Sunday, January 30, 2011

Will Mubarak Fall?


Close on the heels of Tunisians having successfully sent their dictator Ben Ali packing, it seems Egypt is the next country to try street protests to bring about change.

Violent protests have rocked Cairo as the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak, who has kept that post for decades in a typically Arab pseudo-democratic manner. Clearly, the protesters are inspired by the events in Tunisia.

But the question really is whether the protests will lose steam or reach their logical conclusion. Mubarak has responded by overhauling the Cabinet, including firing the Prime Minister. He has also banned Al-Jazeera because of all the global news networks, it has been covering the events in the most in-depth manner. The aim here appears to be to break the organization of the protesters so that the Police - or even the Army - can handle then systematically.

The Arab world is characterized by (semi-) dictatorships, with Saudi Arabia perhaps taking the cake as the least democratic country on Earth (or perhaps the second after North Korea, but certainly first in the Arab world). But staring with Tunisia, change seems to be sweeping this part of the world. Can the people reclaim their sovereignty as their right? Or will dictators effectively hold on to their positions once again? To answer these questions would be immensely difficult, but Egypt is a very good hint.

Tired Out!

Just as I had predicted a few weeks back, the new schedule is extraordinarily exhausting. With four practicals and extremely boring classes starting at 8:00 AM, I'm left exhausted by 1:00 PM on Friday, when my week ends.

The biggest problem is that the classes are so very, very boring! Although the elective class IMA-01, always at 8:00 AM, is very interesting, it's all downhill from there. The rotten cherry on the very top goes to either ES-201 or CE-212, both of which are superbly boring classes.

In fact, Thursday is a very comical day indeed, with people showing up for the 8 o'clock CE-212 class as late as 8:45 and the professor just watching helplessly! Then, there's also the fact that our teachers have learned to come at least ten minutes late for each class, because if they came on time, they'd face an empty room!

Of course, I do not believe that we'll be able to keep this up for long. Eventually, the teachers would lose their patience and then we're in for trouble. But, as always, we have numbers to hide behind!

Another problem I've been facing is this desire to sleep: I never had it in first year or the third semester, but I do now. And I have to stop it. I've wasted hours and hours just sleeping in the afternoons. Well, this is a very serious problem and in the next few weeks, I hope to fix it.

The mid-term,s are still a cool two weeks away, but given the amount I've studied so far (negligible), I need to pick myself up. FAST!

My Logo for RKB

As per the directions of the SAC, Radhakrishnan Bhawan (RKB) and all the other Bhawans are to have their own unique logo. Invitations were invited for suggested logos for RKB, and this was what I submitted.

Explanation:
The cricket bat represents sports and pleasure while the book represents academics and work. The symmetry shows a perfect balance between the two.
The LAN Cable signifies the ability to absorb new ideas, one of the ideals of Dr. Radhakrishnan.
The sun shows heightened spirituality and an ambition to remain above all else and also to treat all humans as equals.
2010 is the first year when the Bhawan was used.
Radhakrishnan Bhawan and IIT Roorkee are written in a circular form to signify all-rounded education.
One has to achieve not merely technical efficiency but greatness of Spirit.’ The last three words of this quote from Dr. Radhakrishnan make up the slogan of the Bhawan, because while technical efficiency comes from the Department, greatness of spirit comes from the Bhawan.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Leap over Manufacturing

The biggest change that LPG brought to the Indian economy was the rapid structural change. From a country whose exports were agricultural products and agriculture formed a huge part of the GDP, India now primarily exports services (although we also export agri-products) and the tertiary sector accounts for over 50% of GDP.

That's not to say that it's all s rosy, of course. Even today, 60% of the population is engaged in agriculture (more on that later). But the wonders that services has done to our nation cannot be missed. Consider the case of Hyderabad, a once laid back little town that could bast of little more than biryani. Today, it is one of India's top IT hubs, with MNCs from Microsoft to Facebook to Infosys participating in re-shaping it. People who were once accustomed to adding an hour to their scheduled meeting time now had to travel far and early to get to work on time.

