A historic evening with Anne Frank’s stepsister: Eva Schloss (At the University of Minnesota)

Eva’s life started in 1929 in a very happy, loving Jewish family in Vienna. Her brother, Heinz, was three years older and was a reader, musician, and painter. As a six year old, he would read out books and tell Eva the stories. At school, Eva noted that although jews and catholics were allowed to be friends, they were separated during their respective religion classes. Fast forward a few years to 1938, and Nazi Germany annexed Austria. Nine year old Eva was shocked by the sudden display of Swastikas on the streets by her friends. She also noted that her best friend’s mother(who was catholic)  slammed a door in her face one day and told her to never come back to their house. Eva’s father, Erich decided to move his family to Belgium at this time. Since they were not allowed any furniture, they bought a pre-furnished house in Brussels. The furniture included a piano and this naturally delighted Heinz. After two great years in Belgium, the family was forced to emigrate to Amsterdam. This is where eleven year old Eva met an eleven year old Anne Frank, who came up to meet Eva with a sweet hello. Eva and Anne would spend time together every day. Anne hated Math, but really enjoyed talking. She would often be made to write “I will not talk in class” a 100 times after class. In Eva’s mind, Anne was far more mature than she was. Being very interested in boys, Anne wanted to go to Eva’s house to meet Heinz. Sadly, Heinz was not interested in a girl his sister’s age.

1940-42 were good years for Eva. Although they were restrictive(Jews had to go to different shops, travel separately), there was not any significant danger. In 1942, both Heinz and Margot(Anne’s elder sister) were summoned to Germany to work. Not trusting this summoning, both Erich and Otto Frank(Anne’s father) took their families into hiding. Sadly, Erich could not find a place for the family of four, so Heinz went with his father, and Eva went with her mother. Eva was a ‘sporty girl’, and hence had a tough time in hiding sitting in the same place. Erich and Heinz had to move around as they couldn’t keep up with the rent, but eventually found a place near Eva and Elfriede(Eva’s mother). On Eva’s 15th birthday, in the May of 1944, as the entire family had met up to celebrate, Nazi soldiers burst into the house and captured the family. Eva was interrogated and brutally beaten by the Nazi soldiers. However, she was in much too much shock to say anything.

The family eventually was sent to Auschwitz by train. Eva recalls that this train journey was the last time her family was together. On reaching the camp they immediately were separated, Eva and her mother were separated from her father and brother. They were made to strip naked, shaved, and given striped clothes with shoes and a number. Eva couldnt believe how cruelly the Nazi soldiers would mistreat the women without reason. Eva describes many miracles leading to her surviving, including how running into an old friend saved her from dying from typhus. She had to live in sub human conditions for almost six months before the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops. She did meet her father a couple of times before the liberation. For a while, she believed her mother to be dead, but she later learnt her mother had escaped the gas chamber miraculously.

Eva would go on to learn of the death of her brother and father after liberation, which led her to spiral into depression for many years to come. Eventually, she would meet her husband for 63 years, Zvi Schloss in London. Her mother and Otto Frank fell in love and got married in 1953. Eva recalls the first she saw Anne’s diary. Otto brought the diary to show to Eva and Elfriede and would burst into tears on reading it. He took three weeks to read it, and eventually published a first hand account of the most horrific genocide of all time, from the perspective of precocious teenage girl.

Eva now has three children and five grandchildren. She leaves audiences shocked by relating the atrocities endured by her family during the Holocaust and inspires them with her faith in humanity. She is not just a survivor, but also a victor of the Holocaust.

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Talk by Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar

I attended a talk by Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar at Pune University recently on the occasion of the 30th foundation day for NCCS(National Centre for Cell Sciences). “From Incremental to Disruptive Game Changing Innovation” was the topic of his talk, and I learned a lot from the talk; what innovation is, and what disruptive innovation is as compared to incremental innovation.

After the talk, I got an opportunity to take a picture with Dr Mashelkar.

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Friendship

Friendship

By Siddharth Premnath for morning assembly on 1 Sep 2015 in DAV Public School, Pune.

 

The pleasures of friendship are exquisite,

How pleasant to go to a friend on a visit!

I go to my friend, we walk on the grass,

And the hours and moments like minutes pass.

This is how the British poet Stevie Smith describes Friendship in her poem “Pleasures of Friendships”.

