolution, its mineral composition, and whether water might lie trapped in its permanently shadowed polar craters".

.... Triumph!

And sure enough, the prediction came true very soon,  perhaps much sooner than even The Hindu had expected!  For within a few weeks, towards the end of September 2009,  the prestigious international  magazine Science reported that NASA's instrument M3 (moon mineralogy mapper) had discovered the presence of water molecules on the moon.

Moreover, following extensive analysis of the data collected,  it was reported in an international science congress in March 2010 that NASA's Mini-Sar (miniature synthetic aperture radar) had found extensive masses of ice in several huge polar craters with diameters ranging from two to fifteen kilometres.

What this meant, of course, was that there's a precious natural resource on the moon for the benefit of  manned space missions, in the vital forms of drinking water (H2O), breathing air (oxygen), and rocket fuel (hydrogen).  As a delighted Dr. Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, declared:  "Now we can say with a fair degree of confidence that a sustainable human presence on the Moon is possible.... The result.... seen in the last few months are totally revolutionizing our view of the Moon."


Articulations Online
1 Dec. 2013

Destination Mars : Bravo, ISRO! Bravo, India!

Around this time three years ago, India, on its very first and highly successful lunar mission, had helped America to find conclusive evidence of the existence of water on the Moon.  And now India has just taken off on its maiden mission to Mars!

I am copying below, for instant reference, a couple of relevant reports from today's exciting news, and also some significant comments I had made in Articulations Online in October 2010.  This steady and spectacular scientific progress takes my mind back 30 years to the time when I was having a very close association with India's elite scientific community, and in particular to the following context:

The Prime Minister of India, as the ex-officio Chairman/Chairperson of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, presides over the annual meeting of the CSIR Society, which has many distinguished Indian scientists as members.  This recurring intellectual get-together serves as a useful forum not only for obtaining a wide-angled perception of important specific issues concerning CSIR's affairs, but also for exchanging views on the direction and overall progress of science and technology in a national perspective.

In the Society meeting held in 1983, where I was present as CSIR's Financial Adviser, Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi said she had received a query from a very young child from a foreign country asking her what was India's most remarkable scientific achievement during the preceding year, and she was having some difficulty in giving an immediate and impressive answer.  And she asked:  would the scientific community please do some soul-searching?
I suppose Ms. Gandhi could have taken a far brighter view of things and shot off a confident reply:  "Look, my child, you can't judge the  scientific progress made by a country in one week or one month or even one year!  India has made a lot of progress in many scientific fields in the last 25 years, including space science.  Who knows, 25 years from now we may even be reaching the Moon!"  

Which is precisely what we did in 2008!  I wish I had been curious enough to have found out the identity of that adorably curious child;  for I would love to trace and tell him or her that India is now a member of  the still-exclusive Moon Club  --  and, if all goes well with the ongoing space slingshot, is very likely to be admitted to the still-more-exclusive Mars Club by this time next year.


THE HINDU, 1 Dec. 2013    
14-20 Indian Standard Time

India’s spacecraft to Mars has bid adieu to its Earth-bound orbit and is cruising in its sun-centric orbit.  In a remarkably successful execution of a complex manoeuvre, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fired the propulsion system on board the spacecraft for a prolonged duration of 23 minutes from 0049 hours on Sunday.


THE HINDU, 1 Dec. 2013
17-30 Indian Standard Time

India’s maiden mission to Mars left Earth’s orbit early on Sunday and successfully entered the second phase of its 10-month-long voyage to the Red Planet after performing a crucial manoeuvre described as “mother of all slingshots”.

Clearing a critical hurdle to achieve a major milestone in the country’s space history, ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft or ‘Mangalyaan’ was placed in the designated Mars Transfer Trajectory in a 22-minute manoeuvre almost an hour past midnight without any hitch to tear itself away from Earth’s gravitational pull.

It marked the first step of the Mars mission’s 680 million-km-long voyage to its destination to put on course the India’s first ever inter-planetary space odyssey.


Articulations Online
12 Jan. 2014

India Joins Exclusive And Elusive Cryogenix Club

Just a few weeks ago India had successfully sent an internationally well-equipped  space vehicle on its way to a Mars orbit  which is expected to be achieved in a few months' time.  And now comes the news that its long-term endeavour to develop a powerful entirely-made-in-India cryogenic spacecraft engine has also succeeded at last after overcoming several serious setbacks.   

Are you watching, Indira Gandhi?  (see Articulations Online, 1 Dec. 2013 :  Destination Mars : Bravo, ISRO!  Bravo, India!).


6 Jan. 2014

GSLV-D5 launch places India in elite league

 One of India’s most ambitious dreams became a reality on Sunday when its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D5), powered by an indigenous cryogenic engine, effortlessly put the 1,982-kg GSAT-14 communication satellite into a perfect orbit after 17 minutes of flight.

The cryogenic engine built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fired for 12 of those 17 minutes.

The precision of the cryogenic upper stage was such that it put the GSAT-14 into an orbit with a perigee of 179 km, against the target of 180 km, and the apogee achieved was off by a mere 50 km for a target of 36,000 km.

The grand success caps 20 years of hard work by ISRO’s engineers, after being denied cryogenic technology under pressure from the U.S., suffering a heartbreaking failure with an indigenous cryogenic engine flight in April 2010 and having had to scrub its second attempt with an indigenous cryogenic engine in August 2013. . . .

The mission’s success means India now has the ability to put satellites weighing more than two tonnes in orbit, joining the elite club of the U.S., Russia, France, Japan and China who have mastered this perilous technology of using cryogenic propellants -- liquid oxygen at minus 183 degrees Celsius and liquid hydrogen at minus 253 degrees’ Celsius.