Services - 'trade invisibles' - now acts as a major offset to the trade deficit, bringing it down to levels low enough to be managed by minor forex transactions or a god surplus in the capital account. Services have brought in much-needed foreign exchange but have not created employment on the scale expected, probably because of the skilled nature or work. Still, the revolution has brought unprecedented prosperity to the middle class, who in turn have led the growth story.

A strange aspect of the revolution is the leap over manufacturing. Normally, a country moves from agriculture to manufacturing and finally to services. That's what China is doing right now, as in South Korea. But India has a low manufacturing base (although it is catching up) and Indian products are not exactly world-renowned. The popularity of Indian manufacturing is small before that of Indian services.

Indeed, LPG actually created jobless growth (or created fewer jobs than expected, depending on your economic point of view). But today, thanks to an expansion of the private sector and stable macro-indicators, India is all set to fill in the gap. The best indicator of this is the ever-increasing fraction of Engineering products being exported from India or being used here itself.

20 Years of LPG saw a boom in Indian services, IT in particular. Now, we are ready to go back and pick up manufacturing too. And this time, there will be jobs.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Engaging Movie

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

Producer: Columbia Tristar
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, Andrew Garfield and others
Rating: **** (4 of 5)
Pros: Great emotions, strong screenplay
Cons: Difficult to understand many parts without subtitles

Facebook. Need I say more? The social networking revolution has hit virtually every part of the world. But the story of how it began, in a little room in Harvard, is something that very few people know. Until now.

The Social Network is a courtroom drama-cum-biography of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eaisenberg), the rather unsocial billionaire and majority owner of Facebook. From a little prank to get back at a girl for dumping him in the middle of a date to meeting venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, co-founders Mark and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) work together to create the world's largest social networking site. Well, almost together.

The simplicity with which the movie shunts between the past and the present ensures that the viewer is never confused. However, for a good part of the movie, Mark is absolutely incomprehensible without subtitles. Forget the geeks programming stuff, even his regular speech has been over-done by the director. The best acting came from Andrew Garfield as Eduardo, the co-founder who was cheated and deceived and ended up as a plaintiff and defendant in two cases being held simultaneously!

The broken friendship between the friends Eduardo and Mark is the hallmark of the movie. Although Mark makes Eduardo the CFO, he is never fully able to let Facebook be shared by someone else. In fact, at the end, Mark is left as a villain. The director was clever here by not trying to redeem him but just show how it all ended.

The movie looked and felt pretty realistic, with Eisenberg looking and playing the part of Zuckerberg to perfection. The most striking scene is Eduardo asking Mark how he could cheat his only friend: a scene that truly resonates with the viewer.

Does this movie deserve a recommendation? Absolutely! If not for the great acting and the high drama in the courtroom (which itself is worth its weight in gold), then surely for the knowledge of how an online revolution came to be. (OTFS)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Shuffling Cards


It was like waiting for a giant tsunami and ending up with a timid little wave. The UPA Government's first Cabinet reshuffle since it began its second term in power was nothing short of a travesty, coming at a time when the Congress party is full of proposals and promises and the masses are furious over unabated corruption.

While the key posts - Defense, External Affairs, Home and Finance - were left untouched, just three new faces were inducted while others were promoted (or demoted, depending on how you see it). The only real positive was replacing Murli Deora with Jaipal Reddy in the MoP&NG.

The biggest shock is the reward given to Vialsrao Deshmukh, the former Maharashtra CM who was removed after he took a movie producer around the Taj Mahal Hotel just after 26/11, and was rapped by the Supreme Court was abusing his powers to protect a moneylender in Vidharbha. Ironically, he has been given the Rural Development Ministry, which managed the MGNREGA and is supposed to ensure that farmers don't need to go to moneylenders in the first place!

Kamal Nath, UPA-1's Commerce Minister who put up a bold stance in the WTO talks, has been shifted from the high-profile Surface Transport Ministry to the minor Heavy Industries Ministry (replacing Mr. Deshmukh in the process). Three new MPs have been inducted into the executive, but that's more electoral politics than remorse for a non-performing team.

The problem with shuffling a pack of cards is that you still land up with the same 52 cards, albeit in different places. That's precisely the problem with this reshuffle. Non-performers have remained but they're not non-performing in "less important" ministries. Kapil Sibal is still on top of two full-time Ministries, although he might just be fire-fighting in the Telecoms Ministry while he sets Indian Higher Education on fire.

