Mourning at 4S #Amma

(Or why this dingy, tiny pub is where some of us tamilians-ish went in search of solace) 

Yesterday evening, as it became clear that Jayalalithaa, the successful and spirited Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was likely to die, a group of Madras-Tamilian-South Indian-ish expats in Delhi decided we needed to meet. Our whatsapp group was aptly named “Amma Feelings”. And as it increasingly became clear that she wouldn’t survive this bout of ill-health, everyone in need of a drink knew there was really only one place that was appropriate (and close by).

amma-feelings-.jpg.jpg

For those unaware, 4s, a bar in Defence Colony Market in New Delhi, inspires apathy and fervour. It has rabid supporters who refuse to meet anywhere else on Friday night, a subculture of its own on Twitter, and a sense of urbanpoor-ness that is comforting to retreat into when all you want to do is go back to a time when you were young, stupid, and Donald Trump was just a TV star. More importantly, it has that elusive quality that all bars crave – network effect. My friends go to 4S. The people I can discuss politics with, sensibly, sans outrage, go to 4S. The people who recommend good reading, and essays, and tell me about the best journalism that is happening, and the best legal arguments, and the most interesting policy interventions, and the most interesting Delhi gossip and brunch recommendations (ok because it is Delhi come on yaar) – they all go to 4S. So do I. We’ve safely discussed Dreze, and PDS, and maternal mortality rates over the years, smug in TN’s infrastructure, and its impeccable administration of welfare, and the impact of a well-fed, socially secure population on the economy – and really what was the Gujarat model when compared to the TN model  (and also a ton of the bad stuff from TN but now’s not the time).

Yesterday however, we went there in search of solace and kindred spirits. Each a little shaken, and relieved, to know that our cynical self could still be affected. That out there in this world, was one politician, who made that role desirable, and not dirty. Someone, whom everyone at the table wanted to meet, and someone whose success most of the women (and some men) wanted to emulate. Political roadmaps for the future were drawn at the table in 4S – and nowhere else would have seemed appropriate. In the safe spaces where discussion of RCTs and digital media and fake news and consent layers flourished, so too did clandestine confessions of political ambitions.

The evening ended around 12, with the official announcement giving us the closure we were listlessly hanging around for. Beers were raised, to a life well lived, and a rousing rendition of “Adho Andha Paravai Pola Vazha Vendum”.  None of the staff batted an eyelid. Neither did the patrons.

To Jayalalithaa – because what else can you want out of life, except to know that it inspired otherwise armoured folks to wear their hearts on their sleeve and turn out to drink to your honour and pledge to be inspired by the best in you.  #urimaigeetham

Whats worth reading

My friend Sroyon, who writes a funny, gentle and very thoughtful blog asked on his FB page if there were websites that people learnt useful / interesting stuff from:

(“Are there any websites which you’ve learnt a lot from (apart from the obvious ones like Wikipedia)? It can be about anything – general knowledge, or knowledge on some specific subject which interests you. This is not a survey, I’m just asking out of personal interest.”).

Some of the responses surprised me and made me smile! As with any such combination of the two, I felt this was a question worth taking to Twitter as well.

As of today, here are the responses that Sroyon and I have received (tagged FB and Twitter respectively). Are there more such places on the interwebs? Tell!

FB:

  1. http://www.britannica.com/
  2. http://www.sahapedia.org/
  3. http://jezebel.com/
  4. http://waitbutwhy.com/
  5. http://www.activistpost.com/ Discretion advised though
  6. ZenPencils
  7. http://mindingourway.com/
  8. John Green’s Crash Course series. Start off with the Crash Course series on World History
  9. https://www.marxists.org/
  10. https://www.youtube.com/user/Kabirproject
  11. http://www.chapatimystery.com
  12. http://plato.stanford.edu/
  13. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  14. The school of life on YouTube

 

Twitter:

  1. How Stuff Works
  2. Newyorker (+ archives)
  3. NY/London Review of Books
  4. Kevin Kelly’s 50 greatest magazine articles
  5. Top rated posts on various subreddits such as ELI5, AskReddit, etc.
  6. Postsecret for life lessons
  7. for annotated lyrics. Especially for rap.
  8. Goodreads for books and IMDB for movies.
  9. FirstTimeInvestor.in
  10. centauri-dreams.org
  11. gohighbrow and datamonkey
  12. xojane
  13. khan academy and MIT for technical subjects, w3schools for coding, and Google ofc
  14. stackoverflow is google for developers
  15. http://longform.org
  16. alistapart.com/topics

100 of the best articles I read in 2015

header_GS1393055

SO much to read; So litle time

 

100 things I read and loved in 2015 (and a few  from 2014 + 2013)

The list is in no particular order but my favourite ones are starred**.

