Proposed cover page of my upcoming book.
To write or not to write…
Do you have to be an expert to author a technical book?
Once in the Champakaranya forest there lived a troop of monkeys. The head monkey was an expert at detecting any approaching predator, whether it was an eagle in the air or a leopard on the ground, and of any monkey-traps on the ground. However, the head monkey thought it was undignified of him to shout even when he sensed that danger was nearby. He expected the troop monkeys to observe him and hide or run away when he did. But, of course, this was never perfect. The troop lost many a member to predators and traps because they did not get an early warning of the danger.
Over time, a young monkey started learning the techniques to sense the approach of an oncoming predator and any traps set in the ground. He was not an expert as the head monkey was, but as soon as he sensed that danger was nearby, he shouted and alerted the other monkeys. Of course, he made mistakes and sometimes gave false alarms. But as time passed, he got better.
The monkey troop was very happy and decided that it was better to have as head a semi-expert who informed them of oncoming danger rather than an expert who kept silent and kept the knowledge to himself. So, they dethroned the head and made the young monkey their head.
Experts in a field pass on their knowledge to others in various ways. Some consult, some coach, some give talks and some write books.
But what if you are not an expert?
I know many people who hold themselves back from writing and authoring books in technical areas because they feel that they are not ‘experts’ in the field. They perhaps feel that they are frauds, writing about an area that they are not at the top of. Another fear many people have is that if they are not ‘experts’ and write and publish a book, they may be caught out when somebody opens a discussion on the topics covered in the book.
[Let us get the difference between an author and a writer out of the way. A writer is someone who writes anything: a log, a book, any sort of content etc. A journalist is a writer. An author is a person who has written and published a book that is credited to their name. The author owns the copyright to the book. When I use the term ‘write’ a book, I mean writing it with the intention of getting it published, with the writer getting the credit and owning the copyright.]
I think that these fears are unfounded. If you can write well, you can write about anything, provided you get inputs from experts, either by interviewing and interacting with them or reading their published works. Remember a book is not like a research paper. In a research paper you are putting forward new ideas or coming to new conclusions. But a book’s purpose is basically to put into easy language known ideas and conclusions. [Indeed, if the book being written is on a completely new idea, and there are no experts around, then you better be the expert also.]
But the reverse may not be true, even if you are an expert, if you cannot write well, you cannot write a book on the topic.
With apologies to the good bard, I write good words while others think good thoughts.
The basic idea of writing is to share with people what you know and what you can get from others. This is the basic dharma of a writer: inform the reader. As long as you are able to do this, whether or not you are an expert, you are OK. The real purpose is connecting with your readers and informing them. Of course, one thing that is important to note is that as a writer you can form your own opinion about the subject and put that forward too. You don’t have to be restricted to what ‘experts’ have put forward.
Another idea of writing a book is that even if you are not an expert when you start writing the book, by your association with experts while writing the book, you become an expert yourself! [This aspect, by the way, should put to rest fears that you may not be able to answer questions on the topic.] What, after all, is an expert? Lexico.com powered by Oxford defines an expert as A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area. It is not clear how much knowledge you need in a particular area to be called an expert. The expert is a relative one. Writing a book on a topic will certainly take you very far into being an expert in the topic.
So, I say: Write, if you can, whether you are an expert or not.
But whoever is writing a book, one thing is clear. Writing a book takes a lot of commitment. Only a writer will know the amount of work involved in writing and getting a book published. For every book that is written and published there may be hundreds that are left incomplete.
[Note: Writing a book is only one way an expert informs others. There are many other ways, as I said before, like coaching, consulting, speaking and so on.]
Calendars of India: Theory and Practice – Book in the Workshop
Suggestions for topics for inclusion (or exclusion) are welcome.
(This book is in the workshop. I am right now gathering materials for this book. Am looking at six to nine months for the completion of the book. Then another year for publishing it?)
A YouTube version is available here.
(Note that these are the first thoughts. Subject matter [and title] may undergo changes as time passes. Any suggestions in this area are welcome.)
These days, there is an upswell of interest in Indian mathematics, Indian astronomy and Indian religions, observances and festivals. Most of these observances and festivals are celebrated on particular dates of one calendar or the other. For example, the birthday of Lord Rama, one of the most important deities of veneration among Indians, is celebrated on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra. What does that mean?
In India, while we follow the western (Gregorian Calendar) for civil and official purposes, at home, for religious and liturgical purposes we follow a myriad of calendars based on the region we are in, based on our religion, our community etc.. This gives rise to many questions that an average person is faced with:
- Why is Lord Krishna’s birthday celebrated on different dates in different parts of India? Why even in the same place, Iyers and Iyengars have different dates for Krishna’s birthday?
