Intriguing

A blog by Aditya Kannan

My letter to an unnamed college president — January 28, 2020

My letter to an unnamed college president

I think this is quite an unconventional post. I wrote this letter to a president of a college after he visited my school and spoke about the importance of political activism and creating mass change, and how a liberal arts program may help one to strive for that. The person in question here has been involved with the political world of his country for almost all of his working life, and became the president of his college recently. Being the busy person he is, I decided to write him a letter since I didn’t find the opportunity to converse with him after his address. I figured it would be interesting to put it up on my blog because it directly pertains to many of my beliefs and even ambitions.

The recepient is unnamed because I haven’t received his consent to publish this letter.


Dear Mr. <unnamed>,
I’m Aditya Kannan, a student studying at <my school>, where you delivered a speech on the 20th of November. To begin, I was truly fascinated by what you spoke and it’s needless to say that my mind on liberal arts has changed considerably since then.


If you recall, I asked you the question “You spoke about the importance of social change through volunteering and social service. However, what is your opinion of using politics as a means to do the same?”. Due to the fact that we were running out of time, I, unfortunately, didn’t have the privilege of listening to your complete response. Regardless, I thought I’d share what I took from your speech and explain the rationale behind the question I asked.


Trying to induce social change is interesting because I often wonder about the extent a single person can impact the world. I see the merits of visiting and volunteering in, say, Cameroon, Somalia or someplace where my help would be valued, but is working to transform the lives of a few individuals truly a substantial contribution to the society? With that question in mind, I look to politics; where the ideas I apply, the actions I do and the changes I establish become automatically ingrained into the society and proactively impact hundreds of thousands of people hopefully for the better. 


My dream of an ideal society isn’t one where every individual is necessarily equal. It’s rather something of a meritocracy, where the only true equality all humans share is the opportunity to excel and become whatever they dream of if they have the capacity to do so. I believe the only way this could be achieved is by drastically improving the standards of education to give each person an equal footing in the real world and making education completely free of cost.


Through the leverage of influence or politics, I envision holding the power to veer the world away from self-destruction caused by ignorance and militarism, towards a form of intellectualism that forwards our species — undivided by borders, “races” or religion — as a whole.


I sometimes wonder about how far I can really reach with my ambitions, and how this career would affect me as an individual. I hope it’ll treat me as well as I wish to treat it.

Finally, I’d like to finish by asking you for your view on politics as a viable future. I’ll leave you with this graph below. It’s something I often think about, and I’m sure you’ll find something to gather from it too. I eagerly await your response.

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Best regards,
Aditya Kannan

Time travel and our reality — December 1, 2019

Time travel and our reality

If time travel is going to exist in the future, we’re likely living in the best possible reality.

Our history has been shaped by events that ensure the best outcomes in the future. It’s likely that after time travel is invented, people from the future would go back in time to try and experiment with the outcomes of various incidents that have changed the history of mankind — regardless of whether they were negative or positive — and set forth the most ideal set of events that in turn benefit the future they are coming from.

Interestingly, I think Stephen Hawking was thinking along the lines of this theory when he did this https://vinepair.com/articles/stephen-hawking-time-travel-party/.

Does this mean that we, as a civilization, have the right to play with fate however we want? Are future time travelers a sort of insurance that stop us from destroying ourselves?

Or maybe, time travelers will never decide to come back and alter reality

Changing the events of the past may risk destroying the future. Time travelers could decide to lock themselves to their reality because any change they make in the past might set forth a butterfly effect detrimental to their existence. Maybe we actually don’t live in a perfect reality; time travelers are simply too scared to come back here because they fear unpredictability.

Maybe, time travelers could have computers powerful enough to calculate every possible outcome of an event that could happen in the future.

It’s quite logical that in the future, humans could have invented a computer so powerful that it can model the complexities of fate and human decision. The reason why we often feel like we’re living in a terrible reality is probably due to the fact that we’ve not even come close to seeing the worst. Maybe the things we consider tragedies, like the World Wars, could have been orchestrated simply to drive the industrial and technological revolution we know that ensued. The idea of the people from the future altering our reality is something to think about.

