By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Blue Danube Blues

There's something fundamentally romantic about all rivers in the world.  But some rivers have far brighter romantic colours than others, because they happen to be pictured exquisitely in world-famous works of art, music or literature. 

One of the finest examples of such works is the immensely popular waltz  An der schönen blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube) -- composed by Johann Strauss Jr. of 19th-century Vienna, immortalizing the magnificent 1800-miles-long  river which flows through picturesque scenery in several countries in Central and  Eastern Europe, from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in the Balkans. 

Distant vision
Distance adds greatly to the romantic appeal of any setting;  and my own original perception of the Danube was particularly colourful because, as a sensitive schoolboy in far-away Madras in South India  --  armed with an adequate self-taught knowledge of French and a fabulous made-in-England super-heterodyne radio set bought by my father in 1939 -- I regularly used to hear crystal-clear broadcasts in French from Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, and occasionally heard the lovely tunes of The Blue Danube dance on those or other stations.
And later on, among the very first set of long-playing records I bought as a young man in New Delhi was a fine collection of Johann Strauss waltzes including The Blue Danube, rendered beautifully by a full-fledged symphony orchestra.  And in due course, I would hear many superb orchestral  and choral versions of the masterpiece on the radio, LP records or audio cassettes;  and my romantic vision of the river just grew and grew!     
Close views

So it was only natural that I was looking out for the Danube with great expectations when I happened to visit Vienna 30 years ago.  At first I was mildly disappointed because what flowed inside the city was only the Donaukanal, a far less imposing branch of the river (though it did have its own charm, I must say).  And although I wasn't really expecting to see  sparkling blue waters when I drove out to see the actual river, the  ground-level view of the dull gray mass of water wasn't particularly impressive.           
But my day-dreams about the Danube did come true vividly a couple of years later when I visited Budapest, where the river bisects the city into the twin equal segments of Buda on the hills and Pest on plain ground.  And whether I looked across the river from a hilltop on one side or from the riverbank on the other --  or stood above the river midway on  the quaint old Széchenyi  Bridge -- I had some truly breathtaking views of the Beautiful Gray Danube.

Distressing news

With so many wonderful impressions of the Danube tucked away in one's memory, it's extremely distressing to witness the ongoing environmental drama in Hungary, where a horrendous mass of red toxic sludge had recently burst through the walls of an alumina factory reservoir about 50 miles away from the river, turning into a menacing flood, wrecking large sections of the countryside, and eventually flowing into the Danube itself through creeks and connected waterways. 
This disaster has not only caused a colossal ecological crisis in Hungary, but is also posing a grave threat of pollution to several other countries further along the Danube's course (Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine), and also the Black Sea.  Not that those sister countries are all just innocent onlookers!  Some of them seem to be having their own toxic time-bombs ticking away in the shape of derelict storage tanks and ponds holding enormous quantities of poisonous  chemical and metallic wastes. 
And in many of those hazardous spots, which are not far away from the banks of the Danube, run-down storage facilities seem to be just waiting to burst and pour voluminous and venomous effluents into the great river.  How long, I wonder, before someone composes a nostalgic song called The Blue Danube Blues!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ochi Chorniye!

On October 20, when I posted my random reflections on the discovery of water on the moon, I had no idea that from the very next day onwards the whole world would reverberate with exciting fresh news and reports on the same topic!  

I need some time to review and respond to the voluminous onflowing information.  Meanwhile, when looking for some data about the Luna moonshots from Russian sources online in this connection,  I found myself humming the famous song Ochi Chorniye (Dark Eyes), so let me just talk about it today!

Although this is a Russian gypsy song,  it was actually derived from a poem written by a 19th century Ukrainian-Russian writer called Evhen Grebinka;  and its fascinating tune had actually been composed by a German musician called Florian Hermann as a waltz.  It isn't very clear how such poetry originally set to alien art music had got transformed subsequently as an authentic Russian traditional folk song!  

