Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Science in perspective

Helping my son with his higher secondary science and mathematics, I was drawn back to India's best (and yet little known) thought leader-practitioner Prof. D D Kosambi. Thanks to my dad's unique brand of scientific temper as also his expansive library, I was introduced to the genius at an early age. That my son now enjoys the same privilege is more by default than design. His science study vastly improved when he mulled over Kosambi's elaboration in good measure:

Science is nothing if it does not work in practice. Science is direct investigation of properties of matter, hence materialistic. Scientific results are independent of the individual who carries out the experiment, in the sense that the same action gives identical results. Finally, as the search for cause and their effects, science is cumulative: science is the history of science. Every scientific discovery of any importance is absorbed into the body of human scientific knowledge, to be used thereafter. Schoolboys can repeat Galileo's experiments, and first year college students learn more mathematics then Newton knew; the young students must go through much the same mental processes, stripped of inessentials and repeated according to modern points of view when they study. But they do not have to read Galileo’s dialogues, nor the Principia. Here science differs essentially from the arts, for in painting, the modern painter need not study the prehistoric bisons in the cave of Altamira, nor the poet read Kalidasa. On the other hand, we can appreciate works of art and literature of all ages, for they are not subsumed in their successors in the manner of scientific discovery."

"After all, how does science analyze necessity? The sciences are usually divided into the exact and the descriptive, according to their being based upon a mathematical theory or not. This distinction has faded away because the biological sciences have begun to feel the need for exact numerical prediction, while physics and chemistry have discovered that, on the level of the individual particle, exact prediction is not possible as with the movement of the solar system. Both have found the new mathematical technique, based upon the theory of probability that they need. In the final analysis, science acts by changing its scene of activity. It may be objected that astronomy does not change the planets or the stars; is it not purely a science of observation? Astronomy first became a science by observing the changes in the position of heavenly bodies. Further progress was possible only when the light that reaches the astronomer was changed by being gathered into telescope, broken up by passage through spectrographs, or twisted by polarimeters. Parallel observations of changes, say in metallic vapors, in the laboratory enabled conclusions to be drawn about the internal constitution of the stars. There is no science without change."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Workshop interventions...Celebrating six fruitful years

On Feb 5, 2018, I will be completing six years of workshop intervention programs aimed at facilitating different target groups - individuals, institutions and organizations - to move up the value chain in respective spheres.

Over the years, I have conducted these freewheeling sessions across different geographies - whether pan India, US, UK, Central Asia or Africa - from the scenic town called Horley near London to a sleepy village called Nakuru in Nairobi, from the Mount prospect locality near downtown Chicago to the central business district of Almaty, Kazakhstan, from the pious landmark of Rishikesh to the tribal pockets of Meghalaya, and from the Haddo market area of Port Blair to the awesome terrain of Alangar in Karnataka - for diverse target groups - whether MNCs or SMEs, PSUs or NGOs, kids or housewives, salaried or self employed, contractors or workers, children of plush societies or urchins from slum pockets...

Some of the popular workshops and modules:

Poetry of Mathematics and the science of languages

From Classroom to Workplace: managing the academia-industry transition

Learning beyond the confines of Arts, Science and Commerce

Learning through Music, Literature, Films & Theatre

Probing the Child's mind: No child's play

Decoding gender sensitivity, financial literacy, career planning and life & language skills

Moving from intent to content: Actionable tips on ‘Fit for purpose’ writing

Why get better at communication?

o A brief on communication challenges of the ‘playground’ called Workplace

o What is Fit for Purpose writing and how it helps?

Cutting across cultures: Camaraderie beyond comfort zones

• The Pivotal Role of Language, History and philosophy in cross-culture communication
• Edward Hall’s concept of low-context and high-context communication
• Persuasion and assertion in a multi-cultural scenario – I, we and us.
• Managing a global team: Consensus stems from cultural relativity
• How to become a culture catalyst – going beyond acceptance and tolerance
• Interactive discussion on interesting specifics of cultural contexts – American, European, Asian

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Shottojeet Shongeet

"Ray's music is imaginative, not melodramatic, balanced, not exuberant, functional, not decorative. It is music that grows from the film itself",

- Utpalendu Chakraborty, The Music of Satyajit Ray

For someone who believed film music was largely extraneous, "an element that one should be able to do without", Ray's musical body of work would, rather should, inspire even veteran composers to collectively raise the bar rather than blow their own trumpets.

