Memory

Memory is our nemesis. Ever felt something was at the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t dig it out of your brain? Or why the brain throws random memories at you when you’re engrossed in something terribly important? Why do you suddenly break into the tune of a song you may have heard only once in your childhood? Why do you sometimes forget what you forgot?

We grow up with the habit of writing on paper, or on screens, and writing seems to be the only mode of storing information. When we need to store a number ‘8’…


Why do we need to learn anything at all?

Unicellular organisms (bacteria, protozoa), and many multicellular ones (the entire kingdom of plants, animals like sponge and hydra) live and die (happily?) without caring to learn a wee bit. Evolution has given them enough to survive and reproduce. Any further improvement by the individual organism is deemed completely unnecessary.

Life needs food to sustain itself, a means to reproduce, rest, and some mechanism of protection from danger (heat/cold, acid, predators etc). As long as nature provides, organisms are happy to comply. There’s hardly any room for improvisation. …


Firstly, I have not found any standard reference for this story. ‘Dashakaran’ is mentioned in Jain religious texts, but the Dashakaran in this story is a person — not an idea. I came to know of the legend of Dashkaran from a short story by Rajshekhar Basu (দশকরণের বাণপ্রস্থ, ‘Dashakaran’s Renunciation’ (non-bangla readers can find a translation here)), but have not found any mention of him in any ‘standard’ texts (i.e. the usual myth-mines, Mahabharata, Ramayna, Upanishads, Purans). I will retell the story as I remember from the Basu version.

Dashakaran (literally, ‘ten different ways’) was the king of Darbhavati…


The story of Jaydratha, especially that of his demise, is easily one of the most throught-provoking pieces in mythistory (well — yes, I coined that word; too bad English doesn’t have it yet). The story questions our views on morality and honour; but in addition, it also hints at scientific observations in that period of ancient India which we refer to as ‘epic period’.

In popular depictions of the Mahabharata (one of the two great Indian epics), Jaydratha is often portrayed as a sidekick to the villain, Duryodhana. However, as is characteristic of the epic, every character has its own…


After going through Part I and Part II, Sanskriti reminded me of the other meaning of translation — which I, being a biologist, should have thought of first. The process of translation produces a polypeptide from a nucleotide sequence, and is at the core of life on earth.

The central dogma

A little context will not be out of place here. Our physical bodies (in fact, every living thing) are made of proteins, which are aggregates of one or more ‘polypeptides’. These polypeptides are heteropolymers of ‘amino acids’, simple organic molecules with a carboxyl (-COOH), amino (-NH2) and some other side chain (I…


This is the right time to revisit Part 1, if only to get a feel of where I am going with this. This is not a technical article (for your own sake and everyone else’s, please don’t copy paste my code), rather my take on the linguistic aspects of computer languages.

In a rather sarcastic take on the INTERCAL language, Charlie Stross remarked:

INTERCAL is a programming language which is to other languages as elephants are to deep-sea fishing — it has nothing whatsoever to do with them. Nothing … except that it’s a programming language. …


For those who think the dark ages were over by 1700, you are wrong by 426700 years. It’s all just began. The last and the worst epoch of hindu time-cycle began about 5000 years ago, and it’s still a long time till it finishes up.¹ This epoch is named after Kali (कलि, as distinct from Kaali, the Goddess), a proverbial demon, who prevails over this age, and is generally held responsible for the mess we (mankind) find ourselves in today. …


I read an article by Aritra which got me thinking, what is translation — really?

Image from Douglas R Hofstadter. Godel Escher Bach. Basic books (New York)

In simplest terms, translation is conversion from one language to the other, while preserving the ‘meaning’ (we’ll come to that). Let’s examine these tenets in different scenarios. Of course, there are good and bad translations; but every now and often, you find really unjust translations from people you would least expect. Nabanita Debsen, in her essay Probasi Janmantar (‘প্রবাসী জন্মান্তর' )¹ cites a few examples of Rabindranath Thakur translating his own works for the European audience. What was originally in Bangla

স্বপন দিয়ে গোপনে ধীরে…


This is a continuation of Part I, as I dig up more from my crowded memory.

সীমাবদ্ধ (Seemabaddha, ‘Company limited’) by শংকর (Shankar)

Few authors get to be household names. Mani Shankar Mukherjee (Shankar) is one such who’s consistently topped the charts for decades. Several of his works have been translated, made into series and movies, and celebrated by thousands of readers. His specialisation — the reason he connects easily to his readers — is the workplace. I know not of another literateur who has consistently produced such masterpieces about offices, small and large businesses, show business and theaters, factories and hotels. His years of working tens…


In one life, one can read very little. Most of us will just skim through books, flip the pages, glance at the covers, even buy it, smell the chlorine, and then leave it to rot in an obscure shelf (yours truly is guilty as charged). Over half a lifetime of browsing through posh bookstores, libraries, book fairs in seven different cities, private collections, second hand marts at College Street, and books-by-the-kilo outlets near Sealdah station, I have experienced a pattern: for every 80–90 books you come across, there will be that one riveting one which you have to read cover…

Parikshit Sanyal

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