Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Very Long Walk

As expected, the Roorkee Campus, spanning over 340 acres, is rather difficult to traverse through. From my hostel - Radhakrishnan Bhawan - to the Department of Civil Engineering, it takes a good 15 minutes to walk at a brisk space, and even longer if you walk at leisure.

And that's only if you go through the Main Building. From the Library Road it could take about 20 minutes even at a brisk pace!

Fortunately (or not) all our lectures are in the same class and, with the exception of Wednesdays when I have a lecture in the Chemistry Deptt., the other labs and tut rooms are nearby too. The flip side is that you never feel like going back to your room to relax because of the distance. Yesterday, I had to go back to my room from the UG Club to get my ID Card and then go back: it took a good half hour!

Overall, I'm getting used to the new place (it's only been five days!) but it's proving difficult to make new friends. And I miss Saharanpur so, so much...

PS: Did I mention that the Computer Lab here is superb? No? Well, it is!

Friday, July 23, 2010

NOTICE: Series Discontinued

The ongoing series THE MAKING OF A MONUMENT under Documentary is hereby discontinued because of my branch change to the Roorkee Campus. I'll be putting up one last pic soon.

The series will be included in this year's IOTY.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Branch Change to Civil

Well, the first piece of news I got when I can back ws that I had gotten a change of branch from Polymer S&T to B.Tech Civil Engineering. Acaemically, it's a wonderful thing. But emotionally, leaving the Saharapur Campus was very hard.


So now I'm in the so-called Main Campus of IITR. It's beautiful but really big, making walking to class a real problem. The new Bhawan looks quite nice but the mess is pathetic, espcially when compared to Malviya Bhawan's. We've had a few classes now and they're mostly boring. There's even a subject (CE-251) that seems all too similar to MI-201!

More updates later...


Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Few Suggestions




Having completed my first year at college and read about incidents relating to ragging around the country through the media, and also having observed a few such incidents, I am in a position to make a few recommendations to curb the illegal practice.

  1. Freshers need to feel as though they are part of the system. They come into the system as aliens and need to be treated kindly. Regular cultural events, in-depth orientation programmes and interaction with the authorities.
  2. As mentioned in the UGC Guidelines, the warden could dine with the freshers in their mess a few times. There is no shame in dining with students, it would only enhance the stature of the warden in the eyes of the students.
  3. As far as possible, freshers should be allowed to live in a separate hostel. If this is not possible, they should be accommodated in a separate wing of the hostel and that wing should be kept off-limits for the seniors by means of security guards.
  4. Security guards should be regularly checked on to ensure that they are doing their work properly. Any lax attitude should NOT be tolerated.
  5. Faculty members should see to it that freshers are being allowed to participate in recreational activities/sports .
  6. Any complaint, no matter how minor, should be taken seriously. The Anti-Ragging Helpline 1800-180-5522 should be displayed prominently. The Government itself should outsource this helpline to make it more effective. Institutes should not be afraid of this helpline as bringing shame to them. Ragging happens everywhere, saying that a place is ragging-free would be a lie or an act of ignorance. Fighting ragging head-on will bring more respect to an institute than pretending it does not exist.
  7. Weekly meetings between freshers and authorities should be arranged.
  8. On a larger scale, the media must stop glamorizing ragging as some childish song-and-dance act, thus misleading the public (such as the scenes in the movies Munnabhai MBBS and 3 Idiots). Ragging is no just singing and dancing, it is a crime against humanity.
  9. Institutes must try to control the flow of cigarettes and alcohol within campuses. Freshers should not be allowed to leave the campus at will and should have separate ID cards that clearly distinguish them. Security guards must check a student's ID card before they leave.
  10. Lastly, institutions must not hesitate from punishing wrongdoers in an exemplary manner. It's best way to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
If these points are honestly implemented, I do believe that we can defeat the evil practice of ragging.

End of Part I
(Part II: The Seniors will be presented in a few months' time)

And So Ends A Vacation

Well, today's my last day at home. It's been a pretty long summer vacation, probably the longest I've ever had. It felt really nice to be back home at first: the food, the ultra-comfortable bed, waking up whenever you want, the food, the feeling of living in a city, the food... so much to love!

However, as the days progressed, it got quite boring. I discovered new ways to pass time: CID, reading The Hindu's gigantic football pages, taking long walks to old destinations (and compiling a photograph album to that effect). The traditional pass-times were always there too: facebook, friends, family, news channels, movies etc.