Check his background scores of Teen Kanya, Aranyer Din Ratri, Pratidwandi, Seemabaddha, Jana Aranya, or,

the Goopy Gayen Bagha Bayen and Hirak Rajar Deshe numbers like ‘Dekho Re Nayan Mele,’ ‘Ek Je Chilo Raja’ and ‘Mora Dujanae Rajar Jamai.’ or,

kishore's immortal Rabindrasangeet renditions 'Ami Chini Go Chini' from Charulata and 'Bidhir badhon katbe tumi' from Ghare Bhaire, or,

astute innovations like playing Sibelius backwards in line with the filmic demand of Jalsaghar, or,

his command over different instruments including violin, cello, guitar, flute and even the timpani drum, or,

the highly engaging 'Bhalo bashar tumi ki jano' from Chiriakhana,

the music of each film grows from within, just as it should. Else, Ray was indeed capable of producing scores of musical classics, had he chosen to compose music for the sake of music....

Bollywood music director teams of all makes - solo, duo or trio - take your cue from Ray, and if you do, you might want to revisit many of your numbers that you and your listeners cherish as your life work! You never know, they might get a new lease of life.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Kailash Gandhi, Chairman, Western India Regional Council, Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI)

Courtesy: IIFL Wealth MarketXpress bulletin

“Landmark reforms are welcome, but they demand better public awareness to secure the decisive buy-in that paves the optimal path towards desired outcomes”

Known for his candid observations rooted in industry activism, Kailash Gandhi is a veteran of over two decades of global experience across domains and verticals. An ACCA from the United Kingdom and Cost Accountant from India with additional qualifications in Law and Management Consultancy, he commands invaluable insights into Business Development, Corporate Finance, Strategy, Banking, Fund Management, Investment Product Engineering, Auditing and broad-spectrum Business Consulting. After fruitful stints in key positions with leading organizations including GE Money and ITC, he incepted Knowledge Resource Group (KRG), a value-added business advisory firm providing Financial, Accounting, Costing, Business Processes Improvement, Investment Management & Consultancy services and solutions, focused on the MSME and SME sector. He touched upon on a host of macro and micro issues spanning economy, industry and markets in this Q & A with Sudhir Raikar...

What’s your view on the current state of the Indian stock market?
Clearly, the market is overvalued, and we can expect some correction and consolidation going forward. In the last three years, India has had a great run on the domestic front. Although corporate earnings were muted, market witnessed a strong rally due to high liquidity courtesy DIIs and FIIs. To add to overall comfort, commodity prices came tumbling down, inflation was under control, fiscal deficit was not a concern, oil prices were at their historical lows and government spend was reasonably high.
But looking ahead, oil prices are inching up, ditto for commodity prices. Rupee is depreciating, and fiscal deficit is posing a challenge. Yields are going up; business sentiment is yet reeling in the aftermath of demonetization and GST rollout. The NPA problem is a sticky one and there’s no silver bullet in sight given the weight of priority lending on PSB agendas on the one hand, and the lopsided expectation of achieving ‘private sector-like’ results on the other. This is a dichotomy that merits quality attention before we expect miraculous results on the NPA front.
Having said that, India retains its competitive edge among EMs, thanks to our relatively sturdy macros, stable government, and domestic solidity. The government has surely created an enabling environment for the industry. GST has opened a new era of purposeful taxation in the country by greatly simplifying the indirect tax structure. As for the direct tax revamp, given that a special committee is already on the job, our overall tax-to-GDP ratio is bound to improve going forward. India’s value prop looks robust enough to lock horns with emergent challenges. The recent rating upgrade by Moody’s is an international validation of this belief.

Where, do you feel, Nifty and Sensex are headed in 2018?
We are not too keen about Nifty or Sensex going up or down. We trust fundamentally sound businesses through a categorically stock specific approach, irrespective of market conditions. We feel novel themes and narratives in sectors like specialty chemicals, agri and consumer/consumption would do well while corporates needing heavy capex would find the going tough. To answer your question if I must, Nifty and Sensex are likely to scale new highs till the first quarter of 2018. Thereafter, we can expect discernible volatility. This is clearly a liquidity driven market. Lot of money is being pumped by retail investors in form of mutual funds and I think the inflow will continue, thanks to low FD rates and depressed real estate. Equity will invariably prove rewarding over the long term.

