Friday, August 27, 2010

Truly Public Service

This public notice from UGC is a true exercise in generating public awareness. An institution that violates a series of rules, the biggest of them being that of awarding a degree when it is not authorised to do so, deserves to be described in such terms.

Those IIPM ads in the paper can paint a dream world for many unknowing students and their families. Hopefully, this ad should generate a little more awareness.

One Month On: A Few Changes

Well, it's been over a month since I moved to Roorkee and I must admit, I'm starting to like the place. Well, that's pretty big considering the huge depression I was in after being forced to leave the Saharanpur Campus.

Nonetheless, the new environment here has a few surprises here and there. Unlike back in SRE, my cellphone catches AIR and it's a lot of fun listening to 'Dilli Namaskar' in the morning. The long walk to the Department of Civil Engineering was pretty painful in the beginning, but it's nothing anymore and I do it several times a day. Of course, I do have a cycle, but I prefer to walk, like always. The cycle is very useful on rush days however, such as Tuesdays (I won't elaborate).

I'm now a member of Kshitij, the literary magazine. Sure, I know nothing about it but truly speaking, this is still an IIT and there couldn't be a whole lot to learn! So, as I write stories and chep (like I've been doing for years), I'm happy to say that I can do it on a public (that means for IITR) platform.

As for the studies, well, it's a mixed bag. It's a little bit more strict here, but the sheer I-give-a-damn attitude amongst the 2nd-yearites neutralises that. And now that we can make our own time table for the exam in the DCC subjects, we get a little bit more freedom.

One last thing, the Kshitij chaapo was great and the new set of freshers is really nice, albeit with a bit of the I-cleared-JEE attitude that tends to die out quickly. It'll be nice working with them - but I'm still their senior all the same.

Mid-Term Jitters

With the SAC elections and clubs going ahead at full-steam, it might be easy for someone to think that people at IITR are jobless people who hardly study. Ah, if only that were true! Starting Sep. 1, the first Mid-Term exam begins and I must admit, I'm all jitters.

So, here's a traditional view of where I stand.

CE-201 has the potential to be a major flop for me and everybody else too! Nobody knows the syllabus; different profs are teaching different things and nobody seems to understand what any of them is teaching. The slides aren't of much help either. PH-201 is another sorry affair, what with us being unable to solve loads of tut questions. We aren't even sure as to what the syllabus is and when we ask the (new) teacher, she curtly says, "ask the coordinator!"

ICY-01 used to be a daunting subject but after the funny tut-cum-test we had last week. I'm a little more confident in this subject. CE-241 is a nice subject but it is genuinely difficult. Still, with practice, I think it will be fine.

HS-201 is a magical subject which I find really interesting and fairly easy and I'm not very worried about this subject. MI-201 is the easiest of all the subjects and if the questions come remotely similar to the tuts (which they will in MTE-1), I'll score well. Lastly, there's CE-251, which, for now, is entirely descriptive and hence not a major sore.

So, overall, I'm fine in MI-201, HS-201 and CE-251; fairly confident in ICY-01 and CE-241; and outright scared in CE-201 and PH-201.

And to top it all off, the last two are on Day 1 of the exams and the next day is a holiday! So, I know what to study this weekend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Election time in IITR

Like every year, this year has also seen regular engineering students donning the role of netas and making colossal promises for votes. Yes, it's election time again in IITR and the stakes have been artificially made to look high.

Elections take place in each Bhawan to elect one Bhawan Secy, one Mess Secy (each of whom has their own council) as well as a representative from each constituency. RKB has seven constituencies - one from each floor - and each sees at least 4-5 people standing.

The procedure is very simple to describe: go to as many rooms as you can, read out your manifesto, make some big promises, find out what others are doing and evaluate how many votes are "yours." If you have a lot of cronies, put up some posters too (hand-made, of course, as per the rules). Money also helps.

However, most people vote for their friends and not the best guy for the job (although the two may not be different). Also, the constituency representatives are basically jobless while the Bhawan Secy also doesn't have much powers. Only the Mess Secy can make some real difference to how we live and eat.

So, with polling scheduled for Saturday, campaigning is reaching a fever pitch. The warden tried to have a debate between the candidates, but with only cronies in the crown and no junta, it was a flop. Who will I be voting for? That's better left unrevealed.

Most outrageous promise: Wi-fi or some form of Internet in 25 days!
Most common promise: clean plates, glasses and spoons
Most realistic promise: two water coolers on each floor

A Question of Liability

The Civil Nuclear Liability Bill has been a major source of worry for the Government in the last few days and has given the Opposition ample firing power.

However, if you objectively analyse the bill, you find that it tries to strike a balance between two diametrically opposite issues: that of adequate compensation to the victims and fixing liability without a protracted court case(s).

