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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat


Mourning a Friend of India Durable Link to this BLOG
Today, while browsing BBC, I learnt that Chantal Boulanger-Maloney died earlier this year.

She was an early admirer of Kamat's Potpourri (that's how I'd interacted with her) and great friend of India. Goddesses in Indian culture fascinated her and she spent may years in India studying temples, women, and especially sarees.

In her last years she worked to establish a "Museum of Unstitched Cloth" exhibiting such attire as turbans, lungi (mundu), dhoti, and of course varieties of sarees.

See Also:
• Saris and Temples Exhibit at BBC
• Chantal Boulanger-Maloney's Website
• Sari Varieties -- Different ways of draping the Indian Sari; includes pictures of sari wearing styles.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Last Modified: 6/1/2005 11:24:47 PM


Site Reorganization Notes Durable Link to this BLOG
I have decided to reorg some of Kamat's Potpourri -- keep the good parts, throw away bad parts, and re-organize the rest. Kannada Blog, and AutoBlog will probably go; I will port Aperture PhotoBlog (currently running on Microsoft), to the primary Linux box; re-build the fulltext index, and remove dead sites from the Web Directory.

I am also experimenting with alternate layouts for text advertisements, so please bear with me.

I am opening a new section on the Great Rivers of India, starting with Ganga.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, June 2, 2005
Last Modified: 6/2/2005 1:27:08 AM


Them ''Government Approved Forms'' Durable Link to this BLOG
It must have been 1977 or so. It was the beginning of the "Bribery Era" in India. The tax season came and nobody in my part of India could avail the tax forms. The tax collector, a Government official, blessed by Indira Gandhi I must say, figured out that by not making the tax forms available, he would cause a lot of people not to file taxes, which in turn gave him ample opportunities to harass the population, and extract bribes. If you know anything about bribery regimes, it is that the more the opportunity for harassment, more is the opportunity for collecting bribe.

Anyway, so no forms available anywhere and the deadline approached. The Chamber of Commerce in a nearby town convinced a local printer to reproduce the forms (Xerox or Photocopying had not yet arrived in India). I remember standing in a long line and paying two Rupees just to obtain the form.

Aha, but they were not the "Government Approved Forms"! Because they were printed on ordinary paper (the official forms from prior years had a greenish tinge to it), the tax collector refused all the tax returns that year. He and his brother-in-law then took untold amount of bribes to provide tax extensions and distribute the "proper forms".

In this context, you must understand the courage of my father, who told his only customer, The Indian Institute of Science, that he will not follow the "Government Approved Forms" for conducting business. "The only solution for you is to advise your faculty and researchers not to seek my services"-- my father wrote in 1982. What a free spirit!

The "Government Approved Forms" were to take a much uglier avatar in the later years in India before privatization started in 1990s. I particularly recall that the "Government Approved Forms for Application for Loan" were being sold in the black market for as much as Rs. 2000 under the "Loan Festival" (Loan Mela) bribe orgies arranged by Janardhan Poojari.

See more blog entries on My Life in India

Example of a Government Approved Form

I found a picture of a "Government Approved Form" that I took in year 2000 to make a ticket reservation (shown below) from Bangalore to Goa, a distance of 450 miles. It asks for such details as date of birth, gender, local contact address, local telephone number, destination address, destination telephone number, date, time (!), first number of passengers, then their names, where each of the passenger starts and ends the journey, class... It even asks where I will go afater visiting Goa.

Government Form to Book a Train Ticket

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Last Modified: 6/9/2005 8:36:03 AM


Misc. Notes Durable Link to this BLOG
Congratulations to Sathya and his team at Informatics on completing 25 years in content and journals business.

Yahoo: There's news that USA might open a new consulate in Bangalore or Hyderabad.

I have been playing with the Google Sitemap. The tool they provide ran like a charm, but it listed a lot of private stuff (it uses Unix's WALK, so even if you do not have a link to a file, it might get indexed by Google). You know stuff that you should have deleted from the webserver a long time ago. Remember the time your buddy couldn't open that spreadsheet so you made a HTML page for him? or the resume you uploaded to apply for a job a long time ago. or the source code you kept hidden so you could access it from a client site. Stuff like that.

I chickened out.