How would you rate other asset classes like Gold or Real estate vis-a-vis equities?
The adage OLD IS GOLD continues to be a compelling lure for most Indian households, especially for the female populace. The yellow metal’s ornamental value will never lose its shine but given its high price and allied safety concerns, physical gold is a less preferred asset class for investment. There’s the alternate option of sovereign gold bonds but the liquidity challenges can’t be overlooked. For businesses, gold is equivalent to cash but due to regulatory issues, it’s not that popular a hedge that is made out to be. Gold will always be part of one’s portfolio but not from the investment perspective, and long-term returns don’t look exceptionally promising despite the ‘safe haven’ value prop.

Talking of real estate, given that it’s a predominantly cash-driven business prone to murky deals, it was hit hard by the demonetization drive. The sector is now undergoing a phase of cleansing in the RERA era where we see transparency emerging on both demand and supply sides. It would take time to redefine itself as a thriving asset class although long term prospects appear bright. We also sense Indian consumers are now in favour of lighter asset models. Consequently, they are happy to stay in rented properties rather than bear the huge EMI burden that ownership invites. This trend shift would also have a bearing on sector prospects.

Opinion is largely divided on the pros and cons of the government's Demonetization drive. What’s your take?
There are three aspects we must talk about in this context: demonetisation of Rs. 1000 notes, remonetization of Rs. 500 notes and monetization of Rs. 2000 notes, all aimed at arresting the stock of black money and counterfeit currency. But what happened in consequence? 98.96% of the currency found its way back into the bank. The demonetization had no effect on the generation of black money through numerous channels, nor did it touch that part of the stock held in other asset forms like Benami properties in land and real estate, gold, foreign currency, offshore bank accounts and the like.

Worse, it upset the conducive environment that was painstakingly created for the landmark GST bill. Prior to November 8, 2016, our experience was that people were truly geared to embrace this milestone change on the tax front but post demonetization, their enthusiasm was overturned, especially in cash-driven segments which suffered a huge jolt. On the brighter side, demonetization helped promote and market electronic transactions which in the long run could help establish a culture of digital money.

But has not the government shown positive intent on the reforms front?
Undoubtedly yes. Various legislative changes made by this government like GST, RERA, Insolvency and bankruptcy code will have a positive long-term impact on the economy. But all depends on the quality of execution over time. Disruption from constant amendments to laws, inadequate knowledge of professionals, stubborn mindset of people who are invariably averse to change and lack of awareness particularly in remote and rural areas are factors that pose a huge challenge to any Pan India implementation. If metro professionals find it difficult to cope with transformation, what to talk of small town populace, where there’s a strong dearth of qualified professionals. Lack of technological know-how and its poor acceptance at the grassroots is another bottle-neck.

Landmark reforms are always welcome, but they demand better public awareness to secure the decisive buy-in that paves the optimal path towards desired outcomes. I feel the government must gainfully engage all three institutes – CA, CMA and CS – for feasibility studies, cost benefit analysis, BPR initiatives, and also for ensuring functional literacy of industry stakeholders and citizens. We possess authentic knowledge of parochial realities, not just professional expertise. Hence our recommendations would go a long way in ensuring the success of many a pioneering initiative. More importantly, it will eliminate the need for hindsight adjustments that the government is forced to make in the wake of growing industry protests and resentment following rushed implementation of any initiative rooted in disruption and calling for mass-scale upskilling of resources at short notice.

What role do you see CMAs playing in today’s business universe?
The CMA profession has evolved with time and now plays a pivotal role in helping businesses to move up the value chain. We live in an era of unprecedented disruption, one that is replete with emergent technologies and enormous data explosion. The financial transformation in this incredibly dynamic environment goes way beyond providing accounting solutions. Today, CMAs don’t merely provide cost management services, they act as the vehicles of inclusive growth for organizations across verticals. Given the multitude of multi-product manufacturing and distribution ventures, it has become even more crucial to gauge the exact cost of creating and distributing every product and service at different stages, to minimize expenditure and ensure optimum utilization of resources.

Today, various stakeholders including government, shareholders, investors, regulators, vendors and value chain partners constantly seek updated and analytical information to enhance their decision making and CMAs are ahead of the curve in providing all critical dashboards including KPIs and monetized metrics for use by diverse entities. I feel we CMAs have a lot to contribute in helping businesses to put technology in perspective, be it Big data analytics, Machine Learning or Block chain solutions. We can help organization plan their tech evolution by becoming their change agents, helping them drive revenues, control costs and mitigate risks through new-age tools like predictive analytics, forecasting and econometrics, mathematical simulation and text analytics.