- Why do we hear people saying “While my actual birthday is today, my birth star / birth tithi is next week” What does it mean when someone says my birth star is today?
- Do time zones make a difference to the star you are born under? [That is, does a person born at the same instant in the US and in India fall under the same star, tithi etc?]
- Why is Makar Sankranti which is supposed to be the start of Uttarayana, celebrated nearly 24 days after the actual event of the start of Uttarayana? What is Uttarayana?
- Why are there so many year-beginning dates in India? How many “new-years” are there in India and why?
- How are months reckoned in the various calendars? Why do some months in some calendars have 32 days?
- What is the concept of an added month? That is, why do some years have 13 months? And rarely only 11 months?
- How do Christians fix the date of Easter?
- Why does the Muslim festival of Ramadan migrate across the seasons? That is, why does Ramadan come sometimes in summer and sometimes in winter?
- Why do Shraaddhas (death anniversaries) and birthdays of the same star or tithi fall on different days?
- What are the five “limbs” of the Panchanga? And what is the significance of each of those?
- What is Raahu Kaala? And why is it bad? What are the other Kaalas?
- What is a “muhurta”? What do we mean when we say that the “muhurta” for a wedding is such and such a time?
- What is the meaning of a birth chart and how do you cast it?
- Does the day begin at sunrise, sunset or any other time?
- What is the effect of an eclipse?
- What is Kali Yuga and Kali day number?
- What is the history of the calendar?
- What is the astronomy behind calendars?
- What are the various calendars followed in India and how are they organised?
- What is the meaning of a solar calendar, a lunar calendar, a luni-solar calendar etc?
- Why don’t we have leap years in Indian calendars?
- Why are there 30 tithis but only 27 stars?
- What is yoga in the panchanga?
- Why is there a difference between the beginning and ends of the birth signs (Aries, Taurus etc.) between western and Indian systems?
These are some of the kinds of questions that people of India grapple with every day when it comes to celebrating any religious festival.
This book Calendars of India: Theory and Practice strives to answer all the above questions and do much more.
The first part of the book looks at the origin of calendars and how calendars are intimately tied to the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the planets. It then goes into the astronomy of calendars, touching upon the following, among others:
- The Solar System – the revolution of the earth round the sun, the movement of the sun, the moon and the planets as seen from the earth;
- The rotation of the earth – time, reckoning of days and hours minutes etc.
- Sunrise, sunset, equation of time, mean solar day, sidereal day
- Coordinate systems, the ecliptic, celestial equator, equinoxes, solstices; precession of the equinoxes and ayanamsa; obliquity of ecliptic, nutation etc. etc.
- The year, days from equinox to equinox, the tropical year, the anomalistic year, the sidereal year etc
- Days of the week
- The sky, the stars, constellations, signs, the path of the ecliptic, the position of the sun
- The moon, position of the moon, the phases of the moon and Eclipses
- Notes on Indian astronomy, the various siddhantas (Surya Siddhanta, Brahma Siddhanta and Arya Siddhanta) and the various karanas associated with them,
- Epochs, Julian Day and Kali Yuga and Kalidina.
- The changing sky and star orientations over the ages.
The second part looks at the Gregorian Calendar, its evolution and the logic behind it with respect to the astronomy discussed in the first part. The Gregorian calendar serves as a baseline for looking at other calendars. It also looks at the history of calendars.
The third part looks at the basic logic of Indian calendars and how the astronomical facts discussed in the first part affect them. Some of the topics discussed in this part are:
- Types of calendars and the logic behind them – Solar calendars, lunar calendars, luni-solar calendars, equal-month calendars etc.
- Solar months – stars, day numbering/naming, sankranthi, rule for beginning a month
- Lunar months – Amaanta (new-moon last) and Puurnimaanta (full-moon last) systems, half-months/pakshas, tithis, day numbering/naming, month names, added (adhika) months, suppressed (kshyaya months), day additions, day suppressions, day repetition, length of months, adhika, kshaya tithis etc.
- Lunisolar month
- Yuga, kalpa, mahayuga etc. samvatsaras, cycyles, kshaya and adhika samvatsara jupiter cycle
- Mentioning dates; 10th day of the 8th month or 10 days after 8 months. Count up from the first of the month (like we do now) or count down to an event (like the roman counted to the ides etc.)
The fourth part looks at the various calendars of India and how they are organised:
- the various Indian Panchangas and calendars – Kollam era, tamil era, vikrama era, saka era, gupta, bengali, Kannada/Telugu era, oriya, muslim era, maratha and many more
- Calendars during the Vedic times
- Chinese calendar, iranain calendar
- Mathematical calendars (computed purely mathematically) and astronomical calendars (based on the position of the sun, moon etc.) ; Observational calendars (based on sighting of moon etc.)