Perhaps it is best for me to write a program to adhere to the Sitemap protocol...

I did one of the 43 things I wanted to do before I die.

I strung my own racquet!

It was not easy, and I have developed a new respect for Lisa who strings my racquets every week (I seem to break them often, and I am not even a power player. I tried the Big Bangers. It lasted 11 days instead of 7, but cost three times as much).

Stringing a Tennis Racquet

Amma (via telephone) commenting on Chronology of Kamat Photo Archive, "no ordinary man can amass such a huge photographic collection, and he did it without having good equipment."

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, June 9, 2005
Last Modified: 6/9/2005 9:56:07 PM


T.B. Rajashekar is No More Durable Link to this BLOG

Dr. T.B.Rajashekar who was serving as Associate Chairman, National Center for Science Information (NCSI) at the Indian Institute of Science died in an automobile accident last week (via private email). He was 51.


A brilliant information scientist, Dr. Rajashekhar had recent years spearheaded the Institutional Repositories Movement in India as part of Open Access (OA) Movement. His articles on Digital Libraries and Metadata aggregation were both educational and inspiring. In fact I was browsing through his article "Towards a Global Digital Library for Education and Research" published in "Turning Pages- Reflections in Info-times" when I got the news.

Rajashekar obtained his doctorate in library and information science from University of Pune. Prior to joining NCSI, he had worked at National Informatics Center (New Delhi), at the British Council Library, and as a consultant to UNESCO on e-learning systems. He was the architect of the J-Gate electronic journals management and access system popular in India.

We will miss him.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, June 10, 2005
Last Modified: 6/10/2005 11:27:56 AM


Bring Back the Kaupina Durable Link to this BLOG
"Bring Back the Kaupina! "

That's what I say to the fashion designers. You might think it is crass, but it's the perfect attire for the beach -- and you will discover in this article on Kaupina, that people in India have been wearing it to work, temple, and of course, to the beach, for a long time. It's almost disappeared now.

Kaupina is a piece of cloth run between the legs to cover the private areas. Other cultures (especially the Japanese) might have similar clothing, but what makes kaupina fashionable is the the throw of the kaupina which can be rolled, braided, twisted, or just flown about. See how cool kaupina can be, from a painting depicting Shiva.

© K. L. Kamat
Depiction of Lord Shiva as a Wandering Ascetic
Sexy Outfit of Kaupina

See Also: Indian Attire Through the Centuries

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Last Modified: 6/14/2005 5:24:54 PM


Talking Langotis Durable Link to this BLOG
Thanks for all the messages on yesterday's entry on kaupinas, and requests for details on Langoti.

The langoti is not same as kaupina, although most English writers seem to refer to them with the same name.

The langoti is also unstitched (the edges are sometimes stitched for durability and for comfort when used for infants) piece of cloth that is worn like a brief.

Among our archives, I found this photograph that shows both. The man on the left is wearing a kaupina and the younger man on the right is wearing a langoti.

© K. L. Kamat
Halakki Gowdas
Photograph shows Halakki tribesmen in the village of Gunavante, 1982

We come across many depictions of langoti in Indian art --especially while portraying boy Krishna. Athletes such as wrestlers and body builders are also shown in snug langoti wraps.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Last Modified: 6/15/2005 3:17:33 PM


Fathers' Day Links Durable Link to this BLOG
Here are some father's day links.

The first is a link to my article How I sent my father to heaven. We get quite a lot of web traffic to that article by people searching for the words "my father" -- it is a such a generic term, that's why I find it amusing (see Adhik Prasangi for more terms by which people arrive at this site).

Bicycle Rickshaw, Plassey in Bengal

Remember the cycle-rickshaws? Industrialist Anand Saboo remembers his father Narayan Prasad Saboo training blacksmiths of Ranchi to make cycle-rickshaws. They were good for the operator and good for the passenger.

Gandhi at Study

Gandhi is referred by many as the father on India. I have compiled a photo essay of never before seen photographs of Gandhi in his ashram (photographed by V.N.O'key). A Day with Father of the Nation

Happy fathers' day, y'all.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, June 17, 2005
Last Modified: 6/17/2005 8:09:57 AM


Stuff... Durable Link to this BLOG
As summer started, my learning vacation ended today and I am back to the rat race.