What are the key priorities of your institute?
At ICAI, we are unflinchingly focused on expanding the purview and potency of all critical areas of our professional realm including Cost Records, Cost Audit and Strategic Cost Management Consultancy, Tax management, Banking and Financial service offerings including Valuation and Company law related services including Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code. We regularly conduct capacity building programs and seminars for members, and counselling and placement programs for students. We strive to raise the bar for strategy consulting and integrated reporting to help the government and industry reap rich rewards in the form of evidence-based decision making.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Big Data, Bigger Names

Sudhir Raikar , IIFL | Mumbai | March 08, 2016 09:15 IST

Even as companies big and small are busy declaring their Big Data initiatives ahead of driving them, IIFL pays tribute to a few nonconformist champions – some central, other tangential – who together lend meaning and substance to the over chewed buzzword, thanks to their intuition, insights and inquisitiveness.

- See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/editorial-perspectives-technology/big-data-bigger-names-116030800132_1.html#sthash.6KGIry2R.dpuf

In a world of unabashed corporate antagonism, replete with umpteen “founding” and first-mover claims to breakthrough ideas, concepts or methodologies, certain mavericks stand out for their quiet authority.

Like computer scientist John Mashey, founder of the ASSIST assembler language teaching software and author of PWB Unix shell, or "Mashey Shell". He’s arguably believed to be the father of the term Big Data, having christened it in 1994 in a remarkably matter of fact fashion while he was chief scientist with Silicon Graphics, then a hot and happening Valley player working on Hollywood special effects and spy surveillance systems and hence playing with a lot of data.

Devoid of any academic attribution save for numerous technical talks, thankfully available on websites devoted to technical research, Mashey has only his unflinching conviction to fall back on. He doesn’t need to simply because he’s not staking any claim. Instead, he selflessly right sizes the imagination of people keen to confer the founding title on him, humbly summarising the coinage as only an attempt to settle on an all-inclusive phrase to convey the explosive growth and advancement in computing. This hiking, biking, skiing enthusiast is too busy with his intellectual and creative pursuits to seek reverence for his prescience. This introduction slide from one of his technical presentations (http://www.slideshare.net/amhey/big-data-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-by-john-mashey-techviser) is a good window into his talent and temperament.

Like Gartner data analyst Douglas Laney, who first recalled Mashey’s name - in the context of big data - through a media correspondence. Douglas is the author of the 2001 pioneering research note 3-D Data Management: Controlling Data Volume, Velocity and Variety and among the earliest to discern that more than growing volumes, it was the data flow speeds, thanks to the collective handiwork of e-commerce and post-Y2k ERP application boom that posed a real challenge to data management teams worldwide. As expected, several vultures from the unabashedly ambitious market place claimed Laney’s research as their own, peddling muddled replications and variations of his 3-V (Volume, Velocity and Variety) framework. Laney’s retort befits his nonconformist nature. He’s posted the contents of his original paper (sadly no longer available in Gartner archives) “for anyone to reference and attribute”. Here it is: http://blogs.gartner.com/doug-laney/deja-vvvue-others-claiming-gartners-volume-velocity-variety-construct-for-big-data/

Like etymologist, editor and Yale researcher Fred Shapiro who traces the origin, development and spread of words as a means to study intellectual evolution, not for academic posterity.

Like University of Pennsylvania economist Francis X. Diebold, who initially claimed to have coined the term in his paper “Big Data Dynamic Factor Models for Macroeconomic Measurement and Forecasting,” but later wrote another research paper to humbly reverse the claim, circuitously acknowledging Mashey’s contribution. To quote him, “The term “Big Data,” which spans computer science and statistics/econometrics, probably originated in lunch-table conversations at Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) in the mid 1990s, in which John Mashey figured prominently.”

And last but not the least, like award-winning journalist Steve Lohr, author of the definitive software chronicle “Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts — The Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution” and “Data-ism: The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior, and Almost Everything Else.”

Mashey’s deep connect with Big data came to light through Lohr’s perceptive 2012 search for the term’s origins in loads and loads of digital archives. It was at Lohr’s behest that Shapiro dug out several digital references to trace the origin of Big Data. When he could not come up with anything conclusive, Lohr approached people with knowledge of the subject matter and Diebold and Laney were one of the many people to respond.

