A visit to Gadar Memorial in San Francisco

Getting Inside

After getting misdirected once to 436 Hill St, San Francisco (the old original address which does not exist anymore), I eventually reached 5 Wood St, San Francisco.
It was sunset time, I knew I was late but finally, it felt good to see (a nondescript) apartment marked “Gadar memorial”.Least I expected the doors to be locked. I drove 40 miles (65 km) not to stand in front of this locked door. There must be a way to go in, I contemplated, as I noticed an Indian woman walking upstairs towards me.
“I am here to see Gadar Party’s office”, I asked and she stammered while replying in English. “हिंदी बोलती है आप ?”, I inquired.
“जी हाँ”, she confirmed.
“मैं आशीष, south bay से आया हूँ ग़दर स्मारक देखना था । “, I said, while pointing towards the building.
“आपके पास consulate से permission है?”, she asked.
“consulate से permission?” I inquired.
“consulate से बिना permission लिए यहाँ आना मना है । “, she confirmed.
Even for bureaucratic Indian govt, taking a permission from consulate to visit a first world war era memorial (and as per my limited knowledge, only such Indian memorial in USA) felt perplexing. Of course, I was not ready to yield and drive back another 40 miles before paying the homage. We both stood there motionless with an awkward silence.
Someone had to blink, thankfully, she did.
“एक बार मैं अपने husband से बात करती हूँ । “, she said.
She unlocked the door and went inside, and after some chatter, they both came out and after some cursory conversation, he allowed me in to visit the memorial. The rest of the conversation with them was pretty friendly.

Inside

The memorial consisted of a single hall with locked showcases (filled with books in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu). There were a few posters and pictures hanging on the wall, again labeled in one (and exactly one) or the other of the aforementioned languages. I didn’t visit the memorial expecting an audio tour but not finding English or Hindi labels on the items was depressing. The whole space lacked maintenance.
After thanking the Indian couple (they seem to be appointed by consulate to maintain the place), I left half an hour later. The treatment of the memorial (which is the last symbol of this movement and Indian students who started it) by Indian govt is deplorable, especially, given the fact that this is only memorial of its kind in USA.

Departing thoughts

The treatment met out to defenders of the nation (dead or alive, uniformed or revolutionary) determines its destiny. Reminds me of this second world war story of France vs UK. “Before World War II, it was not uncommon to see placards hanging outside some restaurants in Paris which read Dogs, lackeys and soldiers not allowed. On the other hand, even pregnant women used to get up and offer seats to soldiers in London buses. When the war broke out, France capitulated in no time while Britain remained undefeated.” [source]

Book Summary: The Innovator’s Dilemma (when new technologies cause great firms to fail) by Clayton Christensen

The book presents Clayton’s counter intuitive thesis on how firms with good management practices and sound understanding of their customers need eventually fail at disruptive innovations (they succeed at sustainable innovations).
The book emphasizes that its not engineering but management oversight that leads to demise of incumbents (in the face of disruptive innovations).

One line summary: At some point, the incumbent’s product’s performance exceeds demand of most customers and the “edge” which this performance metrics provided is lost, customers’ value proposition changes, they start valuing some other metrics, along which a disruptor’s product has better performance (and has early mover’s advantage), leading to demise of incumbent.
Following are the salient ideas raised in the book.

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Thoughts on Bureaucrats, Technocrats and Politicians

Bureaucrats take the actions which are justifiable (by book or by order of their superiors), they care less about consequences (in case there are multiple possible actions, they let the politician decide the appropriate action).

Technocrats take the actions which (according to their analysis) have best (long term/short term) consequences, they care less about how harsh the action could be on certain individuals and their logical thinking usually fails to take into account the law of unintended consequences like  Cobra Effect.

Politicians take the actions which are palatable and which are usually good for their (long term/short term, well, usually for next elections) popularity.

Till now, India was run primarily by politicians + bureaucrats, it seems to be transitioning towards politicians + technocrats.
It would be interesting to see the (short term/long term) consequences of this transition.

Note: The above statements are not my original discovery, I have read statements along similar lines at various sources.

Book summary: How to create a mind by Ray Kurzweil

The book is an insightful journey into contemporary understanding of human brain and how scientists are trying to replicate it.
Major takeaways from the book are listed below.

Thought experiments on the world

  1. Charles Lyell was the first person to propose that steady movement of water carves out gorges and canyons.
  2. This became inspiration for Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution.
  3. Both of them engaged in thought experiments looking for how things around them attained their states and discovered underlying phenomena.
  4. Similarly, Einstein after reading about the experiments which concluded that relative speed of light is always constant engaged in thought experiments which eventually lead to “Theory of relativity”.
  5. Human brain is remarkably amazing in its ability to identify such patterns and discover underlying phenomena just by thinking.

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Internet activists, the advent of snap judgement and Internet’s permanence

In 2013, we saw how internet activists’ snap judgements about interpretation (or misinterpretation?) of jokes at pycon destroyed the  professional career of two individuals (Source: A Dongle Joke That Spiraled Way Out Of Control).
The internet activism first sympathised with Adria Richards and then decided to side with the developer, eventually both of them (and SendGrid customers temporarily) took a major hit which could probably have been resolved offline and would have never become a part of permanent history.

As if this was not enough, this year the same story has been repeated with Gurubaksh Chahal and his girlfriend Juliet Kakish.
The claim goes that he allegedly hit his girlfriend 117 times and she allegedly suffered bruises and injuries, there is an alleged video of that proving the same (I haven’t been able to find one yet that does not imply it does not exist though) (Source: A Letter To The Board Members Of RadiumOne).

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Tech Thoughts: Fixing tech recruiting

Enough articles have been written about engineering crunch in the valley while some solutions have been suggested (like increasing equity grants to engineers), the bigger issue of broken recruiting pipeline has not gained the attention it deserves.
Its a job of recruiters to source potential candidates and most recruiters are compensated in form of a percentage (usually 20-30%) of annual base salary of the hired individual.

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