There was, and still is, the anxiety around a branch change. The IIT system is so strongly positioned against students that they are never told anything, they have to find out for themselves. So, once I get back to DPT, IITR I'll have to make checking this a top priority.

Well, two months, great food, new clothes, and now it's time to get back. I'll have another End-Year Review in a little less than a year from now. But till then, OTFS will have regular updates!

(Series Concluded for 2010)

The Mess Awards

Slowly and steadily, I'm getting the hang of using the object formatting options in Office 2007. It really tends to spoil you because you are tempted to use the predefined formats. However, with practice, you understand how to use the new stops feature. It would have been nice had we been able to mix pictures and solid fills/textures in a single object using stops. Nonetheless, the current system is quite good too. Also, the gradient lines feature gives a lot of freedom to create 3D effects.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life After Aman Kachroo





The Aman Kachroo case was truly a landmark in the fight against ragging because it was after the verdict that society at large began to take a far more serious view against ragging. Even the previous judgement against ragging did not have the power of the Aman Kachroo case.

The Raghavan Committee formed after the case and the consequent UGC guidelines marked a major shift in the way ragging was dealt with: the onus of proof now lay on the accused, while the responsibility to take the case to its just conclusion was put on the institute. In effect, authorities who were secretly supporting ragging were forced to toe the line and enforce anti-ragging rules.

The Flip Side
However, the new guidelines have not been implemented universally yet. While almost all central institutions have implemented some of the guidelines, most state institutions and some private institutions have not done so. Most of the latter have not made signing the anti-ragging affidavits mandatory, while virtually none of the former have implemented some guidelines such a dining with freshers in the mess and conducting cultural events to help freshers blend in.

Also, ragging has now gone underground, taking place in secret and relying purely on fear to hide itself. In hostels, seniors come in and turn off the lights almost immediately to prevent their faces from being seen clearly, while in non-residential institutes it takes places either in dark nooks and crannies inside the campus or in fairly deserted places (such as parks) outside the campus. In both cases, security guards tend to bungle up their job and seniors try to protect themselves by warning the juniors not to 'tell anybody,' or face 'worse.' Often, this works because freshers just don't trust the authorities to protect them.

Denial of Privileges
Another, more subtle, manifestation of ragging happens in residential institutions. In these places, it is common for recreation facilities to be controlled directly or indirectly by a senior student. Although it depends on the senior in question, many-a-times freshers are denied usage of these facilities. They are curtly told, "you can't play here/use this."

According to the UGC guidelines, this act also constitutes ragging but goes on completely unchecked. The reason is simple: either the senior student has a great deal of autonomy or has been allowed that autonomy by a faculty member who would rather not do the work assigned to them. What the senior says is virtually law and even if a complaint is filed, it would be next to impossible to prove it.

Thus, this last point, that of denial of facilities and privileges to freshers, would be the ultimate test to see how far we've actually gone in curbing the anti-social practice. And I'm confident that if the UGC Guidelines are followed in earnest, this can be achieved in the near future.

Next: A Few Suggestions

The Case of Broken Locks

An extremely common feature in the Malviya Bhawan hostel is that of locks that refuse to open. This could happen in many ways: the key might have been misplaced, damaged or gotten stuck in the lock (it really happens!).

What follows could either be a demolition site or a CIA plot. In one case a variety of tools are brought to the door and the lock is broken with great force. In another, more serious case, somebody would have to climb the balcony ledge from an adjacent room and scrape the PoP off the window to open it.

One friend of mine misplaced his keys so often that he finally put a tiny, one-lever lock which could be broken easily! Of course, he replaced it with a stronger one later. Luckily, such a thing never happened to me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Real Problem: Society





For all the measures taken to control ragging, the real problem is seldom addressed. And that is: a general criminal-mindset in society. Our society is such that it's become 'cool' to break the law. Overpowering the powerless creates an image of being all-mighty.

All the measures against ragging, in general, hope to prevent people from breaking the law (ragging is a crime, after all) rather than encouraging them to respect it. It's the same thing in society: you never jump a signal when a policeman is around, but if there is no policeman you'd do it without thinking twice despite the great risk to life. These two issues might seem unrelated but are actually two sides of the same coin.

Another problem is acceptance of crime in society. The so-called middle class in India is ready to accept crime and even torture until it comes to their doorstep. That's what happened in the Aman Kachroo case: his family chose to ignore his complaints until it was too late. Society at large does that until something terrifying - like death - happens. Nobody ever thinks that their child could be next.

