70,000-year history of Indian sub-continent


Unraveling the mystery of our roots to understand the present and predict the future.


Do we have it in us to give the fairer sex the place they deserve?.


Change of world order. Religious Terrorism. Where are we heading?.


Wanderlust Hodophiles.

Welcome to KHOJ: The search to know our roots and understand the meaning of our existence.

Prejudice is the biggest problem in the society. It can be it in terms of religion, cast, sex, skin-colour, status etc. Prejudice can also be in form of the feeling that human beings are the greatest creation, or even patriotism about artificially created borders. The motto of KHOJ is to gain knowledge and break that prejudice. But there is a word of caution for the readers. To break the prejudice KHOJ might throw upon you the concepts it believes in. If the reader believes on KHOJ’s perception without question, then KHOJ itself might incept a prejudice in the readers mind thus failing in it own motto. KHOJ is trying to break its own world of prejudice, but at times that prejudice might get reflected in its writing. Please do challenge them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Post-Truth Era and how to spot a FAKE?

The Middle Ages have often been termed as the Dark Age. It was a time when religion reached its peak of obscenity. Ruthless battles were common sight of the era (though there were places in the big world where peace still prevailed). Then came the age of enlightenment. Technology grew exponentially and science trumped over prejudice, or so we thought. The darkness never dies. Pride and prejudice are the lifeline of darkness, and they will live as long as humanity does. At the heart of pride and prejudice lies ignorance. 'What’s wrong with being ignorant?' you might ask. The irony of being ignorant is that most of the time you don’t know it.

"The irony of being ignorant is that most of the time you don’t know it."

Majority of American’s think that 33% of their population are immigrants. The real number is just 14%. Many Indians believe that the Muslim population in India is over 30%, The real number is only 14.2%. Wrong statistics with hidden agenda are floating around in Facebook and WhatsApp. If you tell the people who believe in these mythical numbers that they are wrong, the reply is either the government cooked up the numbers or they don’t care because they are right ( Ignorance gives rise to conspiracy theories. And there in lies the problem. Ignorance isn’t always a bliss.

‘Post-truth’ is Oxford dictionaries word of the year for 2016. It is an adjective meaning, "Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. Politicians funded news channel, rise of social media and internet, insecurity resulting from declining economy and rising terrorism and polarisation of political ideologies are few of the many reasons for the birth of post-truth era. In this era the once good words like being ‘intelligent’ or ‘liberal’ suddenly became a curse, and are now preceded by the word ‘pseudo’. These words are commonly used to describe people whose logic you do not agree with, but you are unable to prove that he/she is wrong. Why do we behave this way?

"It is a normal human tendency to only verify information that does not fit our prejudice. When it perfectly fits the bill, we tend not to check the facts."

Greylag goose brings back her displaced eggs to the nest by rolling it with her beak and neck. Now, if you keep a spherical object similar to her eggs, like a ball, nearby she would roll it into her nest too. She cannot help it. Human beings too have their eggs of faith. When someone puts another object, no matter how fake, that fits your faith near you, you are going to roll it into your nest. We just cannot help it. It is a normal human tendency to only verify information that does not fit our prejudice. When it perfectly fits the bill, we tend not to check the facts. That's when we tend to believe a lie. And when a lie is fed over and over again it becomes a truth. Post-truth politics has played its role in Brexit referendum and US presidential election. Westerners believed when Tony Blair said Iraq has an advance chemical weapon programme meant to destroy them. US and Russia are probably killing more innocents in Syria than ISIS, but many are fed to think that the war is justified. Anti-intellectualism and populism are on the rise in Poland as conspiracy theories exponentially grow. Back in India character assassination posts using morphed images of Gandhi and Nehru has gone viral. It is easy to fall for misinformations.

Misinformations are used to trigger riots and wars. Misinformations feeds racism and creates an industry like ‘fair and lovely' out of it. Misinformation creates intolerance, ISIS being a live example of that. But ISIS is not the only example. Marshal Khan was tortured, shot at, and even after he died his dead body was beaten to a pulp by his fellow students in Abdul Wali Khan University. His guilt? He was secular and liberal and thus, according to the murderous mob, blasphemous. 28 years old Nazimuddin Samad, an atheist blogger, was hacked to death in Bangladesh because he wrote what he felt was right. Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 30 year old Indian, was shot in Kansas USA because he was not an American working in America. Pehlu Khan, a 55 year old man from Haryana was murdered by ‘gau-rakshak’ (cow protector) mob in Rajasthan just because the mob suspected him and his friends of illegally transporting cows. Ignorance has taken more life than any weapon in history of human civilisation, how can it be a bliss?

