Notes to Myself



Google Doodle on Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis and S. Swamy’s Combative Spirit


Today is 125th birth anniversary of Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis – noted applied statistician and scientist. Google has posted a doodle honoring PCM’s contribution in the field of Statistics and Mathematics.

Google Doodle - PCM

He is considered as the father of Indian statistical research.

Here is a brief biography of PC Mahalanobis:

Mahalanobis was born on 29th June 1893 in West Bengal and graduated from King’s College, Cambridge. He is known for his pioneering work in statistics and is most often remembered by the “Mahalanobis distance”, a way of measurement used in population studies and was one of the members of the first Planning Commission of India.

He was also awarded one of the highest civilian awards, the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.

India’s second five year plan (1956-1961) which laid heavy emphasis on the development of the public sector and rapid industrialization also followed the Mr Mahalanobis model which emphasizes the importance of building a strong domestic consumption goods sector, which was crucial to the nascent Indian economy and had a lasting impact on the nation’s development.

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis also taught at Presidency College (Kolkata) where, in 1931, he was responsible for founding the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI).

He further laid the foundations of Indian statistical system through the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO)

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, a man of diverse scientific interests combined other disciplines like anthropology, economics, physics to develop better approaches in the field of population studies, consumption and crop yields. Later on, he collaborated with both top economists and mathematicians from around the world.

He died on June 28, 1972, just a day ahead of his 79th birthday.

Interesting information…showing PCM in good light! Isn’t it?

But then I read a tweet by Anand Ranganathan – author and Right Wing proponent where he posted an extract of article written by Subramanian Swamy – the controversial politician, Ph D in Economics from Harvard, and later Professor at Harvard, and the man who is known to have fought with almost everybody. Swamy is known for his grudges and his philosophy, in his own words, has been – “I give as good as I get”.

And what Swamy has written about PCM puts things in totally different perspective. Here is the extract:

It has been my lot throughout my life to be confronted and to confront the corrupt and powerful. As a student of my Masters degree in the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Calcutta, the then Chairman P. C. Mahalanobis took a dislike to me because he and my father were rivals in the government statistical organisation. Mahalanobis was a corrupt leftist. I had come to the ISI as an innocent student with a brilliant first class B.A. Honors degree in mathematics. But Mahalanobis’ dislike of me filtered down to the professors. For no reason except to please him, they began failing me in every subject. A ruined career stared me in the face. So I decided to retaliate (a foolish resolve on first thought, since I was then a 19 year old student facing the darling of the Left, USSR, and Nehru: P. C. Mahalanobis). But I dropped everything, parked myself in the library, and read whatever Mahalanobis had written as a scholar. I found that his celebrated Second Five Year Plan model, the so-called Mahalanobis model, was actually stolen from M. A. Fiedman, an obscure Soviet economist of the 1930s. This discovery I could not use against Mahalanobis however, because neither the USSR nor the then docile Indian press would take notice. But I discovered that Mahalanobis’ magnum opus something called “Fractile Analysis”, had recently been published in a scholarly international journal. That research was, I found worthless when scrutinized under the modern microscope of modern mathematics. It was, literally, well-known earlier research re-hashed.

Mathematics laid bare the plagiarism. Mahalanobis was too big to be challenged by other Indian scholars. But I had nothing to lose.

Naturally when I wrote out my critique and sent it to the journal, it was hot stuff. The journal published it and asked Mahalanobis for a rejoinder. He had none. His reputation abroad was therefore in tatters. He never recovered from it. A 19 year old writing out complex mathematical equations was a novelty for Harvard’s Economics Department to whose notice the journal article came. They offered me a scholarship for a Ph. D. course. My ruined career prospects did a 180 degree turn! I never looked back thereafter. Had I not been cornered like a cat, I would never have ventured to demolish Mahalanobis.



So the roots of Swamy’s fiercely combative approach and legacy of taking of fights with everybody lie in his encounter with PCM! Quite a trivia…



Fantastic Mr. Feynman turns 100

Today is the 100th birthday of the amazing physicist Richard Feynman [Born 11 May 1918/ Died – 15 February 1988]. A Nobel laureate in Physics, he made learning science fun and easy.