The fifth part looks at the mathematics and astronomy (not predictions!) behind the astrological systems of India
- Birth charts, Rashis (signs), positions of the planets, what is Rahu and Ketu, What is Gulika etc. effect of time zones
- Navamshas and other amshas
- What is ascendant (lagna)
- What is the meaning of houses, aspects etc.
- What is retrograde motion of planets?
- What are muhurtas (times, good times etc.), Raahu kaala and other kaalas etc. dashas; balance of dashas
As I mentioned before, these are initial thoughts. As I get more and more into details of the book, subject matter and the order and format they are presented in may change.
The Five Values (and the Ten Principles) of Writing as Enjoyment
It is the dream of everyone to write a book. When you are young, you have great visions of becoming an author. You feel that you can make a living writing a book, rather than by doing a regular day-job. But, as you get older, your romantic notions of writing a book to be seen as an intellectual start fading. If you have not written a book by the time you are 35, it is highly unlikely that you will write a book for the next 20 years. You have too many mundane things to worry about. As a householder it is difficult to write a book. This is what I feel. Don’t ask me for evidence of this.
Now, once you cross 55 and start thinking about retiring from your regular-day job, your writing urges start coming back. But now, you have more lofty ideals. Rather than being seen as an intellectual, you want to ‘give back to the world’. You want to put your experiences on paper so that, hopefully, others can benefit from them.
I have now written and published three books. The fourth one is doing the round of the publishers looking for a home. My first book was published when I was 62. So I fall into the second category. Having written four books, I have come to some conclusions about writing. This ‘manifesto’ is the manifestation of those conclusions.
I will enunciate five values and a set of principles that can form a guide for anyone, of the first or second category, to start writing a book. I call this method of writing – following these values – as ‘writing as enjoyment’. These values may seem contrary to all the management principles you have learned so far, contrary to all the advice you will find on writing books, but so what?
I want to hurry here to add that all these values and principles are only for unknown writers like you and me. They are not for writers of the ilk of John Grisham or Amish Tripathi – writers whose books become bestsellers while even in the womb. And they are not for those, who though they are first time writers,have otherwise made a name for themselves and whose first book will sell automatically. A person like, say, Nandan Nilekani.
So, here goes:
In my experience as a writer, I have come to believe in the following values and principles as paramount in ‘writing as enjoyment’.
Note: I have presented the values as ‘something over something-else’. You find that what is on the right-hand side is what is traditionally and normally presented as important for writing a book. I am not saying that there is no value in what is on the right-hand side. What I am saying is that there is more value in what is on the left-hand side. The ten principles outlined, if followed, by you as a writer, will help you live the values mentioned.
- Writing the book over publishing the book
- Enjoying the writing over enjoying the end product
- Starting the writing over planning for the writing
- Writing for yourself over writing for others
- Living to write over writing to live
- Do not be constrained by what you think others want you to write
- Approach publishers only after completing the writing of the book.
- Write, write, write; do not worry about the result.
- Write, read, re-write, re-read, correct, re-write, re-correct…
- You can start your jogging regimen even in your old shoes.
- Don’t be a word counter.
- Do not let others manipulate your idea.
- Don’t worry about the audience.
- Do not expect to make a lot of money writing.
- Write, because you have a message for the world.
Explanation of each value and principle
The first value is: Writing the book over publishing the book
What this value means is this. When you write a book, do not write it with the aim of publishing it. Of course, you may ask, then why the hell am I writing it? Not for keeping it among your hidden files hoping that your great-grand-child will one day find it and publish it. But, if you focus on the publishing aspect of the book, you will be constrained by what publishers look for in a book – market value and sales potential. You don’t want that to happen. You want to let your free spirit flow into the book. You can worry about market needs and sales potential later. So, the first principle that goes with this value is this: Do not be constrained by what you think others want you to write. You are writing for yourself. Not for others.
If you are lucky, a publisher may accept your book and give you an advance, even though you have not even written a quarter of the book. Maybe the publisher likes the genre, maybe they like the plot, or they are just feeling generous. The problem here is that now you are committed to a date, a particular storyline, a particular position etc. The publisher may, and it is their right to, start dictating terms. You may even need to change the entire plot. My suggestion is this. Look for publishers only after completing the writing of your book. I know it is difficult to say ‘no’ if some publisher offers you a tidy sum and a promise to publish your work. Though the chances of such an offer are as low as th at of your going to Mars one day, if you do get such an offer it will be difficult to resist it. Then you will have a trade-off decision on your hands. So my next principle is this: Approach publishers only after completing the writing of the book.