A Misconception
For some reason, probably stereotyping, people believe that boys and only boys can rag their juniors. This is simply untrue: girls can be equally capable of brutally ragging junior girls in the most humiliating ways possible. Remember that girl from Andhra Pradesh who forced to dance in the nude by her seniors, all girls?

And perhaps the most heinous of these is an old case of ragging where a fresher girl was gang raped by some senior boys in the name of ragging.

Morals?
So, is the solution to ragging moral science then? Telling people to respect the law, nay, respect other human beings? In a way, it is. Not entirely, of course. It would be stupid to assume that teaching morals could solve crime (we would not need the police then). But what we need is to somehow make people respect the law. That won't be easy, and it will have to start with being afraid of the law, or the consequences of breaking it to be precise. But eventually, for society at large and more specifically on the issue of ragging, people have to learn to respect the law.

Also, there is the need to respect fellow human beings. Most of the time, ragging is a means to stoke a senior's naive sense of (false) pride, that by hurting someone who cannot fight back he is somehow extracting revenge on someone who did the same to him. There is no thought given to the fact that a few people whose age varies by just 3-4 years are just about the same and, at a fundamental level, respect between two human beings has to be mutual and has to be earned.

Next: Modern methods, so to say

Now, that's a Disaster

The talks between India and Pakistan seem to have taken an unexpectedly nasty turn following the Foreign Ministers' talks in Islamabad yesterday. Although we have enough reason to believe that the talks themselves didn't go so badly, the (rather delayed) joint press conference was, to put it lightly, a disaster!

One of the reasons that the press conference was such a disaster was that it started to late: from a scheduled 2:00 PM local time to a little after 9:00 PM! Journalists, always enthusiastic to wear their patriotism on their sleeve, were expecting something big. But as the joint statement was read out, it became apparent that it was just a pile of rhetoric. That left the journalists very angry - at their own respective Foreign Minister. Both were flummoxed by strongly-worded questions that vitiated the atmosphere even further.

The point-of-no-return appeared to be a question about Hafiz Saeed, to which Mr. Qureshi made a reference to Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai! From then on it was almost back-and-forth between the two, ending in a question (actually, it was a LOUD opinion) about Indian Security Forces, to which Mr. Krishna curtly replied, "That's your opinion." And it ended there... or so we hopes. For, the next morning, Mr. Qureshi made some extremely disparaging remarks, including a personal attack on Minister Krishna. This sort of behaviour is not expected of a Foreign Minister from ANY country, and even the Pakistani media more or less seems to accept that he could've 'used better words.'

Still, it shows that these big, glitzy, high-profile talks come to naught. It also shows that the media on either side actually plays a very negative role. In the end, I think the Foreign Secretaries' talk was much more productive. We need fewer big-ticket events and more talks between lower officials. A quiet, even back-channel, discussion is the need of the hour.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Meet the Indian Rupee

The Cabinet today cleared this as the new standard symbol for the Indian Rupee, replacing the abbreviation 'Rs.' which is also used in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The new symbol has been designed by an IIT alumnus.

I for one like the symbol a lot. It's a lot like fine architecture: simple yet enticing. A lot of people have however, said that it's far too simple and basic. They suggested more complex symbols, with a lot more lines and curves. I think this symbol is particularly well-suited precisely because of its simplicity. After all, this is not some logo that we'll be displaying at an event, it is a symbol that will have to be written and standardized on a keyboard and used everywhere. Thus, simplicity is the key and this symbol is really very easy to write.

However, how long this symbol will take to be used by everyone is another story. Textbooks and documents around the country and even the world will have to be modified. In India, it takes months for shopkeepers to be convinced that newly-issued (and different-looking) coins are genuine, so this symbol might look like a complete joke!

Nonetheless, the idea to have such a symbol is good. Now, if only India could boost its share in global trade!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Key is Fear




PART 1: THE FRESHER

The practice of ragging can be traced back to several decades, amongst military recruits in the British-Indian Army. The practice exists in virtually every liberal education system in the world and goes by different names.

In India, the practice has become extremely common, though more severe in professional and military institutes. The worst forms of ragging are known to take place within college hostels, such as in the so-called Institutes of National Importance. In 2005, the Supreme Court of India banned the practice and declared it to be against the basic rights of every human being. Yet, the practice continued virtually unabated, aided by an uncaring police force and institutions that, in many cases, actually supported the practice. Then, in 2008, following the death of Aman Satya Kachroo, the Supreme Court put the onus of ending ragging right on the institute and also made ragging a separate legal offence by forcing students to sign an affidavit promising not to rag their juniors. Many state governments have anti-ragging legislation, although a Central law does not exist.

