I was born in a small university town called Santiniketan in the eastern Indian province of West Bengal. Santiniketan holds a special place in the hearts of most Indians because the town, and the university around which it is built, was established, and was home to, perhaps the single most influential figure in contemporary Indian culture - Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, the first Asian to do so. He was an amazing man - mystic, poet, novelist, essayist, painter, educationalist all rolled into one. He defined a whole new cultural and spiritual tradition. I'm not going to be able to do justice to him here, but I might set up a special page on him soon. Tagore set up Visva Bharati University (and the town of Santiniketan, which translates to ``Abode of Peace") as an experiment in education. Among other things, he designed the campus in the tradition of an ancient Indian Ashram, with classes held under trees. My mother attended this university, and from what she tells me, it was a very special experience. Santiniketan lives up to its name literally - you can feel that serenity seep in as soon as you reach the place. (Santiniketan has since produced yet another Nobel Laureate, the economist Amartya Sen, whose official bio-sketch makes some interesting observations about the place.)
I grew up in an altogether different kind of place. Dhanbad, in the state of Jharkhand, is at the heart of India's largest coal mining region. It is a somewhat messy, grimy, polluted city (not unlike parts of Wollongong, Australia, where I now live) of about 1 million, but I grew up shielded from all this, in a university campus tucked away in the outskirts of the town. The campus was very pretty, and from where we lived, we could see the mountains of the Parasnath range in the distance (one of the most hauntingly beautiful memories I have is of the mountainsides lit up by forest fires on summer evenings). My father taught mining engineering at this university, and eventually retired as its vice-chancellor. For all its problems, Dhanbad is a great place, specially because of the simple, hard-working people who live there, making the best of very difficult circumstances.
When I was 7, we spent a year in the U.K. We lived in a small village called Wardley, just outside the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where my father used to commute to every day (he was visiting professor at the university). My memories are fuzzy, but pleasant, which might explain why I enjoy rainy, windy days.
I went to university in Calcutta, which is what I currently call my hometown since my parents live there now. My father is a past President of the Indian Institution of Engineers, a busy consultant for the mining industry and currently chair of the organizing committee of the World Mining Congress to be held in New Delhi in 2003 (that body awarded him the Krupinski Medal at its conference in Stockholm in 1987, and again in December 2006). My mother is Director of a technical publishing company, having previously spent many years teaching generations of high school students (myself included) to understand the incredibly rich and beautiful traditions of Bengali literature. My brother, 12 years my junior, is a recent MBA from one of India's top management schools (FMS, University of Delhi) and currently a jet-setting management consultant with Hewitt in Bangalore, India. Lots of people have had lots to say about Calcutta (now called Kolkata, having rightly shed the baggage of a name imposed by an occupying power). It is a beautiful, cultured city, prettier and more cultured than any other city that I have seen (but you must have the wisdom to see the beauty that sits just beneath the surface). Like some other parts of India, it has its poor (although that situation is improving at an astonishing rate) but I often tell my self-flagellating fellow citizens to look at the history of foreign occupation of the nation to understand how this came to be.
I spent 6 years working for an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in Edmonton, Canada, a truly pleasant city. A 3 hour drive takes you to the incredible scenery of the Canadian Rockies, During those 6 years, if I wasn't spending nights drinking coffee in the AI Lab, I was up in the mountains hiking. I did my Ph.D. work with Randy Goebel, one of the smartest people I've ever met, and a really nice guy. I was lucky to have a very interesting group of people serve on my Ph.D. committee at various points in time, including Renee Elio, Jeff Pelletier, Li Yan Yuan and Jia-Huai You . I made many good friends in Edmonton. My flatmate for two years and another Ph.D. graduate in Computing Science from the University of Alberta, Srinivas Padmanabhuni is someone I still work closely with.
I came to Australia in the mid-90's and spent some time in Sydney (and a brief interlude in Brisbane) before moving to Wollongong. Wollongong's fantastic!!
While at Sydney, I was a post-doc with Norman Foo, another extremely smart and all-round nice guy. To him I owe a lot.
Now, one final comment. Although I am a founding member, with some friends at the University of New South Wales, of a group called soc.husbands.hen.pecked, the following still holds true: My marriage to Wang Hui-Ling(2 years after first meeting her in Banff National Park, Canada) has changed my life in ways that I really like....The family grew with the arrival of Aranya Kumar Ghose in 2001. He is an assertive, determined (and occasionally angry), yet contemplative young man. A still more recent addition to the family is a still more assertive young man called Amartya Kumar Ghose.