Endowed with extreme flexibility, this beautiful blend of fine melody and fast rhythm has been rendered by master vocalists and instrumentalists in Europe, America and elsewhere in different musical idioms as divergent as opera,  jazz and classical piano.     

There are several websites where you can hear the song online.  But it may be a good idea to begin with Sophie Milman's jazzy but clearly-rendered version on YouTube.  hearing it several times while glancing at the lyrics simultaneously.  When these become familiar,  you can proceed to hear other related versions, in styles ranging from gypsy to jazz  --  vocal or purely instrumental,  ranging from trumpet to balalaika.  

I've done the following transliteration and translation in consultation with my lifelong friend S. Rangarajan (alias RJ) who had lived in Moscow for several years and now lives near Washington, DC.   They're as close to the Russian sounds and meaning as we can get.   
Ochi chorniye,  ochi zhgoochiye,
Ochi strastniye i prikrassniye!
Kak lyublyoo ya vass! 
Kak bayoos ya vass!
Znat uvidyel vass
Yav nyedobriy chass!

     Dark eyes, burning eyes,
     Passionate and beautiful eyes!
     How I love you!
     How I fear you!
     Oh, I had met you
     At an unkind hour!

Ochi chorniye,  ochi plamyenny!
I manyat anyee fstranny dahlniye,
Gdye tsareet lyubov,
Gdye tsareet pakoi,
Gdye stradanya nyet,
Gdye vrazhdy zapryet! 

     Dark eyes, fiery eyes!
     They lead me to a far-away land,
     Where there's love,
     Where there's peace,
     Where there's no suffering,
     Where enmity is forbidden!

Nyef strichal bi vas, nye stradahl bi tak,
Ya bi prozhil zhizgn oolibayuchiss!
Vi zgubili mnya,  ochi chorniye,
Oonyisli na vyek mayo schastye!

     If I hadn't met you, I wouldn't suffer so,
     I'd be spending my life cheerfully!
     Oh you've wrecked me, dark eyes,
     You've ruined my joy for ever!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Water On The Moon

So last year ISRO and NASA had collected what looks like conclusive evidence
of the presence of water on the moon!  (Articulations Online, Oct. 20).  I have
some significant  comments on this;  but meanwhile, let us see what our friends
Bill Concorde and Joe Goodfellow discovered on the moon last week!

Wednesday, October 20, 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."

Bravo, ISRO!  Bravo, NASA!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Psychology Of Turbulence

Reviewing the triumphant march of modern science and technology during the past 100 years or so (Tempo Of Transformation, Sept. 29), I had roughly divided the 20th century into three uneven segments -- marking the milestones at 1940 and 1990, and extending the last decade upto 2010 -- and pointed out that the pace of technosocial change in the  world had dramatically accelerated in those successive phases, turning quite turbulent in the last one.     

     Obviously the extent and tempo of change wouldn't have been identical all over the world at any given point of time, or during any given time-span.  But the overall impression conveyed above -- which is based on my cumulative perception of the global scenario as an intelligent and educated citizen of India --  would be more or less true of all economically advanced regions of the world as well as many steadily developing ones.

 Perspectives and perceptions

     I was a schoolboy when my country was transformed from a British colony into an independent, strongly democratic Republic in 1947.  And although India was (and to some extent, still is) a 'developing' nation, it had actually made very impressive technological progress by the beginning of the Second World War -- and, thanks to the political and commercial concerns of the British regime, had excellent roads and railways, dams and bridges, ports and factories, mills and machines, and so on.    

     Thus, by the middle of the 20th century India had harvested many  technosocial benefits of the industrial revolution without actually going through the initial and intermediate processes of ploughing the fields and sowing the seeds.  It had then steadily made further scientific and economic progress during the next half-century.  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.      

     One of the finest assets inherited by independent India from the late British Empire was the well-entrenched English language, which has made successive generations of educated Indians very familiar not only with the wonderful treasures of English literature,  but also with the scientific and social scenarios prevailing in Great Britain and other developed nations of the world throughout the 20th century.      