Although the practice has abated somewhat since the new guidelines came into force, it still takes place, but has become more secretive. How does it sustain itself? Through fear: fear is what allows ragging to continue, it forces juniors to bear torture silently. Fear of the terror that a senior could reign down upon him/her and also fear of the social isolation he/she may have to face from his peers.

Fear of the Establishment
The truth is that most Government institutions do not make a fresher feel welcomed. Unlike the system of proctors and student unions in private/liberal arts universities and colleges, these institutions depend on a Dean of Students' Welfare to take care of new entrants who come into an alien world. They do not understand what their rights are and they are not given the impression that they have the backing of the faculty.

Instead, they are made to 'prove themselves' in their first year, with professors and wardens showing them an air of indifference and even intolerance. In this situation, freshers feel that their seniors are like God, that they can have their own way around. Thus, when a fresher is ragged, he does not fight back because he fears that he could face much worse and the authorities would rather shield their older students than waste time on a newer one who may or may not show any potential for excellence in the future.

Of course, the Supreme Court's orders now give the fresher the chance to lodge a complaint that the authorities are legally obliged to take cognizance of, starting with the filing of an FIR. But, there's a way to prevent that from happening.

Fear of Isolation
Another, rather strange phenomenon, is that many freshers actually want to be ragged in their first year so that they acquire the "right" to rag their juniors even more horrendously in their remaining years! This might sound absurd but it is true. Ragging is actually seen by a small minority as a sort of rite of passage.

Typically, these students would also have no respect for the law, rather they would try to be a law unto themselves. When a student from the vast but silent majority puts up a complaint against ragging, he often faces isolation and ostracization from this very group. Although there is support from the vast majority, that support is often silent and cannot stand before the threats from the extremist minority.

The "punishment" often dished out for lodging a complain is a forced social boycott, where all other freshers are forced by seniors, in collusion with that small minority, to ostracize the fresher in question. This is enforced, again, through fear caused by a lack of absolute support from the authorities.

Next: The Basic Problem
(To be continued)

A Dangerous Decision

The Supreme Court of India, in a hugely upsetting decision yesterday, allowed the State of Tamil Nadu to pursue its reservation policy, in which 69% of seats are reserved for various communities, breaking free from the Court's own glass ceiling of 50%.

The logic for the 50% ceiling was the Right to Equality guaranteed by the Constitution i.e., a reservation exceeding 50% would make the General Category students unequal to the reserved category in terms of opportunities, thus violating the Constitution.

However, with this new judgment, states can now freely exceed the 50% ceiling by giving some cooked-up proof, which could be a shabbily conducted door-to-door survey followed by flawed extrapolation, as was done by Andhra Pradesh to provide reservation to "castes" amongst Muslims.

The judgment will open the floodgates for politicians to create more votebanks and bring every caste and community into the ambit of reservation. Instead of achieving an equal society we will be heading towards an even more fragmented and divided society, where there will only be a superficial feeling of Indian-ness and caste-related violence will grow unabated until we reach a crisis point.

In short, the decision to me seems short-sighted, dangerous and open to abuse.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Silly Technique Against EVMs

The Telangana Rastra Samiti (TRS), in its continuing war-without-logic against EVMs, has come up with a cheap new technique to force the EC to use ballot papers. It did so by making use of a technical problem with using EVMs.

Each EVM can handle 16 nominations and a control unit can be attached to at most four EVMs. Thus, a single booth can handle 64 (=16x4) candidates. If the number of candidates exceed 64, then the EC has to revert to ballot papers. However, it has been seen that almost no constituency ever have as many as 64 or more candidates.

The TRS, by asking its cadres to file nominations as independents en masse, made a mockery of the EC and by extension, the Constitution itself. The EC has repeatedly asked skeptics to prove their point on an EVM instead of putting forward theoretical issues and each time the skeptics failed. Not just the EVMs themselves but the entire process by which they are used, involving a number of checks, ensures that the system is tamper-proof.

Yet, parties like the TRS, SP, AIADMK and other regional outfits (the Congress, BJP and CPI(M) support the use of EVMs, at least officially) have sought to hide their losses by blaming the EVMs and bringing in 'experts' from out of thin air to substantiate their insubstantial point. The EC works much like the courts: it will not take opinion as a final word, it needs proof. Overlooking the world of benefits that Indian democracy has gained by using EVMs for the sake of shallow political gains would be disastrous.