The second value is: Enjoying the writing over enjoying the end product
Most writers and authors have grand visions of the end-product. A book that becomes a best seller and sells in the millions, the author a rich man etc. While writing my first book, I would constantly go into a dream, thinking of my book breaking all records. Remember only a small percentage of books become successful. So, the chances of your book breaking into the big club are very slim. But, don’t lose heart. You are in it for the writing, not the publishing. Enjoy writing the book. Enjoy the journey more than arriving at the destination. In fact, what you will find is that, while you were excited to no end while writing the book, once it is over and published, you suddenly feel a void, and no sense of achievement. As Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Geeta, ‘your right is only to the work, not to the result’. If you concentrate on writing, rather than on what the end-product will look like, you may end up with a good book. So, the next principle of writing is: Write, write, write; do not worry about the result.
Does this principle mean that you type out letters randomly on the keyboard and hope that a book will form, as promised by the infinite monkey theorem? No, no. As your book develops, you enjoy reading and re-reading it as you write. While you write about a character here, you should make sure that you are not contradicting something said of him before. So, read, re-read, write, re-write, correct, re-correct as part of the writing process. Consistency, correctness, characterisation, setting, all these will and need to alter as you go along. You may get new ideas as you are writing, you may find new facts as you are writing. All these may need to be incorporated. Enjoy this as much as writing new chapters. So, my next principle is: Write, read, re-write, re-read, correct, re-write, re-correct…
The third value is: Starting the writing over planning for the writing
Towards the end of every year, around Christmas time, you will find thousands of people buying new running/exercise shoes. They have all made the resolution that they will start an exercise and jogging regimen come the new year. So they buy new shoes, new gizmos that measure how many steps they have jogged, new shorts etc. Then the new year arrives and they find one excuse or another to not jog or exercise. The new equipment? Sitting in a corner! The main thing is starting your exercise or jogging regimen, even with old shoes, even if it is the middle of the year; not planning for it. And remember it is more important to run your steps than counting how many you have run.
The same principle applies to writing. I know people who resolve to write a book, and buy books about writing, buy a new laptop, even buy a new chair. Forget all this. Start writing, even if it is on your old laptop. Everything else comes after this. So, the next principle is: You can start your jogging regimen even in your old shoes.
And don’t worry about the size of your book. When I was writing the first book, I used to brag about the number of words I had written so far and the fact that I would reach 90K words. It is more important to say what you want to say, not saying it in as many words as you can! In fact, don’t worry about the number of words, don’t count them till you have finished the book. As Kenny Rogers says in the Gambler, “You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s is done”. And, many people tell you, ‘write at least 500 words a day’ or some such thing. Don’t worry about all that. Write what you can, when you can. So the next principle is: Don’t be a word counter.
The fourth value is: Writing for yourself over writing for others
You will hear people telling you, get feedback, get feedback early. I don’t believe in that. You are writing the book for yourself, not for others. If it makes others also happy, and therefore you make some money, see it as a by-product of the process by which you kept yourself happy – by writing for yourself. Of course, you do want some feedback on spelling, consistency etc. but not on your idea. Your idea is yours. You are committed to it. You believe in it. Don’t let anyone else say otherwise. You want to put your message across, not someone else’s. Sure enough publishers may not publish it. So what. These days you can self-publish. So, the next principle is: Do not let others manipulate your idea.
One of the important advice that is given to aspiring writers is ‘Research your audience’. Find out what readers want, find out how they have reacted to books of a similar ilk, is there a common area where what the readers want overlaps what you want to write about. All this advice is okay. But, again, it detracts from your idea and from what you want to say. Did Kafka or James Joyce research their audience and figure out what the audience wanted? Of course, I am not saying that you or I are at Kafka’s level, but the general principle holds. You write what you want to write, not what the audience wants to hear. So, the next principle is: Don’t worry about the audience.
The fifth value is: Living to write over writing to live
You are a writer because you like writing. You find great satisfaction in writing. You are living to write. But, if your motivation is making a lot of money, you are in the wrong business. As you may already know, only a small percentage of books become commercially successful. If you have a family to support, don’t think that you can do it by writing. Find yourself a regular job. Of course, there are many professional writers who make a living out of writing. Writers of TV serials, for example. Many of them regularly belt out the next part of a 7000 episode serial every day. But, it is like a day-job for them. Shakespeare wrote his dramas simply to make money. But since you cannot, and may not, want to be a serial writer, you may need to keep your job, unless you are retired, like me. But this does not need to stop you from writing. You can write in the evening to unwind. See writing as a relaxation after work. So, the next principle is: Do not expect to make a lot of money writing.