     Given all these relevant facts,  it isn't really surprising that there would be a certain similarity between my environmental perspective and the average senior English citizen's!   Naturally, it may clash with the impressions of someone with a very different background altogether.  To that extent my own opinions may need to be modified with reference to some specific regions of the world;  but that's unlikely to dilute their intrinsic logic.
Passive role

      I had been a student and civil servant throughout the half-century (1940 to 1990) which marked the second technosocial phase of the 20th century,  and became a senior citizen in the third phase (1990 to 2000+).  As a little boy I was  fascinated by the romantic sights and sounds of railway stations and steam-spewing locomotives, and later on by the sheer thrill of ever-faster rail travel after steam power was replaced by diesel and electricity.   
     By the time I had any opportunities for flying, jet planes had already  arrived in India;  and my very first flight was in a Caravelle, from Bombay to Madras.  Later on I had to fly very frequently in much larger and far more sophisticated  aircraft, till a stage was reached when flying was no longer an adventure but had become a routine affair.
     But no matter how frequently and extensively I travelled by rail or by air, I never actually felt disturbed or overwhelmed by the concerned technological marvels, just taking them for granted --  because for enjoying the immense benefits they brought to me, I didn't have to take any technical initiative or responsibility of my own.         
     I've mentioned trains and passenger aircraft just as a couple of examples, to illustrate the passive role played by the ordinary users of most products of 20th-century technology.  Many other wonderful inventions too -- such as radio, television, recording or motion picture machines, etc. -- which had enormous mass appeal, made no technical demands whatsoever on the beneficiaries, peacefully insulating them from all related tensions.       

Psychological pressures
     By contrast, the endlessly voluminous Internet -- reinforced and extended by the ever-more-sophisticated innovations in computer and cell-phone technologies, and constantly stretching the horizons --  seems to call for a very high degree of technical competence and involvement even from the ordinary beneficiaries, whose numbers have started swelling into billions and are still soaring.      

     But that's only one of several significant factors which, taken together, apply tremendous psychological pressures on individual users as well as the ever-expanding community of consumers,  making the social impact of 'information technology' resemble a furious hurricane blowing all around the world.    The vital forces causing such universal turbulence include the phenomenal growth of professional opportunities and 'social networks',  the unlimited sources and storgage of information, the progressive invasion and loss of privacy,  the incredibly rapid obsolescence of basic tools and systems, the menace of malpractices -- and, above all, the dramatic changes in lifestyles and cultural affairs. 


(to be continued) 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Transglobal Vision

     Somehow infiltrating into the mysterious universe of the Internet and occupying my own personal space in it,  I've naturally started writing this online column with some far-reaching reflections on the fantastic progress of modern science and technology and its increasingly tumultuous impact on the whole world in social terms.  Perhaps it will strengthen my credentials if I mention here that there was a time when I had a fruitful professional relationship with the scientific community, and that I can count some eminent scientists among my best friends.           
     In the course of my varied experience as a senior civil servant in India, I had served as Financial Adviser to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in New Delhi for several years, having very close and critical encounters with enterprising scientists and technologists engaged in nationally important development-oriented research. 
     One of those distinguished colleagues (and a lifelong friend) is Dr. Mallela Ramaiah, who had done some precious pioneering work as the Director of the Structural Engineering Research Centre in Chennai, where an immense suburban hillside station built by him for testing  transmission line towers has acquired an international reputation as one of the best among such facilities in the world. He had also established the Indian Concrete Institute, and made a vital contribution to applied science and social welfare in several developing countries in Asia as a civil-engineering expert associated with important UN-Habitat projects.
     By a pleasant coincidence, both Dr. Ramaiah and I happen to be visiting our children and grandchildren in Portland (Oregon) right now.  Having this unexpected opportunity to discuss my inaugural theme with an old scientist-friend here in America -- exactly on the opposite side of the world from where we normally live and often meet for a rational exchange of  views -- I do get a feeling that this is probably an ideal place and time for me to project an objective transglobal vision of technosocial trends!
      (to be continued... )

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Space Net

In the 1970s and '80s I used to write a light-hearted weekly column called Delhiberations in the  Evening News in New Delhi, reinforced by a related cartoon drawn by myself. 