7 Jan. 2014

Resilience pays off

The Indian Space Research Organisation is adding feather after feather to its cap. Just recently, it sent off the country’s first effort at planetary exploration, the Mars Orbiter Mission. On Sunday, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), equipped with an indigenous cryogenic engine, put the GSAT-14 communication satellite into orbit with effortless ease.

It was an unequivocal demonstration of the space agency’s mastery of cryogenic technology, a key element in building more powerful launch vehicles.  While its older sibling, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), can accommodate communication satellites weighing about 1,200 kg, the GSLV will be able to carry spacecraft that are heavier by around 1,000 kg. . . 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Outsiders And The Local Man : Interest Vs. Instincts

Quite surprisingly, Hollywood superstar and California ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was in my home city Madras (now called Chennai) the other day, in connection with a South Indian cinema event featuring a Tamil movie with a weight-lifting hero.  Before attending that function  in a stadium in the evening, the former Mr. Universe met the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu State, Ms. Jayalalithaa  --  who was a glamorous leading lady in South Indian cinema once upon a time  --  in her office inside the Fort St. George.  

Right now, the local media here are wildly celebrating the 375th anniversary of Madras, which grew around this 17th century British fortress on the East coast of South India.  As a very senior local man in this nostalgic setting, let me recall an essay I had written long ago,  in which I had mentioned the Fort St. George :

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Tamil  --  A living South Indian language, with ancient roots and classical status, as well as a massive cinema industry.

Tamil Nadu  --  A South Indian State, where Tamil is the prime language. 

Ajanta  --  Ancient rock caves containing impressive Buddhist paintings and sculptures, in Maharashtra State in South-West India. . 

Andhra Pradesh  --  Another South Indian State.

Eternal City  --  Rome.

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Sunday Magazine


A recent guest of mine, from the North, was unduly critical when I confessed that I had never been up the High Court building, to visit the lighthouse and enjoy the beautiful view of Madras one is supposed to obtain from there, although I've been living in the city for years.  Being a hospitable man, I refrained from listing out all the well-known structures of his  own city, and asking him how many of them he could claim to know at first hand ;  but had I pressed the point, there's little doubt that I should have silenced him.    

The local man is always on the point of 'doing' his parent city.  Living so close to its landmarks, he takes them more or less for granted, and it seldom occurs to him to go out and explore them.  Unlike the tourist and the casual visitor, he's in no great hurry ;  he can always afford to wait till tomorrow, till next week, till next month.  Naturally, he's somewhat complacent about the city's sights, if not really indifferent to their charms or fame.  "One of these days. . . "  is the recurring burden of his song.  Has the average New Yorker stepped up to the crown of the Liberty Statue yet?  I seriously doubt it.  Has the ordinary Florentine thoroughly explored the Palazzo Vecchio?  Or the Parisian the Pantheon?  Or the Calcuttian the Victoria Memorial?  Has the denizen of the Eternal City ever stepped down to the weird catacombs?  More likely than not, all you will get from these worthies will be an evasive grin, or a disarming shrug of the shoulders.

Intriguing ignorance 

Needless to say, the local man's education about his environment leaves much to be desired ;  he is decidedly, if understandably, an incompetent guide in his own locality. But his guests, somehow, never seem to be capable of realizing it;  and they do not lightly forgive him when they are told the truth.  They consider it  his rightful obligation to know everything, and lead them everywhere.  They are scandalized when it comes to light that he isn't aware of the exact location of all those ramparts and relics they have discovered in their guide-book ;  that, in fact, the poor fellow hasn't even heard of many of them. The birds of passage, it must be said with regret, seldom pause to ask themselves how much (or how little) they do know about their own municipal nests.

I have never been abroad, but it requires no great experience or imagination to observe that what is true of the city and the local man is equally true of the nation and the native.  I must confess that many a foreign friend of mine has been intrigued by the extent of my ignorance.  I seem to know so little about our country's history and literature ;  so little, too, about our ancient monuments and noble architecture.  If someone asked me where the Blue Grotto is, I could answer like a gunshot : "in Capri, Italy" ;  but I have to think twice before I can assert that Ajanta is not in Andhra Pradesh.  I do know who built the Louvre, where, when and what for ;  yet I couldn't tell you  a thing about the origin of the Fort St. George.

Alien interest, native instincts

It's quite useless, I suppose, to feel concerned about it ;  for this malady is universal, and perhaps quite inevitable.  Yet I also wonder if the superiority of the stranger's knowledge isn't merely superficial, after all.  He might have amassed a great wealth of information about the alien city or state, but can he still presume to possess a true understanding of it?  Distance adds excitement to every place, and involves the stranger in an endless, academic enquiry ;  but doesn't proximity  --  though it kills curiosity and impairs one's conscious interest  --  produce that subconscious indigenous spirit which the visitor can never penetrate, but which is part and parcel of the resident's life?  True, the outsider's impressions may be more exhaustive, and often more accurate ;  but aren't the local man's instincts far deeper, and invariably more sensitive?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Librarian's Word Is Law In The Library!

So here's another vintage essay from my earliest published efforts as an articulate layman:  
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Sunday Magazine


BOOKS are his business, but I wonder if the librarian can ever enjoy reading them.  We all have a peculiar allergy to certain things connected with our profession, no matter how interesting or intriguing they might seem to others.  The glamorous actress is fed up with seeing films ;  the toast-weary diplomat sometimes can't stand the sight of a champagne bottle.  The librarian can be no exception.  It's difficult to imagine that he would want to read books just for the fun of it.

