Thursday, May 11, 2017

I am an Inventor

I am an IP Consultant*. I help inventors patent their inventions. I enjoy working with imaginative people who have created something new. I explore with them what they have created. I help them understand a lot more about their own invention - its place in the world of patents, technology and business. Talking technology' with inventors invigorates me like almost nothing else does.

As an engineer I designed and developed products and I invented a few things. I did not think of them as inventions then, just something interesting. When a senior colleague learned of one such interesting thing, he told me, "you should patent this". I was busy getting the first few of the devices carrying the invention ready to be supplied to the customers. I put that suggestion on hold.

When I could finally work on the suggestion, a blank wall confronted me. A big one. No one in the company knew how to get a patent. After a few weeks of struggle, I gave up the idea. Little did I know then that I could not have possibly got a patent once the first device was out of the door!

It sounds ironical that I now assist people in applying for patents!

In an unexpected way, recently I applied for a patent on an invention. The idea dawned on me when I was sketching from a reference picture on my laptop. I proposed to a friend that we could develop an application to implement my idea. He suggested that I apply for a patent and here I am!

Let me assure you, this time it was a lot easier!

Cloverleaf IP Consultancy and Services is my company
I am also a Senior Consultant with LexOrbis

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Oskar Kokoschka

I had been to The Netherlands on work. Pradipto who works for Philips in Hamburg had invited me to visit him and his family. I had a delightful stay at their place for a few days. His daughter, a girl of about three then, became an instant friend.

One evening, Pradipto took me out to see Hamburg by night. It was just wandering about without a clear plan. We went to the street where The Beatles performed before they became world famous. One of the surprises for me was the familiar logo of Der Spiegel visible in the night atop a building far away. I had been reading the online edition of the magazine for years by then and realised, sheepishly, that I never knew that it was published from Hamburg. The building we saw was its headquarters.

My friend took me to a sort of monument in the open. Just a set of walls and steps. On one of the walls was a picture that looked vaguely familiar. More by its style than by the painting itself. I walked closer to it and saw that it was by Oskar Kokoshcka!

Art Abroad VIII

Monday, March 06, 2017

At the Apex of the Glass Pyramid

A lifelong (about fifteen years, I guess) ambition fulfilled. Paris and The Louvre!
Let us get it out of the way. No, I was not disappointed by Mona Lisa - La Giaconda (pronounced something like la szhakOnda) as the French call it. I had already read so much about it, including people's disappointment when they saw it, ("It is so smaaaaaall!") that I had a fair idea of what to expect. Seeing it for real in the dim (to protect the treasure from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays) light was thrilling and satisfying. I had bought 1600 ASA (ISO) film at a hefty price just for the purpose and it paid off. Renting a radio device and headphones, walking into the area marked off by a metal strip embedded in the wooden floor around the niche where it is hung and listening over the headphones to the story and glory of la Giaconda was a pleasure!

The greater pleasure was actually to see Leonardo's Madonna of the Rocks and the huge charcoal study he made for it, the huge canvasses of the Romanticists, Eugene Delacroix's Raft of the Medusa, for instance, and Venus de Milo and so on.

The Raft of the Medusa was an eye opener. Having seen it only in books, the sheer size of it and its impact were totally unexpected. I sat on the wooden bench in front of it and gaped at it for as long as I could without seriously compromising the time I had for the whole museum. That left me wondering. What is an adequate length of time to see the whole museum?

To have something of the Louvre with me apart from the memories and the photographs, I bought a mini guide to the museum. Once in a while, I take the book out and go through it to travel back in time and walk through my garden of memories.