My focus was mainly on the social and artistic scenario in Delhi (Old as well as New);  but quite often my attention used to wander all over India and the  world, as long as the contexts could be somehow related to Delhi.

Once  in a while I even went on an excursion into outer space, featuring a couple of cheerful spacemen called Bill Concorde and Joe Goodfellow. And the last time I drew a cartoon featuring them was around 1985, soon after which I had discontinued the column.

I am glad that today, after a quarter-century, I have an opportunity to bring Bill and Joe back to life --  so here they are, following up my comments  in Tempo Of Transformation yesterday.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tempo Of Transformation

With intense nostalgia I had recalled in this column last week (Sept. 21) that a beautifully illustrated book called Marvels Of The Modern World -- published in London just before the Second World War -- had not only given me a vibrant vision of modern technology when I was a very young student in India in the 1940s, but had equally fascinated and inspired my schoolgoing children some 30 or 40 years later.  And I had observed:

     "..... An important reason for such high durability of the pre-War book, I believe,  is the fact that although the progress of science and technology during the half-century between 1940 and 1990 was no doubt spectacular compared to any earlier period in world history, it was much slower and far less turbulent than during the next 20 years from 1990 to 2010."    
     I knew perfectly well that in expressing the above opinion I was running the risk of attracting some  adverse criticism in science circles:  for it could be asserted that the tempo and magnitude of the progress achieved in science and technology for several decades around the middle of the 20th century were no less dynamic and impressive than they've been during the past 20 years around the millennium mark. 
     And in specific terms, I knew one might well be tempted to ask indignantly:  were the amazing results achieved in the exploitation of atomic energy and the exploration of outer space during the period in question less formidable and significant than the fabulous progress made in the fields of computers, telecommunications and 'information technology' later on?  

Symbols of change

     Such claims and questions wouldn't be merely hypothetical ones.  and there would certainly be a large grain of truth in them if you considered the issue from a purely scientific point of view.  But my answer would be that I am not a scientist, and I am not looking at the scenario in exclusively scientific terms.  Rather, I am an articulate layman surveying the trends from a social angle also --  or,  to put it more accurately, in a technosocial perspective.      

     I had actually specified 1940 as a significant date in this context only because it indicated the beginning of the decade during which I studied in elementary school and started gaining intelligent impressions about the world at large.  But of course it was a very crucial decade in the history of modern science and technology,  explosively marking the dawn of the atomic age.

     The 20th century, in my opinion,  can be roughly divided into three distinct segments, which we may conveniently call airborne age (1900 to 1940), atomic age (1940 to 1990), and Internet age (1990 to 2000+).  In making such a division, we would only be adopting the advent of the aeroplane, atomic energy and Internet as symbolic landmarks ushering in successive phases of the ever-changing environment, without ignoring other important and parallel phenomena of scientific progress.
      And it will need only a little reflection for anyone to realize that during each of the above phases, the quantum and tempo of technosocial transformation has been dramatically greater and faster than in the preceding phase, reaching turbulent levels in the last one. In fact, that's precisely the basis I have adopted for drawing the dividing lines.   
     This trend would seem to be all the more intriguing if we conceded that the actual progress of science and technology was no less spectacular around the middle of the 20th century than towards the fin de siecle.  What, then, is the true reason for the frenzied tempo of the past twenty years?  

     That may sound like a very intricte question, but it isn't really difficult to find a convincing answer!  All we have to do is to study the social effects of the marvels of modern science and technology during the successive timespans we have identified above.  
     (to be continued)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Love And Live!

In a Postsript last week (Sept. 17),  I quoted a limerick I had written long ago as a young student in India. That had been an attempt to imitate Edward Lear, of course. 