  1. Bernie Sanders’s speech on democratic socialism in the United States – Vox
  2. Paul Ford: What is Code? | Bloomberg **
  3. Postnatal care in France: Vagina exercises and video games
  4. The Nanda Devi mystery – Livemint
  5. If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know? – The New York Times
  6. 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn – Role Reboot
  7. If Game of Thrones were in the Middle East – The Washington Post
  8. xkcd: Terry Pratchett **
  9. Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century – FT.com
  10. The Earthquake That Will Devastate the Pacific Northwest – The New Yorker **
  11. If we can learn while asleep, when will we ever swit…
  12. An Obscure Hedge Fund Is Buying Tens of Billions of Dollars of U.S. Treasurys – WSJ
  13. The New Romantics in the Computer Age – NYTimes.com
  14. Can Marxist theory predict the end of Game of Thrones? | Television & radio | The Guardian
  15. Table of Contents –  Matter –  Medium**
  16. Yes, androids do dream of electric sheep | Technology | The Guardian
  17. The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy – The Atlantic
  18. Harvard Law Library Readies Trove of Decisions for Digital Age – The New York Times
  19. The Futurist: Human DNA modification – The Daily of the University of Washington: Opinion
  20. Destined for War: Can China and the United States Escape Thucydides’s Trap? – The Atlantic
  21. California capitalism is starting to look a lot like Polish communism – Quartz
  22. Is Silicon Valley in Another Tech Bubble? | Vanity Fair
  23. [IRFCA] Indian Railways FAQ: Travelling by train in India
  24. World War E: How ebola turned Liberia into a zombie movie –  Medium
  25. Gird Up Your Loins: An Illustrated Guide | The Art of Manliness
  26. Five Statistics Problems That Will Change The Way You See The World – Business Insider **

    Taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/23/ikea-killed-off-expedit-storage

    Tl;dr shelves

  27. Crash-Only Thinking
  28. The birds of Bharatpur and the babus of Delhi – The Hindu
  29. If You Commit to Nothing, You’ll Be Distracted by Everything: Lessons from the Marathon Monks – The Buffer Blog
  30. The Invention of Sliced Bread**
  31. On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs – STRIKE!**
  32. China Has Overtaken the U.S. as the World’s Largest Economy | Vanity Fair
  33. Cass Sunstein on the constitution in the 21st century | Harvard Magazine
  34. Win or Lost – A history of voting math – The New Yorker
  35. Neutrino Communications: An Interstellar Future?
  36. THE CODE: A declassified and unbelievable hostage rescue story | The Verge
  37. The World’s Greatest Counterfeiter: Frank Bourassa
  38. What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll | Society | The Guardian
  39. Press release: It is now 3 minutes to midnight | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
  40. The Cheater’s Guide to Love – The New Yorker
  41. Meet the man who could own Aviva France | FT Alphaville**
  42. A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell**
  43. How Today’s Computers Weaken Our Brain – The New Yorker
  44. My dog – the paradox on 9GAG
  45. 23andMe receives patent to create designer babies, but denies plans to do so | The Verge
  46. Why Developing Serious Relationships in Your 20s Matters – Medium
  47. How much can an extra hour’s sleep change you? – BBC News
  48. Tea Party Politics: A Look Inside the Republican Suicide Machine | Rolling Stone
  49. Polywater history and science mistakes: The U.S. and USSR raced to create a new form of water.
  50. Pakistan’s Man in Washington – POLITICO Magazine
  51. Baba Shiv: How Do You Find Breakthrough Ideas? | Stanford Graduate School of Business
  52. A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love Lists – The New Yorker
  53. Why ‘The West Wing’ Is a Terrible Guide to American Democracy – The Atlantic
  54. I Tasted BBQ Sauce Made By IBM’s Watson, And Loved It
  55. Tetris: how we made the addictive computer game | Culture | The Guardian
    Taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jun/02/how-we-made-tetris

    Press any key


  56. What Xi and Putin really think about the west – FT.com
  57. Abstruse Goose | Bizarro
  58. I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | WIRED
  59. We Have a Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won’t Do Anything About It
  60. Slack is killing email | The Verge
  61. Kara Swisher: Tech’s Most Powerful Snoop — NYMag
  62. Technology’s foremost fortune teller: Why Intel has an anthropologist on its payroll | Features | Lifestyle | The Independent
  63. Reddit is a failed state | The Verge**
  64. When MIT Publishes Science Fiction, You Should Pay Attention | Motherboard
    Taken from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/us/harvard-law-library-sacrifices-a-trove-for-the-sake-of-a-free-database.html?_r=1

    They’re everywhere!