However, in doing this, the bill makes some fundamental mistakes. The most significant of these is the fact that private players have been explicitly banned from operating nuclear power plants. While as a dogma this may seem good, it is disastrous for consumers, private competition alone can lower the bill of nuclear energy that consumers will have to foot; by giving the government a monopoly it has ensured that the dream of a nuclear-powered Indian economy will never materialize.

There is also the liability cap of the supplier. Now, this has been the issue that has been grabbing the headlines. The original cap of Rs. 500 crore is absolutely paltry while the enhanced cap of Rs. 1500 is also a small about if you think of the devastation that a nuclear accident could cause. However, the liability of the operator (the Government) will now be infinite. In effect, we pay for the reactors and also pay if the reactors fail. Heads I win, tails you lose.

But a serious problem in fixing a massive liability to the suppliers is that suppliers simply won't supply! And if they don't supply reactors, where do we get the nuclear power from?

Overall, it is a complex question. Parliament, under its powers, has made several amendments to the bill. Yet these amendments should not be so stiff as to close out the suppliers altogether. Overall, we must have better regulators in India for the power plants and private players must be allowed to participate in operating the plants. These two measures will go a long way in ending the stalemate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And the Horror Repeats

I went to DPT, Saharanpur the other day to catch up with old friends. I had a lot of expectations, hoping for masti and gossip.

What I got instead was a sense of disgust and anger. Old friends on whom I had reposed great trust have now turned into monsters while others have chosen to remain silent.

Apparently, a ragging free-for-all has been declared there and the "ingenious" barriers that separate the freshers' block has been surpassed by - wait for it - an open door leading to the terrace! So all the precautions and show have been negated by a lack of locks. Or of will, rather.

So, what I got to see was people who otherwise love to gossip in a friendly manner acting like sheer brutes, leaving no stone unturned to humiliate the freshers. Fortunately, it was mostly verbal and not even a handkerchief was displaced. Or maybe that was because I was there. Maybe. It was shocking and I'm not sure if I could really trust them anymore. Not even the one who supposedly signed up for the anti-ragging (defunct) squad.

The only nice part was when we gave the freshers a chaapo in the canteen. That's when I took control of it all and unleashed my bakr-skills on them. It was wonderful talking to them: a national-level swimmer who is damn sure to get a girlfriend even in IIT; a guy who can sing really well and dances well too; an aspiring inter-IITian; and a guy who has been described as "Bhon-II"!

I felt sad having left DPT because I felt that I could have been a really good friend of freshers like these and others. Maybe I could have made a difference too.

To the freshers I met: I'm sorry I couldn't have done more to stop what had happened. If I could, I would. You will hate DPT right now but trust me, in a week or two after the TN, it will get so much better. And in the end, you will love the place.

To my peers: feel the pain. Wake up and realise how much damage you are doing to yourself and others. Don't sit back and pretend nothing is happening, for that makes you a part of the crime. There are few opportunities in life to do some good to others. Don't miss this one. Love thy fresher as thyself.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh, the Rains


The sun came out today for the first time in about a week. It's been perhaps the rainiest week so far in Uttarakhand with the media reporting torrential rains and blocked highways.

But it was much worse for the people of Leh, where a cloudburst saw the entire annual average rainfall (which is quite little in Leh, officially a cold desert) and more fall in a matter of hours.

In a way, you could say this year's monsoons have been good. Taken on an average, it will probably be above the Long-term Average. But it has, like always, been uneven. Some parts of Bihar have reported drought while parts like Leh and Punjab are flooded. Perhaps this shows how much we need to adapt to climate change.

A word of sympathy for my friends in Pakistan, which is almost entirely flooded right from Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa to Sindh. The Indian Government did the right thing by offering $5 mn in aid to the Pakistani Government. The world needs to come together and support Pakistan in this time of crisis.

How to Ruin a Good Time Table

Friday. She was so sweet. A beautiful day, with just three lectures in the morning and a rather comfortable CE-201 Practical in the afternoon. Ah, but anything beautiful is susceptible to nazar.

And that's exactly what happened. So, we had a lot of free periods. Oh, that Elective guy was unhappy with the class hours (and everything else in the world). So, he went and re-scheduled it. Because of that some other class had to be moved. And now we're stuck with an HS tutorial in the morning!

Oh, but that's not all. Our's is a lecture class of 116 people, which is three times the average in IITR. Now, the "oldies" don't like to hear the whispers and murmurs that inevitable emanate from adrenaline-filled young adults. So, our 241 Prof had the class split into two, Group A and Group B (I'm in B). Now, Group A retained the original time-table, while Group B needed new slots. And where did they find those new slots? You guessed it.