You are an important person. Do not underestimate yourself. You have many things to tell the world. You have many new ideas, many new concepts. Who but you, will bring this to the world?,You are born to spread your message. So, write about your ideas. Let the world know what your thoughts are. You are born to write. So write. The next principle therefore is: Write, because you have a message for the world.
Conclusion: I think great and successful writers have followed these values and principles when they wrote their books. A word of caution though. The converse need not be true. All who have followed these principles have not become great writers. There is always percentages at work here. You have to realise that when you sit down to write.
The Five Tantras of Enterprise Agility: Delighting Customers in a volatile world
A book from PM Power Consulting (pm-powerconsulting.com). Please click here to see extracts from the book.
Agile has caught the fancy of the world. It is now a force to reckon with in our rapidly changing business world. Development practices based on Agile have become the first choice of project managers and leaders across thousands of organisations worldwide. Time and again, Agile has proven to be more flexible and effective in responding to change than other, traditional approaches.
Becoming Agile and sustaining it is difficult, yet deeply rewarding. With Agile, customers and stakeholders get the best outcomes as they are engaged throughout in the process of delivering continuous value to the customer. In an environment that is continuously and rapidly changing, it is important that products change quickly to keep up with the evolving needs of customers, and to outpace competition. And being Agile allows for precisely this – quick changes to products. With its focus on users and business value, Agile thinking has lived up to its promise of being the most adaptive development approach in a turbulent and ever-changing world.
Coaches of PM Power Consulting have, over the years, helped many organisations on their transformation journey towards becoming and being Agile. They have observed that this journey, to becoming Agile, is not smooth. There are many pitfalls along the way. Organisations do many things right, but sometimes fall into one of these pitfalls and struggle to move forward. Many organisations have successfully wended on this journey and arrived at their destination. Some have found the journey too tedious and have given up along the way. And, some organisations who have reached there and have become Agile, stay there for a while and then regress.
How do you ensure that an organisation starting on its Agile journey has smooth sailing along the way and a safe haven once it reached its destination? This book is the result of putting together the experience and learnings of these PM Power coaches to help organisations in exactly this. Reaching there and staying there.
This book is presented as the story of one such Agile transformation journey – the journey of an organisation representing many of the organisations that PM Power has engaged with as Agile coaches. A representative coach comes into this organisation about a year-and-a-half into their Agile transformation journey. He is chartered to assess how far and well this organisation has progressed on their Agile transformation. He notes at some of the good things they did, some of the new methods and practices they adopted; how they changed their culture and mindset, their leadership paradigms and their thinking on efficiencies and inefficiencies; how they changed their ways looking at learning and innovation; and how they organised themselves to meet all these challenges; and above all, how they changed their focus to delivering continuous value to the customer. He also notes some of the things that the organisation could have done differently and better in their journey – some amber signals that should have alerted them to a problem ahead.
This book is primarily intended for leaders who are looking to take their organisations on the Agile Transformation journey and managers who will drive this transformation. It will alert them to what they can look forward to and what they need to look out for on this journey. The book is also intended for change agents (coaches and consultants) who help organisations progress on the transformation. The book will add to their experience set that will help them advise their clients in the best possible way. Project / Program Managers, Scrum Masters and team members who are keen to play an influential role in the organizational agile transformation process also will be able to benefit from this book.
The objective of this book is to help these people address the concerns of organizations as they try to reap benefits of moving to Agile – in a specific sense, to address the gap between an organization’s stakeholders’ expectations from Agile (to meet business needs) and their real outcomes and to help the leadership of organizations understand and implement agility at an organizational level (as opposed to agility in teams and projects). The objective of this book is to bring to the intended readers the wealth of experience and wisdom about Agile and its implementation that coaches at PM Power have built up over the years.
The book is written in a conversational style as in our previous book, Software Project Health: An Epic Retold. This makes it easier to read and certainly, to write. The hero coach of the book, Dr Vishnusharman employs a coaching style of conversation to understand what is going on and what needs to be done.
To drive home some of the points, we have used fables, some from Panchatantra, some from Aesop and some from the fertile imagination of the writer’s own mind.
The book is divided into five “books”. Each of the “books” looks at one Enterprise Agile Transformation Value. These five values are:
- Focus on Customer Outcomes;
- Transformational Leadership;
- Experimentation and Learning; and
- Lean Thinking.