"Ignorance has taken more life than any weapon in history of human civilisation, how can it be a bliss?"

Is it possible to get rid of ignorance completely? The capacity of our human brain is limited.  Large Hadron Collider can churn out 30 times more data in a year then the total storage capacity of our brain. There is only so much we can store. In this age of information we need to depend on the knowledge of others to believe in something. Neither do we have money and time nor the skills required to verify each and every information that comes our way. If you question everything then you have nothing to begin with. We believe in evolution, plate tectonics and big bang because we believe in the word of someone else. These are not even facts, but theories that we have never personally tested. When an orthodox Christian tells that evolution is fake because he/she believes in the word of someone else who wrote the bible, how do we say the he/she is wrong? 6000 years ago some pretty reliable persons said earth was flat. We ‘saw’ it and believed it. But they were wrong. Newton, a pretty reliable physicist in my opinion, told us how gravity works and we believed him. But he was wrong. It is never an easy thing to separate facts from fiction. There will always be things we can never verify. It is a slippery ground. But that does not mean you will let others exploit your ignorance. Luckily, there are few things you can do. Question the authenticity of the source, especially before you plan to share an information with others and potentially spread a lie (very well knowing that even a reliable source like Newton can be wrong). The next thing would be to question the motive behind the information you received (REF#How to tell truth from lies, O’Callaghan 2017). Is it trying to spread hatred? Is it politically motivated? Spent some energy thinking before you act.

"In this age of information we need to depend on the knowledge of others to believe in something. Neither do we have money and time nor the skills required to verify each and every information that comes our way. If you question everything then you have nothing to begin with."

While it is not always possible to verify facts, there are times when we also need a bit of fiction to understand the bigger truth. While interpreting seismic data to find oil we Geologist have many interpretations. All interpretations are wrong, only some are more useful than the others. In science we often use simplifications that deviate from truth, we call them assumptions, to deduct a bigger truth. If we do not use assumptions and try to put in all complex ‘true’ variables, we will never come to an answer. These fictitious falsehoods are important as they help us dig out the truth. There is no light with out darkness…and no darkness without light. One cannot live a life holding on tightly to the truth. One needs to be flexible. A wise person understands when wrong is really WRONG. The trick is to have an open mind and challenge the prejudice. Ask yourself if you believe in something just because you were told by people close to you, or you actually spent some time thinking about it. It is OK to be a skeptic, but never be a cynic...because ignorance is a bliss only if you know you are ignorant.

"It is OK to be a skeptic, but never be a cynic...because ignorance is a bliss only if you know you are ignorant."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Let’s Embrace Death

Toastmaster's speech for Area Level 'International Speech Contest' 
Date: 8th April 2017
Title: Let’s Embrace Death
Time: 7 min

Death is one of our biggest fears. Each and every moment we are struggling not to die, we are forgetting how to live. Once we transcend the fear of death, we can live our life the way we want. So, how to get over this fear? How do we make friendship with Yamraj? And how, fellow toastmasters, guests and session chair, do we embrace death?

Before we get into the topic of death, let us understand the thing that dies. ‘We’ die. But who are we?
We are many things – a code, a form and a perception.

First: The code, our genes.
Scientists like Richard Dawkins believe that the true us is our selfish genes. Our body is just its means of survival. These codes literally make us from the dust. They decide weather I will be an unholy human or a holy cow. It is the same code that decides if I can get dowry after marriage or get killed before birth. The sole purpose of the codes is to survive. We receive it from our parents and transfer them to our kids. Our body dies a million deaths, but we as codes evolve and continue our battle of survival.
So what dies?

Second: Form…our body
Some of us associate our self with our body. It is made of cells. Your cells are dying as I speak, and are being replaced by new ones. The body you were born with is long dead. The cells that you are made of now, are new ones. If you are your body then you have already died many times. We do not shed tears for our cells because it keeps us healthy. Death is nature’s way of keeping itself healthy.