So now, we have at least 7 hours of classes on Friday. And if that elective guy decides to take his class (which he normally doesn't do), that's 8 hours and I'm a dying horse.

So, what's the good news in all this bad news? Well, we've got a new Physics Teacher. A HOT new one... :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Running Away at 4:00 AM

A month ago, six of us branch changers who didn't have their parents around went to Roorkee and got ourselves registered in our new departments. it was a strange feeling because the place that we simple called 'Roorkee' for a year was now home!

But the real adventure was moving there. Fortunately, all our things were already packed. We (the guys) made a LOT of calls and walked a lot and eventually found a guy who would take his Tata Ace pick-up to Roorkee for Rs. 700. However, we wanted to attend classes the next day, so we decided to leave early in the morning.

By 4:00 AM (or a little after that), we were bringing our stuff to the ground floor. Now that's was no easy task, given the amount of stuff we had collected over a year. Anish was in Indira Bhawan helping Ipsita to load her things. Once that was done, we (with a lot of help from Ayush and Sukant) loaded our stuff and left.

It was strange, looking back at the wall that said INDIAN INSTITUTE OF ROORKEE SAHARANPUR CAMPUS, for the last time attaching some personal value to it. We got a bus to Roorkee and at that unearthly hour, we were off to a new world, to a new life...

The Final Collage

This picture (the large one on top) was taken on July 19, 2010, while the ones below were taken just before the vacations. I'll be intermittently putting up a few more pics as and when I go to Saharanpur, but the series The Making of a Monument ends here.

(Series Discontinued)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Place for Timepass

The Institute Computer Centre (ICC) at IIT Roorkee is the place where people come to waste their time. Sure, there's pressure to complete a project for CE-102 or HS-201, but somehow, a student in the ICC always ends up opening Facebook or GMail - or both!

Entry to the ICC is really posh: you show your SmartCard to a reader, which allows you to enter. if you don't have a card you need to show your ID Card and the watchman will let you use his for entry. Ditto for the exit.

Inside, you need to take off your shoes first and then drop your bag off. There are two Labs meant for students: the PC Lab and the Internet Lab. Classes for EC-101A/B and CE-201 are also held here. There's is also the Param Lab (named after IITR's Supercomputer PARAM).

Upstairs you have more labs as well as a conference hall. All the rooms are air-conditioned.

But what's the use of these great features without fast Internet? I can't quantify the exact download speed but just a few minutes back, I downloaded a 188 MB program in less than 2 minutes! Of course, the speed keeps fluctuating but overall, it's pretty fast. There's also a silly password that's pasted on the wall (icc_lab2005/10/09) but that's not the Admin password.

We don't have wi-fi in our hostel (yet) so a LOT of second yearites keep roaming into the ICC after 6:00 PM (when the hostel wi-fi turns on). But if only I could get that HS project done...!

Subjects this time: A Good Mix

This semester, I've got seven subjects once again. Of course, because of my branch change, my subjects are not those that I had expected to study. Nonetheless, the new ones are really interesting.

HS-201: Economics is like the mother of all Humanities courses. it's challenging but extremely interesting.

MI-201: Solid Mechanics is a pretty easy subject. At first it seems like it's all about by-hearing formulas but now we've realised that even that isn't necessary.

PH-201: Physics-II is very intersting but it's not easy. And with a not-so-great professor, this is going to be one of the tough nuts to crack.

CE-201: Computer Aided Graphics is another tough nut. As such it's easy but having to sit in the penultimate row ensures that my attention level in class is all but zero.

ICY-01: Fundamentals of Polymer Chemistry is my first Institute Elective. We get slides a few days before the exam, there's no tension with attendance and the subject itself is pretty easy, close to 12th class level.

CE-251: Building Materials, Construction and Estimation is a serious engineering course and I've already learned more engineering in this course than in my entire first year! A descriptive (that means by-heart) subject, it mainly demands LOTS of good sketches. The lab however, is a lot of fun as we learn methods of quality control.

CE-241: Fluid Mechanics is quite a simple subject and the professor is quite a pro at it. The tuts are pretty easy so far and I don't foresee any trouble in this one. The lab - the ultra-cool Hydraulics lab - is a little hard but since we're playing with water, it's fun.

The only hitch is that we've already gotten a large number of tuts and study work is on at full speed, which is not what I had expected after first year!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Worth Watching Just Once

I HATE LUV STORYS (2010)

Producer: Dharma Productions
Director: Punit Malhotra
Starring: Imran Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Samir Soni and others
Rating: *** (3 of 5)

Well, what else can you expect from Dharma Productions? A boy and a girl meet, there's some friction in the beginning but in the end, they fall in love and live happily ever after.

If not for the sub-plots and mild comedy, I Hate Luv Storys would have been nothing more than a formula-film. That's not to say that it isn't one, just that some scenes make it watchable.