Fortunately, a record number of independents pulled put of the race for the upcoming bypolls and most constituencies will be using EVMs. Moreover, the BJP did not try such cheap tactics despite being nudged to do so by the TRS. Such methods should be condemned as it makes fun of our democracy, which allows any citizen to stand for election.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ingenious!

Here's a little incident that I just recalled and would like to keep on my blog before I forget.

It was our Biotech (BT-101) class with Prof. Dhaliwal and, as usual, nobody was really paying attention. In fact, nobody even wanted to attend the class, because the subject is thoroughly devoid of logic and is, to put it mildly, boring.

Obviously, there were many students who were absent that day. And, like any day, there were proxies! As the professor called out names, students who were absent had a 'present' call made for them. But then, the professor decided to count the number of students in the class and, as expected, it did not tally with the number in his register.

Now, the period was already over and everyone was supposed to leave, including the professor. So, what was he going to do? Everyone assumed he's leave it and rush out. After all, there really was no time for another round of roll call, and even if he did, there would be proxies again.

Just then, the professor came up with a fantastic new method: as he called out the names, the students could leave the class. Now, one way to overcome this new method would be to crowd up the door so that a proxy could not be caught in the milieu. But he made sure we left in a straight line! Thus, all the proxies were decimated!

What's more, a certain student (who I won't name) had to go as another student because of a stunt he pulled off just a few minutes back, posing as that other student and giving a proxy call right in front of the professor. Oh, that day, not only were the proxies negated, but this particular student's plan fired back on him! A truly memorable experience!

Back to Normal

With the 2010 FIFA World Cup over, India can go back to normal. People who otherwise show no interest in football but suddenly became hardcore fans can return to ignorant bliss. But wait, things are just about to begin for India!

This October (and very few Indians actually know the date), New Delhi will host, for the first time in India and only the second time in Asia, the Commonwealth Games. As we speak, the Queen's Baton is moving around the country, touching every state, after having traveled to every country of the Commonwealth. The Games will be the largest sporting event ever held in India and, regardless of how how Indian sportspersons perform, will be remembered forever in India.

Then, in 2011, the Indian subcontinent will be hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup and this will really get the country excited. After all, it won't just be urban India that takes notice. With the finals to be hosted in our very own Mumbai, the Indian team will have a lot of expectations on their shoulder.

So, perhaps in this season of sports that soon to come to India, parrots will take over octopi?

A CID Summer

This summer, I've been passing a lot of my time watching an old favourite: CID, a crime investigation show on Sony TV that's been running for over a decade.

The reason I started watching it was really because of its convenient time: during the afternoons and twice a week at night (new episodes). The CID elder episodes, which are shown on weekdays, are really great because you never get to watch them otherwise. The slightly newer ones - CID Classic Cases (with the new team, including Vivek and Natasha) - is also great not just for the story but also for the fact that there are so few commercial breaks in between!

And of course, the new stories which are shown on Friday and Saturday are a delight to watch. The ACP (Shivaji Satam) has been away from the show for a while because he's busy shooting a Marathi Movie 'Hapoos,' but he should be back next week.

I just wish Sony didn't keep trying to force the CID audience to watch their crappy show Aahat too. From creating a false story about a 'Maha Episode' to changing the afternoon schedule, they're doing everything to bring the channel's ratings down!

Well, for the next few months I won't be able to watch the show. But I will, whenever I can. Of course, the facebook group is always there to stay in touch!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

No Honour This

The issue of honour killings has come up once again, this time much larger and with more political force than expected. The Cabinet, instead of fully backing tough measures against the practice, has referred the matter to a GoM. Like many other matters sent to a GoM, this one might never see the light of day, despite Home Minister Chidambaram's promises.

In my opinion, honour killings are a sort of clash or generations: the old generation (and even young people could belong to the old generation, depending on their ideals) and the new. When ours was a smaller country, it was possible for castes to be segregated. But today, things have become so free and open that caste has lost its significance in many aspects on daily life. Yet, on the question of marriage and 'what will society say?' the new generation seems to have been hijacked by the old.

There is no justification for killing a young couple in love. You or your village might not like it but the two people have married and the Supreme Law of the land - the Constitution of India - accepts that. Although murder is also covered under the IPC, honour killings often go deeper than that: a social system run by a few politically-backed individuals use the system to enforce their own diktats. This is supported by a web of lies, such as the idea that intra-gotra marriage is forbidden (it is allowed and takes place in almost every region of the country); that people born into the same gotra are brothers and sisters (it is impossible to trace their ancestry and the benefit of the doubt must go to the couple in question); that intra-gotra marriages lead to genetic disorders in offsprings (the last point together with the fact that this happens only within blood relatives within three generations); and that the Hindu Marriage Act was drafted by a South Indian who knew nothing of North Indian traditions (an Act is not drafted overnight, a number of consultations are held and one person alone did not draft the Act, he just headed the committee; also there really isn't a North-South divide here).