     

  65. Riding Beijing’s subway end to end: 88km of queues and crushes on a 20p ticket | Cities | The Guardian
  66. We Can Handle the Truth – The New Yorker**
  67. Why is Singapore in the Wrong Time Zone?
  68. Sept. 26, 1983: The Man Who Saved the World by Doing … Nothing | WIRED
  69. Code as Law: How Bitcoin Could Decentralize the Courtroom | Motherboard
  70. The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS – The New York Times
  71. The Dish: Parkes Radio Telescope in NSW, Australia
  72. My roommate didn’t replace the toilet paper, so I wrote a Shakespearean tragedy dedicated to him. – 9GAG**
  73. AI Has Arrived, and That Really Worries the World’s Brightest Minds | WIRED
  74. Ikea has killed off Expedit, leaving me sad, angry and confused | Peter Robinson | Opinion | The Guardian
  75. Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch
  76. Welcome to Colon, Magic Capital of the World | The Verge
  77. New Zealand’s Crusade Against Mammals – The New
    Yorker**
  78. The Moon Landing: An Undelivered Nixon Speech
  79. The Extraordinary Persistence of Social Hierarchy in Westeros |
    Bleeding Heart Libertarians
  80. Do Scandinavians Have It All Figured Out? – The New Yorker
  81. The War Nerd: Who Won Iraq? Answer: Anyone Who Stayed Out – By Gary Brecher – The eXiled**
  82. Delhi:A City Without Time: The Indian Quarterly; A Literary & Cultural Magazine
  83. Before I go | Stanford Medicine
  84. Special Forces Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems
  85. The Problem with Easy Technology – The New Yorker**
  86. Why can’t we read anymore?  Medium
  87. 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature
    Taken from: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jenniferschaffer/i-am-i-am-i-am#.heQ836zN4

    We were infinite

     

  88. India-Bangla land swap: was the world’s strangest border created by a game of chess?
  89. Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems | MIT Technology Review
  90. Acknowledging Privilege
  91. The Economics of Using Uber in India, For Drivers, Passengers and the Company – Capital Mind
  92. Latex condoms are the worst: Why, after all these years, don’t we have a better condom?
  93. Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill | MIT Technology Review**
  94. How the father of Indian nuclear bomb stalled strike on Pakistan’s nuclear sites – The Economic Times
  95. Mindy Kaling’s Guide to Killer Confidence: Glamour.com
  96. The Moral Bucket List – NYTimes.com
  97. One Night at Kachka | Eater **
  98. Why I Am Addicted to Friendship Affairs, And Why it Has Nothing to Do With My Marriage – The Ladies Finger
  99. The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font – Quartz **
  100. Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think – Wait But Why

Source 1: Pocket (curated largely from SM feeds I follow)
Source 2: The email thread

In 2013, I received an email from a friend, proposing an exchange of articles everyday.

The purpose of the thread was simple: read outside our respective bubbles. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your reading is often restricted, whether by sector, content, or provider, we certainly did. My friend’s remedy? The thread, which went back and forth, carrying reading material chosen for its ability to stand out amidst all the noise and the similarity.

This thread was a joy because it was restricted to 2 people, and lapses in sending articles were easily remedied by a quick reminder. Over the last two years, this thread has thrown up over 107 articles, ranging from the mundane, to the truly bizzare. From commentary on current events, to cartoons and videos. This thread has been epic.

Even with the thread striving to provide newness, we’ve lapsed to sending each other more and more articles on tech, sociology and politics, and less and less on art and science and music and food and stamps and cakes and a million other things that make life worth living, in my opinion. We’re revamping the thread in search of diversity, and I’ve memorialised the best of the contents as a gift to humanity.