Here is a complete Archive of The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Also watch his 1983 interview to BBC TV “Physics Is Fun To Imagine”


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Larry Ellison USC Commencement Speech | USC Commencement 2016

I have learnt so much from so many different people. They have influenced me and shaped my thoughts in many ways. Some of these people I like from Business/Management domain are:

  • Charlie Munger
  • Warren Buffett
  • Steve Jobs
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Henry Ford
  • Elon Musk
  • Rajiv Bajaj
  • Ajay Piramal

One person I have not followed much is Larry Ellison. I first noticed him when I read his quote which I blogged in 2007. I haven’t following him much since then. But I recently came across his commencement speech at USC and liked it a lot.

Check if you like it too. By the way he was 73 years old at the time of this address!

Sridevi and Principle of “Fit For Purpose”

Popular Bollywood Actress and arguably the first female superstar of Hindi Cinema, Sridevi (Age 54) passed away in Dubai on Saturday.

Sridevi is the first Hindi film actress I remember from my childhood days. I remember “Kaate Nahin Katate…” from Mr. India which I watched in 1987 when I was 7 yr old. (Oops did I just reveal my age?). This was before I watched on screen Madhuri Dixit (Tezaab in 1988 and Tridev and Parinda in 1989). Technically Sridevi is the second actress I watched. I remember Mandakini from Ram Teri Ganga Maili posters (in 1985). But I didn’t watch the movie until much later. But Sridevi was the first actress I remember seeing on screen.

Anyways, to cut the story short, Sridevi passed away in a tragic way. Initially it was reported that the cause of her death was a massive cardiac arrest. Immediately the WhatsApp University Professors swung into action! There were many messages circulated on WhatsApp speculating the cause of cardiac arrest.

One of the common theme was that Sridevi had regularly undergone surgery and invasive treatment and was on Botox to maintain her as slim and trim actress, trying to defy her age and look younger. Several “experts” talked about the side-effects of such treatments and stressed that such a tragic event was bound to happen.

One other message, on a lighter note, said:

An interesting aspect to note: Boney Kapoor (Sridevi’s husband and film producer) who drinks, smokes and doesn’t follow diet outlived the fitness freak (Sridevi).

I couldn’t resist myself and replied:

Nothing can beat this extreme example. Khushwant Singh (99) outlived BKS Iyengar (96).

For the uninitiated, Khushwant Singh was a famous Indian writer, journalist who routinely indulged in wine and women, never exercised, led a life full of (so called) vices and yet lived till age of 99 years. On the other hand, BKS Iyengar was a Yoga guru who practiced Yoga till his death and spread Yoga all over the world. And yet he lived only till age of 96.

And immediately I got the response which I had expected. In fact, I had framed the point such that I would get this reaction so that I could build upon it.

One friend said: But look at the Quality of life. Iyengar Sir was so fit even in his 80’s and 90’s. Khushwant Singh could barely walk in that age. So Iyengar lived a richer and better-quality life.

That gave me the opportunity I was looking for – to preach one of the key principles I like: “Fit for Purpose“.

Fit for Purpose is one of the core principles of Six Sigma or Lean philosophy. It also forms the backbone of Quality.

How does one say that Iyengar’s life was of better quality than Khushwant Singh’s? Yes, his fitness level was far better, but what was the purpose for which they used their bodies? Khushwant Singh was not a Milkha Singh who would run 100 m race, nor was he a Jagjit Singh, who would sing for hours at a concert (and hence needed to maintain his vocal chords and throat). Khushwant Singh was a writer and a journalist – which meant that he had to have a sound mind, alert brain, working eyesight and decent hand eye coordination. But among all these, sound mind and alert brain were the key. And Khushwant Singh had both, till very end of his life.