In fact, I should think that this tendency would be more pronounced in the librarian than in most others, for few things can be more disconcerting than the sight of a roomful of bookshelves.  Even the casual borrower, who's hardly aware of the true capacity of the shelves, often stands unnerved before them, quite unable to decide which books to take home with him.  He staggers into the reading room under the weight of a dozen volumes, fondly hoping to make his choice there ;  but even these may prove too many, and soon he's trying to drown his confusion in drowsiness.  


Not infrequently, he solves the problem simply by deciding to step out to the canteen first, and steady his reeling head with a cup of coffee.  Occasionally he succeeds in going back to the reading room, to make a manly decision ;  but more likely, he just remembers how late it's getting, and finds his way back home.  If that's the kind of effect the stack room produces on relatively uninformed borrowers, imagine the plight of the librarian, who understands only too perfectly what a job he has on hand when he tries to select something for himself!   Temptation and indecision must gnaw at his vitals till he's numbed into giving up the whole idea of borrowing.  Even if he survives the ordeal for the time being and manages to take a book home, he can't read it peacefully, because his mind keeps hovering around the thousands of other books he has left behind.

It's impossible to think of the librarian without thinking of the bookseller :  they're both in the same kind of fix.  But being a practical man, and probably not so intellectual, the latter is quicker in adjusting himself to the inevitable.  While his customers may gasp at his dazzling display -- and find every decision heart-breaking -- the bookseller seems by and large to be content with his book-keeping.  No doubt he's aided by the fact that his collection changes constantly, and doesn't grow and accumulate like the librarian's.  But sooner or later, knowingly or unknowingly, the librarian also learns to face facts ;  and thereafter the best of the bestsellers can't mean anything more to him than a number on a fly-leaf, a shadow in a dark shelf.

Scholarly statistician

And that's a pity, for the librarian is really a scholar at heart.  Even if he hadn't taken up his job with the idea of mastering the contents of the library, (as is sometimes the case), his education and his prolonged contact with books are bound to have given him  a thirst for exploring the treasure-house of knowledge and thought of which he's the custodian.  But, as I've said, the very vastness and diversity of the treasure leads to his defeat.  

However, if he's an abortive scholar, the librarian is a perfect statistician.   In his scheme of things literature is but a list, the classics just a classification.  Einstein is an index-card, Picasso a type-written ticket.    History and philosophy are cut down to size by him, and squeezed into the narrow space of his catalogue.  The past and the present are hemmed in by the framework of his pigeon-holes.  The librarian's supremacy is never in doubt, for his world is as tidy as it is statistical :  everything in it has to be in order, at least alphabetically.


It is probably this compulsory preoccupation of his with arrangement and tidiness which makes the librarian such a stern disciplinarian.  He likes to see things done according to rules and regulations.  He can never condone the slightest delaying the return of a borrowed book :  and, like Shylock, he will be after his pound of flesh if you lost a volume or seriously delayed returning it.  His discipline makes itself felt in many other ways too :  for instance, he can't tolerate anybody (except himself) smoking within the library walls.  The strictest silence has to obtain in the reading room.  Readers are at liberty to take out as many books as they like from the shelves, but they shall not replace any.  All these things one accepts quite cheerfully ;  but when the librarian starts dictating, as he sometimes does, that nobody can use a pen at the reference desk -- not even a ball-point -- well, one does feel a little aggrieved.  But protest is out of the question :  the librarian's word is law in the library, and no appeal lies against it.

So as to enforce his authority and ensure that proper decorum is maintained at all times, the librarian finds it necessary to keep his distance from the visitors, and not to mix too freely with them.  That's probably why one usually finds him so matter-of-fact and aloof, almost appearing to be sulking.  True, he's always ready to come out of his shell to answer your legitimate enquiries, and to help you find the material you want ;  but it's futile trying to draw him into a  friendly conversation about other things, for he will simply point an accusing finger at the overhead sign demanding silence, and wordlessly tell  you to move on. 

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PostScript, 2014 

Image and environment

Half a century has gone by after I composed the above essay, copying the classical style, mainly on the basis of the impressions I had gained in different schools and the prestigious Madras University in South India.   I knew it must have had worldwide  relevance so far as educational institutions were concerned, and I didn't  look beyond that environment.  To that extent, the essay wasn't comprehensive.  

What's really amazing, however, is that the character and attitude of the average librarian don't seem to have changed basically in academic circles even in the technologically transformed world of  today-- which does perhaps make this essay a classic in its own right!

Of course, I know I have an obligation now to extend my horizon and explore the image of the librarian in the realms of public libraries and children's libraries  --  better 50 years late than never, I suppose!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pep Talks To The Mind Are Like A Tonic To Tired Nerves

Taking a critical look at the many-sided articles, reviews and essays I have written in the English language newspapers in India over the past 50+ years, I am glad to see that hundreds of them have stood the test of time and still seem to be universally relevant and true.  And so few are the flaws in their logic, insights and language that I rarely find it necessary to make any specific corrections or even to touch up the published texts.

Anyway, here's a vintage essay which tempts me to add a couple of thoughts now.  One of them I have already used as the title of this blog ;  and let me tell you about the other one after you read the original text!


THE HINDU  Sunday Magazine 
               50 years ago 

Pep Talks

I fully endorse the popular view that in these hard and unsettled times there is greater need for action and less for talking ;  but all the same, I can't help feeling that 'pep' talks ought to be treated on a different footing.  I am all for pep talks.  There's nothing like a pep talk to brighten your outlook and boost your confidence, whether you're listening to one or delivering it.

A really competent pep talk can do wonders to one's morale.  It can dispel the gloom of the worst pessimist, and make him as lively as a young pup.   It can stimulate the lazybones to leap into action.  Pep talks are to the spirit what drugs are  to the flesh :  they can offer fresh hope to a heart in despair, and can bring real comfort to a soul in distress. 

