In Pursuit of the Truth

“Have you seen this video? “, said the husband for the n-th time. He definitely sounded like a child in Disneyland glimpsing Tinker Bell, and I looked up indulgently. His face was glowing as though he was discovering Calculus for the first time.

I could understand his enthusiasm – the 3Blue1Brown videos are well explained, beautifully animated and make you appreciate Calculus in a wholly new way. The journey as well as the philosophy behind it.

I have to confess that the 3Blue1Brown videos sparked my interest, and I peeked into the childhood brain enjoying Maths classes, as I picked up a book, called A Strange Wilderness – The Lives of the Great MathematiciansBy Amir D Aczel to read about the journey of Mathematics through the ages. How did we arrive at the basic tenets of the truth that held the universe together?

A Strange Wilderness: The Lives of the Great Mathematicians – By Amir D Aczel

The book starts with examining the Greeks and their approach to understanding the world over 2500 years ago. Starting with Thales of Miletus(624 BCE) , who was often called the first philosopher (He is known for the famous saying , “Know Thyself”), it examines Mathematics as a pursuit of the truth.

I was lured in, and though I did feel the writing could have been far more intriguing, it was a well-collated narrative of mathematicians and their lives through the ages.

The next great mathematician is the renowned Pythagoras of Samos (580-500 BCE) who continued the philosophy of:

Changing Mathematics from a computational discipline into a beautiful, abstract philosophy.

For those in Academia or are students still, the philosophical bent of the pursuit of truth is probably there. But for most others, in our day-to-day lives, Mathematics has taken on a more computational role than a philosophical one.

The arc of Calculus itself is an interesting story. How close we came as a species to discovering Calculus multiple times? Progress happens in fits and starts, and for every piece of the puzzle that we decipher, world events, or simply fate intervenes and sets us back a few steps. So many mathematicians came close to the concept of Calculus including the philosopher Zeno, in Zeno’s Paradox, over two millennia ago.

The History of Calculus

Finally, it wasn’t till the late 17th century when Leibnitz and Newton arrived at Calculus independently. Mired in controversy as it was as to who discovered it first, it is still a fascinating journey.

I remembered one cold Winter evening waiting for the fireworks at Disneyland and wondering whether the Imagineers at Disney had calculated Tinker Bell’s rope coverage using Calculus, to ensure that the area under the rope display was visible from most areas in the park. They must have done – this was Disney after all.

When we dedicate some of our Calculating Mind’s time to enable the Thinking Mind, the resulting moments are truly magical.

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on

Taking the journey with Mathematicians through the ages was also strangely comforting. After all, in spite of wars, disease, revolutions and all the horrifying things in the world, the pursuit of truth did hold its slender string through time. Ravaged, and knotted up at times, maybe, but always resurfacing with the single minded purpose of the pursuit of the truth. The pursuit of the truth is one of our basic tenets, after all.

The Dream Within The Dream

It was Saturday morning. I got up, convinced I had come back to the real world. The world outside looked beautiful. The dew drops on the cherry blossoms glinted in the morning sunshine . A Californian blue jay was sitting on one branch and pecking at the flowers – such a beautiful sight is to be seen to be believed.


Was that a really vivid dream or what? Covid-19 did feel surreal – what a dream?!

I sat on my bed the previous Friday evening exhausted. It was the first week of large scale disruptions – schools, offices, and malls had closed; crazy grocery shopping was behind us; and while I was grateful for being to work from home during all of this, I also realized that I was enervated.

That was how, you found me on Friday evening, determined to not think of the Corona Virus anymore at least for the night. I put it resolutely from my mind. I eyed the stack of books near my bed. I retreated to simpler times in an English village with Miss Read, I read about gardening, and I read about the life and times of Jane Austen in the 1800s.

The daughter was happy to not Coronaspeak anymore, and magnanimously offered to sit and watch Little Women with me. By the time, I went to bed, I had restored the mind to a semblance of normal.

Maybe the preceding Coronaweek was in my version of The Lathe of Heaven after all.

The Lathe of Heaven is a marvelous book written by Ursula K Le Guin. The book examines a scenario where a young man is gifted with the ability to make his dreams come – his psychiatrist realizes this, and uses his condition to his advantage. He attempts to change the world by offering to guide the young man. While under hypnosis, he makes suggestions and leads his mind into conjuring up dreams. One such dream reminds me of this scenario the most.