The need of the day is to urgently promulgate an ordinance to control honour killings and attack at their very root, including political support. The ordinance must be converted into an Act of Parliament in the very beginning of the Monsoon Session of Parliament and the Opposition (the BJP as the main opposition and the Left as the party(ies) which has the strongest views against honour killings) should play a constructive role in this. This is not about politics: it's about the future of this nation.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Pleasure to Watch!


BADMAASH COMPANY
(2010)

Producer: Aditya Chopra
Director: Parmeet Sethi (also the writer)
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Meiyang Chang, Vir Das, Anupam Kher and others
Rating: ***** (5 of 5)

In the midst of mindless comedies and not-so-thrilling thrillers, we've finally got a movie with a real story. Badmaash Company is entertaining and intriguing through and through and leaves you in good spirits to boot!

Karan (Shahid Kapoor) is an ambitious young man born into a not-so-ambitious middle class family. But he wants to make it big. Together with his friends and new found love Bulbul (Anushka Sharma), he uses his only asset - his brain - to make it big. But as they say, all that goes up must come down. And so too does his luck, and with it, his life. Add a happy ending to that and you've got a great story!

The USP of the movie is its story: full of logic and perfectly plausible situations, yet seemingly impossible! But that's not it, because the story is supplemented by a good cast. Shahid Kapoor and Anushka Sharma put up a great performance, showing more through their faces than by their words. Vir Das does an OK job, but Chang disappoints. The costumes are well designed and suit the situations. However, the music is a little disappointing.

Only the ending of the movie leaves you with a sort of anti-climax feeling. It could have been better, but it wasn't that bad either. Let me say it leaves you with a sense of contentment, that the story is over. However, the 'chini' jokes were in poor taste and the feeble attempt to make up for them at the end was of little use. If I were someone from the North East I would feel very offended.

Somewhere in this story, I found myself: the genius mind, burning to create a life proportionate to that mind, and the strings of domesticity pulling you down. Oh, I recognised myself in the story! And who knows, you might find yourself somewhere too. Make sure you watch it to find out: this is one of the best of 2010! (OTFS)

PS: I realize that this review came quite late, but it was lying on my lappie for weeks and I decided to watch it at this late hour... that's me!

State Govt Emblems of India

Yes, I was bored, so I made this. It shows all the state government emblems of India. As you can see, seven states, mostly in the North East, use the same emblem as the Government of India, while all others have their own unique emblems. With a few exceptions, all the emblems include the Lion Capital, which is the Emblem of the Union Government.

All Union Territories (not shown) use the Lion Capital as well. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has its own emblem as well as its own flag, given its special status in the Union.

I got these emblems after a little research over the Internet. There maybe a few mistakes, though. In particular, I'm doubtful about the Government of West Bengal's emblem. In case you can find any mistake, do leave a comment and it will be corrected.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Series: Don't Tell Anybody

Opinions 24x7 presents a new series under the Documentary label: Don't Tell Anybody: A Study into the Social Evil of Ragging.

The series will be divided into two parts: the first covering ragging from the point of view of a fresher who is being, or lives under the fear of being, ragged; and the second tries to understand the mind of a senior student who is indulging in ragging.

The series will derive from my observations at IIT Roorkee as well as of those around me. In effect, I hope it will act as a useful article in understanding ragging post the Supreme Court's landmark decision and the Raghavan Committee's recommendations thereafter.

The first part will be published in the next few days, while the second one will be published perhaps in the next few months or perhaps even next year. I hope you enjoy the series and appreciate its social significance.

A Real Non-Issue

An article published in TIME Magazine - 'My Own Private India' - seems to have raked up a storm amongst Indian-Americans (and consequently the India media as well, of course). Many have called the article outright racist, forcing TIME to apologize and the author to explain himself.

Honestly, I found nothing racist about the article. Yes, it made fun of the fact that Indians tend to carry their culture around. But then again, the author also praises them for their innovation and talent and also concedes that their presence saved his city from become poorer.

He also says quite a few truthful things, such as the fact that some Indians are not-so-smart. The dot-heads comment was in bad taste but then, if we Indians can call our own people 'chinky' without thinking twice, then who are we to comment on another subtle racist slur?