Unfortunately, however, the effects of pep talks, like those of medicines, are always short-lived.  There's no such thing as a pep talk with permanent results.  No wonder there is such a sizable and recurring demand for pep talks, just as for prescriptions.


Pep talks are often aimed at individuals, but they can be administered with equal efficiency to groups.  In fact,the bigger the audience, the better the results, as there's less scope for the listeners to talk back.  For, after all, by the time a pep talk is allowed to deteriorate into a discussion, it has already lost much of its pep :  there's obviously more punch in a blustering drill-sergeant's tirade to his squad than in an affable professor's debate with his scholars.  

The most powerful and spectacular pep talks, naturally, are those addressed to the nation ;  one readily recalls the war-time speeches of the late Mr. Churchill.  Unfortunately for humanity, the world itself still happens to be too dispersed a forum to make pep talks feasible on a global scale!  But one must not imagine that the listeners' acquiescence alone invariably guarantees the fruitfulness of pep talks :  the pastor is always heard in hushed silence by his flock,  but how often can it be said truthfully that his sermons uplift the churchgoers' souls?


Pep talks are not always necessarily spoken ;  they are often transcribed as letters and despatched by mail.  If they're sufficiently long-winded, they can even be printed, like novels.  In fact, enough tomes of this kind have already been compiled by prolific pepmasters, like Mr. Dale Carnegie, to fill a respectable amount of space in any library in the world.  

But pep talks in print are not confined to books, by any means ;  they have found a permanent niche in most women's magazines the world over.  Quite intriguingly, the authors of these spiritual recipes happen mostly to be men.  I suppose the masculine mentor is expected to have a stronger appeal for the depressed female ;  but if that's really the case, it does seem rather strange that the Emancipated Eve, who obviously patronizes these publications, should so readily permit the male of the species to show her the way out of her own feminine blues!


The psychiatrist dispenses a do-it-yourself variety of pep talks.  Instead of letting his clients have an honest nail-and-hammer pep talk (which is what they really require), he persuades them to lie down on a couch and do it themselves, and gets a substantial fee afterwards for their trouble.  The physician, on the other hand, is always a willing donor of pep talks.  His services do not explicitly include oral encouragement, but he seldom fails to give it ;  and though he may charge you heavily enough for his overheads, he never does bill you for his pep talks.


PostScript,  2014

Of tonics, doctors and pepscripts

(1)  I don't know why I didn't think of tonics when I wrote about pep talks 50 years ago.  True, pep talks are like medicines and other drugs in different contexts ; but far more often they're like a tonic. I have now added the thought as the title of this blog, rather than trying to revise the text, which would need several changes. 

(2)  But the second thought can be inserted quite smoothly in the text,  simply by extending the second sentence of the last paragraph as follows:   

 The physician, on the other hand, is always a willing donor of pep talks, especially if he's your family doctor.

I have no idea why this hadn't occurred to me either, particularly because I had written a whole essay on the family doctor at about the same time as this one.  (Please see Articulations Online, 3 May 2014 -- Universal Image Of The Family Doctor, Who's Also A Family Friend).

(3)  As must be obvious to my regular readers,  I do have a flair (or call it an obsession, if you like!) for bending and twisting actual words and names into amusingly imaginary ones.  The expression  pepmasters  in paragraph 5 of this essay is one of the oldest samples I can produce from my published works. 

In the original series of essays in THE HINDU in the 1960s, I hadn't used any sub-titles ; but when presenting them in this blog, I have sometimes found it useful to divide the texts with sub-titles.  On this occasion, it has given me an opportunity to a brand-new expression  --  pepscripts.  Naturally, I find it reassuring that I still haven't lost my skills as a wordsmith!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keys Do Have A Way Of Growing On Rings!

As I have mentioned before, the series of English essays in THE HINDU, India's finest newspaper, with which I made my debut as an amateur journalist in the 1960s, had a classic literary quality, whether they were psychologically insightful character studies  (like The Marker, The Liftman, The Railwayman, The Old Boys, The Family Doctor) or just purely humorous sketches (like Hankies Galore!).  

So here are my reflections on keys, published in Madras 50 years ago, which are likely to ring true anywhere in the world today:

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Sunday Magazine, 1965

Causerie On Keys

Keys have a way of growing on rings.  Time and again you suddenly discover that you are carrying a surplus of keys, and you simply can't imagine what they're all wanted for.  The locks they could have opened have long been left behind, though the keys have remained faithfully with you.  However, you never can prune your key-ring without a lot of misgivings;  so you just put the extra keys in a drawer while you're thinking it over, and they accumulate rust for the rest of your life.

The prudent man seldom loses his keys;  but when he does, he finds himself in no less tight a corner than the sloppiest Bohemian.  I don't know where exactly all one's duplicate keys go, but I'm certain that they can never be found when they're most desperately needed.  Not infrequently, they would be inside some box whose key is among the ones you've just lost.  There's often nothing you can do about it except smash things up a bit.  Of course, when there's a car or a safe to be considered, the situation is a pretty grim one  ;  but there is never any sense in panicking.  In some respects keys are like pigeons:  and when they're misplaced they have a powerful urge to find their way back to you.  The important thing is to keep a cool head, and await developments confidently.  It does turn out almost always that the wretched things were only in the other pocket, after all  --  unless, of course, they had been under a cushion in somebody's drawing room or in your own car.