He dreams for World Peace and for all of humanity to be united.

When he gets up, his dreams are realized. Humanity is united. United against the face of an alien attack. The aliens are already positioned on the Moon and are poised to strike Earth soon. Suddenly, Earthly borders and barriers melt away. All of humanity is united against the threat of green-belted aliens on the Moon

The psychiatrist tries making amends from them on, but the patient realizes what is happening and tries to distance himself. He is scared, vulnerable and refuses to fall asleep.

Could Covid-19 be a version of a dream playing out? It certainly feels like that at some times.

But if this were a dream, how would we know? I went and stood outside below the Cherry tree, and the cherry blossoms flitted down and landed gently all around me. The California blue jay was still there having a blissful breakfast as it let the petals float to the ground below. One petal settled on my hair, and I felt it. It was solid and soft. It was real. That settled it – the preceding week of Covid-19 must have been a dream.

Slightly shivering with the morning cold, I traipsed into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. It was full: stacked with extra cans of milk, vegatables and 2 cans of soup – so, we were in the Covid-19 reality. That wasn’t a dream.
The blue jay was confirming what with me exactly? That this too was a reality?
That our realities have a tendency to get warped?

I related this the daughter and son as they walked into the kitchen looking sleepy and exuberant respectively. The husband said, it did feel very much like a scenario in the movie Inception. The Dream within a Dream. That is how we always depicted it in our dumb-charades games.

The day wore on. As Saturday ticked into Sunday, I saw the digital clock in the microwave glow 11:59 – a moment in time that the young son loves to see. Maybe this was a reality within a reality too.

I am going to bed. After all, this version of reality does have some aspects that I dreamt about too:

  • I did hope to get a month to spend with the children at home.
  • I did hope to be able to spend at least time together without external demands on our time, to hear the clock tick in the quiet of the home.

I can understand why the whole thing seems so surreal. While some problems certainly unite humanity like Climate Change and our effect on the Planet, none seems to be as urgent and visceral as the Covid-19 reaction. It is happening, it is real, it is what it is.

This week seems less surreal than the week before. We have settled in to new realities of life. The life in which the simple, bare necessities of life will come to you. They’ll come to you!


The Dream Weavers Web

It had been a few years since we had taken the magical pill. When the daughter was younger, she was enamored with Disney movies, was obsessed with unicorns and mermaids (the mermaids still hold sway), but the general euphoria with Disney has come down somewhat, or so we thought. It turns out, magic may be dormant, but thankfully not absent. When those Mickey ears came on, so did the smiles, the magic, the ridiculous mixed with the plausible, the tales with long tails, the myths and legends, everything came bubbling up in one hot cauldron full of fun and adventure.

I must say I was thrilled too. The day to day living tends to routinely pound magic out of us unless we make a concerted effort to keep it. The schools manage to do so for the children. There are Dr Seuss weeks, there are Read-a-thons, crazy hair days and crazed sock days to keep it all intact. But as the business of earning a living and adult hood takes on, there is a brush working in the background to make us more even keel, more predictable and less whimsical.

Reading children’s books keeps it for us in some ways.

I had expected to have a good time at Disneyland. I manage to put my whimsies on with a delight, and get the children going too. So far so good. But there are serendipitous surprises lurking even in the most magical of places. The Disney World in Florida was even better than I had expected. There was Animal Kingdom, in which I expected plastic hippos and lions made to scale. Consider my surprise then when we went on the Kilimanjaro safari to be taken into the hinterlands with animals in relatively free reign. It is marvelous to see a bloat of hippos, a tower of giraffes, a something of warthogs, and a blush of pelicans roaming freely. When a white horned rhino waddled across our path, we simply waited for it to move quietly. Even the children, though looking awed, did not utter a sound. There is majesty in nature.