The Prime Minister has promised another, more substantial reshuffle after the budget session. But in politics, a full session of Parliament is a very long time and the political climate is uncertain, particularly since important State elections would have passed by then. What we'll get then is best left to another date, but this is a wasted opportunity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Joys of Surveying


As I had mentioned in an earlier post, this is a rather hectic semester. With four practicals, all of which come with a practical exam, it's not just about books.

The very top of the practicals, coming on Monday afternoon, is CE-222: Principles of Surveying. Now, this is a three-hour long practical, perhaps the only one of its kind (if you don't include the drawing practicals). I thought it'd be boring, but boy, was I wrong or what!

Actually, this practical is the best I've ever had! After all, after spending each and every practical in my life locked up inside a stuffy room, this is the first practical I've ever had that takes place under the open sky. It's a fairly technical subject, but it's also a lot of fun.

For our first assignment, we had to take readings from the benchmark outside the Geomatic Engineering Group building, to an intermediate site outside OPJ and finally to a concrete manhole cover next to the CED Main Building, and back. Next week, it's even better. From Geomatics to the Architecture gate, up the slope, through the road between WRDM and Earth Sciences and back down to Geomatics in CED.

Added to that is the fact that in my first practical, I got an extremely small error. I can't wait for the next!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remember, Remember...


The last week, I've been doing some heavy-duty reading. I picked up Indira Gandhi: A Biography by Pupul Jayakar, hoping to discover something new, perhaps even change my rather negative opinion of a woman who could be described as a hero and a villain in the same breath.

Sadly, I hardly discovered anything new in the book. Perhaps it just goes to show what a legend Indira Gandhi has come to be, the fact that she was right when she said that she was making history as she went along.Her well-known friendship with Lyndon Johnson and her infamously hateful relationship with Nixon and his NSA are well-known.

The real treasure of information came from her relationship with two men: her husband and her son. Indira's terrible relationship with her husband, that even reached a point where the two considered divorce, represents the first of Indira's great failures in her life. The constant rumours of Feroze Gandhi's relationship with other women and his criticism of her father all went into the long separation between the two, a separation that was only bridged in Feroze's death.

But her even greater folly was her dependence on her younger son Sanjay. Sanjay Gandhi can be confirmed as the villain of the Emergency. The hatred he created among the masses was the reason why Indira Gandhi was so summarily defeated in the 1977 elections. But while the Emergency had cast a dark cloud on her life, Sanjay's political astuteness kept growing until he was re-elected and Indira eventually re-gained her throne in South Block. Sanjay's death was a mortal blow to her, one that she never truly recovered from. Her deteriorating relationship with Maneka was balanced to some extent by a growing love for Sonia, Rajiv's wife.

From the heady days of the Bangladesh War (or the Indo-Pakistan War in the Eastern Theatre) to the excesses of the Emergency years, from the humiliation of being tried for stealing four chickens and two eggs to the dark days of the Khalistan movement and her eventual assassination: Indira saw it all with a determination possessed by few world leaders. Her understanding of the need to protect nature and maintain the unity and integrity of India were well before her time.

Looking back, the Indira years never seemed to point ahead to what was to come. Never, I think, did she imagine that her elder son would be wiped out brutally by a terrorist force, or that her quiet daughter-in-law Sonia would rise to take the reigns of the Congress (I), or even that her adored grandson Varun would one day fight against that very party. Indra Gandhi lived in her day, she was not concerned about creating a legacy. All that mattered to her was the unity of the nation. Had she not been so sure of India's secularism as to prevent the IB from removing Sikhs from her protection force, perhaps she would have lived on. But then, to even imagine Indira Gandhi questioning India's secularism is a great leap of mind.

Had Indira lived, things might have been different. Rajiv Gandhi was a good man, but he never had the political instincts of his mother or brother. Perhaps India would have been different today, or perhaps not. But certainly her years as Prime Minister (just short of two decades) had a profound impact on India, one that generations beyond will never forget.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Generation of Change


Change, they say, in the only constant in life. But the velocity of that change varies. India has always been a changing culture: we changed when the Aryans invaded, when the Guptas took control, when the Mughals came and when the British colonised us.

