Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Last month of the First Sem

November is nearly here and with it will come the final days of this semester. It seems so strange that the very first sem in IIT Roorkee is coming to an end so quickly. It seems just like yesterday when I wrote JEE on a hot, summer day in CBIT, went to Chennai for counselling, had long arguments on BITS vs. IIT and eventually came to IITR's Saharanpur Campus. DId all that really happen so fast?

November will not however, be a very nice month. It includes an end-semester exam, for which I am thoroughly unprepared. The exam also entails a practical examination which will be "just like Class 12" according to a Research Scholar here. Unfortunately, in Class 12, there is so much cheating and copying that it is impossible to replicate in an IIT. So, this is probably going to be my first proper practical exam ever! By the way, it's on Nov. 19, while the written papers are from Nov. 23. Luckily, or not, classes end on Nov. 18. Although, I doubt we, rather they, can complete the syllabus by then.

So, here's the main question: will I fail in Electronics and Thermodynamics? Based on the just-concluded mid-sem 2, I think I will be able to pass with a decent grade in Thermodynamics. But Electronics is just too hard: the subject itself is quite challenging while the professor and indeed, the entire department, is barking mad!

As for the other subjects, I need to concentrate a bit more on Engineering Graphics, especially the confusing part of Engineering Drawing. While HS, EVS and Maths are doable, the remaining subjects need special care.

Did anybody say anything about a branch change? Oh, was that even this year?

MH Opposition voted for the Congress!

In a rude shock to the "Senas" and the BJP of Maharashtra, the ruling Congress-NCP has returned to power for a historic third consecutive term. But what are the reasons for this victory? After all, the Congress-NCP Government there is perhaps the worst in the country - barely any of its manifesto promises have been fulfilled; farmers continued to commit suicide in Vidarbha; there is virtually no water or electricity; and 26/11 was described a "small incident" by the Deputy CM!

The Congress-NCP owes its victory to the divided opposition. Raj Thackeray's MNS, which has virtually hijacked its parent organisation's (the Shiv Sena) agenda, managed to win 12 Assembly seats, five of them in Mumbai, which is arguably the State's most cosmopolitan city. But the MNS did much worse: it ate into the vote share of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, thus pushing it far behind the Congress-NCP.

Now, as the Congress-NCP is set to return to power, the Opposition must think deep. So much ground has eroded beneath it that it has left the Congress-NCP as the only real choice in the State. The MNS must return to the Shiv Sena, and the Shiv Sena itself must champion a cause that people really care about. And, most importantly, the BJP must build itself into a formidable force and provide a real, nationalistic alternative in Maharashtra.

Can this happen in a mere five years? Only time will tell.

The Nobel for Politics

US President Barack Obama's controversial winning of the Nobel Peace Prize smacks of political intervention and the biased nature of the Nobel Committee. This is obvious if one just brushes through the surface of the citation.
Obama has been awarded the prize essentially because he gave extravagant speeches calling for world peace and nuclear disarmament! Well, Jawahar Lal Nehru was the first person in history to do that -where's his Nobel? Later on, Rajiv Gandhi also called for the same ideals, but won no Nobel. And to top it all off, the man who perhaps defined peace in a modern context - Mahatma Gandhi - was never awarded a Nobel. Instead, a US President who just won an election that was riddled with media hype, was awarded what most see as the most honourable prize on earth. Or used to see, at least.
It is worthwhile to mention here that, during the campaign, in an interview to CNN, Obama, replying to whether he would deploy America's nukes against any Iran in case it attacked Israel, remained non-committal and simply said that 'Israel would be protected.' What does that mean? Will he use nukes on Iran if it does indeed attack Israel? Would that not break away from the long lectures he has been giving to the world? Can the Prize be taken back?
The Nobel prize has become a political instrument, no longer free and autonomous. Those living in the West have a better chance of winning one that those in the East, and a prize can be won through political means.
If only Alfred Nobel were alive today, he would have broken down into tears.

The Gods of Fun have Arrived

It's that time of the year again, when IIT Roorkee is set ablaze by the fire of pure fun. The annual youth fest - Thomso - is back and this time, it's going to be the best ever. From a myriad of formal events - street plays, panel discussions, quizzes etc. - to informals, including the BLIND DATE ;) Thomso 09 is sure to leave you asking for more.
Thomso begins from Thursday evening (29 November) at the main campus of IIT Roorkee in Roorkee, Uttarakhand. Next semester, the Saharanpur campus will organize its own fest - Tarang '10.

Bad Exam? Who Cares!