In each of these books, we discuss five main aspects (in one chapter each) of internalising that particular value:
- The process of getting there or getting the value implemented;
- Ensuring the right culture and mindset for internalising this value;
- Creating the right organisation for success in implementing and sustaining this value;
- The role of leadership in implementing and sustaining this value; and
- The tools and processes needed for this.
The book is a compendium of what needs to be done, and done right, and what should be avoided, or not done, on the journey to becoming Agile; and after having reached there, staying Agile. The real focus is on being and staying Agile. At the end of each book we give a summary list of the set of “amber signals”, or the things that the organisation should have done or could have done better in their transformation journey. Thus, the book contains both the good practices that can be adopted during an organisation’s Agile Transformation journey and the practices that need to be avoided.
At the very end, the book has a chapter on being Agile in a forced dispersal environment, caused by, for example, pandemics spread by the Corona Virus.
What is it that this book has over other books on Agile? For one, it is based on the experience of many experts in the Agile area. As mentioned before, PM Power Consulting has over 20 experts who have, over many years, coached and consulted with various types of organisations on their Agile Transformation journey. The inputs of all these experts have been taken to arrive at the details presented in this book. In addition, we have talked and discussed with many people outside PM Power, to get their ideas and opinions.
Secondly, this book is not a book on the nitty-gritty of Agile. That is, it is not a ritualistic book that gives details of how to run a scrum, how to hold stand-ups etc. It rather looks at the leadership aspects of being and doing Agile. In fact, as mentioned before, the book is more about “being” Agile, restricting the “doing” Agile part to the basics of getting to “be” Agile.
Thirdly, it is written in a style that is easy to read and understand. These set this book apart from the many other books on Agile.
The book is around 82000 words long.
Current Status: The book is with the publishers and should be available in the market in two to three months time.
A book from PM Power Consulting (pm-powerconsulting.com). Please click here to see extracts from the book.
Sanskrit: 108 Facts about Our Mother Tongue
A synopsis of the book (also available when you click here):
There is a great revival of interest in the Sanskrit language. In India, this revival is due to the realisation that our ancient heritage has come down to us through the medium of Sanskrit; that almost all our languages owe their being, either directly or indirectly, to Sanskrit; that there is a tremendous amount of literature available in Sanskrit for us to enjoy; and finally that we need a language other than English that we can call our own and take pride in.
Outside India, this revival is due to the realisation that Sanskrit, as the earliest of the Classical languages, has contributed immensely not only to the other Classical languages, but also to the current languages; and so a study of these languages and of the civilisations in the world will not be complete without a good understanding of Sanskrit.
However, there is no handy book that gives readers a simple but broad introduction to the language. Of course, there are many learned books on the grammar, on semantics, on reinterpreting our ancient books etc., but nothing simple that covers all these aspects in one book. This book hopefully addresses this concern.
Sanskrit is the Mother Tongue of India. I have tried to establish this through the sections and ‘facts’ of the book. By its contributions to the other languages of India, by being the bearer of Indian culture and by being the vehicle for carrying the religious liturgy of India, Sanskrit is truly our Mother Tongue.
This book, “Sanskrit: 108 Facts about Our Mother Tongue”, is an attempt to bring to Indians and others, the great treasure that is Sanskrit.
The objective of the book is to give readers an overall idea of what the Sanskrit language is: specifically,
- how ancient the language is;
- what its contributions to the world are;
- what the origins of the language are and how it is related to the other languages of the world;
- how it evolved into the currently spoken Indian languages but still continued to be India’s lingua franca;
- the great amount of literature available in the language;
- an idea about the structure of the language
- Sanskrit during the Vedic period
- how to analyse and appreciate the language; and
- how we, in the modern era, can reclaim the language for ourselves.
Organisation of the book
The book is presented in 9 sections with the 108 “facts” spread unevenly across these sections. It is about 110K words long.
A list of the sections of the book and the 108 facts are given below.