Overall, I feel that the Indian community around the world needs to learn to take such humor lightly. India is in the spotlight today and such comments are bound to come. It would be better if we marched ahead proudly instead of turning back every time to make sure the coast was clear!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Back to School

After a long spell of three years, I went back to school today - Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Public School, Jubilee Hills. It was a wonderful experience, the ambiance, the warmth, the memories...

It felt to meet my old teachers again... most of them remembered me, while some needed a reminder. Many were deceived by my hair, which has grown much longer than was allowed by school!

So much has changed, the school has improved its infrastructure even further. Of course, all those awards that the school keeps winning (and which are reported in the newspaper) make me proud to be an alumnus. A lot of teachers left, but a lot continue to teach there. They were very happy to hear that I was in IITR.

The Principal and Vice Principal were also very warm and inviting. Overall, it was wonderful going back. As they say, once a Bhavanite, always a Bhavanite!

Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides. - Rigveda

PS: I just regret I couldn't meet RV ma'am. Next time!

Monday, July 5, 2010

To the Games!

The Queen's Baton Relay, which saw the baton travel around the world and is now travelling to every state of India, signifies a common sense of dedication to games and sports.

The baton will spend the last remaining days before the 19th Commonwealth Games travelling around this vast and diverse country, uniting sportsmen and sports lovers around the nation as countries of the Commonwealth comes together in Delhi.

I'm extremely excited about the relay and the Games as this is the first time that it is being held in India. The Organising Committee brought out an excellent set of ads, showcasing how the baton traveled through various countries.

So, what are you waiting for? Come out and play!

The Big Bandh: An Analysis

The all-India strike or 'Bharat Bandh' held today evoked mixed responses. While the Opposition called it a grand success, the ruling Congress (and mind you, only the Congress) called it a total failure. The common man also had mixed responses.

The bandh saw violence erupt in many areas. Mumbai was particularly hit, with BEST buses being torched and shops being vandalized. Kolkata, which is pretty much used to such bandhs occurring on a regular basis, also saw violence. The Opposition brushed off the violence as being 'spontaneous' and hence, uncontrollable and, ironically, blamed the Union Government for the violence!

But, let's focus on the spirit of the bandh itself. Inflation is far too high in this country for people to bare silently anymore. Governments levy such high taxes on petroleum products that even after decontrol of petrol, we pay more than our neighbours for petrol (a fact cleverly concealed by the Petroleum Ministry's ad), although the idea of decontrolling petrol is to pay as much or nearly as much as countries which don't have an administered price mechanism. Food inflation is so high that people are actually forced to beg for food, when just a few years ago they were able to make ends meet, despite of the fact that the FCI is allowing food to rot because it doesn't have enough storage capacity. The bandh actually took place on a larger scale than was earlier expected because people genuinely did support it.

The issue of price rise is not new by any means: it has been debated in Parliament several times in the recent past. The problem is that the Government does not seem to care: it does not even want to answer questions. Answers given in Parliament during price rise debates and the answer given by the PM himself in his rare press conference (and note that Sonia Gandhi never even answers questions) simply distracted people from the question. False promises have been made. The simple point is: answer the specific questions of the Opposition (and stop comparing yourself with the NDA regime) and be honest.

Now, as for the violence. It's condemnable that it happened, but the fact remains that had the Government been responsive to the Opposition in Parliament/State Assemblies, this bandh would never have happened. How else do you make this Government listen? Had the Opposition not does this than, in the next election, people would have said that the Opposition did nothing. After all, people watch football, cricket and soap operas on TV; they do not remember cut motions, debates and resolutions. How else are Opposition parties expected to protest? People do not remember and the Government does not care!

To sum it up, let me say clearly that this bandh was absolutely necessary because the Government does not listen to the Opposition in Parliament. The violence caused was not widespread but condemnable all the same; yet, it was the only way that the Opposition could make a point. The only problem is that of daily wage labourers, who face the brunt of both inflation as well as bandhs. For them, I regret to say, I have no solution.

This article is a counterpoint to the previous on the bandh as well as another one on the decontrolling of petrol prices.

A Bharat Bandh, again

The NDA and the Left Parties have called for an all India strike ('Bharat Bandh') todat to protest against the hike in fuel prices and the decontrolling of petrol prices. The bandh has already affected the largest states in India, with regional parties tying up with national parties.

The strike has particularly affected those states which are ruled either by the Left of the NDA. Also, Maharashtra, where NDA member Shiv Sena is in Opposition, is facing a shutdown as well. Mumbai is badly hit.

