Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir


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Following an ancestral custom, his bride was chosen by his uncle and not himself, but the choice was excellent and they have had a happy, successful marriage. Shortly thereafter, Singbal and Narasimhan were invited to France to work with me. Narasimhan quickly developed a mild case of tuberculosis, detected only by the preventive tests of our university system; he was a vegetarian and at the time university restaurants were not at all equipped to offer proper vegetarian menus.

Since then, he has accepted to eat meat. Chandrasekharan is also a vegetarian, not out of respect for religious tenets but because he has been accustomed to this diet since his childhood and he has no taste for meat. The students at the Institute had to work very hard; after a personal evaluation, each of them had to follow certain courses. There were always a large number of these: I gave two or three classes a week, and there were two other guest speakers there at the same time — Hans Maass, a German professor, and Hans Rademacher, an American professor, who were both known for their first-rate work.

As a matter of fact, I also attended their classes. The students worked on the classes together and, as I said, it was Singbal and Narasimhan who transcribed my course. Naturally, I corrected it afterwards and it was then published, just like all the other courses given at the Institute, in a particular collection whose reputation quickly spread around the world. Among the brilliant students I met during my stay, there was also C.

Seshadri, whom I introduced to complex analytic manifolds. Sample of a letter written by Laurent Schwartz from India. Credit: Claudine Schwartz. The effort the Tata Institute put into the mathematical training of its students was formidable: university professors of remarkable talent were invited from all around the world, totalling thirty months a year in the number of their collective working hours. I always greatly enjoyed giving lessons there and engaging in discussions with everyone.

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The secretary of the Institute organised everything with remarkable efficiency and was very friendly. He was a poet, and I think he wrote his own poetry on top of being well-versed in Indian poetry. I saw the same sort of attitude on other occasions, when people thought that university classes were given in English in Paris, as they were in their own country. I travelled throughout India on many occasions, with Maass and Rademacher in , and sometimes by myself in later years.

However, there are some of them I would like to say a few words on. In the Bombay area, I visited Kandala, where there are beautiful bronze statues of the Buddha with incredibly gentle smiles.

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When you enter the cave where they are hanging from ceiling, and they all take flight at the same time and you find yourself surrounded by squirming but harmless vampires. In the region of Madras, I had the chance to admire the Mahabalipuram sculptures, a wonderful variety of human and animal figures sculpted from a huge rock. In the north east, the temples of Bhubaneshwar and Konark are home to a series of representations of romantic and sexual relationships which are quite sensational. And finally, out of all the wonders surrounding Agra, near New Delhi, I will only mention the Taj Mahal, one of the most magical places I have ever seen.

Its shape is stunning, especially against a bright blue sky, or under the moonlight at night. The colourful mural engravings are of delicate flowers, in contradiction with the Islamic law which forbids to represent living beings. What can be done?

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Those are the rules of democratisation, but the emotion I felt at the Taj Mahal in was never the same. My first visit to the Taj Mahal remains one of the greatest days of my life. Of course, I gave a few lectures at the University of Delhi. The university was filled with monkeys: they entered the student dorms if the windows were left open and ripped up the papers. There were also cows on campus; one evening, I had a hard time entering my room because a cow and its calf were lying in front of the door.

As everyone knows, the cow is a sacred animal for Indians. There are more than a hundred million cows in India.

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Many of them come to die of hunger in the cities. Once, I travelled from Calcutta to New Delhi by plane. The trip was breathtaking, as we flew above the Himalaya for several hours. All these paintings and sculptures are incredibly expressive. I took a liking to Indian music and even more to Indian dance, and saw several concerts and dance shows. Asian dances are very graceful and are composed of hand, arm and leg movements which can be admired in its entirety and studied in detail as well.

I saw many of these dances in India, Cambodia and Thailand. The same grace can be found in the bronze statues of these countries, and I often think of it. I believe the most beautiful bronze statues of India can be found in the Museum of Calcutta: I spent hours looking at them. In my opinion, the huge, white, pyjama-like sheets men often wear are most unflattering, but saris and shawls are very beautiful.

Some time ago now, Chandrasekharan retired from the Tata Institute to go teach in Zurich; he wanted the younger generation to come into its own. His successors were very efficient in their job. However, there is a flaw in the way the Tata Institute works: students are paid and if they stay at the Institute, they have a much better salary than anyone teaching in an Indian university. Furthermore, because of jealousy and envy, these universities will not often employ them. The students, who have been trained and are now quite numerous as they were admitted into the Institute at a rate of a dozen per year, have nowhere else to go — but neither can they all stay put.

The problem has been solved in part because the Tata Institute has created an annexe in Bangalore, and has good relations with the University of Bombay. The entire scientific structure of the country would have then changed. But to reach that goal, a certain number of dispositions should have been taken, like giving certain privileges to the alumni of the Tata Institute in universities and research centres.

Once I wrote to Mrs. Indira Gandhi to suggest this but received no reply, which is a shame as Chandrasekharan knew her well. Today there are former members of the Tata Institute teaching in mathematics departments all over the world, contributing to the scientific development of Western countries! And all for the same reasons as in other Third World countries: few Indian universities could give brilliant scientists the same comfortable and stimulating working conditions as their Western counterparts.

To achieve this would require reaching a certain threshold, which the Tata Institute could have contributed to after a difficult start. And so, the Indian mathematicians J.

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Choksi, K. Gowrisankaran, both alumni of the Institute, and the Colombian mathematician B. I travelled to India four times and would have loved to return there more often, as it is a country I dearly love, but I love so many countries that it was the best I could do. In , I came during the monsoon season in July, August and September.

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The heat and humidity were excruciating. The rain is truly formidable: ten centimetres per day in Bombay before progressively diminishing. This makes a total of six metres of rain per year, compared to 75 centimetres in Paris. The monsoon slowly travels from south to north. Before it arrives, the sky is covered with dark, low-lying clouds, and it finally bursts in an incredible storm, even though not a single drop of rain has fallen beforehand.

Then it rains every day, with a major rainfall that stops only to start again every half-hour. As it happened, I had caught histoplasmosis in Peru a few months before; I was still very tired and the climate of India made it worse. If the baby was registered as an Indian citizen, his caste had to be given, which was impossible. Finally, they registered the baby as an Indian citizen without indicating his caste. Of course, following the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, progress has been made on the issue of castes; they have now no official recognition, even if they are still very much present in the minds of the people.

The city of Calcutta is a difficult place to visit because of its immense poverty: the streets were full of beggars and paupers, often dying where they lay.

Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir
Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir
Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir
Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir
Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir
Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir
Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir Killing My Own Snakes: A Memoir

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