#TIL: Max Martin, genius + every song you love

This post is  bit off-kilter, seeing how it has nothing to do with law, governance or science fiction, or policy, but I’m interested in writing about Max Martin because his work comprises half my cheesy work playlist

Predictably, a few years later to the party, I discovered Taylor Swift in July this year. “Never, ever ever” was suggested to me as an appropriate followup to Guetta ft. Sia (Titanium), and as the song played (meh), I scanned the comments, read one that said “Listen to this song at 1.25. It sounds better”. And so I did, and *it* did. Boy, did it ever!

 

I was hooked, and I tried the 1.25 trick with Shake it off (too fast), 22 (just right), and Love story (worked, but I preferred it without). Tswizzle’s hooks sounded fun, energetic, and were the perfect counterpoint to my dense and often very boring research, so I gave it pride of place in the list of songs.  Blank space (just right w/0 1.25), coming on the heels of so much *pop*, felt grown-up, fresh, and unexpected even: I began to loop it frequently.

My fascination with this song, her outfits, the video, the sheer marie-antoinette-ish disregard for the lovely cars, all of it consumed me for a week or so, and it got to the point where I began to obsessively wiki Taylor Swift:

1) Wait, HOW old is she?
2) Wait, HOW much money does she make?
3) Wait, WHAT, nothing makes sense, she’s performed where?!

Kind friends who watched me spiral out of control (seriously, so late to the party) sent me an article about this guy whom the article’s really about: Max Martin. If you follow pop and popular music at all, then you’ve surely hummed along to Max’s work numerous times in the last couple of years…or decades (I mean, how old were you when ‘Quit playing games with your heart’ was the song of the millennium?)

 

So, who is this genius Max Martin? Here’s a picture.

Sourced from the New Yorker at http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/blank-space-what-kind-of-genius-is-max-martin

Max Martin: PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL TRAN / FILMMAGIC VIA GETTY

 

Max is a song-writer and producer (Swedish), who writes the music, and the lyrics for songs, and then shops them out to various musicians (artists?). Among his earliest hits were ‘I want it that way’ for the Backstreet Boys, and ‘Baby one more time’ for Britney Spears, and later on, the robust ‘It’s my life’ for Bon Jovi.  His clients include Celine Dion, NSync, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and others.

The reason this is so amazing, is because the traditional approach to music-making used to be that the artist wrote the song, and worked with a producer to shape the sound, think late 40’s and 50’s. I assumed this practice still continued, and that Tswizzle, and Katy Perry, and Rihanna actually *wrote* their songs.

This isn’t true, as I realised, and current practice is (apparently) very much for song-writers to write and produce the songs the way they’ve envisaged, and bring the singers in for the vocals almost as a last step. I can’t tell you how it makes me feel to know that the same hand was behind all of my favourite pop songs. Sort of like feeling that Atwood, Banks, and Asimov were really all the same person. It feels odd, and unsettling. I still listen to these songs of course, and I’m playing more Guetta as I write, but I feel a bit disappointed that maybe Swift didn’t really mean everything she said about feeling 22.

For more (and really, why wouldn’t you want to know more) read this excellent New Yorker profile of Max, or this more informative piece in the Atlantic on the same. For a list of the US Billboards’s Top 100 hits (top 10’s of Max), check out this page.

So there you go, my #TIL for this month!

I’m currently on a Mumford&Sons binge, but as you can see, I listen to anything really. Do send recommendations my way. Esp for 1.25 speed songs – those I particularly love.

#TIL: Elon Musk & SpaceX + Culture Ships & Iain Banks = Interesting Times Gang

Today I learnt that Elon Musk (in his capacity as the CEO / CTO of SpaceX) paid homage to Iain Banks, a science fiction writer, by naming two autonomous spaceport drone ships for the company’s flagship Falcon 9 rocket,  after characters from Iain Bank’s popular ‘Culture‘ series (A world with advanced AI intelligences living in the post-material-scarcity Milky Way) . SpaceX, as per its website “designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.” One of the company’s goals is to enable people to live on other planets.

Funnily enough, I’ve read a number of the Culture novels, but the ones I remember vividly are “Player of Games” and “Excession“; both had feminist/ gendered narratives as undertones, and both relied quite extensively on the Culture’s AI ships as a tool to question the role of humanity in a post-scarcity society. I loved the Culture series, briefly considered getting some T-shirts made with the ship’s names printed on them, and then moved on to Hannu Rajamiemi’s Quantum Thief series, which I can’t be certain I’ve understood at all.