Oh, those terrible three days. Yes, IIT Roorkee just concluded its second mid-term exam ("mid-sems"). IT seems the gods at the University have come to believe that it is actually an ellipse, not a circle. Hence, it must have two "mids"! After mid-sem 1, all of us vowed to shed our post-JEE complacency and adopt a more study-centred approach. Unfortunately, such aspirations died out pretty soon and we went back to having fun.

And then came the exam. It was an absolute disaster! Can you imagine how it feels to see a whole paper in front of you and not know how to solve a single question? Well, that's how I felt when I was attempting my Physical Chem paper. After all, with so many partial differentials and what-not, how can they expect us to remember the derivation of um... well, some equation.

Leaving aside Technical Communication, which is easy but not scoring, every exam was a challenge. Studying late into the night, we read all our books - from the useful BS Grewal to the horribly boring GM Masters! In fact, while reading the last at 2:00 AM, I wondered if we would make it out alive after the exam!

Now, it's all up to the end-sems, stating from the 23rd of next month. OK, so that's what I said last time too. But if not the end-sems, there's always next year :) I just hope some ingenious fresher come along who'll teach me everything!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Eulogy to a great soul

My grandfather was always, to me, the embodiment of hard work.

His father fled from Bangladesh during partition, while he was still a child. His entire family came to the new-born nation of India with just the clothes on their backs. It was a very hard time: the entire subcontinent was torn apart on religious lines; a mighty empire had collapsed, leaving destruction in its wake.

In spite of the gloom, my great grandfather looked towards a brighter future. He wanted his son to study and live a better life than he did. Thus, my grandfather completed his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering against all odds.

He was a bright student and secured a government job in NMDC Ltd. For the rest of his life, he would remain associated with the company. He married my grandmother (a marriage of 54 years till death did them apart) with whom he had two daughters (one being my mother) and a son. However, because he was posted in a tribal, mineral-rich belt of Chhattisgarh (then MP), he had to send his children to boarding school at a tender age. In addition, he also educated a little, impoverished boy who came to his door one day seeking sanctuary. That boy today is a grown man with a good job.

My grandfather enjoyed a steady income, unlike his siblings. Consequently, he would send his family money every month. Despite the additional burden, he took his wife and children on regular trips to various parts of India. Even after he grew old, he never lost his love for travel. He had diabetes and also had a bypass surgery, yet he was amazingly fit. Despite his age, he was, like a true engineer, dedicated to learning new things. Thus, he tried to master the intricacies of the cell phone and Tata Sky, often leading to long tutorial sessions with me!

My grandfather was never a disciplinarian, yet his presence disciplined you; his knowledge humbled you; and his humility inspired you.Today, without him, there seems to be a strange hole in my life. There are so many things I would have liked to do, so much to talk. And yet...

My grandfather passed away at 3:00 pm on Oct. 13, 2009 at the age of 80. My greatest tribute to him wold be to imbibe his ideals and spread my name far and wide... a name that he chose for me, 18 years ago.

Death is as sure for that which is born, as birth is for that
which is dead. Therefore grieve not for what is inevitable. - Gita

Friday, October 2, 2009

What's going on?

Producer: UTV Motion Pictures and Ashutosh Gowariker
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Harman Baweja, Dilip Joshi, Manju Singh, Manoj Shah and others
Comments: Three and a half hours is very long for a film
Rating: ** of 5 (2 of 5)

