Friday, May 27, 2011

The Devil's Son

This blog post is about the book that I read few weeks ago; Chengiz Khan - The Devil's Son by Vassili Yan (translated in English by Linda Noble). Vassili Yan is a Russian scholar whose journey & research led to the development of this epic chronicle.  I am writing this not only to recollect the facts what I have read, but the essentials of the main character: Chengiz Khan.

The book is very beautifully organized. There is no trace of Chengiz Khan in the first sixty pages of the book. It starts with a journey of a dervish from Baghdad in search of knowledge. He enters Gurjung, the capital of  the rich empire of Khorezm: The greatest Muslim Estate. it starts speaking about the mighty ruler, Mohammad Shah Khorezm, portraying him as the child of the almighty. Then with these introductory lines, behold Chengiz Khan:
"Who does not know of Temujin-Chengiz Khan! I left him. He does not forgive those who dare stand before him without bowing their servile backs! He avenges the willful, he hunts down those who once fought him and slays their entire clans down to the last infant!" - A prisoner fled after the battle.
At this time, he had already captured Europe and China. Army of just 60,000 soldiers, he was able to destroy armies of strength 2-3 lac and consequently conquering half of the world invincibly. Very wicked & cunning in approach & extremely disciplined by his virtue. He was the one who first united the Mongol tribe: Tatars, who were quarreling among themselves earlier, brought them together and led them way forward. The Tatars, being grateful to the the Khan, were very loyal & faithful to him. His people always had the pride of being ruled by a great leader. He himself chose the commanders of  his army. He named himself as Genghis Khan or Chengiz Khan at the age of 50. Chengiz means "from the eternal skies". He was earlier called Temujin.

“It is not sufficient that I succeed - all others must fail.”
He was smart in striking a trade deal with Khorezm Shah that ultimately led to war. The strategies employed by Chengiz Khan where impeccable during 1200s. For instance, making the enemy chase a group of Tatars and later the enemies were ambushed from all sides and slaughtered, putting the captured prisoners who are physically strong in the front line of battle, exploiting weakness very quickly and exercising psychological warfare; he used to keep craftsmen alive (who used to make armory, garments, etc)  and butcher rest of the people and the city. Handful of women and children were spared, so that they can spread the terror of Chengiz Khan in other places. So, when he invaded the cities, people would easily surrender. For quick mobility, all horsemen had spare horses at stations and horsemen jumped from one running horse to other along the way thereby covering long distances in short time. At night, every horseman and soldier would light five-six flame torches, which would appear to the enemy that their force was almost five times larger than it actually was!
"At military exercises I am always in front, and in time of battle am never behind. In the space of seven years I have succeeded in accomplishing a great work, and uniting the whole world in one empire." - Chengiz Khan
"He who wishes not to cling tight to the sword's black hilt will fall victim to the sword's sharp blade!" - a saying
The Khorezm empire constituted the wealthy cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Both are the largest cities of Uzbekistan. Gurjang, Bukhara and, Samarkand being the richest city, were plundered by Chengiz. He was also very impressed by the architectural beauty of the Samarkand that made him keep monuments unharmed. He ultimately conquered the complete empire easily which was under Khorezm Shah's rule. Jelal ed-Din Shah, son of Khorezm Shah was the only one who successfully escapes, unites scattered soldiers and defeats one of the Mongol detachments. Later, he was unable to keep his army united for long. Khorezm Shah, the emperor with great stature, tired escaping from the Tatars, flees to an island in Caspian Sea filled with lepers, with his body decayed, dies in vain.
"All who surrender will be spared; whoever does not surrender but opposed with struggle and dissension, shall be annihilated." - Chengiz Khan, during the war with the Khwarezmian empire
 "What is there in the city of scorpions and tarantulas, when there is no unity even in the face of danger?" - Jelal ed-Din Shah, mightiest son of Khorezm Shah Mohammad
Now again there is no trace of Chengiz Khan. He sends his two eminent commanders in search of Jelal ed-Din Shah. They come across a river: Kalka which connects Russia. As usual, the commanders take advantage of the situation being the Russian princes fail to stand united against the enemy. It was a fearsome battle that lasted for few years. The Tatars were successful in taking control of whole of Russia. The Tatars proceeded to Hindu Kush where the weather conditions did not suit them. So, the Khan orders the entire army to return to Mongol.
According to historical study and research, Chengiz Khan's military conquests were frequently characterized by the wholesale slaughter of the vanquished. It has been estimated that his campaigns killed as many as 40 million people based on census data of the times.
The last part of the book describes the final days of Cheghiz Khan and his desire to become immortal in order to conquer other half of the world. He calls upon a wise ascetic who resides in Chinese mountain ranges to develop a medicine which will make him younger. The saint convinces the Khan that there is no such thing that can make a man immortal. He resolves to die at the age of 65. Till today, there is no clue of his tomb.
"When I die, don't reveal my death in anyway. Do not weep or wail, so that the news of my death should give our enemies reason to take heart or rejoice. When the Khan and the Tangut inhabitants come through the fortress gates with gifts, pounce on them and slay them!" - lasts words of Chengiz Khan
The powerful portrayal of Chengiz Khan is justified as he appears only in the middle portion of the book and nowhere else. He never enters the battle field till the end, he orders his loyal and able men to do the job instead. His leadership was a noble one. Its a fact that there are descendants of Chengiz Khan exist even today. Lately, I get alarmed when I see Chinks wandering here and there on the streets.
Genghis Khan - A prolific lover: An international group of geneticists have found that nearly eight percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today. His descendants extended the empire and maintained power in the region for several hundred years, in civilizations in which harems and concubines were the norm. And the males were markedly prolific. - National Geographic News
The narration style is unique, unlike any other book. Initially, I found it difficult to get hold of the storyline. Later I was sucked into it! All readers who love to read real war stories, an episode of history is here, this "must-read-book" is the best pick :)

Further reading:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A system called Human Body

It had been a week since one of my co-workers accidentally cut his finger with a knife while slicing a carrot. We were in the middle of a discussion during evening tea break when everyone observed his finger. It was heeling by itself magnificently.