When you go back home, I want you to find the biggest mirror. Stand in front of it and look at yourself very carefully. You are looking at yourself, yourself that is made of cells, and cells that are made up of atoms. Look at yourself and remember this. The atoms that make you were once part of a distant star. They were ones part of dinosaurs. You can research it if you do not believe me, but a part of you definitely belonged to Buddha, Genghis Khan and even Shakespeare. You are a reincarnation of these great legends… and more. Every inch of you is immortal.
Then what dies?

The perception of you.
Some say, ‘You are what you think’. The truth is, ‘You are what you remember’. Suppose I knew magic and was able to erase all your memories. Abracadabra …. Woshh… You maam? Your religion means nothing to you now. You sir? You country means nothing to you now. Even you family means nothing to you. The ‘code’ you is here, the ‘form’ you is here. But the ‘perceived’ you is dead. 

Memories are just electro-chemical patterns stored in the brain. Scientists like Ramirez and Liu have been able to not just to copy these patterns, but transfer memories of one rat to another. In the future it would be possible to store human memory in memory banks. Say I store my memory when I am 40 years old. I die when I am 70. A couple of decades later my memory is restored into a person who has lost all his memories. So this guy wakes up….hold on….actually I wake up in a new body, still 40 years old, half a century later. Think about it for a bit. Let the idea sink. The ‘code’ me is transferred to my kids… the ‘form’ me is recycled and is now part of something else… but the ‘perceived’ me is still alive. The thing that we call as ourself is really that perception, that electrochemical pattern. Gita is right when it says nothing dies….because a pattern is not even a thing.

The perceived us is like waves in the ocean. They form, roll, and crush into the shore and die. But, the ‘true you’ us not the wave but the water that makes it. After crushing into the shore the water returns and starts the cycle again. The moment we break ourselves from that ego, that pattern, that wave… death ceases to exist … death becomes meaningless.

Maybe that thought is for the saints. What is in it for the ordinary mortals like us? We just need to remember how insignificant the ‘perceived’ us is. If the 4.5 billion years of earth history was compressed in a single day, our civilisation only last few seconds, and ‘your’ life…insignificant. If the whole universe were this room, your galaxy would be smaller than an atom. And you in that? Insignificant. Death is as insignificant as our life as an individual. When you realise how insignificant the perceived you is, you realise that your life is a joke. The trick is to laugh at it. Let’s be happy in that insignificant instant when we are just ‘us’. Let’s embrace life and let’s embrace death, until the time we realise that we are one with eternity.

Over to you session chair.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What is Wrong With the World

Srinivas, just 30 years old, five years younger than me, was shot dead by an American in Kansas. Before shooting, the American yelled, ‘Get out of my country’. The irony is that it is a country that is made up of immigrants who almost wiped out the locals.

A Muslim women was attacked and bitten by a man in Vienna for wearing hijab. How could a Muslim wear more cloths than a Christian?
 A Tanzanian man was beaten up brutally in Delhi because he had more melanin than Indians. Aren't we the most racist country?
And then there is Syria.
What is wrong with the world?

To understand the problems of modern day let us take a look at the past.

In all the glamour and extravaganza of being at the top of the food chain we forgot a simple truth, we are just animals. We are coded to survive, not just as individuals, but as species. There are two ways of doing that. Spread your genes, and/or stop your competitors from spreading theirs.

50,000 years ago our species was slowly rising to the top of the food chain. There were less people and thus less meeting with strangers. Those rare occasions when two different tribes met, there was bloodshed. Life, however, was dangerous. Mortality rate was high. The only way the tribe could survive was reproduce in numbers that outdid the deaths. And, quite convincingly, the favoured deity of the time was the fertility mother goddess.

"In the beginning there was no consciousness. With consciousness was born fear and hope. From those two primordial ingredients - fear of extinction and the hope of survival- god was created.

Hope is a very strong emotion, especially hope about the distant future that does not exist. It comes out of intelligence, a gift of evolution that allows our species to project information into the future. It helps us plan ahead. It is a weapon of mass destruction. It is a weapon that allowed us to defeat much stronger enemies and climb right at the top of the food chain.

