BMTC

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Bangalore's public bus transport facility maintained by the BMTC ought to be the best in the country. Its service and quality of the buses that ply have improved by many fold over the years. This I can assert because BMTC buses have been my companion over the last 10 years or so. And Chennai's Pallavan transport should be among the worst.

Ramanujan - The Man Who Knew Infinity

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Roberts Kanigel's "The Man Who Knew Infinity" was an interesting read. The book is about Srinivasa Ramanujan’s incredible life and his Mathematics. The author details the life of the math genius in an accessible manner even for a reader who is remote to the kind of work Ramanujan excelled. The author succeeds in this because he does not dwell into the esoteric areas of Mathematics in which Ramanujan excelled but just makes a succinct reference to his works wherever necessary.

The story begins with an account of Ramanujan’s birthplace, Kumbakonam and his school education. Ramanujan faltered in all subjects but Mathematics. He stood apart from the rest in the way he worked out his favorite subject. After initial struggle in getting spotted as a boy with bundle of talent he does come to be recognized as a person with real mathematical skills. The significant recognition does not come from India but from England. Failing to find anyone in India who would properly understand him, he is advised to write to Cambridge and other places of repute. He writes to couple of distinguished Mathematicians in England for assistance only to be disappointed. But fate has it that he also writes to G. H Hardy. And Hardy responded with a keen interest in Ramanujan’s works. That was enough to spread the name of Ramanujan across the educated circle in South India. Hardy’s endorsement helps Ramanujan in getting rewarded with a scholarship. This enabled him to do his Mathematics at will not needing to care about his daily mores of his personal life, which had become a concern having been wedded at a young age. Hardy invites him to Cambridge and after initial apprehensions Ramanujan crosses seas against his caste traditions.

The author dedicates a chapter on Hardy, which gives a very good insight to the stuff that he is made of. The author does well in bringing out his love of Mathematics, penchant for Cricket, his atheism and much more. Then begins the engrossing passage of the book, Ramanujan’s life in Cambridge. Ramanujan finds in Hardy much-needed companion. Their ‘friendship’ and the work together would become a stuff of legend later. Though Hardy helped Ramanujan in finding his true self by enabling him to do his Mathematics, he failed to be friend at personal social level. The seven years that Ramanujan spends in Cambridge wrecks havoc to Ramanujan’s personal life. He remains totally unaware of most of the happenings back home. The straining of relationship between his mother and wife and many such painful events occur in India These and his staunch vegetarianism has him afflicted with Tuberculosis. But the work he does in Cambridge earns him a Fellow of Royal Society [FRS].

He returns to India as a FRS only to be pulled into the struggle of social life. His mathematical contribution remains at a minimal. Unable to cope up with pressures of life and unyielding health problems he passes away at a young age of thirty-two. The passage of his life towards the end makes for a sad reading. One can only wonder what could have been if only Ramanujan was healthy and lived for many more years.

I appreciate the author’s skill in writing the biography of one of enigmatic figures of India in a lucid manner. A very good read and I highly recommend it.