Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Something about me





Me on a boat in Nainital

One useful thing about blogging has been the archives of old posts, one does not have to repeat oneself endlessly on a topic but rather just refer someone to a link if the matter comes up again later. The present post is just about me rather than the wide world. However, it too will serve the purpose of describing my self to anyone in future, if required. I shall just give them this link. When one has expressed one’s views on something,  some readers wish to know more about the author before deciding if to take him seriously or not. Social media sites carry an about me section but that rarely tells much. Someone might just list, love Salmon, for example.


The idea for this post sprang up from a train of thought from the last post about President Obama and food. My profession has been that of an engineering academic although I am now retired from most of it. While most Professors at universities confine themselves to their subject at hand some like me interact with the wider world too. We are told that in good universities, Professors have a responsibility towards society at large too and should influence policy and opinion outside of their immediate subjects if they have something useful to contribute or if they feel passionately about a subject so as to add the most educated opinion available to public debates. I too have done that through my career and at times even communicated with important leaders of our world. In the old days there was snail mail and over the last decade it has become much easier to do it through the internet.

When one communicates with a world leader, many communications are just simply ignored. They have far too much on their hands to pay attention to everything. Sometimes they read it and on some occasions act on it too but rarely do they communicate back. The words of important leaders are under scrutiny and dissected minutely by the media. Therefore silence most times is the preferred route. It is so even with leaders who are active on social media like President Obama or the present Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Their frequent communications are one way communications. They rarely if ever respond back to a comment or query. However, on some occasion they do, and even in the days of snail mail they used to respond from time to time. I have received a note from President Bill Clinton once, a long letter from a Canadian Prime Minster – Kim Campbell over the issue of Bosnian children in the nineties, several letters from a former Prime minister of India and also one from the UN Secretary General. I recall these and have preserved many of them because such communications are treasured by citizens.

However, even when a leader does not respond to communication they often read them. I got to know the Prime Minister – Shri Chandra Shekhar,  mentioned in the last paragraph quite well later after he stepped down and he mentioned to me once that he reads all communications from me although he had responded back with a reply to only a few. Yesterday when I wrote a  post about something of personal interest to President Obama –  about his food – and some complication he may be facing from it, I was sure he would not comment back but also felt that he might possibly have read it if he had found the time, especially because a link was sent to him on twitter. Even the busiest leaders have to set time aside for personal matters. I wondered what his reactions and thoughts might have been to the contents. It is quite necessary to do that for any author i.e. to guess the reaction of readers before hitting the send or publish button, so as do any necessary editing before publishing. Some more editing can be done later with blogs as I did with yesterday’s post (here) removing  matter that might be construed as off color  but not with emails and any internet user must be especially careful with latter before pushing the send button, especially when the email is not to a personal friend.

Before returning to ‘about me’ let me share what my guess of some of his thoughts to some of the contents of yesterdays post on food might have been,

“Honey and lemon, Milk of Magnesia, chicken broth? My Grandma used to say the same thing. I must get some”

“Red wine? Gee whiz, I did not know that, I had heard otherwise, but I don’t mind white, even if the meat is red or Mexican. I like that too.”

“Coconut water, I have had that as a kid in Indonesia. Must ask for some.”

About the – Shit stinks – part

“ LOL! I hope I am OK on that score.”  :)

On a more serious note it is possible as a rare chance that the President might have been intrigued and asked an aide, “Could you run up a one page brief on this person so that I may know something more about him.” I say that because the India PM mentioned in this note was similarly intrigued and did that as far as I could make out in my later meetings with him when he was no longer the PM.  There is a lot about me on the internet in blogs, social media, information sites and bits in blog posts so that if a young active investigator worked on the net for a day or two he could easily come with a comprehensive summary in a couple of days, summing me up quite neatly. I have tried to guess what that summary might be. It would be a comprehensive’ about me” too and therefore I am recording my own guess of it as follow, while attempting to be as objective as possible about a necessarily subjective matter:-
“Dr. Ashok Malhotra has been an engineering Professor in three universities, in Canada, Iraq (prior to 1990 war) and India and also an engineering academic administrator later. He received a doctoral degree from UBC Canada in Mechanical engineering in 1978 on a university fellowship award. His earlier degrees are from the India Institute of Technology and he was a top grade student. He has published in scientific journals and some of his publications are well cited in the scientific community as indicated in Google Scholar listings. He appears to have retired from Professional work now and lives mostly in his own comfortable home surrounded by trees and partly also perhaps in Nainital District of Northern India.