Shower thought #1 — November 25, 2019
Is it prudent to discuss Indian politics publicly nowadays? — October 21, 2019

Is it prudent to discuss Indian politics publicly nowadays?

2019 has been — to say the very least — an interesting year for India. The current administration, unlike most others before, has been on a constant roll of implementing policies that were formerly considered pipe dreams, including GST, demonetization, the reunification of the JnK region and, of course, the NRC and CAA bills. Not all of them were necessarily successful, but a government that actively creates change is considered a sign of a healthy democracy for some.

Notwithstanding all the achievements of the administration, there’s a record they set that is very worrying. The internet has been shut down 95 times in India this year.

The government must not have the autocratic right to deny access to information and communication.

The most common defense given by officials is that the shutdowns are “required” to maintain decorum in the region. In reality, however, this is increasingly being used as a tool to aggressively control dissent. This ranges anywhere from the propagation of anti-national views in Kashmir to paltry incidents like conducting religious processions or the spreading of anti-Islamic views on Whatsapp. Certainly, some of these shutdowns were warranted by palpable threats, but it seems like the usage of this power is moving further and further from its central rationale.

Are these swift, and heavy-handed tactics becoming something of a punishment for protesting in order to discourage political discourse? The expression of political views; nonconforming to a precedent or not, is an integral factor of the functioning of a democracy. In my opinion, the biggest failing of this democracy is the fact that the archaic law against sedition still exists and is actively being invoked by the government. Considering that there has been no effort from them to set the limits of what is defined as sedition in the last 70 years, this word is, has been, and will be subject to indiscriminate misappropriation.

I’m not in favor of letting a small group of 800-odd people decide what a billion-and-a-half other people can say or think. A government has been elected to govern its people, not dictate what is considered acceptable or inappropriate. I’ll take this chance to remind you that the average age of the parliamentary lower house is 57.5 years, while the average Indian is only about 28 years old.

Of the many things I envy about the USA, the 1st Amendment is certainly one of them. While there are many inevitable issues with unhindered political discourse, a country needs the freedom of expression to function as a democracy. One where the rules of governance are set by the people, not an arbitrary group of disconnected elites. The fundamental difference between the American and Indian constitutions is the tone; the freedom of expression in America isn’t something the government gives, it’s something American citizens — as humans — have the right to. In India, however, this whole deal is decidedly complex.

I’ve spoken to many well-intentioned people who support government-sanctioned “control” of speech. On the face value, the idea of regulating speech does make sense because the propagation of some ideas can potentially — and unnecessarily — destabilize peace.

However, I think there’s a factor that isn’t considered well enough. For all its merits, India is still a young and undeveloped democracy because well-defined lines of political ideology haven’t developed in this country yet. Some parties have indeed declared their political leanings (namely, the INC favoring the left and the BJP the right), most bank on religious and cultural sectarianism to attract votes instead of actual political ideology. This, in my opinion, is primarily due to the fact that the society here is extremely heterogenous and is evidenced by the fact that regional parties hold tremendous power in India, quite unlike the US, UK and other countries in the West. What I’m coming to, conversely, is that the failure to recognize the threat of giving the government the power to control speech in a country that is heavily divided by communalist partisanship can be extremely unwise. To preserve and improve the current status quo of stability between the majoirty and minorities in this country, powers that give partisan control over thought and ideology must be done away with.


I admit to unconciously putting some effort into making my words appear more admissible and politically correct with regard to the sentiments of the government and the general population. I think the fact that I was unconfident about publishing this article is quite shameful; my internal inhibitions reflect the political climate in this country. I was constantly reminded of the stories of people getting arrested for posting “objectionable” content and journalists getting attacked for disseminating unconventional and alternative views.

All the same, it’s really quite funny how in the process of answering “Is it prudent to discuss Indian politics publicly nowadays?”, I ended up sharing my views on the state of Indian politics myself. Ultimately, while I remain forced to be a bystander to matters concerning politics (the minimum age of candidacy in India is 21-25), I can’t do much but keep my chin up and hope for the best.