Section 1: The History of our Mother Tongue
Fact 1 – Sanskrit is 6000 years old or older
Fact 2 – It is possible that the people of the Indus Valley civilisation spoke Sanskrit
Fact 3 – Sanskrit of the Vedas (Vedic Sanskrit) developed into Classical Sanskrit
Fact 4 – Sanskrit of the Vedas (Vedic Sanskrit) is not very different from Classical Sanskrit
Fact 5 – Sanskrit of the Vedas (Vedic Sanskrit) developed into the existing North Indian languages
Fact 6 – But, Sanskrit continued to be the lingua franca of ancient India
Fact 7 – Our mother tongue is one of the oldest languages in the world
Fact 8 – Sanskrit is an Indo-European Language
Fact 9 – Avestan and Vedic Sanskrit are very close to each other
Fact 10 – Sanskrit and South Indian languages have borrowed from each other and may be related to each other
Fact 11 – Sanskrit has deep influence all over Asia
Fact 12 – Sanskrit was used to express the most sublime and the most exalted ideas
Fact 13 – Sanskrit was used to express reverence to gods and the most mundane ideas
Section 2: The Basics of our Mother Tongue
Fact 14 – Sanskrit alphabet is scientifically arranged
Fact 15 – Our Mother Tongue employs an abugida script to represent sounds
Fact 16 – Every word in Sanskrit comes from a root
Fact 17 – Sanskrit has three types of roots
Fact 18 – The stem is the basic form of a word
Fact 19 – Nouns in Sanskrit are classified into three genders
Fact 20 – Nouns take different endings to indicate their function in a sentence
Fact 21 – Adjectives change according to the nouns they qualify
Fact 22 – Verbs take different endings to agree with the nouns they work with
Fact 23 – Pronouns and determiners too take different forms to indicate functions in a sentence
Fact 24 – Numerals also take different forms
Fact 25 – Prepositions, Conjunctions, Interjections and Adverbs are indeclinables
Section 3: The Greatness of our Mother Tongue
Fact 26 – There is an amazing amount of literature in Sanskrit
Fact 27 – The four Vedas were composed in the first sub-period of the Vedic period
Fact 28 – The Brāhmaṇas, the Āraṇyakas and the Upaniṣads were composed in the second sub-period of the Vedic period
Fact 29 – The Sūtras were composed in the third sub-period of the Vedic period
Fact 30 – The Prātiśākhyas are the oldest books on phonetics and pronunciation
Fact 31 – The third sub-period of the Vedic period saw the slow change in Sanskrit
Fact 32 – Kālidāsa was the greatest dramatist/poet in our Mother Tongue
Fact 33 – There are many more plays and poems in our Mother Tongue
Fact 34 – Fairy tales and fables made up a genre of literature in our Mother Tongue
Fact 35 – Philosophical works and law books abound in our Mother Tongue
Fact 36 – There are many technical works in our Mother Tongue
Fact 37 – Literature and other works in our Mother Tongue continued to be produced throughout the classical period
Fact 38 – Yāska was the greatest etymologist of our Mother Tongue
Fact 39 – Pāṇini was the greatest grammarian of our Mother Tongue
Fact 40 – The grammar described by Pāṇini is not context free
Fact 41 – Europeans were interested in Sanskrit from the 17th century
Section 4: Euphonics in our Mother Tongue
Fact 42 – Euphonics is important in Sanskrit
Fact 43 – Only certain sounds are permitted at the end of a free-standing word
Fact 44 – Normally, a hiatus is forbidden in our mother tongue
Fact 45 – Consonants show some interesting combinations
Fact 46 – You have to know your visarga (:)
Fact 47 – You have to watch for ambiguities while resolving Sandhis
Section 5: The Structure of our Mother Tongue
Fact 48 – Cases have various uses in our Mother Tongue
Fact 49 – There are a set of standard endings for declension
Fact 50 – Stems ending in vowels deviate from the standard endings in declension
Fact 51 – Stems ending in consonants are more regular
Fact 52 – There are many varieties of stems ending in consonants
Fact 53 – Pronouns take on a different set of endings in declension
Fact 54 – Some numbers are used as adjectives; some as nouns
Fact 55 – Conjugation is classified into four tense systems
Fact 56 – Roots/Verbs are divided into ten classes by Sanskrit grammarians
Fact 57 – The present system is the most commonly used tense system
Fact 58 – Reduplication of roots is common in Sanskrit
Fact 59 – There are two kinds of present participles in Sanskrit
Fact 60 – The past participle is very important in Classical Sanskrit
Fact 61 – The infinitive and the gerundive have important functions in Sanskrit
Fact 62 – The passive voice is very important in Classical Sanskrit
Fact 63 – The perfect system is for hidden action
Fact 64 – The aorist system includes seven varieties of aorists
Fact 65 – The future system includes the conditional
Fact 66 – The causative is the most common secondary conjugation
Fact 67 – The intensive, the desiderative and the denominative are the other secondary conjugations
Fact 68 – Verbal prefixes change the meaning of the verb
Fact 69 – The continuative is very important in Sanskrit
Fact 70 – There are four types of indeclinables in Sanskrit