In any case, Strange Horizons (a magazine of and about speculative fiction and related nonfiction) on 22 June 2015, published a superb post by Karen Burnham on space in science-fiction evolving with IRL space-exploration trajectory and its impact on post-scarcity thought in SF, and as I eagerly devoured it on a Saturday morning, when the world is ripe with possibility, I discovered that Elon Musk/ Space X had named two of the ships for sentient AI behemoths from ‘The Player of Games’. It was a lovely moment!

Just Read The Instructions Of Course I Still Love You“Just Read the Instructions”  – floating platform No.1 has already participated in one rocket-landing test for Falcon 9 on January 10, 2015, (unfortunately, without success) and more are likely to happen. Similarly, a second floating platform is being built, and as you’ve seen, it will be named “Of course I love you”. Isn’t this the best tribute to Iain Banks ever? Of course, if I had to pick a name, it would’ve been the ‘Excession’ classic, GSV class, ‘Anticipation of a New Lover’s Arrival, The’.

My favourite is

GCU class is mainly a peacetime model, phew.

Phew, copyright!

Cover Image of Player of Games (author: Iain Banks), by artist Mark Sulowski, taken from here: http://www.hypercastle.com/blog/the-player-of-games-by-iain-m-banks/

So there you go, #TIL.

(This cover of the book was created by artist Mark Salwowski, whose website has his copyright terms clearly stated. I’m using his image here because I think its covered under ‘fair use’ but please make sure you seek permission from him if you use this image/work for any other purpose that is not likely to be fair use. The link to the image in his Gallery is here. )

(On a different note, this is the kind of cover image that’d make me reach out and buy a book, no questions asked. As I shift all of my reading to the Kindle these days, I’m sad that cover image art might be a neglected art.

Capital Toponymics : Radials and the C-Hexagon Mystery

Earlier this year, my colleague picked me up and we set out for a meeting with our client (closest parking to the client’s office was Patel Chowk Metro station (2005, Yellow line, has the Metro Museum)). I had looked up the directions on Google Maps (California), so I told her “Straight on Mathura Road (part of NH2, actually leads to the town of Mathura), then flyover, then turn onto Zakir Hussain, then Ashoka straight-straight-straight”, demonstrating my TN State Board muggu skills wonderfully.

It takes *much* longer than 14 mins, especially if there's a protest against the Land Acquistion Act (2015) on Ashoka Road.

The route on which I caught the C-Hexagon bug.

As we drove past the Delhi Golf Club (1931, 220 acres), she asked if we should text our client an apology, since she was sure we’d run into a fair bit of traffic during that time on the C-Hexagon. “…What’s that? Just get on India Gate like I said and then Ashoka“, I smugly insisted. Silence for a few seconds, and then…”C-Hexagon! C-Hexagon IS India Gate!” she remarked, stunned that I didn’t know that most essential name in Central Delhi’s driving dictionary.

Fear not, my Jamuna Park days are far behind. While it’s impossible to live in Delhi, and not know of India Gate and its radials, I’d never paid attention to the fact that Google Maps famously refers to Delhi’s most famous set of roads with the most soul-sucking, emotionless of names – the C Hexagon.

Really, the number of times I've gone from googling

Why is called C-Hexagon? Why does the upper portion of the hexagon show the name at a certain zoom level while you have to zoom it more to see the C-Hexagon at the lower portion. Why does Google not understand just *how* annoying it can be to not have answers…

My lovely colleague had only been in Delhi a few months (and only in the post-Google Maps era), so she’d gotten used to calling those roads the “C-Hexagon”, while I’d navigated India Gate to travel to Ashoka Road’s most popular landmark – Andhra Bhawan (fronted by statue of stone statue of Tanguturi Prakasam, the first chief minister of Andhra State, serves excellent, unlimited, full-meals for INR 120), every weekend in the pre-Maps era, so of course I only ever thought of it as the India Gate circle (wrongly) and “India Gate ke paas” (rightly).

While this’d make for an interesting post in itself (Capital Toponymics: How Google Maps has changed the way we refer to streets in India), I’m really despondent keen to write about the C-Hexagon, the amount of time I’ve spent trying to read about hexagons, and the radials around the India Gate, of course.

Try this with me: Pull out your smartphone, get on to Google Maps, zoom out to India, and then zoom into New Delhi. As you get closer and closer, and keep zooming into the words New Delhi, you’ll see that the black text turns a dull grey as you hit the limit of the zoom functionality. Where will your fingers rest at this final stage?