10,000 years ago human beings settled down into agricultural societies. The settlements mostly happened around the fertile rivers, like Yellow River, Nile River and Indus River. As population grew, fights between different settlements became common. People had no connection to their land, but were proud of their tribes. However, now they had a bigger enemy. Fertility was no more the biggest issue. The biggest danger now came from natural calamities. Individual settlements were not strong enough to fight the mighty rivers that flooded unpredictably. Again, quite conveniently, new gods were created. These gods were the gods of nature like wind, river, fire, lightening, etc.
Fighting with each other was not helping the ultimate goal of our species - survival. Spreading one’s genes was more important that stopping the spread of the genes of one’s competitors. Human intelligence thus helped programme a new formula to fulfil the goal – collaboration. The smaller tribes collaborated to form civilisations. Together they could tame the nature. Stronger houses helped them weather the storm, while canals controlled the floods. Chinese civilisation, Egyptian civilisation and Indus Valley civilisation sprang up. An idea of community was established and a common culture evolved. The less the group moved, the more they got attached to the land where they settled.
Civilisation looked very stable, but they were doomed to fail in the long run. As population kept growing the different civilisations came in conflict with one another. And bloody battles followed. It was quite predictable. It was human nature. That is how they are programmed – stop the spreading of the genes of the competitors. The problem of survival was not coming from nature anymore.
"Big civilisations also required loyalty to one Supreme Being. This new world needed new gods, and it got one. Monotheism was born. There was one god, who was all powerful and omnipresent, but could not be seen.

The clash of civilisations could not last forever. Intelligence came up with a formula once more– bigger collaboration. Thus was born empires, big empires - Persian Empire, Greek Empire, Chinese Empire, Mayurian Empire, Mughal Empires and the British Empire.

1000 years ago the big civilisations were fighting with each other. There were crusades, wars and a lot of violence around the globe. Stability did come, but not before few more sacrifices. The ultimate sacrifice came during the World Wars. Once more a new formula was made – even bigger collaboration… Nationalism. Boundaries were drawn and nations were created. Boundaries worked fine and world became more peaceful than it ever was. Instead of cultures or states or tribes, people’s ownership changed to artificially drawn borders. Nationalism worked.
"For the first time in the history of the world, more people died of suicide than killed by others. The number of armed conflicts has reduced significantly in the past few decades. Believe it or not, no matter what the media likes you to believe, we are living in a very peaceful world. 
It has been proven statistically by Steven Pinker. Since the advent of civilisation, the world was never this peaceful.

Modern world brought new challenges. Human population grew exponentially and filled up the surface of the earth. In palaeontology there is a term called index fossils. These are species that had wide geographic extent but existed for a very short duration. Their fossils, thus, act as time markers. The presence of these fossils helps us identify the age of the rocks that contain them. Our species have already fulfilled the first criteria of index fossils- wide geographic extent. The challenge we have now is to stop ourselves from fulfil the second criteria. Thus, a new formula was created – The biggest collaboration of all … Globalisation.
"Science and technology brought the world closer. The rising world economy created more hope than fear. The relevance of god was reduced. Nationalism started to fade…but not for long.
The economic bubble did burst in early 21st century. Globalisation works when economy rises and there is enough hope to fuel it. When economy declines, people loose job. Fear gets the better of hope, and god returns alongside terrorism. So does nationalism. That’s when we stop looking at the future and try to hold on to the past. Let’s bring back the great Islamic Empire, let’s make America great again, let’s kill those who eat beef! That is what is wrong with the world. Actually there is nothing wrong. We are just being humans. Remember the goal – spread your genes as fast as you can, and/or reduce that of your competitors.
There was a time when your ownership to your family was more important than your community. There was a time when you ownership to your king, region, regional god was more important than a non-existent nation.  Now we live in an era where we think those who say that their state is bigger than the nation is a fool. We claim that those who think their religion is more important than their nation are wrong and misled. Nation comes first, and those who say anything different must be punished. Our perception of what’s right change with time. Where will we be in the future? Is there a solution?

Future has to be different from the present, it always has been. Our biggest problems today are global – global warming, global economic slowdown, robots, technologies and AI taking over jobs globally. The question is no more about the survival of a country, but it is about our survival as a species. Nationalism is not going to help us. We need global citizens.