Art Abroad VII

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Vincent's Fire

As soon as I came to know that I would be visiting The Netherlands, I made a to-do list. The first item on the list was "Visit Vincent van Gogh Museum"
To be completely truthful, it was not a physical list but it existed only in my mind. As an aside, does a list that exists in the mind have a physical existence? Are phrases like "in the mind" and "a physical version of it" the result of arbitrary dichotomous thinking?
Visit I did. It was a long-standing ambition, ever since I heard of van Gogh and fell in love with his paintings, fulfilled.
It is a building with a modern design. Spacious and great for exhibiting van Gogh's works. These paintings were gifted to the museum by the wife of Vincent's brother Theo, Johanna. The museum has some of the most famous and more mature works of Vincent and is a pleasure to see them all together. While the raw power of his brush strokes and his unique vision can be discerned even in good colour prints, seeing them for real is an experience beyond compare.
I entered the first floor of the museum and took in the overall look of the hall. As I moved inside I could see a painting come into view from behind a pillar. It is a painting depicting an old house the cooking fire in which is visible through a window.

(Cottage at nightfall) From that distance and in that lighting, it looked as if someone had lit a red LED there to indicate the fire. I was captivated and went straight to the picture and peered at it. It appeared to have been made with a single stroke of a rough brush carrying red paint. In my imagination that has remained THE brush stroke in art.

Vincent was on fire when he painted that!

Image: Courtesy

Art Abroad VII

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Marat the Thinker

When I was staying in Eindhoven, for three months, I went to Brussels with my colleagues. Once we were there, we parted ways. I went on my own, sometimes, the best way to see a place.
My trusted Lonely Planet guide to Europe, "Europe on a Shoestring" gave me some good tips but not much information. For instance, I knew that I wanted to visit the Royal Museums but I had no idea what to expect there.
As I finished going through the rooms on the ground floor, I climbed the ornate stairs to the first floor. At the landing of the stairs awaited something that I would love to see. Rodin's Thinker. The unexpected pleasure felt like a gift! The awe-inspiring details and the coiled muscles of a man in deep thought, the texture of the surface would be impressive in any setting. Here, it was enhanced by its setting. It was illuminated by the sun fairly low in the southern sky. Light streamed through a window but no direct sunlight. It enhanced the contours and shadows cast by the taut and superbly defined muscles. I have not seen the replicas of this iconic statue placed in the open air (having missed Musée Rodin in Paris seventeen years earlier). I, however, felt that no setting could do better justice to it.
I reluctantly moved on, certain that on the way back I would have a last look at the Thinker.
I did not expect what was to come next. I turned into a room much longer than wide and in this alcove was a painting that had always affected me strongly - even in small and often black and white pictures I had seen of it. The uncluttered view, the total silence, the empty room at the end of which was this superb work of art – Jacques-Louis David’s painting, The Death of Marat (La Mort de Marat or Marat Assassiné in French) - took my breath away.
I enjoyed viewing it from a distance - through the door from outside the room, stood close to it to view the brush work and better observe the colours and soaked it all in.
In most people's minds, modern art is equated with abstract art. It means all that is not figurative, not realistic. I am sure that people who think so will be very much surprised if they are shown this painting and then told that art historians mark David and his works as the beginning of the modern era in art!
The impact the painting and the Thinker has been such that I hardly remember the other works I saw in that museum! Perhaps it is to be expected - that the sheer beauty and impact of these works, my personal affinity towards them, and the art-historical importance of the works should overshadow the other works. I hope I will visit Brussels once again and do justice to the other works.

Art Abroad VI

Monday, February 20, 2017


It was 1985 and I was in Paris. The first programme for the day was a visit to the Picasso Museum - Musée Picasso. Hôtel Salé - Salty. (Here is why it is called so) I don't remember its opening hours exactly. But, let us say 9:30 in the morning. I decided to go to the museum area a little early and look around. See the building from outside too. I reached the place at 9.

I was expecting a deserted place. I was so surprised when I saw that a long loose queue had already formed at the ticket counter! After all, the only musea I had seen till then were Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore, Visvesvaraya museum and the Government museum, Bangalore. Except on weekends and when tourist buses had arrived, they were very much deserted. Hence the surprise.

Whenever I had read about the public outcry caused by the paintings exhibited by rebel painters who had organised an exhibition parallel to the Paris Salon, I had always wondered why the general public would get so perturbed by art. Those painters were called les Fauves - French for "the wild beasts". The style or philosophy behind their paintings was called Fauvism for quite some time and are now called Impressionism. Those painters are now considered masters and trendsetters, is a different matter.