His family background is a good one. His father was a senior officer in the Indian army beginning from British times in India and he has a younger brother who is currently a very senior general in the Indian Army. Some of his earlier ancestors, especially from his mother's side, appear to have occupied prominent and senior positions in North Western India. As regards his immediate family, he has two daughters, one of whom is a super specialized medical practitioner another an information technologist and also has a an adopted son/godson whom he trained to become a chef because he had missed formal education before he joined his household.
He has written books on technical as well as general topics as well as fiction. He has also been an active blogger expressing his ideas on many topics ranging from environment, economy and spirituality. These topics have concerned not just India but also other countries and the world at large.He has also written about ancient human civilisation as also the evolution of life on the planet in a blog devoted to these latter topics.. He is passionate about trees and greening the planet and believes that it would help stabilize the climate.

Dr Malhotra appears to have strong interests in spirituality and humanism. His spiritual ideas lean much on eastern spirituality but not exclusively. He appears to have adopted from western authors and Christian ideas.  He has also written about life style and food.  Politically his views seem to be left of center in his advocacy for the condition of the poor and low paid workers as well as for welfare of the deprived in various parts of the world, especially children and the homeless. Recently he was quite active in blogs and on twitter over the matter of Central American minors on American borders and since these interactions were with those who mattered most, they appear to have influenced public opinion on the issue in favor of the children. He has expressed his views on the economy and the Middle Eastern conflicts online as well as on climate change. His views on climate change differ from the majority view. Some of his views on how to overcome environmental problems, the Middle Eastern conflicts or economic inequality although perhaps in the right direction may not be practical to implement at the present time and in that sense somewhat utopian or futuristic. However, some have been taken up seriously in some parts of the world as for example – The Rule of ten – a rule about wage ratios that was actively debated in Switzerland. A reference by him in one of his novels has resulted in a nomenclature for an important Himalayan peak – Sunanda Devi. He has also sent in his suggestions on various issues to the new Prime Minister of India with who his views seem to align.

His political views would align more with the democrats in USA as for example his passionate support for Medicare, but not exclusively, as for example his support of the Republican idea of cutting down budget deficits as well as views on Climate Change. He has described himself as an independent thinker on twitter and that description appears to be appropriate.

As a person what emerges from social media interactions is that he is a likable and friendly person most times. While his social and professional interactions have reduced with age, his interactions with the wider world through writings in blogs and books have increased. Although his home is comfortable with a nice garden, his personal life style appears to be very simple, even austere in many essential aspects although regal in some others e.g. fine dining, use of a butler, driver rather than driving himself etc. He does not use a smart phone, air conditioners in his home, washer and dryer and although he can easily afford a better one, his bed mattress is simply a thin sheet of foam. Perhaps all this is influenced by ancient Indian spiritual traditions.  He is quite frank in expressing his views publicly on the net and at times these are laced with a sense of humor.  This sense of humor appears to have a British touch rather than an Asian one and this may come from British connections in his family or from his stay in Canada, probably both.”
Whew! So there you have it – A dispassionate about me, straight from the horse’s mouth; this post was one I did not like to publish. Not only is it embarrassing to sum up oneself it is also narcissistic and to be too full of oneself. That is the reason for my not having written about it despite having written more than three hundred blog posts so far on various topics for more than seven years. Nevertheless, it becomes necessary to do so when some readers want to know your accurate profile because of much else one may have written and I have therefore managed to do it this time, at long last,  as an exception.

Some sketches of my family beginning with my grandmother can be found here:
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/01/portrait-of-grandmother.html

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