Mirrored Mind: My Life in Letters and Code by Vikram Chandra
Writing software code that makes life easy for its users and writing fiction that enthralls the reader with author’s imagination have never been thought in the same space. Both software programmers and authors write and create worlds. The objective may be different but the semantics and the process may not be. People from the literary world may think people offer too much respect to mere software coders. And the software world may not appreciate their parallels in the world of Rasa, Dhvani, and Anand. Works like Mirrored Mind would probably bridge the gap.
Like the author, I have also straddled both the worlds – of software in its nascent days in India and now as a blogger and author – the literary world. For me, this was a good synthesis of two worlds. Vikram Chandra’s description of logic gates was nostalgic, to say the least. It took me back to those days when we wrote those assembly language programs. The time when FORTRAN was an advanced language.
His description of various types of coders is very interesting. Reason being, people get to meet those who just meddle with the outermost layer of the sophisticated programs. And not those who design the bottom layers that interact with the machine to create the magic.
After introducing the world of coders, author deep dives into the Sanskrit literature and the aesthetics of the same. He refers to Anandvardhan and then the Rasa theory of Abhinavagupta. I have tried to read but I am still on the lookout for someone who can explain him to me. The whole objective of arts and literature is to provide Rasa to the connoisseur across space and time. I think it needs lot more explanation of the terms that people like Abhinavagupta use and the meanings thereof. What Vikram Chandra gives is a good introduction, though I wonder how much someone who has no prior introduction to these concepts would understand it. I enjoyed this part a lot and the reading made me want for more and wanted the author to delve a few levels deeper into the theory of aesthetics or Rasa.
I enjoy both the worlds – coding and aesthetics/literature. Have studied and traversed some distance on both the paths. So for me, this was an extremely interesting read. How would people who know only one or none of the fields relate to it, is a curiosity that Mirrored Mind has generated? I am sure I am going to make some inquiries and see how one world sees the other? And do they see any not-so-obvious connections amongst themselves or not? This book does not establish a clear correlation between the two but draws a lot of parallels. It also spends some time on the constructs of Sanskrit. It is so tight that the language has not changed in two millennia or so. Thus, making Sanskrit the only language which people could understand across eras if there was a need for the same.
If you want to understand why you like certain forms of art and if software programming will eventually be counted as an art form sometime down the line, you would enjoy reading the book.
Take your call.