Stamps showing Rashtrapati Bhawan, Central Delhi.

Stamps showing Rashtrapati Bhawan, Central Delhi.

At the heart and soul of Delhi’s power, the pinnacle of political might, a stark reminder of the nature of our democracy, at the most visible symbol of the likely crumbling of mighty empires: Your fingers will rest on Raisina Hill (acquired under the “1894 Land Acquisition Act” to begin the construction of the erstwhile Viceroy’s House) on which stands Rashtrapati Bhawan, the secretariats and Parliament of India (4000 acres totally, designed by Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker). Leading to, and surrounding Raisina Hill lie the radials that make up the India Gate arrangement.

Now, to fully understand the import of the India Gate roads, you need to know four facts:

1) Our story begins with this map of Delhi from 1807. As you can see, it bears little resemblance to the Delhi of today. At that time, Akbar II was the Mughal emperor of India, but his reign was largely at an end, and he governed little beyond the Red Fort. After this death, and some minor succession issues, Bahadur Shah Zafar II took over as the Mughal emperor.

Delhi, 1807. Where have all those canals gone now! I use the Nizamuddin marking to identify where India Gate would currently be. Try it yourself!

Delhi, 1807. Where have all those canals gone now! I use the Nizamuddin at the centre-right of the map as a point to try to identify where India Gate would currently be (left and above). Try it yourself!

2) After the failed Revolt of 1857, and the exile of Bahadur Shah Zafar II (road named after him in Central Delhi, following from Tilak Marg), the then British East India Company was abolished and the rule of India passed to Queen Victoria. The capital of the British Raj was then situated in Calcutta, and Delhi continued to exist as a city dominated by Mughal-era architecture, and little else, in what used to be called Shahjahabad.

Delhi, 1893, showing Shajahanabad.

Delhi, 1893, showing Shajahanabad.

3) In 1911, in a surprise announcement, the British announced their decision to shift the capital of the British Raj from Calcutta to Delhi.

The three visual axes of the Raisina Hill complex.

The three visual axes of the Raisina Hill complex.

To facilitate the construction of the residences and goverment buildings required for this purposes, Edward Lutyens was chosen as the head of a team of architects who were charged with building the central administrative area of the city. The architectual slides I’ve relied on are available at this link:

Once Lutyens’ Delhi was close to being finished, the roads and buildings in the areas were named after British Governor-Generals, and architects.

Delhi in 1927.

Delhi in 1927.

4) The India Gate radials, and most roads in Central Delhi, had their names changed around the time of India’s independence. The changed names likely were chosen to reflect the names of popular freedom fighters, and notable figures in India’s history (except Copernicus!!). There is, as far as I can tell, no clear record of when and how these names were changed and neither is there evidence as to the method of choosing names for each of the radials in particular.If I had to wager on the method, I’d stick with an executive order that changed names, though I haven’t searched the legislative archives as closely as I should. These are the specific name-changes that have occurred, though I’ve found no official record of the change, as such.

Radial Earlier Why chosen
Zakir Hussain Marg Wellesley Road Perhaps to commemorate Dr. Zakir Hussain, educator, freedom fighter, and first Muslim President of India.
Shahjahan Road Originally chosen by Edward Lutyens Perhaps to commemorate Shahjahanabad, which housed the later Mughal emperors. If this is the case, then it should have been the current Tilak Marg which should have been named Shahjahan Road.
Akbar Road Originally chosen by Edward Lutyens No particular reason I can think of except for his historical significance.
Ashoka Road Originally chosen by Edward Lutyens No particular reason I can think of except for his historical significance.
Kasturba Gandhi Marg Curzon Road Perhaps picked to honour her work as a freedom fighter, and as the spouse of Gandhi.
Copernicus Marg Lytton Road I have no idea why we have a Copernicus Marg in India. There is, as far as I can tell, no Copernicus connection to India, and I can’t find a specific mention of his work or his theories in any books on Indian history. This is a mystery to me.
Tilak Marg Hardinge Road There is no clear reason as to why Tilak was honoured with a name on the radial, except perhaps for the fact that he died before independence.
Purana Qila Road Originally chosen by Edward Lutyens Perhaps named for the Purana Qila which lies at the one end of the road, and is the oldest fort among all forts in Delhi, and apparently the oldest known structure of any type in Delhi.
Sher Shah Road Originally chosen by Edward Lutyens Perhaps named for the Sher Shah Suri Gate, the South Gate to Shergarh, which lies opposite the Purana Qila complex.