Good morning, my dear Friends! I am Siddharth Premnath and let us celebrate the spirit of friendship today.

Friendship is, undoubtedly the greatest gifts you can ever get. It is a relationship of mutual trust and affection between two or more people. We trust our friends, we rely on them, we love them and we enjoy their company! Helen Keller’s quote captures this sentiment well. “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

Friendships come in different flavors, and are forged in different contexts. During childhood, friendship is based on the sharing of toys and from the enjoyment received from performing activities together. During adolescence, friends form your peer group and influence your thinking. Adulthood’s important life events such as marriage, parenthood and career development both forge friendships and also complicate old ones. During old age, as family responsibilities fade away, companionship and friendships become more and more important. In every stage of your life, your friends shape your life just as your family does. As Jess Scott has said, “Friends are the family you choose”.

Friendship has a way of keeping you happy, healthy, hopeful and honest! Studies have shown that friendships enhance an individual’s sense of happiness. Along with happiness comes, good health. Having the support of your friends’ gives you greater confidence and lets you venture out trusting that help is near by. And of course, good friends keep you honest. As George Herbert has said –“The best mirror is an old friend.

Building strong friendships often requires your conscious efforts. In Aristotle’s words- “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” You have to put efforts into building friendships and you cannot rush it! Once in a while, you might get into a fight or an argument with a good friend of yours. But remember, a true and good friendship is judged by how you OVERCOME these problems.

Dear Friends, I wish all of you many great friendships in your life! “A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.” (Maya Angelou)

Thank you!

Srinivas Ramanujam: Life and legacy

Srinivas Ramanujam: Life and legacy

By Siddharth Premnath

Speech prepared for assembly on 22nd December 2015 at DAV Public School, Pune, India.

Today is 22nd December-National Mathematics Day and the birthday of Srinivas Ramanujam, the great Indian mathematician. Let us remember his life and legacy on this day in honor of him.

Good Morning everyone! I am Siddharth Premnath of class 9th H and today, I am here to speak about the life of Ramanujam and the lessons learnt from it.

Ramanujam’s life-story is one of passionate pursuit of knowledge and excellence in very difficult circumstances. His short but inspiring life has shaped and influenced several generations of Indians.

Ramanujam, one of the greatest mathematicians India has ever had was born on 22 December 1887 in Erode, Madras Presidency (now part of Tamil Nadu). His life had a humble beginning with his father being a clerk at a sari shop and his mother being a singer in a local temple. His school education was full of ups and downs — with several transfers and teaching medium changes. But maths was his constant friend. He learnt from college students who came to stay in his house. He mastered Loney’s Trignometry on his own by age 13.

A book, which he received when he was 16, changed his life completely. The book was named ‘A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics’. This book contained a lot of theorems but didn’t have any proofs. So, he sat and proved every single one of the theorems on a slate with a chalk (he could not afford notebooks). He used his elbow to erase the board, which bruised his elbow a lot.

After his schooling, his journey through college was tumultuous. Ramanujam never got a degree from college. He decided to continue independent research in mathematics while eking out a living as a clerk. He lived in extreme poverty and was close to starvation. But fortunately for him, his talent was recognized and he went on to make extra-ordinary contributions in Number Theory and other fields. In a short life of 32 years, he compiled 3900 results – several of which were proven after his death!

Ramanujam’s life also has interesting lessons for all of us as students and the education system we are all part of. The lessons include: a) the importance of passionately pursuing your interests and achieve excellence, b) building excellence often requires deep focus, c) people who are pursuing excellence may not perform as well as all rounders’ but it will be to our detriment if we ignore such “stars”, d) when people reach a peak of excellence, their thoughts seem to form almost effortlessly and intuitively — something we in common words call “genius”. Let me illustrate this with examples.

When Ramanujam was about 10 years old, he did very well in his exams and came first in his district. But, his intermediate was a different story altogether as Ramanujam appeared for his Intermediate four times and failed in all of them. During his First Examination in Arts of 1907, Ramanujam failed in English and Sanskrit and didn’t turn up for his Physiology and History exams. But in Math, he got 85/150. Apparently, he only solved the problems he liked.

Eventually, Ramanujam started publishing articles in the Journal of Indian Mathematician Society where he asked questions on number theory, the branch of mathematics he loved. Number Theory is that branch of Mathematics, which deals with natural numbers and integers.