Gurmehar Kaur made a statement, ‘Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him’. The statement is irrelevant in today’s world. Nationalism still plays a big part in our lives. It is irrelevant as long as people from Pakistan kills people on this side of the border, and vice versa.  However, if majority of people from both sides of the border says the same thing, then suddenly the statement starts making sense. Then it becomes a powerful tool to stop the war. Her statement is irrelevant in today’s context, but not a wrong statement by any means that people can ridicule. Pakistan is just a piece of land that contains our pride heritage sites of Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila. Pakistan is just a piece of land that contains the birth place of Guru Nanak. Pakistan is a piece of land where few Pakistanis made sure that the minority Hindus could celebrate Mahashivratri in peace. Pakistan did not kill her dad. It is the war fought by few Pakistanis, and instigated by few more, that killed her father. Her statement is not wrong. But it is irrelevant as long as we don’t have enough global citizens on either side of the border to make the borders irrelevant.

If we do to take the next step in our cultural progress and manage to find a way to make borders irrelevant, then just imagine - all the huge sums of money wasted globally to protect the artificial boundaries we call nation, or in building walls, could be used instead for the betterment of humanity. We could save ourselves long enough to find a new planet to consume. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t end up as time markers for a future species.

Monday, January 16, 2017

How MS Excel can change the way you look at life

Toastmaster Speech CC#09
Title: Excel of Life

Thank you Mr Toastmaster and fellow toastmasters. I am Subhrashis Adhikari, and today I am going to deliver my ninth speech. At the end of the speech I am going to convince you not how to excel in life...but to prepare the Excel of your life. The excel software is probably the best thing Microsoft has created. Few days back I was playing with this miracle software and ended up creating something that shocked me. It made me look at life in a different way. So I thought, why not share it with all of you in my next speech. That is what this speech is about – The Excel of Life.

One of my school teacher once took me aside and told me that what he was about to say will change my life. He went on to say: 'A man without an ambition is like a ship without a rudder. To be successful you need to have an ambition...focus on it so hard that all the obstacles between you and your ambition fades away.'

No wonder he chose me to shower his wisdom on. I was the person who was most clueless about what to do with his life. In fact I still am.

I asked him innocently, ' if you don't look at the obstacles you can bump into one of it and injure yourself'. He had no answer. He looked at me disappointed,...and went away. He knew I was a lost cause.

How do you measure success at the end of your life? 
It is all about how many red dots you have in your excel. I will explain that in a minute.

To me there is only one criterion of success- Happiness. 

Happiness is made of happy memories. By focusing too much on ambition you make just two memories. One where you set the target, and another where you achieve it. Just two memories are not going to make you a happy person. You need more happy memories.

More than the target it is the journey that is important. If you look at the obstacles closely you will see that each on of them has a gift. There is something to learn from each obstacle.
A rudder guides a ship to know destinations. To discover new places you need to throw away the rudder. Columbus would have never found America if he was not lost. My teacher was right...I am lost....and happily so...

Now let me come back to the Excel.

This is what I made. A 45*24 martix.
Ideally you should make a 90*12 matrix. 
Every year has 12 months and the assumption is that you live till 90. 
So every month of your life is a square in that excel. 
90*12 is same as 45*24, just easier to handle.

When I looked at that I said ... boy it is not that big! One month passes at the blink of an eye. All my month fits in just one screen! 

The first thing I said is ...I don’t have much time left. 
The more I looked at it the more it got worse. 
I have already spent 35 *12 boxes. 
I retire at 58. 
The last decade or two, if I survive that long, I am going to be really old. 
The message is clearly out there...there aren’t many box left!

Now mark all your happy memories in the excel as red dot. The number of red boxes in there is the actual measure of your success.

I request all of you to make this excel. Put all the important events of your life in it, that has happened or will happen. If you have wishes ...decide a date and put them there. Then check how many red boxes you have...and how many you have planned for.

We are all born with a terminal disease call ageing. We will eventually run out of life. Make the most of it now, when you can. 

Most of us tend to plan a lot for the future. We try and save a lot for the future. If your plan is to save now and enjoy after retirement, think many boxes will you actually have. 

Believe me, no matter how young you are; there isn’t a lot of future left.

I do not want to sound negative. Take the right message out of this. Let this excel trigger you to enjoy your life. Make your excel as red as you can, as fast as you can. Life is like ice-cream, enjoy before it melts. 

How many red dots do you have?