A Great Guru Remembered

Meanwhile, Amma has a tribute for Prof. Dikshit.

In the Indian culture, a mentor (guru) is awarded the status of a supreme deity. In modern times, it is rare to come across the sacred bondage that is glorified in Indian culture between a guru and a disciple, but it does happen -- read Gadiyaram Ramakrishna Sharma's account for instance.

Prof. G.S. Dikshit

Prof. Diskhit was a guru to my entire family. A true well-wisher. Like a song I have been listening today:

Guru is the Supreme Maharaja
His bounties endless
His generosity, boundless
He is the all giving Kalpataru
Especially the gift of Liberation (mukti), given by my guru.

Separation of Blog and Business

Not that it matters, the President of GoDaddy is a "right wing nut job" (via TriNetre). The mistake he did though, was that he linked his company's site to his personal blog and infuriated many customers.

Book Tagging

Aaman Lamba of Self Audit book tagged me the other day. I've never done one of these memes, and probably won't start now.

However, I think the type of books one possesses or reads tells a lot about a person, so here it goes:

Total Number of Books: (estimated) 7000 -- Of course this includes my inherited collections which have already been donated to Kamat Memorial Library being built to honor my dad.

The Last Book I Bought: Kannada to English Dictionary compiled by L.S. Sheshagiri Rao

Last Book I Read (currently reading): Daatu by S.L. Bhyrappa, The Life of Pie by Yann Martel, and Tamilu Talegala Naduve by B.G.L. Swamy

Read about my all time favorite books

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Last Modified: 6/22/2005 8:14:54 AM


Remembering the Niranjans Durable Link to this BLOG
Remembering a Visit to the Niranjans

Kannada language readers are very familiar with the name Anupama Niranjan. She was a physician and pioneered the field of scientific writing for common man in Kannada by writing articles on medicine and science in popular periodicals. At a time when no TV or Internet was available, her columns were the sole means of obtaining sex education for teens in Karnataka during the 1970s. Dr. (Mrs.) Anupama Niranjan will always be remembered for her tips on fitness, nutrition, and lessons in human anatomy written in simple language and style so even those for barely literate could avail scientific information.

Her husband, Mr. Niranjan was a literary giant as well, but I don't think he wrote for periodicals (he only wrote books). I have read only one book of his --"Rangammana Vathara" , a novel set in an Indian home-block, and it is a classic. "Setuve" and " Mrityunjaya" are his other famous works.

You know my father -- he wanted to photograph everybody, common people and famous people, so one day (I was 14 years old) we went to photograph the Niranjans. I was awestruck by the Niranjans' warmth and friendliness, and especially, the cleanliness of their house -- you must understand, I grew up in rural India, where "clean" meant a fresh coat of cow dung. Bappa took numerous photographs, the three below are most memorable.

© K. L. Kamat
A Doctor and a Writer

© K. L. Kamat
Kannada Writer Niranjan

© K. L. Kamat
Anupama Niranjan

I was very much influenced by Mr. Niranjan (at that time, I had not read his book; and for worse, somebody had told me that he was Communist). His simplicity and honesty (he referred to himself as "the handicap") have left a lasting impression.

A funny thing happened on our way back from the Niranjan household. As great as the couple were, I could not ask to use their bathroom, so I had to go as soon as we left. It was dark, and on way to Jayanagar bus stop, behind a large neem tree I relieved myself. To my great shock a man rose from the ditch below and yelled. Apparently he was sleeping there! Even after all these years, I feel terrible that I urinated on a poor homeless refugee, even though it was by a freak accident.

Something about them teenage years...small incidents leave deep impressions.

Corrections from Amma: Anupama was a top novelist and short story writer among Kannada women-writers. Niranjana started his career by writing to periodicals, and he did it for several years. Many say that he could not overcome his "journo style" after switching to creative writing.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, June 24, 2005
Last Modified: 6/29/2005 9:11:12 AM


Links to Modern History of India Durable Link to this BLOG
BBC: "The Indians are bastards anyway" -- newly disconvered details about 1971 Indo-Pak conflict.

Rediff: The People of Emergency -- An excellent feature on an important period in the history of modern India.

See Also:

• My Memories of Emergency

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Last Modified: 6/30/2005 9:33:47 PM

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