Books of That I read in US 2016 

History has always been my favourite subject and that only of India- ancient and medieval. I had brought Irfan Habib edited ‘Akbar and his India’ from India. The book talks of Akbar and religions such as Jain, Sikh in separate chapters, but does deal exclusively his effort to bring Hindus on his side. It was interesting to note about Bengali Saint Chitanya fight with a Quazi. 
A new Steve Jobs has been on horizon with his revolutionary technology intervention. His is Elon Musk with Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperboles coming out of his ideas of a new era in transportation. US is getting into a big manufacturing sector with electric cars, Giga factory, energy storage. I went through his biography ‘Elon Musk- Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by by Ashlee Vance. 

When Anand was in Cisco Bangalore, ‘Incarnations- India in 50 lives’ by Sunil Khilnani got launched in India. It was at that time not available in US. I requested him to bring it with him. When We came to live in Cary, I went through it. It is interesting but with very little factual information about the greats of India from Budhha to Dhirubhai Ambani. 

I picked up from Anand’s bookshelf another wonderful book ‘The Wright Brothers’ by David McCullough, have completed reading, and trying to understand how the hilarious innovation got materialised and gave shape to the wishes and dream that was as old as the human race. But the humane side of the family story touched me more. The main hero of the story are four persons- a highly religious father, two brothers(out of fours), and a loving sister: Milton Wright, Wilbur, Orville, Katherine. As the story goes, Bishop Milton Wright, a great believer in the educational toys, brought home one day a toy from France, a small helicopter. It was little more than a stick with twin propellers and twisted rubber bands, probably cost 50 cents. “Look, boys,” said the Bishop, something concealed in his hands. When he let go it flew to the ceiling. They called it the “bat”. And perhaps made Wilbur and Orville to work to resolve the secret of flying and come out with their Flyers, the first mechanical means for humans to fly in open sky safely and start of today’s aviation industry serving the world. To give an idea of the time period, Wilbur was born on April 16, 1867, and Orville four years later.

Anand on Fathers Day gifted me ‘The Man who knew Infinity-A life of the genius Ramanujan’ by Robert Kanigel. I have been reading this but perhaps, with Yamuna ailments that is making me to decide to return back home, I shall not be able to complete it. I don’t wish to take it with me. Rather I want to leave it back for Emma and Zach, who may read and get inspired. With the two books mentioned above, I can now convincingly confirm that the Indian system of judging a student and giving jobs and recognitions must get discarded. India must have lost many Ramanujam and many Rabindranath because they failed to get a Hardy or a Yeat.

Last book was the latest by Ruchir Sharma, ‘The Rise and Fall of Nations- Forces of change in the post-crisis world’. It was a wonderful feel to read: “In 2007, the year before the global financial crisis hit, the number of economies growing faster than 7 percent reached a post war peak at more than sixty, including China, India, and Russia. Currently, there are only nine economies growing that fast, and only one of them is reasonably large: India.” Ruchir puts India in ‘good’ category while puts China in ‘ugly’. The book also has a chapter each on ‘Good Billionaires, Bad Billionaires’- a new concept, ‘Factories First’, and ‘The Price of Onions’. A brief summary of Ruchir’s book appeared in media. It was as follows: 

Ruchir Sharma’s 10 rules from ‘The Rise and Fall of Nations

1. “Critical cause of the missing growth was, of all things, a shrinking supply of people in the active workforce.”

2. “The fortunes of a nation are likely to turn for the better when a new leader rises in the wake of a crisis.”

3. “It is the rise of an entrenched class of bad billionaires in traditionally corruption-prone and unproductive ind­ustries that is likely to choke off growth and to feed popular anger on which populist demagogues thrive.”

4. “In recent years, many countries have been raising the government share of the economy to bloated proportions…and enforcing insensible rules in an unp­redictable way that make it difficult for private companies to thrive.”

5. “to carve out a geographic sweet spot, a country needs to open its doors on three fronts: to trade with its neighbours, the wider world as well as its own provinces and second cities.”

6. “the best investment binges are those that go toward manufacturing, technology and infrastructure…the worst binges tend to be in the property sector.”

7. “watching the prices of stocks and houses is as important as tracking the price of onions.”

8. “when the current account is back in surplus, and the country is once again pulling in enough money from abroad to cover its foreign bills, it’s a sign of an impending turnaround.”

9. “rising debt levels can be a sign of healthy growth, so long as debt is not growing too much faster than the economy for too long.”

10. “the most-loved nations will rarely have the best economic prospects in the next five to ten years.”

And when we almost got ready to depart for India, Anand got the biography of another great man, ‘Einstein -His Life and Universe’ authored by Walter Isaacson as Rakesh during his stay here last week talked about this book. There was another biography in Anand’s bookshelf ‘Einstein- a life’ written by by Denis Brian. During my last visit in 2014, I had tried to go through but gave as it was pretty difficult to enjoy reading. In US, sometimes I get into the books made for the school students. I had read one on Einstein when in Austin in 2014. This year too Anand had bought a children book on Einstein ‘Who was Einstein’ by Jess Brallier for Emma. She has gone through it and remembers the content pretty well as she revealed the story of the brain of Einstein that was preserved for scientific study. I found the mention of the same in the last chapter of Isaacson’s book.
As a student Einstein never did well with rote learning. As a theorist, his success came not from the brute strength of his mental processing power but from his imagination and creativity. A society’s competitive advantage will come not from how well it’s schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity.

Einstein was passionate not only in scientific pursuits but also the personal ones as narrated by his biographer not only in his lifetime but also after he was not there…..At college Einstein fell madly in love with the only woman in his physics class, a Serbian named Mileva Maric. They had an illegitimate daughter, then married and had two sons. Mileva helped Einstein to check the math in his papers, but eventually their relationship disintegrated. Einstein offered a deal to Mileva. He would win the Nobel Prize some day, he said, if she gave him a divorce, he would give her the prize money. She thought for a week and accepted. It was seventeen year after the deal. He was awarded the prize and she collected as mutually agreed,

The pathologist at Princeton Hospital, Thomas Harvey using an electric saw …..removed his brain….. And decided, without asking permission, to embalm Einstein’s brain and keep it……Einstein’s grand daughter, Evelyn Einstein who had heard of rumours that made her suspect that possibly, just possibly, she might actually be Einstein’s own daughter. She had been born after Elsa’s death, when Einstein was spending time with a variety of women. Perhaps she had been the result of one of those liaisons, and he had arranged for to be adopted by Hans Albert……”

Even the great men are just human beings with all their greatness and weaknesses.

Another conclusion that I made this time after reading all the books: India can produce Einstein but not Wright brothers or Elon Musk, unless the mind sets of the society changes. Let all policy makers think on this issue.

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