Unfazed by the inconclusive results of his hunt, Lohr kept it going, looking for the two words, not merely used as a pair, but used in a manner that would connote the essence as we know it today: massive volumes of structured and unstructured data that move too fast and call for new ways of management. Such usage, Lohr believed, could only be steered by someone with a computing context. Precisely why he zeroed in on Mashey, not on other intriguing but out-of-context references like these two lines from bestseller author Erik Larson’s Harper’s Magazine piece on mailbox junk spread by the direct-marketing industry: “The keepers of big data say they do it for the consumer’s benefit. But data have a way of being used for purposes other than originally intended.”

Hats off to Lohr for his inquisitive and informed search for the name of a phenomenon that’s a now a household name across spheres. Companies flaunting their smallest of Big Data initiatives would do well to learn from Mashey’s prolific nonchalance and Laney’s altruistic activism. Armed with the duo’s frame of mind, they would be in a better position to lock horns with the multihued Big Data challenges including curation, updation and integration. Read all about Lohr’s account in this dated but delightful piece: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/the-origins-of-big-data-an-etymological-detective-story/?_r=0 - See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/editorial-perspectives-technology/big-data-bigger-names-116030800132_1.html#sthash.6KGIry2R.dpuf

Friday, December 22, 2017

Relativity at Play

Thanks for the overflowing feedback from across the globe on this thought piece. But it's not this two-penny review, neither Gabriel's writing, nor Naseer's performance that guarantees instant readership and viewership - it's the timeless charisma and credence of the one and only Albert Einstein...we all have so much to learn from him...

Naseeruddin Shah's performance is a glowing tribute to the self-effacing genius of Einstein and the profound ingenuity of playwright Gabriel Emanuel in highlighting the relativity of the umpteen trials and triumphs that shaped the momentous life of the legendary scientist, feels Sudhir Raikar. (Read online at https://www.indiainfoline.com/article/lifestyle-art-approach/relativity-at-play-114111800146_1.html)

Motley's 'Einstein', the first credible performance of Gabriel Emanuel's landmark play in India, has seen accomplished actors like Peter Boretski, Chris Brittain, Patricio Castillo, Nishin Sharim Paz, Carlos Palma and Victor Attar playing the legendary scientist ever since it was premiered in Canada way back in 1985. Given its dated and decorated existence, it was never easy to carve out another exclusively believable performance notwithstanding Naseer's striking physical resemblance to Einstein. But, thanks to his studied approach - an intricate mix of discipline and discretion, intuition and insight, effort and facility - Einstein comes alive on stage through an engaging monologue with his audience. The way he's relished underlining the scientist's diverse emotions - delight, despondency, reminiscence, regret, fear, fulfillment, belief, bewilderment, guilt, gullibility - it's pretty apparent that Emanuel's perceptive script has generously helped Naseer's cause, a luxury he's seldom enjoyed in his chequered film career.

Emanuel has thoughtfully handpicked both popular and lesser known drama-laden events from the scientist's life to create a wholesome package - nostalgic waves from a rather obscure childhood, academic trials and tribulations, early years of employment, multi-hued challenges of marital life, sparkling moments of professional glory, amusement emanating from his celebrity status, his undying love for music, the nonconformity of his faith, and the tug of war between the pull of his pacifist ideals and the circumstantial push of atomic advancement. Ensuring that the crux of Einstein's contribution is not compromised in the attention to the human dimension, we have the protagonist lucidly elucidating the theory of relativity through his famed 'train and lightning' example as also a vivid demonstration with the help of volunteers from the audience.

Naseer has always won rave reviews for his acting in theatre and films, more like a customary salute reserved for the unanimously revered than any studied appreciation of his craft, like how the film industry extends its perfunctory allegiance to Dada Saheb Phalke at ceremonial events. Watching him play Einstein is a highly rewarding experience provided one cares to look beyond his peripheral Jewish features and the much-talked about likeness to the scientist. Note how he recreates sumptuous slices of history as the 70-year old physicist speaking to us from the cosy confines of his Princeton study (adorned with all the scientific essentials including a table, violin, typewriter, blackboard etched with numerous equations, plethora of books and Mozart playing in the background) - now assuming the role of Uncle Jacob rendering playful Algebra lessons to a young Albert, now turning into the stiff school teacher admonishing the student Einstein for his unduly probing curiosity... one moment rendering a honeyed apology to Newton's sculpture for having disproved his gravity theory, the next moment calling for Helen, his secretary-cum-housekeeper, in utter desperation...One can't but marvel at his finesse in accentuating Einstein's emblematic forgetfulness and marked aversion for an elaborate attire. Whether looking for the misplaced violin bow or displaying the discomfort of freeing his sockless feet from the clutches of his shoes, there's no superfluous emphasis on animation whatsoever. And his reflective utterances of the celebrated Einstein aphorisms (with a delightful German twang) are a case study in effortless acting. You have heard them all before, yet you relish them like they're coming from the horse's mouth for your exclusive benefit. The Motley crew - Shruti Gupte's set design, Jairaj Patil's soothing 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik', Arghya Lahiri's astute lighting, Adhiraj Bose's non-intrusive slide presentation, functional costumes of John Davies and Prakash Laad's simple makeup - deserve special mention for creating a minimal, matter-of-fact environment for the maestro to move around in gay abandon.