It reminds me of a short poem I had composed as a college boy (one of about half a dozen).  I had just started learning French with the admirable self-instructor Teach Yourself French by Norman Scarlyn Wilson,  published by the English University Press, London.  I was trying to  get the conjugation of the verb aimer ( to love) by heart,  writing down the whole sequence repeatedly.  The present tense went as follows, of course:

tu aimes
il aime
elle aime
nous aimons
vous aimez
ils aiment
Reciting and translating this mentally again and again,  I thought it sounded rather nice, so I just wrote it down in English also --  and with a little extension I did have a lovely poem!   I don't  know if Argosy in England would have published it if I had sent it to them, because I never did.  So let me publish it myself  here today, more than 50 years later!

Conjugal conjugation 

I love
You love
He loves
She loves
We love
You love
They love

I live
You live
He lives
She lives
We live
You live
They live

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marvels Of The Modern World

Overawed by the thought of a potentially massive response to these personal views and visions of mine which I've just started weaving into the invisible and apparently infinite fabric of the World-Wide Web  --  but restrained at the same time by a keen awareness of the fact that such a marvellous dream may not come true at all  --  I had concluded my initial comments in a sober mood as follows (Sept. 15):

     "..... I therefore embark on this trans-Cyberian voyage confidently, expecting that my reflections will pass the test of time and will be floating around the world for a long time to come.  I do earnestly hope that sooner or later they will be retrieved, read and quoted by at least a single scholar doing research in social history, mainly for whose benefit I shall be writing this column.  

     "But who knows, a million other people in a hundred countries may also discover it in due course....  and if that happens, it will be another miracle of the modern world!"    

      Reviewing the last thought I had expressed only a few days ago, and looking back at some of the scientific and environmental scenarios which have survived in my memory for more than half a century, I recall that one of the books which had made the most powerful and lasting impressions on my mind and imagination when I was a young student was a handsome volume called Marvels Of The Modern World.

Tempo of progress

     It belonged to a wonderful set of general-knowledge books published by the Home Library Club in London and imported into India just before the the Second World War.  Beautifully bound in brown or dark-green hard covers and containing hundreds of glorious black-and-white photographs, all those books (bought by my father who was a civil engineer) had given me a global vision of scientific and cultural progress which has governed my whole outlook and attitudes in related contexts to this day.    
     This was particularly true of Marvels Of The Modern World, which depicted, in lucid texts and graphic pictures, the evolution of engines and railways,  ships and submarines,  aeroplanes and automobiles.....   the development of telegraph and telephone, radio and gramaphone, radar and rockets.....   the building of roads and tunnels,  dams and bridges, dykes and skyscrapers.....  the exploration of oil fields, polar ice caps, and ocean beds..... the generation, transmission  and distribution of electricity.....    and so on.    

     A remarkable thing about the book was that even 30 or 40 years later it was a source of great fascination and inspiration for my two children who were schoolboys in India in the 1970's.  It is difficult to imagine any book on science and technology published 50 years after the Second World War having such equal and enormous appeal for parents and children alike!

     An important reason for such high durability of the pre-War book, I believe,  is the fact that although
the progress of science and technology during the half-century between 1940 and 1990 was no doubt spectacular compared to any earlier period in world history, it was much slower and far less turbulent than during the next 20 years from 1990 to 2010.  

Beyond the sound barrier
     Many specific examples can be lined up for illustrating this significant aspect;   but let me just
mention one of them here -- the sequence of land speed records broken and retained during the 20th century: 

     The first and last world records for maximum land speed rose from 39 miles per hour in 1898 to 763
mph a full century later in 1997.  It had crossed the landmarks of 100/200/300 mph in 1904/1927/1935.  

     My Marvels edition showed George Eyston as the glamorous record-holder, at 357 mph, achieved in 1938 with his famous car Thunderbolt.  That was overtaken by John Cobb in 1939 at  370 mph.