Fact 71 – Stems are formed by adding primary suffixes to the root
Fact 72 – Stems are also formed by adding secondary suffixes to other stems
Fact 73 – Compound words are formed by fusing two or more stems together
Fact 74 – Copulative compounds join two or more words of equal importance
Fact 75 – In tatpuruṣa compounds the importance is on the latter member
Fact 76 – In Bahuvrīhi compounds the importance is outside the compound
Section 6: The Syntax of our Mother Tongue
Fact 77 – Sanskrit follows a subject-object-verb word order
Fact 78 – The cases have various uses in Sanskrit
Fact 79 – Absolute constructions are common in Sanskrit
Section 7: Our Mother Tongue during the Vedic Period
Fact 80 – Accents were very important in Vedic Sanskrit
Fact 81 – Accents behave differently in different situations
Fact 82 – Accents of compounds have their own rules
Fact 83 – Accents of verb forms have their own rules
Fact 84 – The importance of accent cannot be overstated
Fact 85 – Vedic Sanskrit had a vibrant conjugation system
Fact 86 – Vedic Sanskrit had a rich set of infinitives
Section 8: Appreciation and Analysis of our Mother Tongue
Fact 87 – The process of analysis is important in Sanskrit
Fact 88 – Analysis of classical prose is easy in Sanskrit
Fact 89 – Analysis of classical verse is also easy
Fact 90 – Vedic verses use active rather than passive constructions
Fact 91 – Brāhmaṇas represent the early prose style of Sanskrit
Fact 92 – Poems of classical literature are of a high level of beauty
Fact 93 – Sanskrit poets had a very deep understanding of prosody
Fact 94 – There was a school of Sanskrit analysis that was based on semantics
Fact 95 – You have to look for clues to recognise roots of Sanskrit
Fact 96 – English has many cognate words with Sanskrit
Fact 97 – Some fun with our Mother Tongue
Fact 98 – Some more fun with our Mother Tongue
Fact 99 – Ancient poets have played some interesting tricks with the language
Fact 100 – The sounds r and l are many a time interchangeable in our Mother Tongue
Fact 101 – There is an alphasyllabic numeral notation associated with our Mother Tongue
Fact 102 – There are some interesting words in our Mother Tongue
Section 9: Reclaiming our Mother Tongue
Fact 103 – The revival of Hebrew as the language of Israel can be used as a model for the revival of our Mother Tongue as a national language
Fact 104 – Sanskrit is a good candidate to be India’s national language
Fact 105 – Works in our Mother Tongue need to be reinterpreted to understand their true meanings
Fact 106 – The Vr̥ṣā́kapi hymn can be interpreted as a historical event
Fact 107 – There could be many such hymns that depict historical events
Fact 108 – You can even see the beginnings of mindfulness in the Veda
Appendix 1 – Solution to the crossword
Appendix 2 – Bibliography
See details of the book here also
The book will be published soon by Garuda Prakashan.
The First Aryan was formally released at Higginbothams, Bangalore, by Mr. L. Ravichandran, COO, Tech. Mahindra on the 21st of September, 2019. Poet and author, Anitha Murthy moderated a discussion on the book.
The Vr̥ṣā́kapi hymn (RV 10.86), when looked at from the perspective of history, allows us to get a glimpse of a very ancient event – a rebellion against the king that happened in a kingdom of the tribe of Párśu around 3900 BCE. See A Historical event in the Rig Veda – The Vr̥ṣā́kapi Hymn (RV 10.86)
Another hymn that clearly seems to describe a historical event is RV 10.33. The hymn seems to describe a “eulogist” lamenting the death in battle of the king of their tribe. The king’s name is mentioned as Kurusravana, the grandson of Trasadasyu. The “eulogist” is particularly unhappy because he had a hand in anointing Kurusravana as king. He is worried that the new king, Kurusravana’s son, Upamasravas and his grandson, the crown prince, Mitratithi may not be as liberal to him as Kurusravana was. See History in the Rig Veda – Hymn 10.33
History in the Rig Veda–Hymn 10.33.
My debut novel, The First Aryan, has been announced by Penguin.
Will a series of brutal killings destroy the very foundation of Parsuvarta, an ancient kingdom?
A series of murders have taken place in Parsupur, the capital city of Parsuvarta. Kasyapa and Agastya, two students training to become priests, are asked by their guru to investigate the deaths. Around the same time, there is great turmoil brewing in the city-a palace coup and a battle for supremacy between the traditional Indra worshipers and the new sect of Varuna followers.
It is an age when Vedic gods are worshiped, religious sacrifices are performed regularly, commerce flourishes and kings are guided by their loyal head priests. But beneath this façade of order lie prejudices and political rivalries, jealousy and power games. This is why the murders, which at first seem to be unconnected, soon lead in the same direction. It is now up to Kasyapa and Agastya to find out the common thread and identify the killer.
The First Aryan is a one-of-its-kind murder mystery set in the Vedic times.