People often rate physical fitness far more than needed. I am not saying physical fitness is not necessary. It is very much required; but only to suit the purpose. Because the incremental effort and resources needed for achieving that extra bit of fitness is wasteful; and at times it is harmful too. For example, a software engineer, sitting for 8 hours in office needs to be fit. He should exercise to keep himself fit. But he doesn’t have to develop 6-pack abs. I have often seen that youngsters these days don’t understand this basic concept of “Fit for Purpose” and they take supplements, pursue extreme diet, exercise far beyond capacity to “look fit” (i.e. muscles and 6-pack abs).

But are they really fit? Many youngsters who appear fit from outside die of sudden cardiac arrest, or commit suicide or cannot handle mental stress. So their body could be fit, but their minds aren’t. Is that the sign of fitness? In fact, many a times even their body is not fit. Muscle does not equal to fitness. Flexibility, strength, durability, sustainability etc are all characteristics of fitness. But people succumb to only one definition of fitness – muscular and toned body. The same is true in case of women – and then they join the race of being fit, as per the social norms. They follow diet which isn’t natural to them, use cosmetic surgery, use all sorts of therapy to “look young”. But what about “feeling young”. What about developing a sound and agile mind?

I think “Fit for Purpose” is a very profound mantra which can be applied in almost all spheres of life. At common minimum, all people should aspire to live a long healthy, disease-free and productive life. And that requires a body and mind which fits that purpose. Post that, depending on your profession or your goal you would need additional fitness, which you not only want to achieve but also maintain.

“Maintain” part is important. Acquire a fitness level which can be maintained steadily. And do not focus only on Body. Focus equally on Mind. In fact, for most people who work in usual professions, soundness of Mind is more important than that fitness of Body.

Always remember: Fit for Purpose!

Know your purpose, your goal or your role; and see what fits it. Don’t go by someone else’s notion or opinion.

This is true not only about the body/mind but even for how you lead your life.tub.

Was Sridevi leading a life which was fit for her purpose? Or was she overtly obsessed with fitness and indulging in wrong/risky means to remain fit? We would never know…

The latest news on the cause of her death suggests that she was drunk and she accidentally drowned herself in the bath. It is also speculated that she was depressed or was unhappy and hence not “mentally fit”. So the pendulum of speculation has swung from one kind of fitness (Botox and surgery stories) to the other (“mentally unfit”, depressed). Good for TRPs…bad for family and close relatives involved.

Anyways, hope the people see fitness in right perspective and do what is fit for themselves, not influenced by someone else’s notion of it.

P.S: The second profound principle I like is “Right First Time”. Will write about it some other time.

Happy B’day Srinivas Ramanujan


Srinivas Ramanujan, one of the best mathematicians the world has ever seen, was born on this day, 22nd December 1887. His birthday is observed in India as National Mathematics Day. He barely lived for 32 years (died: 26th April 1920) but the work he did in the short span continues to inspire mathematicians even today. Some of his conjectures were proven 80 years after his death, and some of them are being used in research work on Black Holes.

You can read book “The Man Who Knew Infinity” based on his life, or watch the movie with same title. But the movie is not quiet up to the mark. I would recommend this video discussing the movie and the genius of Ramanujan. Do watch this:

It is an amazing interview explaining the genius of Ramanujan through multiple perspectives and also elaborating on what makes him truly great!

Recently I received from a friend following story attributed to Ramanujan…

What Is Friendship

Mathematician Ramanujan didn’t have any close friends – someone asked him the reason. He replied that although he wanted to have close friends – nobody was up to his expectation. When pressed how he expected his friends to be – he replied – like numbers 220 and 284. The person got confused and asked what is the connection between friendship and these numbers!

Ramanujan asked him to find the divisors of each number!

With much difficulty – the person derived and listed them.

220 – 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 20, 22, 44, 55, 110, 220

284 – 1, 2, 4, 71, 142, 284

Ramanujan then asked the person to exclude the numbers 220 and 284 and asked the sum of the remaining divisors. The person was astonished to find:

220 – 1+2+4+5+10+11+20+22+44+55+110 = 284

284 – 1+2+4+71+142 = 220

Ramanujan explained that an ideal friendship should be like these numbers – to complement each other – even when one is absent – the other should represent the friend!