"Who on earth has instructed this finger to heel all by itself?", he remarked.
"Yes, very true! And we software engineers boast ourselves as being good programmers of complex systems!", everyone agreed.

No system can be as complex and as efficient as the human body. Each component functions independently without  his master's notice. It doesn't need notification of any sort. All parts integrated so perfectly well that they operate very proactively and each part (considering the smallest unit: cell) is highly responsible and very accountable. And we find it very painful to maintain a computer application integrated with two or more sub-systems.

Who sends hunger signals to the brain on time when the stomach is in need of food and it is yet to release energy for the body. The brain in turn signals our senses. What's the communication entity? What data is encoded in these signals? How does this signal know its start & destination address? God knows man. All we know is to satisfy our taste buds accounting some nutritional facts here and there. The human digestive system takes care of generating proteins, minerals, vitamins and sending them to appropriate places of the body.  What's more, the system advances itself by growth. Yet, till today, we can't handle connection failuires over the network.

Consider a simple example which occurs in our day to day lives. I have lost my keys and I am trying to recollect all the things related to it. Now, see what my mind does. It will start back tracking according to the said order; chronological order or reverse chronological order, not to forget, with audio visual images giving me precise location, people related to it considering every minute detail. Memory being bigger than any computer database, all processing of this kind is happening within a quarter of a second! We struggle to write a back tracking algorithm for a "computer program" having simple data structures. Now considering time and space complexity is another headache!

When I lift my arm, what command is issued from the brain so that it is my right arm with palm stretched and all the fingers aligned straight and I wave it to slap your face? The interprocess communication is really fantastic. Nobody knows correctly. To create such a system, in fact system of systems, which is so perfect & highly complex, there has to be the great almighty to whom all of us owe our lives.

If there is a study in modern science about mapping of systems in the human body to the programs of computer systems, then man would start building flawless systems. Its very difficult to find exact mapping or associating a part of human body to that of computers, but its possible to get fair amount of idea to give birth to an entirely new breed of computer systems.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Last Minute

I found myself in front of the examination hall. My friends, students wandered everywhere. They were filled with anxiety. And I was even more anxious; I couldn't remember a thing, my mind seemed completely lost.

The exam finally commenced. When I held out the question paper in my hand, I couldn't read it; some text appeared before my eyes. It was something related to engineering. I couldn't read it though. In the back of my mind, I knew something is wrong. I derived that I couldn't answer a thing. I was dominated by fear because I never fail in exams! But, this time, it was very clear; I am gonna fail!

Suddenly, I observed the supervisor got disappeared from the hall. The hall turned into frenzy. Every student scattered all round the campus in search of answers. I found my friend who knew some answers. We began answering the questions on the stairs of college library. I was glad I was able break the deadlock.

The cops appeared behind us. They chased us, scolded us and made us rush back to the examination hall. It was all happening. This time, there was no chance of cheating. Failure was near. I was not ready to accept it anyways. I folded my arms on the desk and rested my forehead on them. It was haunting me: "You are going to fail, there is no escape from it now!". Time was running out.

I started hearing a voice. I recognized that voice. It was calling my name. It was someone I knew; a dear one. My name was being called again & again. My body was shaken many times. I opened my eyes.

It was my sister. "Wake up! You are getting late for work". She was uncomfortable seeing me; I was shocked and feeling relieved at the same time. I looked around the room, I made sure it is real.

"Thanks a lot!", I said being grateful to her.
"Another exam in a bad dream?", she guessed.
"Yes! A nightmare. I hate early morning dreams."
"You failed, didn't you?"
"I am very glad I didn't take up engineering!"
"I bet you are right!"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Have you any dreams?

Everyone has dreams; desire to become "the" person, aspirations to accomplish things. But how many will chase that dream to make a reality? 

Always have a dream - a big one! It will refrain you from losing the right direction. You start thinking accordingly to achieve it. Its not at all easy to run behind a dream, it will test your patience and your  perseverance.

Some catalysts may occur. You might get influenced by people's thoughts and they might pursue you to change your mind. Or people are wicked enough to alter your path. Be clever to identify such things. Bear in mind - "You are what you are in this world and no one's gonna make a damn about you!" Get inspired instead of getting influenced! If people think you as an idiot, they are not minding their own business, but you stick to the plan.
"I failed in lot of subjects during my studies, but my friends passed. They are employees of Microsoft. I am the owner of it!" - Bill Gates
Achieving goals & objectives is a very painful task. Its not a freeway. But, once your are sure you have achieved it, you will definitely know that its because of the painful efforts you have put in or painful situations you went through in the past. You will cherish those moments once you are experiencing the joy of being successful. Hard work will certainly pay off. You will prove every one wrong who has thought about you otherwise.
"Failure is everything that success never teaches you."
Sometimes, you will be going through unbearable pain despite your efforts; the dark days, the lonely and sleepless nights, the times when you think "Damn! Nothing is going right with me!" Then, stay calm - don't panic. Think that your destiny is being tested. Just don't give up! If you are working hard, work harder! Try to figure a way out of the mess. Be sure there will be fruitful results in the near future. And you will say "Pain? bring it on!"
"Be what you wanna be... taking things the way they come..." - Bacardi