‘Mafia followed by computer code’ by vikram chandra



Writer of the hugely successful Mumbai mafia novel “Sacred Games”, Vikram Chandra has come out with his new work, but this time a non-fiction titled  “Mirrored Mind: My Life in Letters and Code”. Published by Penguin, the present book is about the anthropology of computer programming.

This is what he has to say about his new book, his writing and other things:

“Higher level computer languages make a direct connection back to Panini. Ashtadhyayi takes morphemes and phonemes, runs it through these rules, and out pops a word. It’s really an algorithm.”

“Linguistic and aesthetic philosophers grapple with the question of beauty in language as much as programmers do. They’re very interested in form, or ‘alankar’… In 1992, Donald Knuth mooted the idea of ‘literate programming’. You’re not writing for the computer, but for other programmers, who should be able to understand your work. Clarity and eloquence are important…. Elegance leads to increased functionality. Sloppy connections will make it hard to debug or change the code. Architecting a programme properly therefore becomes paramount. It’s as much about aesthetics as engineering.”

Form is a concern that Chandra himself has been preoccupied with. “You can give readers what they’re expecting. But to me, it’s most interesting when the writer tweaks the form and surprises you. I like to read that kind of stuff, and so I write it too,” he admits.

When asked about his mostly masculine world… the mafia in “Sacred Games,” now programming languages, Vikram Chandra refutes the allegation, saying “some of the earliest programmers were women. The abstract thinking was done by the men, who treated programming as a mechanical job that could be done by switchboard operators — hence women. But as programmers began to raise the prestige of what they did, they masculinised it.”

Talking about his activity besides writing and teaching, he said “I usually take a break, watch movies, listen to music, and one day, the answer pops into my head. This time, for some reason, I decided to write a 20-30 page essay on a subject that’s interested me for a long time — the aesthetics of code.”

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