Alice was trembling with overwhelming fear like never before. She was in an alien land. She was facing a terrible beast. The Jabberwocky. Nevertheless, with the help of the white queen and her little soldiers, Alice had slain the Jabberwocky by nightfall!
Alice today was this beautiful creature we humans seem to hardly recognize anymore. It’s called “common sense”. The white queen was another long lost friend. She is called “the scientific temper” and the tiny soldiers were the infidels at IIT Madras who fought tooth and nail to restore the honor and the rightful throne of the white queen.
The Jabberwocky, of course was a man posing to be an expert in the field of Science. It wasn’t underland or wonderland but a wonderful land where scientific temper is nurtured.
My acquaintance with IIT has always been an exciting and a pleasant one. Whenever I had stepped into IIT, it had been for a good cause. It had been a few years since I set foot into IIT and things seem to have changed a little bit. Newer housing buildings had sprung up but the same old cozy heavily forested and lush with nature environment made one feel right at home.
When I entered the auditorium where Dr. A. B. Sudhakara Sastry was to deliver a speech on the topic of “Vedic Sciences: A Treasure waiting for YOU”, little did I know this was going to be the “Heathens’ Night” with the DJ playing nothing but the blasphemy genre of music and we be partying all the way. So I entered and sat down with my friends who had invited me to the occasion. The speech was kicked off by an introduction and a warm-up speech by an IIT Professor. The speech was fascinating despite the references to vedic technology; the gist of it – nano particles in metals, making alloys etc., sounded great. The stage was set for Mr. Sudhakara Sastry. Of course, don’t expect me to refer this guy with a “Dr.” That entitlement is reserved for the medical practitioners or the research graduates or people who had actually done something worthwhile in life that has changed things for the good and has positively contributed to society. “Mr.” is my way of being nice and generous to people like Mr. Sastry.
The ritual (yes, it did not resemble a lecture) started off with a vedic chant. You know, with a start like this, you can expect everything to go downhill from there on but never mind. I tried hard to listen with an open mind and Mr. Sastry started off with the usual list…
Vedic literature has every speck of knowledge we need for today. There is no need to invent; we just need to discover what’s already there.
Vedic literature is divided into two. Nigama – which is the science and then, Agama – which is the technology
Books written by our pandits are no longer available for us to read since they have all been lost in time. All of our thala pathra granthas have been stolen by the Germans in 3 ships.
Every search Mr. Sastry makes leads him to a German website because it’s all housed in German libraries in Germany. Some of our granthas have been stolen by the British as well. Mr. Sastry implied that this sort of explains why the Germans and the British have prospered with our granthas while we are where we are.
At this point in time, Professor Suresh Govindarajan from the Physics Department of IIT Madras got too irritated with all this hogwash and requested for some practical models and examples of how things were applicable. Mr. Sastry said that he had very limited time and that he was merely invited to provide a “High Level Overview” of the ideas that need to be explored and that if he was interested, he should come talk to him later in private. The crowd went totally “Booo!” on this response. Not just that, but it made two other professors join the cocktail party.
By this time Mr. Sastry had done several split jumps and double dives and taken the case of Vedic science to levels that were indefensible even if the paramatma himself descended from the heavens to prove the vedic books he inspired to write, as true and valid in today’s context. To add to the woes, there was this diagram that came up on the screen that made us go crazy.
Have a look. Hint: Grab a drink as well, you are gonna need it.
At this point, the Professor who started questioning first stood up and asked Mr. Sastry to explain this diagram and what it does and of course, Mr. Sastry couldn’t. Shots of vocabulary were heard being fired left, right and center. The organizers tried to do a bit of damage control and everyone calmed down to let Sastry proceed with his fairytale stories of how vedic science “is the best” of all sciences. He went on to say more things that he would later painfully regret.
For example Sastry said that Ancient people could do far more complex arithmetic problems without a computer than people today with computers find difficult to grasp. When he said this I was like “Dude, windows calculator has scientific calculator too. Like seriously?!?”
Never mind, we let him continue and he came up with this! ->
Maha Prakriti stuff. 25 schools of study/thought and if it does not fit into this, it aint science bro! The whole ordeal was so painful. I am grappling with the notepad to write as much as I can but Mr. Sastry has a flair for pseudoscience at the speed of light, which I was not able to keep up with, obviously.
Mr. Sastry went on to say how his metal alloys were being discussed with the DRDO and how we are trying to use such stuff in defense applications. It all made sense to me then. I knew why 2 out of every 4 rockets we send up ended in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea instead of hitting stratosphere.
Why blame him though? All of our granthas are with the goddamn Germans. Them thieves! While I was slowly recovering from the German thief’s recklessness, the last thing I expected on planet earth came on screen. I was so shocked that I failed to shoot a picture of it. I just froze in time!
Yes! Internet Hoax from a 6th grade school kid, of RSS parents. When I saw this, I knew where this was going. If you are still wondering why I am so stuck up on this image, here is why.
I couldn’t let this one go but I had to wait until Q & A time. You see as a British servant, there was no reason for Lord McCaulay to go all waxy poetic about India’s awesomeness. Of course, the real text of his speech can be found here which is completely contradictory to this image, which has no valid sources except when it began appearing on RSS/VHP and other right wing Hindu extremist and Indian nationalistic webpages.