The person thought – no wonder this genius is on the world’s top list of mathematicians!

As far as I know this story is unlikely to be true. I tried to read through many Ramanujan anecdotes and didn’t find this story in any authentic source. The numbers 220 and 284 belong to the type of numbers described as Amicable Numbers. This is the smallest such pair and such numbers were knows since 1400+ years, dating back to Pythegoreans

However there is another anecdote about Ramanujan which is definitely true; in fact the number is now known as Ramanujan Number – and the number is – 1729. The story goes as follows:

I remember once going to see him when he was ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavourable omen. “No,” he replied, “it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.

The two different ways are:

1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103

The story highlights greatness of Ramanujan. However it also misleads us to believe that Ramanujan was a math savant rather than math genius. If you have watched the above interview you would have known the difference.

So I won’t elaborate further and urge (or force!) you to watch the entire video!

Meanwhile, I will leave you with some of his amazing mathematical discoveries which are not only deeply complex but extremely elegant in form! (I am intentionally using word “elegant”, and if you have, by now, watched the above video, you would know the reference!)


Ramanujan once said “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God“. It says a lot about how he viewed and approached Mathematics!

Try This Personality Test

I took this personality test and got following result:

I have seen similar tests before. In my opinion what these tests do is that they try to gauge your present state of being – and not the personality.

For example, if I write the same test again tomorrow when I could be in a different state of mind, I might answer few questions differently.

I would like to try such tests at different times and then see if they can go beyond the present state of being and can really dig into personality.

Maybe they can.

P.S: Just wondering if these tests can identify (in a single run) people with a split personality 🙂

Indian Philmey League

IPL 3 has been exciting both on and off field. It has been said often that T-20 format would compete with Bollywood films because it is short (3 hrs), captivating and glamorous. And the predictions were more or less correct!

But what was not predicted that time was the IPL itself would become ‘philmey’ (filmy in Bollywood terms). What has unfold in last few days is nothing short of a Manmohan Desai or a Abbas-Mustan or a Ram Gopal Verma films…in fact combination of all of these (and many more)

Let’s start with the main actors and see how and where we end up:

It all started with announcement of 2 new IPL teams, life was much happening and yet smooth-sailing for Modi and Co. till then. So how did all the controversy start (or came to light..)

Nope. It was not because of the above image…

It all began of April 12 when Lalit Modi, commissioner of Indian Premier League (a domestic Cricket League which is into its 3rd season and is already a multi-billion event), tweeted about the details of Kochi team, a new franchise in IPL 4, that was sold on March 21 for Rs. 1530 crores ($310 million).  Sunanda Pushkar, close associate of Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, owned 18% free equity of the franchise. One of the partners in the consortium was Rendezvous Sports which was given 25% free equity at no cost, of which 18% was given to Sunanda!

This set the ball rolling…and lets see events that happened thereafter:

Tharoor replied next day with tweet – I’ve had enough followed by his press-conference link on this issue.

Vivek Venugopal, a co-owner of Kochi team asked Modi to reveal team ownership structure of 8 existing teams

Shashank Manohar, President of BCCI (highest cricketing authority in India that owns IPL), rebuked Lalit Modi over his public disclosure

CEO of Kochi team publicly announced that Lalit Modi had offered them USD 50 million to sell Kochi team (apparantly Modi wanted someone else to get the franchise)

Another spokesperson of Rendezvous Sports alleged that Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujrat, along with Lalit Modi had tried to pressurise Kochi team owners to give up IPL franchise

Meanwhile Tharoor said to a news channel that question of giving up minister ship was out of question and that ‘resigning would mean giving up’

Then Shashi Tharoor met Prime Minister of India on April 18 and briefed him. The same evening he resigned. He said he ‘did not want to embarrass Government.’ The resignation was accepted with immediate effect.