The queue half an hour before opening time gave me an idea, of sorts, of what art may mean to the general public.

Art Abroad V

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Balzac Park Figure

In Eindhoven, my teammates and I returned every evening from Philips HiTech Campus by bus where we underwent training. We were using the same bus and route for weeks. However, one day something hidden behind the foliage of a park caught my eye. Perhaps fall was setting in and some trees had already shed some leaves, making what lay beyond them a little more visible. I told my friend and fellow commuter, Eric, that we would get off the bus a few stops before our usual one and explore what I had seen.

We got off and found the gate to the park and walked in. What I had thought I had seen was indeed that! Rodin’s statue of Honoré de Balzac – made for the memorial for Balzac. I was intrigued since I had thought it stood somewhere in Paris.

An internet search revealed that this was a copy, cast from the mould from which the original was cast!  This one normally stood in front of the van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. Since the museum was under extensive renovation, the statue had been temporarily moved across the street into this park.

Ah! Mystery solved.

Art Abroad IV

Friday, February 10, 2017

Making Friends, with Modigliani

In Eindhoven, five colleagues of mine and I underwent training in the art and science of novelty searching.  Every patent is classified under the International Patent Classification system. You can imagine it to be similar to the bibliographic classification of books in a library. Each patent has one or more classification codes assigned to it and also has a unique patent number. When we use the classification codes to search for patents, the number of ‘hits’ is small and all are connected with a narrow field or a specific subject. So we had to learn how to classify an invention based on the description provided by the inventor and use that to search for patents which is closest to the invention on hand.

We were taught, in a classroom setting, by an expert in patent classification, Wim Krijnen. And what an expert he was! He was an elderly gentleman on the verge of retirement. He had old world mannerisms and very precise in his manners and speech. He reminded me of Mr. Chips of Goodbye Mr. Chips. He almost had the whole classification book in his head!

Just to give an example, a colleague described an “alleged” invention to him and sought his help to arrive at a classification. When posed with the question, he stood with his feet slightly apart, arms crossed and slowly rubbing his nose, with his elbow resting on the other hand. “I am a chemistry man. I am not very familiar with the electrical sciences. So, I may not be accurate. Let us see. Electrical sciences is. of course, H. Electronic circuitry is 03. The invention is about a pulse technique and that makes it H03K. And the invention is about switching and gating and that makes it H03K 17/00. And it has an element of delaying the pulses and hence it could be H03K 17/26 or H03K 17/28. He then proceeded to get the code from the internet and it turned out to be correct.*

Once, someone asked him a question and he asked us to go to his room so that he can show the relevant documents. When we went there, the first thing that caught my eye was a print of a painting by Modigliani. Perhaps this one. I exclaimed, “Ah! A Modigliani”. Wim beamed and asked me if I liked his works. Oh, yes!

He was, from then on, a friend of mine, in some ways. Whenever he met us, his pupils, as a group, he would wish us as a group and then nod at me separately!