One of the best surprises for me was the onus on conservation of our beautiful planet for the years to come. There were green houses showing us the marvels and possibilities of vertical farming. It was apparent to those of us floating in the boats by the lazy river taking us through these green houses, that many of us had never seen plants of many vegetables and fruits before. One excited child pointed to an eggplant plant, and squealed – “Look the eggplants are hanging from them!” I could see it was a beautiful revelation for the child who had simply assumed you picked it up in the grocery aisles of the supermarket, while making a passionate case for a Hot Wheels toy car at the billing counter.

Saturated with the magic of life on this beautiful planet, we spent a day amidst the shots to space. Kennedy Space Center. The past merged with the magic of fairy-tales, the present beautifully thrumming with possibilities for conservation and conversation, and the future hits among the stars. Looking for possible planets for us to expand into.

It is marvelous to see we are on the cusp of a decade that holds so much promise. For among the young I saw in the parks, there will be quite a few starting their careers in the coming decade.


The whole time, I was absorbing the atmosphere around me, little words were forming themselves into sentences. I was making my journey on the river of time and I was grateful for so many things. Some good sentences disappeared because I had not written them down, but I didn’t fret. It is often like this – playing with the words to relive my experiences.

Imagine how I felt then, when I read Ursula Le Guin’s essay on Writing. I felt the sage author’s words like balm, and nodded along. Writers are creators, but unlike potters and weavers, our products are less tangible. Our dreams are webs weaved in the magical recesses of the brain, and not all of it worth reading or sharing.

“Writing is a risky business. No guarantees. You have to take the chance. I’m happy to take it. I love taking it. So, my stuff gets misread, misunderstood, misinterpreted, – so what? If its the real stuff, it will survive almost any other abuse other than being ignored, disappeared, not read.”

When I read this piece in the essay though, I was grateful. I have written 800 posts over the past 14 years, and I would never have done that if not for the encouragement I have received from my dear friends and readers. It is magical. Encouragement like Love, is so fuzzy a thing to try to describe. For both the forces have the power to gently nurture, nudge, and poise for acceptance.

Thank you for all of that. Let the magical dreams weave on in the coming decade as well. Happy New Year and Happy New Decade – May the River of Time course on gently.

Dads At Disney: DAD

There is a dull resignation when you mention Disneyland to the husband. A few years earlier, he would protest vehemently when you broach the topic of another trip. The reaction has watered down over the years. Initially, he was only up against me, the Disney lover. Then, the daughter joined the Disney lovers’ group of the family circle. I am glad to say that we added another member on our most recent trip to Disneyland. The son loved gawking at the sights and dancing to the music. He gulped in the sights and clapped even when he had to fight sleep to do so or get up in between to clap.

The children were lucky enough to spend Father’s Day at Disneyland with their beloved father. There we were, ride after ride, attraction after attraction on a hot summer’s day. I must say that after the initial resistance to Disneyland, the husband rises to the occasion. Disney spins its magic and wraps him round. He transforms into a strategizing monster when it comes to Disneyland.

We had been to Disneyland with the visiting neices and the Fathers were caught catching a quick rest! The poor men had spent the bulk of the day pushing their children around on strollers, running from one place to another, buying ice-cream after ice-cream and of course carrying the little ones in turn.

Disneyland on Father’s Day was amazing. We had fathers’ wearing hilarious t-shirts.
One said DADD: Dads Against Daughters Dating.
Another family had planned their clothing to say:
Dad: Father of all Things
Mom: Mother of all Things
They had three children who wore t-shirts:
Thing 1
Thing 2
Thing 3
They looked so wonderful posing for pictures.

We had what we call an efficient trip. We attacked more attractions than we thought possible with 4 young children in tow. But the day was hot and we looked forward to winding down to watch the fireworks at night. There we were, standing in front of the Castle waiting for the magic to begin when the daughter asked her father if she could sit on his shoulder and watch the fireworks. I took her aside and told her that she was getting a little too tall for that. The husband had not the heart to tell her that and he complied. I don’t know which is better – watching the fireworks or watching the reflection of the fireworks in the eyes of the children. She was so thrilled. She made a wish every time a wishing star fire cracker flew past. She glowed in the joy of the moment and was so happy to be there – with her loved ones at the happiest place on Earth. As the fireworks wound down, she kissed her father on the cheek and said,”I love you Appa. Happy Father’s Day!”

The next time, it will probably be Tucky’s turn at the old shoulders, but this time was hers…

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