Monday, September 28, 2009

Practical Programming: The ritual of implement worship

Navratri = Nau + Ratri = Nine Nights.

Today is the Tenth/Final day of the Navratri festival; one amongst many of a period of fervour for those who adhere to the Sanatana Dharma.

The tenth day symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Many legends are attributed to this day, paramount amongst these are
  1. Execution of Ravana by Rama
  2. Execution of Mahishasura by Durga
Similarly many rituals are bound to this day too. Vehicle/Tool worship is one amongst the many esoteric rituals performed on this day to empower it till the next year.

Imagine the situation if you will : The villain has secured a secret weapon, and aims to enslave the entire universe. Just when it seems things are going to go from worse, to worst, a hero appears on his trusty steed and challenges the villain to battle. A _terrific_ battle has raged for ten whole days finally comes to an end. The protagonist has emerged victorious, and is ready to return home. The invincible protagonist is unscathed. The adulation of millions applies not only to the protagonist, but to all that is associated with him; weapons, garments, vehicle/mount etc.

All well, and good.

Even today, distances in India are large. Merely travelling to/from work consumes close to 20kms, without including pool-travel distances; mid-day chore driving and so on. A good deal of wear and tear is involved. Travelling back in time to the period of our Hero and Villain there were probably few, if any, roads. Most travelling would be through the wilderness guided by the moon/stars etc.

I wonder, could what we deem to be vehicle 'worship' actually refer to the task of servicing the vehicle after the rigours of a full-blown battle? A means to drive a community of people of less evolved thought in the direction of maintaining their implements to prolong the existence of the tool directly, and the survival of the community in the long run?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Towards Civilization; One Step

Take an educated person, and put him in a featureless, soundless room
with uniform lighting( either it is lighted 24x7x365, or it is not ).
Sooner or later, the person will try to devise a way to keep track of
the passage of time. The easiest way to do so would be by tracking the

Now we change the scenario a little; instead of a featureless room we
put him in a room with uniform features. The outcome will be similar,
if not identical.

Change the scenario a little more; make the features non-uniform and
endlessly varying. Allow sound to impinge on the senses at random.
Allow the light to vary at random. The outcome will still be similar.

Now assume the person to be you. You are placed on Earth at a random
location in a distant time when the concept of a static human
population did not exist even in thought. The endlessly varying
features are those of Nature. The endless variation in light is that
from the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. The random noises are the
sounds of Nature, and her other creations. You realize, dimly, that
you are a little different from the rest around you; not provided with
boundless strength, or venom, or claws. That great meat-eating beast
does not always hunt you. Sometimes it hunts you stealthily, and
sometimes it merely growls at you without making a charge. The nest
from which the snake devoured eggs, sometimes has no eggs in it... and
sometimes there are eggs in the nest the very next day.

It's all very puzzling, except that you don't know the word yet.

Suddenly one day, you realize the answer. The behaviour of the beast
is similar to your own. When you hunt, you're stealthy too. When
you've eaten to your fill, you don't chase your prey; why spend energy
on another chase when, now that the cramps from hunger are finally
gone, you may finally sleep. This leads to another discovery – the
huge beast must stay full longer too, even though it's stomach,
appetite, and size are so much larger. Through a sequence of such
small discoveries communicated wordlessly across generations the
balance shifts.

The greatest such discovery is that there is a cycle to all events.
Looking around there is nothing to relate the cycles too. Everything
around you is bound to it's own cycle of transience. The light dawns
upon you; up there, high above you is a marker, the Moon. Each time
you sleep, the Moon shows a particular face.

In a major move towards order, and civilization; you have discovered a calendar,
and a means to mark time.