Art Abroad III

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Print of the Print Gallery

In a room almost at the diagonally opposite corner of the building another “painting” had caught my attention. It is in fact a lithograph.The building indeed had a square plan. With a quadrangle in the middle. A corridor ran parallel to the sides of the square and had rooms on either side of it. All the rooms had windows either facing the quadrangle or the world outside. In this case it was a print. I wanted to go in and take a look but the room was empty whenever I passed by.
One afternoon I found one of the two people who shared the room in and sought his permission to walk in and look at the print. There were other interesting prints hanging on the wall but this one was special. I had a good look at it.
The occupant asked me why I was so interested. I told him that I was always interested in Escher's works and that this one was really special. He asked me why. I told him the story.
This was a print of Escher's work called the Print Gallery. Like most of Escher's works, this one too was art and mathematics and optical illusion all combined. It shows a man viewing a print hanging on the wall of the gallery. As you proceed, visually, along the path he is likely to follow, you can see other prints. As you do so, the inside of the gallery becomes the outside of the gallery and the outside in.
Since no such thing exists, and can ever exist, Escher must have painted it completely from imagination, seeing it through his mind’s eye. As the painting goes ahead it becomes so complicated that he did not know how to finish the painting! It stretched even his prodigious visualisation to its limits and beyond, because, he gave up. It was one of his unfinished works. And so it stayed.
Hendrik Lenstra, a professor of mathematics at the University of Leiden was travelling to the US. He holds a joint position in the University of Berkeley too. . He read about this work in an inflight magazine. He wondered if this problem could be reduced to a mathematical one, solve it using computers and finish the painting. Once he returned home, he gave this problem to a few of his colleagues doctoral students and that is exactly what one of them did!
I had read about this very recently and the colleague, who had read about it too, but in Nederlands, was happy that it was so well known! Later I had an opportunity to work with him and this incident, I felt, was one of the reasons that he was so friendly and helpful!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Expressive Abstractions

Every time I passed that room, I could see three large canvasses on the walls. They appeared to be abstract expressionist works. The occupant of the room was never there, whenever I passed by. I wanted to take a good look at those works.

One day, I saw a small made, good-looking gentleman in a pin-striped suit sitting at the desk and working. I slowed down and he looked up. "If you don't mind, may I have a look at those paintings", I asked him, standing at the door of his room. He said, "Sure"!

I discovered that there were four paintings, not three. The fourth was on the wall I couldn't see from outside the door. I was enthralled. All of them were of great beauty. One, in particular, in black, bluish grey, ash grey and white, was arresting. It was well illuminated from a window to its right, about a couple of meters away. I looked at them for quite some time, turned to the gentleman and thanked him and was about to leave.

He asked me gently, "do you like them"? I said, "yes, very much". He raised his eyebrows, in mild surprise and asked me, "Do you know what they are"? I sad that they were abstract expressionist works. I pointed to the one that had affected me most and told him that that was the best of the lot.

Since he looked ready to talk about it, I asked him if he had made them. He told me this story.

They were made by the father-in-law of his daughter. He too had worked for Philips all his life and had retired more than a decade earlier. After retirement, he took up painting. After some time he worked only in abstract expressionism. For nearly ten years, he created many works and then stopped. He had presented these paintings to this gentleman.

Those paintings changed my attitude towards abstract art in general and abstract expressionism in particular. While I suspect (actually, I am quite sure) that there are mediocre artists and charlatans out there and gullible culture vultures with deep pockets, I have realised that you ignore or look down upon any genre of paintings at your own artistic peril.

My only regret is that I remember neither that gentleman's name nor the painter’s!

Art Abroad I 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Unfortunate Fortune Teller

Mysore. Mid-seventies. I would go to the sprawling campus of the Mysore University, flop under a tree and read. (Alas, the compound building mania has struck the university too and the grounds are not easily accessible anymore.)

On one such occasion, a couple of men in dhoti, kurta and Gandhi cap walked by. One of them came to me and started pestering me for business. He wanted to tell me my future. They were itinerant fortune tellers from North Karnataka. In the typical patois of his profession, he harangued me to show him my palm and tell him my date of birth and name and so on, so that he could foresee and tell me what great good fortune awaited me or what great misfortune. If it was the latter, I am sure some money would have to change hands so that he could intercede with the powers that be on my behalf so that the effects of the misaligned stars and planets are nullified and the misery that awaited me is averted.

I kept refusing. What I did not tell him was that my pocket was empty and there was no use revealing to me my imaginary future. He kept at it like a lone house fly on a lazy summer afternoon and droned and buzzed around me.

I sat upright suddenly and asked him, "You don't even know your own immediate future! You don't even know that I am not going to pay you to foretell my future. How do you expect to foresee MY future?"

He either saw the impeccable logic of my argument or the wild look of a cornered cat turning back on a chasing dog, he beat a hasty retreat.