An MBA-educated NRI who believes in the unproven science of astrology. OK, that's possible. Then, twelve girls who look exactly the same. That's taking it a bit too far. Ashutosh Gowariker's latest film, What's Your Raashee?, is another one of those no-brainer Bollywood comedies that have been ruling the roost of late.
Yogesh Patel (Harman Baweja) is an NRI who is called back to India to marry a girl, inherit his grandpa's property and sell it off to pay back his brother's debt of Rs. 4 crore and 40 lakhs. Priyanka Chopra plays twelve different girls - from a super-sexy model to a business woman who has a CBI inquiry on her to a 15-year old girl! Yogesh picks up a book titled What's Your Raashee? (what a coincidence) and concludes that there are 12 kinds of women, one for each Raashee (zodiac sign). And the rest of the story goes around Yogesh's quest to find the best amongst these twelve girls, intertwined with a plot about a local gangster-cum-moneylender and an extramarital affair.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it's too complicated: to expect the audience to care to remember twelve different stories is stretching it too far. I, for one, could not recall who was who by the end of the movie. Secondly, the music isn't too great. It's not that bad, but you won't remember it, although the title song is somewhat catchy. Thirdly, while most of the jokes were funny, they were over-used (the 'no mention' bit for example) and became cliched too fast. Lastly, Harman's acting is still pretty bad (although he's improved a lot since LS2050!).
Priyanka Chopra's acting is very good. After all, playing twelve different roles is quite a task and she does it with perfection. You could easily believe that the same character makes us laugh as some dumb rich girl and makes us cry as a 15-year old girl who is being married off by her father.
The make up for this movie demanded a lot, since Priyanka's twelve characters look very different. Luckily, it was done superbly. Of course, the other characters didn't need much make up, since it's easy to dress up an NRI hunk and his Gujju parents, as well as other Gujju people. The sets were quite good, especially the gigantic Indra-styled palace.
A wonderful part about this film is the way it picks up human realities even in a comical background. So, the director easily moves from an emotionally-charged girl who lost her virginity to a crazy priestess who demands that hers and Yogesh's body 'unite completely'! It's hard to come by such seamless transition in comedy films of late.
This movie won't be remembered for anything, but it's worth a watch if you've got some free time. However, here's a word to the director: long shots of beautiful Chicago and other American cities do not impress the Indian audience anymore. We know America's pretty, but long shots of it will not get you a hit. For that, you need a good story and good actors. This one didn't really fulfil those requirements. (OTFS)

Getting ready to leave

It's been a wonderful time back home. Hyderabad is still that big, wonderful city and Prasad's is still the place to hang out! Sadly, I couldn't meet my old friends but never mind, there's always next time.

Now, as I return to IITR/SRE Campus, there are some very important goals. Studies is the first one: I am looking at backlogs in Thermodynamics and Electronics and I just have to try to avoid that. It will take a lot of hard work but then again, what doesn't?

Then, there is NSS. While the hobbies clubs can be taken lightly, NSS is far more important. It's something that cannot be ignored and should not be either.

So, with NSS and studies, as well as Thomso 09 waiting, I'm ready to leave! Hopefully, with my new laptop, I can keep blogging there regularly. If the WiFi is universalized, that is.

Stop. Think.

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
Mahatma Gandhi

On this, his 140th birthday, OTFS continues its tradition of remembering the Mahatma who defeated The Empire through non-violence and love.

May the world, one day, learn that his teachings are always relevant.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Feels like home

After a good 10 years of living in South India, it feels rather strange to be living in the North again. The southern languages - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam - are quite difficult to learn because each of them comes with their own rules of grammar and script. In contrast, most North Indian languages approximate to Hindi, so that a person who knows Hindi will not find it very difficult to learn another northern language.

I don't mean to say that Southern languages are somehow inferior. In fact, all languages have their own beauty and history and they are incomparable. However, as someone who learnt Hindi, I always found it difficult to adjust to the local Southern language. In my seven years in Hyderabad, I have virtually trained myself to ignore a Telugu conversation (even if it is about me) because I simply cannot understand a word of it! It can be very frustrating and even embarrassing - especially when you have to tell someone that you do not know Telugu. I experienced something similar in Kochi.
But now, in Saharanpur, it feels as though the tables have been turned over! Suddenly, I find myself immersed in a familiar language - Hindi - and I can understand what everybody is saying and even respond! In contrast, those who do not know Hindi are finding it quite difficult to adjust to the new surroundings.
The last two months have lent a strange feeling to me, as if I am AT HOME at last. I feel as though I belong here - I speak the language, I like the food. Perhaps, it's destiny. Perhaps I was meant to come here. To be here. Is this home?

After the IITs?

So, what after the IITs? Well, there are many options, but the classic one is IIM: today, out country has 7 Indian Institutes of Management and seven more are set to come out after the 11th Plan.

A lot of people intend to enter there institutes after B.Tech, for which CAT preparation is underway from as early as Second year! As for me, I'm not interested one bit. I'd rather be a journalist, really!

Smoked out

Smoking is a serious problem in almost all colleges and universities in India. In the IITs as well, a large number of students take to this dreadful habit. There are many reasons for this: filmstars encourage it through their portrayals on the silver screen; younger students are 'inspired' by their older counterparts; the extreme stress and loneliness one feels when living away from one's family; the ready availability of cigarettes in India and the teenage urge to 'check it out' etc.

As part of an awareness drive, the National Service Scheme (NSS) of IITR-SRE Campus conducted a painting competition. The topic for smokers was 'Why do I smoke' and that for non-smokers was 'Why would I smoke?'