(This closes one sub-plot of Philmey League…if you want  a break take it NOW!)

During all this the Income Tax department of India had taken a note of all the allegations and it began enquiring Modi on Apr 16 (Now one can guess that I-T dept on its own won’t move…unless some higher authorities direct them to!)

I-T Dept searched IPL’s office, Lalit Modi’s office and the hotel where Modi had stayed

The BCCI said it had ‘clipped wings of Lalit Modi’ and that BCCI Chief Manohar was projected to Co-chairman of IPL. And that BCCi was not happy with Modi’s way of functioning and would discuss that on Apr 26

With Tharoor gone, its BCCI vs Modi now. And the strongman Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is still backing up Modi (his last but strongest supporter)

On Apr 20 Sharad Pawar met Finance Minister and Home Minister and Pawar was told not to back Lalit Modi.

Pawar’s next statement was ‘IPL governing council would discuss and take collective decision! Rumours spread that Shashank Manohar, now the Co-chairman of IPL would take over from Lalit Modi after IPL3

As the plot stands now: Modi is in trouble…and threat is from BCCI – which is entirely controlled by Sharad Pawar!!!

Now the Philmey League script would take several twists and turns and see how:

The news was planted in media that –

  • the TV broadcaster Sony MSM that paid multi-million dollars to bag TV rights had on its board (with some stake) some Prashant Sule – who happens to be son-in-law of Sharad Pawar
  • another Sharad Pawar aide Prafull Patel, who also is Civil Aviation Minister, had helped leak the bid documents to Kochi team (helping them win the bid for the franchise)
  • and how did this happen? – Well, Prafull Patel’s secretary received the bid documents and a business plan two days prior to bids were due. Who sent these documents to Prafull Patel’ s secretary? Prafull Patel’s own daughter!!!
  • And how she got hold of these documents??? Oh…here comes the classic twist of the Philmey League script.
  • Poorna Patel, the daughter of Prafull Patel works for IPL as personal secretary of Lalit Modi!!!
Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel and his daughter Poorna Patel

Meanwhile – Kolkata, Bangalore and Jaipur franchise stood back behind Lalit Modi. Consequence??? Income Tax Dept raided offices of all three seeking details about their ownership structure, financial status and possible illegal money transfer outside India and/or tax evasion 🙂

Now it was Modi’s turn –

Modi said he would challenge the possible BCCI action against him and would move court.

At the same time another news just ‘leaked’ in the media – Prafull Patel’s (who is Civil Aviation Minister) daughter, Poorna cancelled one of the flights of domestic airline (owned by Government of India), apparently the same flight was used to charter Poorna and her celebrity friends and guests of IPL to go watch an IPL match!!!

When CEO of the airlines was asked about it, he said “there is nothing unusual in this. Many a times we have to cancel flights and many a times the flights are chartered to Army or Rescue operations or foreign guests/ delegates” 🙂

Another business house Adani, that had submitted bid for IPL franchise said that its bid papers have gone missing!!!

A former cricket captain Pataudi has came out strongly against Modi and criticized him. Pataudi’s other connection with Modi??? Well, Pataudi’s son, film star Saif Ali Khan was one of the initial bidders for franchise but lost the race eventually…I now doubt if there could be a comment/ allegation that did not have any ‘second link’

The latest in this exciting script that is unfolding every minute is –

  • Modi has dared BCCI to remove him though he would not move court
  • Another story has leaked in media about how Modi has made a fortune by making personal arrangements with the franchise and has also bought a personal Jet out of it!!!

Look forward to how this Philmey story ends – if ever it ends!

Meanwhile – a sub-plot has emerged out of this. In all this Government tapped the phone calls of many people involved. Now the opposition (out of its own fear) has questioned this phone-tapping and is trying to corner the Government…

For someone unfamiliar with India, it would be difficult to understand where things start and what they lead to. I do not know of other Sports controversies that reveal so deep-rooted connections with politicians, sports officials/ players, film stars, celebrities and businessmen – all at the same time!

~ Kaustubh

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