Jay (Imran Khan) is a novice assistant director working under a tyrant Veer (Samir Soni), while Sonam Kapoor (Simran) is the art director who has full faith in love stories and make-believe romance. That's why she's engaged to her childhood friend who just seems 'perfect.' And as the story moves on, Jay and Simran fall in love and it's the same old thing again. You get it.

An interesting feature of the movie was the no-excuses use of Karan Johar's films: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham were all over the place in subtle and even not-so-subtle ways. This was irritating to me but it might be a nice feature for hardcore KJo-enthusiasts.

The music of the move wasn't exceptionally good - the title song was, in fact, rather silly - but it was used at the right time. I particularly like Jab Mila Tu. As for the costumes, they were the USP of the movie: well thought out and excellent for the roles, whether it be Veer's frustrated-director look or Simran's princess look. The sets were also well made because, well, it can't be very hard to use a set as a set!

The acting was fair. While Imran Khan played a role that he's virtually been born to play - a boy-next-door sort of role - Sonam Kapoor did extremely well in her role. Samir Soni was very good in showing the sarcasm of his lines on his face. But the supporting cast - Sammir Dattani in particular - was wanting.

Overall, this is a timepass movie that you may or may not watch, depending on what else is playing (or, as in my case, what else is on your lappie). But even if you do watch it, you'll be hard-pressed to watch it again. (OTFS)

Not Above Parliament


In the Lok Sabha today, Union Sports & Youth Affairs Minister MS Gill asked MPs to use the RTI Act if they wished to ascertain details of expenditure on the Commonwealth Games.

This could be taken as a major insult and even breach of privilege to Parliament. While the RTI is an important tool that should be used by every Indian, the powers that Parliament possesses are much greater than the RTI.

The Government of India cannot spend as it likes. Parliament authorises all spending by the Government (with the exception of funds in the CFI). Parliament also has the power to review this spending of public money. Thus, the Government is bound to answer any questions on spending - including spending for the CWG - that Parliament may choose to ask.

By asking MPs to use the RTI, the Union Minister, and hence the Government of India, has absolved itself of any responsibility towards Parliament. The excuse is simple: wait for the Games to end. The Opposition should keep the Government on this: the CWG has seen a great loot of public wealth and the People demand answers.

And the Union Government had better have answers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Branch Change Formula

SO YOU WANT TO CHANGE YOUR BRANCH?
Well, good for you. I for one was never interested. I had whole plans drawn up on how to spend my five years at DPT and my life after that too. But then, my plans tend to assume too much.
So, I can't really tell you HOW to get a branch change. I don't think there is a standard formula (except that you need to pass Electronics at all costs!). Instead, let me just tell you how I spent my first year.

When it comes to getting good grades, there are three golden rules:
  1. Pay attention in class. I know, this can be deathly difficult but if you can take in whatever is being taught in class, half your work is done right there. Jot down points in class so that you can remember them. You could very well sit in a lecture like it's a movie, but a movie lasts 2-3 hours while you have 42 hours of lectures.
  2. Complete your tuts on time and by yourself. It's very easy to copy tuts from the ghissu of the class but it won't help you in any way. You can refer to as many books as you want and ask your friends for help, but at the end, you need to write down your answers without having to turn left or right all the time. Also, if you got a tut on last week's topics this week, then you must complete it by the end of the week. There's no point in piling up work.
  3. Study for exams a few days in advance. You might be a genius but studying for the mid-terms 2-3 days in advance and the end-terms 1-2 weeks in advance will make sure that you don't crash-land during the exam. Remember, everybody is almost equally intelligent and hard work is what makes the difference.
So, now that you've got these three things done, what do you do? After classes, you'll actually have plenty of time to devote to non-academic activities. Studying for a mere 1 hour on weekdays after classes and 2-3 hours a day on weekends is enough for a B+ and above (studying includes solving tuts). Then, if you're like me, you could try to read all the novels in the library, play AoE, read The Hindu for hours, co-organize a debate and a quiz for Tarang, write for In-DePTh, win money at Cogni, host most of the events held during the year, watch movies, cheer on your Football-crazy friend or just waste your time in nonsensical bakr!

The key is self-discipline: you can do whatever you want but in moderation. Never sacrifice one thing for another. Do everything but make sure you don't forget the most important things. Manage your time well. Then, if you have great friends like I had, maybe you could get a branch change too.

If you do, we (the seniors who got a branch change) are always there to help you out in Roorkee. Getting used to the Main Campus takes time and support. Rest assured, you will have plenty of both.

Good luck!

(This is an article submitted by me for Vol. II Issue I of In-DePTh. It's the first time that I'm making news rather than writing it!)