Keys signify many significant things.  They may no longer be a reliable index of one's property, as they must have been in the distant past;  but they still are a tangible measure of your authority and responsibility, and of the trust placed in you by your family and friends, your employer, or even the public.  The latch-key of your little apartment could be a yardstick of your happiness  (or, of course, your misery).  A turn of the jailer's key deprives the prisoner of his freedom, yet it has only to turn again to set him free once more.  Certain keys, moreover, are symbolic per se, like the ones presented by hospitable city fathers to visiting dignitaries.  Naturally, keys make an impact on their custodian's emotions.  But they're as varied in appeal as they are different in design:  some keys could make you quite sentimental, while others are capable of remaining so coldly impersonal.

I think collecting keys ought to be a fascinating hobby, and I am surprised that it doesn't seem to be a popular one, even in these original days when everything from pen-knives to picture postcards is grist to the collector's mill.  I dare say it's a pity, for keys do come in such interesting shapes, and they have a way of suggesting such intriguing associations.  You could often wonder what part in history or romance each key in your collection had played;  you could stroll about, so to say, near a treasure-house of imagination, and patiently wait for some magic key to reach your hands and throw its doors open for you.  But unfortunately, although everyone does pile up his or her share of them in their cup-board, keys by and large seem destined to elude the true collector's fancy.

Locks are a challenge to mankind's ingenuity, as well as a verdict on its character.  Millions of them lie scattered all over the world, each made in its own unique way, protecting not only the fabulous wealth of the rich but also the pathetic possessions of the poor.  Keys reflect, above all else, a glaring inadequacy of goodwill among civilized men.  Perhaps what society awaits is a daring innovator  --   you might say a philosopher endowed with a burglar's genius and a Henry Ford's enterprise  --  who would mass-produce a master key to open all the world's locks;  but is such an unusual keysmith likely to succeed any more than the poor alchemists who groped so uselessly for the mysteries of metal and the elixir of life?

Monday, June 23, 2014

From Montreal to Brazil : Minus 36 Hours -- From Argentina To Brazil : Plus 36 Years!

My last blog before this one (13 May) was actually the second of three progressive cameos I had wished to show you in December 2012, when taking a retrospective look at the evolution of live intercontinental television in India around 30-40 years ago.  Due to some mysterious technical problem I couldn't understand, this didn't get posted then.  

And I just restored it a few weeks ago as a sequel to the series of essays on friendship, as it featured my fictional friends who used to figure regularly in my column Delhiberations in the Evening News in New Delhi during the 1970s and '80s.  

To view the whole context in the correct perspective, you must glance through the three sketches in the following order, tracing my increasingly exciting televisual impressions of the Munich and Montreal Olympics (1972/'76) and Wimbledon 1984 :

     India : Infant TV vs. Instant TV    (3 Dec. 2012)
     Delhivision : Magic Of Montreal    (13 May 2014)
     Delhivision : Miracle Of London    (9 Dec. 2012)

Well, as you can see, we have been watching glamorous sports events live on a global scale in India for 30 years now.  But still, for an ultrasenior citizen like me, that amazing old experience of ever-narrowing time-lag in televiewing can never fade from the memory.  

And quite naturally, I can't help recalling those thrills of transition when I stay awake for several hours around midnight in India these days, watching the World Cup football matches being played on the other side of the earth and trying not to get bored.

The difference in time between Montreal and most of the World Cup venues in Brazil is just one hour, but in my perception as a long-time journalist, it's actually 36 hours! 

And in this nostalgic frame of mind, I can't also help recalling the following article I wrote about football and sensational sports-writers in the context of the scandalful World Cup gala in Argentina in 1978, exactly 36 years ago!  

----------- ---------- 

Glossary & annotation

Goalswami  --  derived from Goswami, which is a very common name in the Eastern state of West Bengal in India, meaning 'Cowgod'  (Go = cow, and Swami = god, in Hindi, Bengali and other North Indian languages).

Red Brigade  --  Related to terrorist threats in military-ruled Argentina hosting World Cup tournament.  

Ezeiza airport  --  international airport, 30 kilometers from Buenos Aires.

MacLeod  --  Ally MacLeod, manager of the Scottish team whichperformed disgracefully.

Connaught Place  --  Historic commercial area in New Delhi, with roots in early 20th-century British regime.

Hindi films  -- Popular Indian cinema used to overflow (as it still does) with extremely naive scenarios.

Vish  -- Short for Raja Vishnu, pen-name I had adopted for my Evening News column, as for my articles in Shankar's Weekly, known as the Punch of India.

Reuters message  --  It wasn't unusual those days for sports writers in India to re-write teleprinted reports filed by international news agencies.  

----------- ---------- 

Evening News, New Delhi
23 June 1978

Making a scoop

My good friend Goalswami, the sports critic, who covers football and hockey for a Delhi newspaper, is not known to let any sensational news go by without scooping it.  In fact, I've known him to create a lot of news.

So when he left for Buenos Aires to cover the World Cup matches, I started looking for some juicy stories.  

And sure enough, Goalswami sent despatch after despatch with the juiciest stuff.

Red Brigade have landed at Ezeiza airport!  --  Leading players doped!  --  MacLeod has resigned!  --  Italian team pays Austrian team to send wives back home!  --  Scottish World Cup fans face execution!  --  and finally:  Bomb scare in Press Center!

The other day I was dining in a Connaught Place restaurant, when I found a bearded gentleman at the adjoining table.  His face was strangely familiar.  He looked like Goalswami.

I was intrigued and walked up to his table and asked what time it was.

"9-30," he said curtly, and attacked the food on his plate.

"Excuse me, but aren't you Goalswami?"  I asked.

"Never heard the name,"  he said.

But I wouldn't give up.  You can't just grow a beard and expect not to be recognized by an old friend!  That kind of thing is possible only in Hindi films.