Looking at all the names of the radials, I’ve surmised that they were named after deceased persons, either because of their history or their contribution to the freedom struggle. The one piece of evidence I have regarding the timing of the name-change, is that they took place between 1948 and 1964.  It is clear that the names had not been changed until after the death of Gandhi in 1948, and definitely by the time of Nehru’s death in 1964, as seen from these extracts from Google Book searches that describes each funeral routes. Note however, that Dr. Zakir Hussain died in 1967, so its likely that Zakir Hussain Marg was renamed sometime *after* 1967. For all others, I see no reason to doubt the assertion that their names were changed pre Nehru’s death in 1964.

Gandhi's Funeral Procession Route - 2

Nehru funeral procession route

In any event, I’m sure the knowledge is buried deep in the annals of a book in some library somewhere, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to find answers to the Copernicus/ Kasturba question anytime soon. 😦

So in summary:

1) There’s no articulated reason for re-naming the roads after independence.

2) There’s no logic to the arrangement of the names – except for Sher Shar Road and Purana Qila Road. Similarly  Shahjahan Road should ideally have taken the place of Tilak Marg, given that the latter leads directly to erstwhile Shahjahanabad.

3) I can’t think of a reason why Kasturba Gandhi gets a road, and why Rani Lakshmi Bai doesn’t (the former died closer to independence that the latter). If they weren’t going for the token woman, I can’t imagine why this particular person was chosen to be honoured. Similarly I don’t see the reason for choosing Copernicus as a means of honouring scientific spirit. I can only imagine the person in charge of choosing the name had a fondness for the first articulator of the heliocentric model.

4) There isn’t a definite place to look to find the exact timings of the name-changes of roads. I’m assuming the capital’s post-office probably has details, but none available for the layperson to satisfy her curiosity.

Here's an interesting fact: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Library_of_India#Discovery_of_hidden_chamber

The National Library of India in Kolkata, is the largest library in India by volume and India’s library of public record.

As an aside, not only roads, but buildings, and even libraries had to have their name changed.

Pandara Road, famous now for its north-indian food restaurants, was perhaps named for a 'Vanniar' caste Tamil chieftain from Sri Lanka - Pandara Vanniyan.

Pandara Road, famous now for its north-indian food restaurants, was perhaps named for a ‘Vanniar’ caste Tamil chieftain from Sri Lanka – Pandara Vanniyan.

As a further aside, though Pandara Road (between Zakir Hussain Marg and Shahjahan Road) is now famous mostly for its excellent north-indian restaurants Lutyens probably named the road in honour of Pandara Vanniyan (a Tamil ‘vanniar’ caste chieftain who fought the British in Sri Lanka)!

II. The C-Hexagon Mystery

So as ycu can imagine, from the time I learnt of C-Hexagon’s existence, I’ve tried to find out why *that* name has been given to the road arrangement. As you’ll see from the below images, Lutyen’s Delhi was to be an arrangement of hexagons, with the India Gate / War Memorial being at the centre of it all. One obvious answer is of course that the C-Hexagon refers simply to the “Central Hexagon”.

Taken from here: http://www.slideshare.net/mayunk50/capitol-complex-new-delhi-lutyens-delhi

Hexagons in Central Delhi’s roads.

C for Central.

C for Central.

I have some wild suggestions as to what the “C” could refer to (Core, Constant, Commonwealth, Capital), and give me a couple of hours with a thesarus and I could come up with more.

None of these theories, however, explain the logical reason behind the name “C-Hexagon”, and I can’t find any mention of this phrase in websites and blogs that refer to Lutyen’s plans for Delhi, as well in in maps of Delhi from a couple of decades ago.

More interestingly, I’m not actually certain which authority publishes the definite / official map of Delhi (perhaps the Survey of India) but their map of the NCT Delhi wrongly labels India Gate as Connaught Place, so I’m not certain these are the folks to rely on. See: Survey of India, Map of NCT Delhi, 2012 (I can’t seem to be able to insert the actual map, except as a screenshot below).

Seriously, even I know better.

You had ONE job, Survey of India.

In any case – the C-Hexagon is bound to remain a mystery unless some enterprising reader can reach out to pals at Google Maps and ask them for an explanation, until which day I will continue to remain puzzled by it everytime I drive by, as hopefully, will you.