     It took another quarter-century for the 400/500/600-mph landmarks to be crossed (in 1964 and '65,  by Donald Campbell in a wheel-driven turbine car;  Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove in turbojet-propelled cars).  The 700-mph hurdle couldn't be passed during the next three decades;   but suddenly in 1997,  Andy Green shot through the sound barrier in a turbofan car, touching 763 miles per hour (Mach 1.016).

      Perhaps this record or the next one  will be the ultimate level beyond which land speed cannot be attained by any vehicles running on wheels,  even if they're equipped with still more powerful jet engines.  For even the most fabulous marvels of the ultra-modern world would seem to have an absolute limit somewhere  --  except, of course, the never-ending expansion of  the Internet's mysterious memory!   

Friday, September 17, 2010


I wrote a couple of days ago: "But the Great Cyberian Ocean doesn't seem to be restrained by any law of limitation.  It just keeps surging and swelling on and on and on somehow...."

Well, that makes me think of a limerick I had written as a schoolboy in Madras more than 60 years ago:

There was an old man of Dover
Who rolled over and over and over
 And over and over
And over and over
And over and over and over....

I am glad to find that my own memory isn't so bad, after all!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Cyberian Ocean

Today, when I start writing my first composition in this independent online column, my mind is naturally full of reflections on the intriguing electronic universe called Internet and the apparently endless manifestation of cyberspace.  Even if I come down from a cosmic level of contemplation and try to view the phenomenon in merely earthbound terms, I can visualize it only as the Great Cyberian Ocean across which I am somehow venturing to sail on this small and insignificant boat of mine.
     Mind you, I am not really a stranger to electronic communications, having acquired an e-mail identity and address several years ago in response to my children's forceful demands.  But being a senior citizen born well before the middle of the 20th century, I find it impossible to see through the mind-boggling mystery of the Internet --  although I am not quite unintelligent and had faced no serious difficulty in understanding the basic principles of atomic energy, space travel or genetic engineering when I was much younger.   
     And this happens to be so in spite of my own name being instantly recognized by the online search engines as a journalist writing a regular column called Musicscan in The Hindu, one of the most prestigious English-language newspapers in the world!   

Endless memory

     What truly mystifies me in this context is not the instant transmission of extremely massive data across the Internet,  but the amazing fact that there seems to be absolutely no limit to the amount of new information from world-wide sources which can be added to its awesome memory permanently without having to remove any of the voluminous information already stored in its formidable electronic brain.  

     Just imagine a million rivers pouring trillions of gallons of water every minute into the world's oceans, and not a drop of that unlimited liquid mass ever evaporating by natural causes!  How long and how large can the oceans grow without generating huge tidal waves and submerging the entire globe? 

     But the Great Cyberian Ocean doesn't seem to be restrained by any law of limitation.  It just keeps surging and swelling on and on and on somehow;  and yet we are all still undrowned and feel quite safe,  going about our usual business without a care in the world!   

Test of time
     The Internet's constantly expanding capacity for absorbing an endless flow of all kinds of useful and useless information is only one side of the profound mystery surrounding the whole new scientific concept of 'information technology'.  Its other side, of course,  is the inverse ratio of the spectacularly growing volume of information preserved and the rapidly shrinking space required for its storage.

      If this trend continues indefinitely and if there's an imbalance in the above ratio, a point of time may be reached when the online memory may well get overloaded and begin to malfunction, and the mystery will be over then.  But if the near future is a reliable reflection of the recent past, we who are alive today -- or at least the seniormost citizens among us, like myself --  may not face such a calamity in our lifetime.

      I therefore embark on this trans-Cyberian voyage confidently, expecting that my reflections will pass the test of time and will be floating around the world for a long time to come.  I do earnestly hope that sooner or later they will be retrieved, read and quoted by at least a single scholar doing research in social history, mainly for whose benefit I shall be writing this column.

     But who knows, a million other people in a hundred countries may also discover it in due course....  and if that happens, it will be another miracle of the modern world!