"Look, Goalie!"  I said. "Let's call the bluff!  You're supposed to be in Argentina!  What are you doing here?"

Goalswami tried to glare me away, but he couldn't.  Under my steady gaze he wilted.  Then he couldn't suppress a smile. 

"Look, Vish, let's keep this strictly between ourselves, shall we?"  he said.  "I came back from Argentina last week, but of course, I can't let anybody know about it.  That's why I've pasted this bush on!"

"But I read your despatch this morning, man!  How do you explain that?" 

"Oh, I just scrambled the Reuters message and unscrambled it --  nothing to it, you know!"

"But why have you come back?"

"Don't tell anyone, Vish!"  Goalswami confided.  "You know, I started most of the rumours out there, but people got wise to it.  Somebody phoned me and said if I didn't leave the country within 24 hours I would be blown to bits in the Press Center.  So I took the first flight out!"

I could see it all clearly now, and an interesting thought flashed in my mind. 

"And I suppose before you left, you started the bomb scare too?"  I asked. 
"Naturally!"  Goalswami said, fondling his false beard.  "I just couldn't resist it, old man!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Delhivision : Magic Of Montreal

My column Delhiberations, which used to appear every Friday in the Hindustan Times Evening News in New Delhi during several years in the 1970s and '80s, wasn't stereotyped, and didn't have a uniform mode of presentation.  It was basically a light-hearted commentary on passing events, with an accompanying cartoon drawn by myself;  but sometimes it could also acquire a serious tone and take a critical look at fundamental issues. And once in a while I would deal with a given topic in both styles in successive articles or on different occasions, reinforcing my reflections.   
And there was variety in the humorous approach, too:  sometimes there would be pure satire, and at other times there would be plain statements.  Quite frequently, I liked to put things in the form of a light-hearted chat between five intimate friends living in Delhi  --   one of whom was myself, of course. 

The familiar-sounding but non-existing names I had assigned to these imaginary friends of mine had special significance with reference to the great demographic diversity of India and some historic landmarks of its  capital city.  I shall explain this aspect some other time;  meanwhile, here's a typical conversation between them, on the slow but steady evolution of live television in India:

Evening News, New Delhi
23 Feb. 1977
20 Eyes For Montreal

"There are times when we can curse TV to our heart's content, but there are times when it's a real blessing," Rajpath Roy said'

"Are you talking about the Olympics?" Kutubullah asked.

"What else?"  Rajpath Roy said.  "Delhivision is doing a wonderful job, rushing the Olympic films to New Delhi within 48 hours."

"I think it would be 36 hours, rather,"  I said.  "Don't forget that Indian Standard Time is 11 hours ahead of Montreal time.  That means when it is Monday evening in Montreal. it's already Tuesday morning in India.  And Delhivision flashes Monday's events on Wednesday evening here!"

"I still remember the Munich Olympics which I saw on Delhivision,"  Safdar Singh said.  "It was a memorable show."

"Of course, it's not the same thing, seeing the Olympics on TV and attending them personally,"  Janapathi said.  "I was in Munich in 1972, and saw the Games.  It was a remarkable experience."

"Nothing is the same seen directly and on TV,"  Rajpath Roy said.  "But it makes a lot of difference seeing the Olympics on TV and not seeing them at all!  Take these gymnastics, for example.  It's one thing  just to read in the papers that Nadia Comaneci got 10 points out of 10 in three different events, and it's quite a different thing to seeing her actually do it, even if only on the TV screen!"

"You are perfectly right,"  I said.  "The important thing here is the speed with which the shots are rushed to your TV screen.  I am sure even the best documentary on the Games wouldn't be so thrilling if you saw it a month after the events.  This is where Delhivision has scored another splendid goal."

"You know, actually there's an advantage in seeing the Games on TV rather than in person!"  Kutubullah said.  "So many of the games go on simultaneously,  I am sure you can't see all the highlights if you are physically present in the stadium.  But on TV you don't miss anything important which happens.  It is as if you were present in 10 different spots at the same rime, watching the games with 20 eyes!"

"Naturally!"  Janapathi said.  "There are so many other events too, like the Republic Day parade, which are better seen on TV than in person.  But still, I don't think a TV show is a satisfactory substitute for the real thing."

"Look here, Jani, don't give us a big lecture  just because you are able to go abroad now and then and actually saw the Munich Games,"  Rajpath Roy said.  "If you feel so strongly about it, why don't you fly away to Montreal?"

"I've just been to Europe on vacation." Janapathi said.  "What do you think I am supposed to be doing?  Enjoying a permanent vacation, eh?"

"In that case, don't grumble!"  Rajpath Roy said.  "Just thank Delhivision for letting you have a glimpse of the Games within 48 hours!"

"You mean 36 hours!"  I said.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How My Friend And Czechmaster Herzlik Solved The Mystery Of The Misplaced Handkerchief

The series of classic-looking English essays  in THE HINDU with which I started my half-century-old track record as an amateur journalist consisted not only of character studies (like The Marker, The Railwayman, The Liftman, The Vegetarian, The Old Boys and The Family Doctor, which I have shown you earlier), but also exercises in pure humor with a classical flavour, like the following piece:


Glossary & annotations
(in same order as in text)

Laundry-man  --  50 years ago in India, a laundry-man (known as 'washerman' in English as spoken in British India, and dhobi in Hindi)) used to visit your home at regular intervals and collect the whole family's soiled clothes away, for washing on riverbanks or poolsides along with other families' clothes, and ironing in his hut or under a shady streetside tree.  Occasionally there were inter-family mix-ups, especially of handkerchiefs which weren't taken very seriously.      