With the help of some friends, Ramanujam started drafting letters to leading mathematicians at the Cambridge University. His first two letters were not replied to. But, with his third letter, he found Hardy. G.H Hardy was a British mathematician known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis. Hardy wrote back to Ramanujam and invited him to Cambridge .He realized Ramanujam’s brilliance and became Ramanujam’s mentor in 1914. On the 17th of March 1914, Ramanujam departed from Chennai for Cambridge. It was in Cambridge that Ramanujam’s talent could bloom fully. And be recognized. Hardy once said about Ramanujam, “Suppose we rate mathematicians on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100, I give myself a score of 25, Littlewood 30, Hilbert 80 and Ramanujam 100.”

Ramanujam was honored with a degree from the University of Cambridge. He also became an elected member of the London Mathematical Society, Fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of the Trinity College, Cambridge.

But most importantly, Ramanujam’s story is also about Mathematics! It is about the passion that mathematics has inspired in generations of mathematicians. As Johnathan David Farley has said, “You study mathematics because it is the poetry of the universe. Its beauty transcends mere things.” To Ramanujam, Mathematics was God incarnate. To quote Ramanujam: “Sir, an equation has no meaning for me unless it expresses a thought of GOD.” This also echoes the thoughts of Galileo who said: “Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the universe.” I hope this beautiful language of the universe also blesses us all with glimpses of its beauty — perhaps some of us will follow the path of Ramanujam while some others will cheer the strides of mathematicians.

Thank you.

Heelys

In the summer of 2013, I had visited Singapore. To reach there, I had to wait at the Malaysian airport for a while, as there wasn’t a direct flight from India to Singapore. There, I saw some Malaysian kids skating around…. but they were skating in a weird way, with their toes pointing upwards. Then I realised that they weren’t skating but ‘heeling’ (as I came to know later). Now, what is heeling? Well it is basically skating with shoes with wheels known as Heelys.

Heelys are a brand of shoes that has one or more wheels embedded in each sole, similar to inline skates. Roger Adams invented Heelys in 1999. Airports, malls, marble floors, all are excellent for Heelys. Every single time I went anywhere by flight, I ‘heeled’ around the airport. Holding on to the trolley, resting on my parents shoulder, or just heeling on my own, all are great alternatives to walking

‘Heeling is almost like a sport. You need to practice it to master it. Well, I got the practice part easy; as my parents gifted me mine in Singapore. The roads are just amazing in Singapore. I could Heely even on the roads.

The disadvantage to Heelys is obviously: accidents. The injury rate while ‘heeling’ is approximately 51 injuries per 100,000 children. Another minor disadvantage is the slight pain in the legs because of pointing the toes upwards.

Me, I really enjoyed heeling when I did it. Recently, I gave it to one of my friends. Curious peoples asking me about it, shaking off the millions of stares or trying not to collide into things, all made me feel…joy.

Summer Lessons in a Dentist’s Clinic

This summer was a pretty eventful summer for me. I got my first job experience in a dentist’s clinic this summer!

I was the “computer guy” at the clinic. I created reports from the clinic’s appointment calendar software. I pulled up x-ray images from one software and matched them up with the right patient in another software. The dentist helped me identify teeth on the image and I labelled them. I helped fix appointments. I also helped create lists in excel sheets and word files as needed. I came to know about how things function in a dental clinic.

There is a lot more going on at a dentist clinic then what initially meets the eye. Besides, checking-in people at the reception and dental treatment, there are lot of background activities that go on in a clinic — including cleaning and readying instruments, maintaining inventory, maintaining a store room of patient records and impressions, databases etc.

My job at the dentist’s clinic this summer was truly a wonderful one. I learnt a lot, experienced a lot and above all enjoyed a lot.

Please pen down on your thoughts below!

Child Prodigies

What is a child prodigy?

A child prodigy is a child who performs something amazing or extraordinary which is at a accomplished adults level.

In todays world, I find child prodigies one of the most fascinating things I know. child prodigies are spread all across the world and  also are of a wide range range of ages/

Just recently a 2 year old potty trained himself at the age of one, after reading how to!

The first ever child prodigy I knew was Sheldon Cooper, from the well known T.V show, the Big Bang Theory. He apparently finished high school when he was just 14 years old!

Child prodigies are unique, and when you meet/hear about one, respect……