Interestingly, the Petroleum Ministry put out an ad yesterday against the bandh, perhaps the first time that the Government has used the media to oppose a bandh.

Still, this bandh, like all the others, will lead to nothing as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee mas made it clear that there will be no rollback. This is just turning into another excuse to burn buses and cause mayhem. The Left should be particularly ashamed as this is the second bandh enforced in West Bengal in the last week over the same issue!

Interestingly, the casteist parties (RJD, LJP, RLD, BSP and SP) have not supported the bandh. They are planning their own on a later day!

These bandhs cause a massive law and order problem and it is time that we got out of this colonial mindset.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom from a bygone era

Today, the fourth of July, marks the day when the thirteen British colonies in North America broke away and formed the United States of America. The nascent nation, which committed itself to a democracy free from the bias and imperialism of Britain, has today transformed into the world's most powerful nation.

But whether it still retains its ethos of freedom and liberty is questionable.

OTFS greets the people of the US on this occasion. We also bid farewell to Cornelis M. Keur, Consul General of the US Consul in Hyderabad, as he retires. He blended well with the local population, even visiting local restaurants to try out the city's best food. His column in The Hindu was enlightening and useful. We hope him good health and a happy life after retirement.

Friday, July 2, 2010

One Year On, Celebration

One year back, the Delhi High Court, in a historic ruling, 'read down' Article 377 of the IPC to remove homosexuality from the ambit of the law. Contrary to popular understanding, the article deals with 'unnatural sexual activities,' which include pedophilia and sex with animals. The court did not throw away the law, it just changed its interpretation.

Nonetheless, with the fear of harassment using the law behind them, homosexuals across urban India put up joyous celebrations today. The theme was universal: peace at last from an act that was never supposed to be a crime. However, it was also apparent that the newfound urge to 'come out' is just in urban India: homosexuals in rural India still face grave social dangers.

Although it will take a lot of time for the High Court ruling to actually change the way people think, a good beginning has been made. Just as Sati and the fear of travelling abroad took years and years to disappear, hatred towards homosexuals will also take time. Steadily but for sure.

A word on the ruling, again. It was written extremely well, using other parts of the Constitution as well as fundamentals of human rights. So well, that the Government was unable to appeal against it despite pressure from religious groups, and the only appeal (from a private individual) is not about homosexual sex but actually homosexual marriage.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Monsoon is Back!

After a hiatus that lasted for over a week, the monsoon seems to have become active over peninsular India once again. Today, it was raining steadily for most parts of the day, with a particularly severe spell in the evening. I was lucky enough to get drenched in that spell!

The sky remained overcast throughout the day and the maximum temperature, which has been rising steadily over the past week, fell sharply.

Hopefully, the monsoon's delayed movement will be revived and it will cover all of India soon. The IMD expects that to happen, but you can never be sure. In particular, I hope it covers Uttar Pradesh before I get there!

Thoroughly Entertaining


TOY STORY 3 in 3D (2010)

Producer: Disney Pixar
Director: Lee Unkrich
Screenplay: Michael Arndt and John Lasseter
Specs: Animated, 3D
Cast (voice): Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jodi Benson and others
Rating: *** (3 of 5)

Yes, I know I'm too old to be watching Toy Story. But since when do I care?! A great mix of fun, imagination and comedy, Toy Story 3 is a sort of 'passing on the torch' movie.

After growing up playing with his precious toys, Andy is too grown up to play with them anymore. But, as he prepares to leave for college, he doesn't want to part ways with his toys forever. Sadly, circumstances take their own turns and the toys land up in a daycare controlled by a manic Teddy Bear. And the rest is a funny mix of romance (yet, romance) and action.

The animators made the movie extremely well and they deserve full credit for that. The scenes - particularly the 'caterpillar room' - were well worked-out and realistic. The screenplay complemented the great animation, backed up by a great voice-over from the star-studded (and invisible) cast. And of course, the background score completed the recipe for a great movie.

However, the story itself tends to become a little drawn-out. It could have been shorter and Ken in particular could have been better. The final few scenes, though emotionally charged, were just too long and boring.

Yet, despite its few flaws, this is good movie to watch, particularly if you've got younger siblings/cousins or even your own children to tend to. In fact, even adults would enjoy the movie, as was proved by the fact that a lot of people in the theater remained seated well into the credits, just to watch the final stills! (OTFS)

PS: The 3D at Big Cinemas is quite poor. In particular, the glasses should have been cleaned!