Pen to be filled  --  Those were days when our basic writing implement in India was still the 'fountain pen'  --  which had a module fitted with a nib and a feeder, screwed on to a tube-shaped barrel;  and you had to unscrew them for re-filling the barrel with liquid ink now and then.  Today, in the era of sophisticated high-tech pens, many senior citizens like me still cling on to our vintage fountain pens (and actually use them sometimes!). Of course, some world-famous brands of the good old days still continue to be manufactured today in limited editions, to serve as status symbols or collectors' items;  and bespoke jewellers go on crafting  more and more expensive gem-studded fountain pens for super-rich customers.   

Crowded gallery --   Obviously where seats weren't reserved in advance but were occupied on a first-come-first-served basis --  not an unusual scenario in India those days.   

Harry Houdini (1874-1926)  --  legendary American illusionist, world-famous for performing miraculous stunts and escape acts.


THE HINDU Sunday Magazine
               50 years ago


I have lost hundreds of hankies as I have progressed in life;  I wouldn't know their number even approximately, for it's a long time since I lost count of them.  I wonder who did find all of them, and what use they were put to afterwards:  for a handkerchief, unlike perhaps even a shirt, is a highly intimate possession, and I can't imagine anybody just picking up an abandoned one in a cafe or cinema house and using it as his own.  Perhaps the management employs them for wiping the dishes, or for  dusting the seats.  Of course, a good number of handkerchiefs are lost in the washing, and I would give a lot to know what happens to them all;  no doubt sometimes they're merely palmed off by the laundry-man against the missing hankies of his other clients:  but even then, what did happen to those original pieces? 

But if you can't visualize any  use for your hanky after you've lost it, you are never at a loss to know what to do with it while you still have it.  In theory, of course, its scope is strictly limited to helping you wipe your hands or discreetly blow your nose (and, if you're a lady, delicately drain your tears);  but in practice its possibilities are almost endless.  Nothing comes in handier than a hanky when there is a pen to be filled, or a pipe to be cleaned.  At the table it can replace a missing napkin, in the nursery an over-worked diaper.  When you have your car's bonnet open, and can't find the cotton waste, what can be more natural than to pull out your hanky from the trouser pocket?  The inevitable and indelible stains hardly matter at all, since you're bound to lose the wretched thing soon anyway.  But the hanky is not without its more elegant uses.  Wiping one's glasses with it is often a glamorous act of showmanship;  and that little white rag which must adorn your dinner jacket could remain there for a lifetime without once needing a wash.

Reserving seats

Another admirable purpose served by the hanky is the safeguarding of space in a crowded gallery, whether in the theatre or in the sports ground.  You may without misgivings leave yours on a seat, and go out to buy peanuts or on any other errand;  you'll find both hanky and vacant seat intact on your return.  Surprisingly enough, the much-lost article never disappears on such occasions.  The crowd doesn't know you, and doesn't care two pins for your concerns;  and yet it respects, with a strange primitive instinct, your hanky and the rights it is supposed to represent, in much the same way as sovereign states acknowledge the explorer's ensign.  So far as my experience goes, it never occurs to anybody just to pocket your hanky and pretend to know nothing.  

So ingrained, in fact, is this will to surrender in the public's psyche that a friend of yours can easily reserve a vacant seat for you just by placing his own hanky on it ahead of your arrival;  and as you nonchalantly take your seat, you can watch the greenhorns who came before you gullibly milling around and trying to push other people -- but never other people's hankies, mind you!~ -- off their precarious perch. 

Romance and magic

The era of gentle romance has passed, and with it the subtler uses associated with the handkerchief.  We can now only read in the classics about resourceful maidens letting fall a discreet hanky and being happily wooed by the plucky man who picks it up.  However, there's still an element of gallantry implicit in the legendary piece of cloth.  The dandy who sports a colorful silk next to his neck seems to believe firmly in its powers to attract the opposite sex, and it's quite possible that he's rewarded for his faith more often than you and I would like to concede.  But while its romantic qualities have no doubt faded with the times, the handkerchief has lost none of its nostalgic appeal yet.  Appropriately enough, while it is waved by a thousand fluttering hands when a train pulls out from a platform or a ship leaves its moorings, it is seldom in evidence when long-lost friends and relatives are brought together again.  

The handkerchief has a traditional place of honor in the magician's bag of tricks.  He may not always pull out the celebrated rabbit out of his hat, but he never fails to produce his colorful hankies.  In fact, they have become such an integral part of his performance that we can no more imagine a magic show without hankies than a period play without costumes.  We may not readily see the reason for this;  but we don't have to, so long as the conjurer delights us (as he invariably does) with a spectacular exhibition of what he can accomplish with them. I'm not aware if the legendary Houdini ever exploited this marvelous material;  but if he didn't, I can only say that probably he withheld from his admirers the full fruits of his genius.


PostScript, 2014

Lost and found

In the preceding blog I had mentioned Mr. Borivoj Herzlik, an English professor from Brno who was teaching English and Czech to the Czech and Indian employees of the High Pressure Boiler Plant project near where I lived and worked as a railway officer.  There were two sides to our friendship:  he taught me some elementary but excellent Czech in his home in the week-ends, and was also an earnest reader of my essays in THE HINDU.

When I met him in the evening on a Sunday when this article had appeared in the morning paper, he showed me an old handkerchief and said he had found it on his sofa a couple of months earlier, and was trying to figure out to which guest he should return it. "And when I read your article this morning, I thought it must be yours!"  he said.  As, indeed, it was.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Universal Image Of The Family Doctor, Who's Also A Family Friend

A few weeks ago (Collective Friendship. . . .  March 24), I had recalled an essay of mine published by THE HINDU in 1992, in which I had observed as follows: 

The goodwill which develops between an efficient doctor and his or her satisfied clientele is another interesting example of the friendly ties which bind a group of people to an individual.  