Some of our hallowed critics who find the play overtly simplistic or unduly sympathetic (or both) should attempt an independent play on Einstein or play him instead. Either endeavour will help them recognise the futility of their simplistic conclusions and will, in turn, leave them yearning for a sympathetic review. Bringing Einstein on stage was such a tight rope walk, calling for a judicious blend of entertainment and edification as also its competent portrayal....Had the writer tilted either way more than necessary, the play could have either degenerated into a theatrical caricature or reduced to an arid academic representation. Note how Emanuel highlights Einstein's dislike for the rigidity of conventional education through the word "kadavergehorzamkheit" (obedience of the corpse). Einstein used it in the context of the rules and regimentation that intended to turn the subject into a mindless, obedient corpse. Given the fluidity of the script and the excellent rendition by Naseer, the reference doesn't end up becoming a wordy affair. And the desperate manner in which Germany has rediscovered and reclaimed Einstein in recent times only highlights the poignancy of Einstein's life story, so very beautifully expressed in Emanuel's creation. Call it sympathetic if you like but the fact remains.

While we feel the audience involvement as volunteers is a great idea, it runs the risk of fanning the inherent desire of many craving for their moment of glory which could disturb the play's conviction if not dilute it. If Einstein's frisky remark 'You remind me of my first wife' prompts a needless response from the other side as it did on one occasion, it only ends up trivializing the story of Einstein. As it is, for a large part of the audience, watching a play like Einstein is more a staged exhibition of their 'intellectual' propensities than an earnest desire to know the scientist better. It should come as no surprise if they pounce on anything that even remotely sounds frivolous.

One felt, with Einstein at his reflective best in the play, it would have been apt to include at least a passing reference of his heartfelt correspondence with and reverence for Mahatma Gandhi as also his historic Berlin interaction with Rabindranath Tagore, both facts as momentous as his tete-a-tete with Charlie Chaplin. No wonder one of Einstein's relations Dimitri Marianoff had described the Einstein-Tagore conversation ''as though two planets were engaged in a chat.''

A tete-a-tete with the playwright, Canadian Gabriel Emanuel, co-founder of the Israel-based Nephesh Theatre Company and an accomplished poet.

How and when did the idea of the play germinate in your mind?

I was in my 3rd and final year of law school in Kingston, Ontario. I was bored and had long since attended any classes. I woke up one morning and looked up at a poster of the famous physicist which hung on my wall. I realized at that moment that I knew absolutely nothing about science and yet was fascinated by the allure of Einstein's aura. I was determined to educate the other side of my brain and decided to start by reading about Einstein. Needless to say I did not get very far in the world of physics but was captivated by the drama in Einstein's life.

What were the key challenges you faced in the theatrical representation of a genius known the world over for his scientific and philosophical work?

I had to make it fun! May not seem like a simple task to make scientific formulas come alive on stage yet I realized early on that would be the key to holding the audience - and, indeed, the aspect which excited Einstein from his youth. And so we have a live demonstration of relativity in the play - with the help of volunteers from the audience - and a good time is had by all!

Did you base your play on any book or published work about the scientist?

I dedicated a year to research - anything I could get my hands on as far as biographies and papers that Einstein himself had written. Less pure science and more his interaction with the world around him, politics, religion, peace and war, for example.

Your thoughts on Naseeruddin Shah as Einstein...

I've been blessed with many productions in many languages - English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew to name a few. It's an incredible treat to experience the many varied talents that brilliant actors such as India's Naseeruddin Shah bring to their portrayal of Albert Einstein. I am very much looking forward to India's Einstein. From the photographs, I have seen he already bears an amazing likeness.

Picture Courtesy: NCPA