Mr. Sastry claimed how he had been doing research on metallurgy and concepts like making alloys by using herbs, which were environmentally friendly have to be explored from our ancient texts and our current way of making alloys is so inefficient and toxic. While I agree with him that environmental friendly ways of mass producing resources need to be considered and it could be that our ancient texts may have processes that we could take a look at for reference, this does not mean modern ways of making metal alloys are nonsensical.
Never mind, moving on several claims were made.
Panini, the great Panini came up…
Divine Engineering technologies came up as well. I mean, who knew…
Random quotes from Mr. Sastry’s paper boy, laundry man, mail man, janitor et al came up…
Did you infidels know anti-gravity was possible? I’m sure your narrow minded brains don’t compute this.
I mean, he could have advertised his company like this…
Talked about their universities awards like this…
And rolled the end credits like this and left.
But he didn’t. He decided to ride on and after this came the Q & A sessions. I’ll tell you what. The heathens were awake, wide awake!
Here is a sample of what happened…
Update – Video links provided by Javali.
- Prof. Suresh Govindarajan interrupts the talk demanding examples
- Q & A begins with Prof. S. K. Das exposing his fraudulent line of argument, joined by Prof. Dhiman and Prof. Suresh
- Prof. Dhiman Chatterjee exposes his fraud claims based on ‘Vymanika Shastra’, followed by other Prof’s arguments
- A student at IIT Madras exposes the speaker with brilliant arguments
- Another IITM student demolishes Sastry’s credibility through her query
- Yet another sample of rational argumentation by an IITM student
- Last nail in the coffin! Prof. S. K. Das sums it up with differentiating science and traditional knowledge.
Professor Das pointed out that everything ancient cannot be termed as “Vedic”. Some of the items he showed were clearly post the Vedic period and that Vedas had nothing to do with it. Several other professors pointed out that there have been no models, methods or ideas mentioned in the presentation today. Some of the organizers tried to defend Mr. Sastri and said that he was merely someone who had scratched the surface of what is now known as “vedic science” and that too a small portion of it, metallurgy.
Sadly, this carpet bombed on them because there was a Professor on metallurgy sitting right there and that swung him into action, sigh! He questioned on the corrosive resistance values of some of the metal alloys presented in the discussion and some technical specifications (which I clearly did not understand as it went right over my head) and the same reply about “this is just basic stuff. Meet me offline if you are interested in learning from me” came up which people rightly shoved off as nonsense.
Several other technical questions came up on the methods and the review process of Mr. Sastry’s work. Again, several people from the organizing committee and some from the audience tried to defend Sastry saying he was merely an expert and not a scientist. This ended up back firing as well since Mr. Sastry claims to have scratched this field and has been a “one man army” trying to get the scientific community to dedicate some time to Vedic technology. Mr. Sastry also never hesitated a bit about boasting his credentials about writing a book on this subject. When contested about this, the “I wrote a book” claim was reduced to “he merely translated the book verbatim. Why are you questioning him on this?!?” from one of his supporters.
Nevertheless, the force was with us and the force was too much to handle for the people trying to help Mr. Sastry. At this point in time my friends who were with me questioned Mr. Sastry on his take on what Science was and what Science was not. Considering everyone was questioning Mr. Sastry I thought it was only fair that as a complete noob to the subject of scientific research, I only ask Mr. Sastry on his content integrity. I ended up asking why Mr. Sastry had an Internet Hoax image which even school kids and college goers would dismiss as unreliable evidence and how confident he was about his fact checking skills before he puts things on a slide. Mr. Sastry uttered an “Oh”.
Mr. Sastry’s woes did not end with me. Another round of what “Traditional Knowledge” is and what “Science” is was schooled to Mr. Sastry by Professor Das. The last comment was from another Professor (I think) and he described how humiliated he felt to have someone like him on the dais. Someone mentioned that they missed Professor V. Balakrishnan who was absent during this session.
The Q & A session had to be put to an end. It was going nowhere as people were heckling the living daylights out of Mr. Sastry for his tall and hollow claims. We all walked out and for another half an hour there were discussions internally on how this entire fiasco happened, I assume. I finally met some of the professors, thanked them for standing up for the “scientific temper” and “rationality” and we had a good chat for another 30 odd minutes before getting back home.
I feel like a wounded soldier in a battlefield. I’m stupefied beyond belief that someone like Mr. Sastry would even warrant an invitation at an institution like IIT. All the jokes in the Dravidian circle about IIT being Iyer Iyengar Technology seemed so real for a brief 30 minutes but then the way IIT Madras slam dunked this man this evening, IIT stands right where it needs to be. IIT is a living breathing creature and it takes a lot to violate the integrity of a creature like the IIT. IIT will be safe. There are enough torch bearers of the “Scientific Temper” who will make a bonfire out of the Sastrys that will set foot into IIT.
As for me, I think I should go to bed. I’m listening to Jackie Chan’s Believe in Yourself. (Yes, Jackie Chan is a professional singer as well!) I think it’s a deserving and an apt song to retire for the day, thinking about all the hurdles Science skimmed through like a breeze amidst a meadow of flowers.
Alice had to slay the Jabberwocky. She did.