Now here's one of my earliest essays, published by THE  HINDU  in 1963 or '64, in which I had earnestly explored the subtle nuances of the family doctor's character and concerns:


THE HINDU Sunday Magazine
            50 years ago

The Family Doctor

The family doctor is more than a mere physician;  he's a family friend, almost like a distant but very special relative.  He knows all about the physical troubles of the family members.  He's someone to whom everybody in the household has some special tribulation to disclose.  He's always a welcome guest, and his services are never thought of as just a business proposition.  Nor are his bills ever settled  in the same way as anyone else's; notwithstanding all the jokes we have heard about them, there's always an unwritten footnote of respect and affection in the check which the family sends him.   

Being a scientific man, the family doctor is naturally a very strict person, and wouldn't lightly tolerate any deviation from or disregard of his instructions.  But at the same time he's extremely good-humored, and puts up cheerfully with many a tiresome idiosyncrasy on the the part of his patients.  He rarely loses his temper, no matter what the provocation;  for his understanding of human nature is great.  When the family shows a tendency to question the appropriateness of his prescriptions, he usually puts up with it indulgently, and tries to explain his treatment without anger and in the simplest possible language.  It's true he sometimes assumes a glum and cynical air, but that's only the result of his drudgery.

Foundation of faith

Punctuality is not usually one of the family doctor's virtues, though it might be expected to be.  As a rule he has far too many engagements at any given time to be able to turn up at a place exactly when he's expected.  Often he's detained beyond reasonable limits by fussy relatives and argumentative patients;  and with infinite tact and resourcefulness he has to extricate himself for the next visit.  No wonder he finds it difficult to keep to precise timings.    Nevertheless, and perhaps not surprisingly at all, the Doctor is always present whenever he's most desperately needed.  He's not one to let you down when you rush to him for urgent help in a crisis.  Wake him up in the middle of the night on the telephone, and he'll be at the sick man's bedside within half an hour, if the situation really calls for his presence. 

The family doctor takes great pride in his work. That's of course why he's so touchy on the subject of any other general practitioner being consulted.  He's far too decent to deny permission when the family wants to call in a more distinguished or successful colleague, but he can hardly be expected to relish the experience.  One of the strongest forces which cements his good relations with the family is the confidence which the family members unanimously repose in him;  and quite understandably, when anything happens to undermine that faith even slightly, his whole personality suffers a set-back.  After all, the Doctor never does resent it when it's a question of consulting a specialist and not just another GP;  for he's quite rational, and is quick to acknowledge the specialist's superior competence in the latter's own sphere of study.  

True, he sometimes talks with bitterness and sarcasm about the specialist's ability;  but, like the bitterness of his pills and his mixtures, it's entirely without malice.  In fact, it's usually the Doctor himself who urges the family to consult a specialist, as soon as he senses that a case is beyond his capacity to remedy.  He's far too genuinely interested in the welfare of his patients to allow his professional pride to stand in the way of their possible recovery.

Stoic stature

Himself, the family doctor is no specialist, but an all-rounder.  His tools are not the elaborate devices of the nuclear age, but the simple stethoscope and the odds and ends contained in his familiar leather case.  In his heart of hearts, the family doctor wants to be, like his Creator, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent.  But he has no illusions, and knows only too well what his limitations are.  He's a constant eye-witness to the ruthless inevitability of decay;  his whole life is spent in watching the steady deterioration in the health of the homes he enters, in spite of all that he's able to do.  As the years roll by, the battle becomes quite hopeless, and the family doctor awakens to the frustrating truth that he can never hope to triumph over nature  --  whence his usually unassuming bearing, which perhaps the dazzling specialist, with his more circumscribed field of activity and his spectacular if transient successes, lacks.  

The Doctor never yields to despair, though.  He might not have a panacea for all mankind's ailments, but at least he knows where he stands, and certainly his are no mean contributions to society.  He fights disease and misery in his own stoic way.  The family doctor, one might almost say, is more a saint than a scientist.


PostScript, 2014

Universal phenomenon

I was working as a railway officer in a South Indian city called Tiruchi about 50 years ago, when I wrote the above essay.  One of the landmarks of the city is the St. Joseph's College founded in 1844 by the Fathers of Society of Jesus.  I had picked up a fine friendship with the Reverend Fathers Bergeron and Pays who taught French in the college, and who spent a lot of time and energy cultivating my conversational skills in  French.  And I was greatly thrilled when Father Bergeron told me that he had read this essay in THE HINDU and it strongly reminded him of a typical family doctor in France.

I had also developed a nice friendship with Pan (Mr.) Borivoj Herzlik  (pronounced Borzhivoy Herzleek), an English professor from Czechoslovakia who worked for the Czech-aided High Pressure Boiler Plant near the city, where he taught English to the Czech engineers and Czech to the Indian staff.  I used to meet him almost every week-end, for some very special Czech classes.  He was a regular reader of my HINDU essays, which he said he would take back home, for using as excellent texts in his English classes.  And he told me this article had accurately captured the image of a typical family doctor in Czechoslavakia. 

And of course, these reflections were very likely to have been valid almost anywhere in the world 5o years ago, when families everywhere were much larger than they are today, and specialists weren't as numerous as they are now.   But even in today's vastly altered social and medical  environment in India, the spirit of the traditional family doctor still survives to a limited extent, so far as very elderly patients are concerned.  Which is perhaps likely to be true anywhere else  in the world also!