But the change ran at varying paces. Post-Independence, India began to experience an industrial revolution. Children of the new generation began to see comforts that their parents had not. But even then, the change was not all that much and was slow.

The Indira Gandhi years saw democracy stifled and eventually, victorious. But the years post-1991 were those that saw the greatest shift in society.

Liberalization led to an overwhelming expansion of the Indian middle class and influence of Western culture. It went hand-in-hand with a technological revolution, when computers and mobile phones, to start with, became an increasingly indispensable part of life. So rapid was the new change that the generation gap grew to massive proportions. Parents who were absolutely computer-illiterate or, at best, computer semi-literate, were amazed at the speed with which their children worked on the device.

Then came the Internet revolution and a generation that grew to depend on their parents and the newspaper for information about the world saw the next generation lap up near-infinite information without lifting more than a finger. But that was not the end.

The turn of the new millennium saw some of the fastest globalization in India's history and it was no longer a gap between generations. Now, the new generation is such that it sees its own way of life changing twice or thrice within its lifetime. How we grow up is very different from how we will live our adult lives and that is also very different from how we will grow old. The change is now so rapid that decades are being traversed in years.

Has this been good for society? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'good.' While standard of living has certainly risen for the middle class, materialism has also risen, and that has led to a drastic shrinking in the moral universe. The means no longer matter, just the ends. Tensions between generations has risen and has seen some of the most abhorrent violence on youngsters, in the form on Khap Panchayats.

Where will our society go from here? It's hard to say. We have rediscovered our Indian heritage, yet we seek to modify it. One thing is for sure: our society is changing and that change cannot be stopped by any force on earth.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Last Shogun: Part 2


Tokugawa listened with astonishment. “What do you mean? You cannot leave Edo to Meiji. You have but no choice to make me Shogun. It is not asked of you, it is commanded,” he said.

“I am never commanded by mortals, Tokugawa. I always have a choice,” the Old One said angrily. “And today, the choice is made. The Shogunate has come to an end with the murder of your brother, for no righteous soul carrying his blood exists. As per Divine will, Edo and all her lands shall pass to Meiji, who has agreed to leave his home in Kyoto and make Edo the capital of his new, great Empire. The Shogunate, Yoshinobu, stands for justice. It cannot be taken by treachery.”

Livid with anger, Tokugawa pulled out his sword to slay the Old One. But just as he was about to pounce, the shadows began to tremble. In a blink of the eye, he was surrounded by Samurai who, for the first time in millennia, has been allowed to enter a Shrine meant for the Shogun and daimyo. It was the Samurai who were decreed to oversee the passing of the torch when the Shogun passed away, and in the Confucian Shrine, they were there to do just that.

In a flash, they cut off Tokugawa’s head and truly ended the last line of the Shogunate. The Old One bowed to them, disgusted by their love for the sword. He went into his chambers to pray, even as he heard one of the Samurai ride off to welcome Meiji. With the Shogunate no more, his duty too had come to an end. He pulled out a blade and slit his own throat, thankful that God had allowed him to see to it that Edo would survive beyond the era of the Shogun.

Subsequently, the Meiji Empire was modernized and thus was born Imperial Japan, which went on to take control of Korea and much of East Asia. Kyoto remained an important city, but power was forever cemented in the lanes of Edo – today’s Tokyo.


(Series concluded)

An Inhuman Order

In the peak of the greatest cold wave that the current generation in IIT Roorkee has ever seen, a notice from the DOSW stood out as being the most inconsiderate and inhuman yet.

First, a background check. As per the Institute's standing orders, students are allowed to keep any electric gadget in their room except for a computer/laptop. However, it is a fact that over 70% of all students own heaters, which is absolutely essential for survival in near-zero temperatures.

The notice in question simply notes that electricity consumption has increased sharply in all the Bhawans (surprise, surprise!). It goes on to mention, in a rather threatening manner, that students should conserve electricity.

The notice is simply outrageous. This is the most severe winter in recent history. Every faculty room, faculty home, office, Esst. B homes (those who can afford it, that is) and watchman's cabin in the institute has a heater. It seems that the only people who are completely barred from owing one are students. No Bhawan has a heater installed in the TV Room or any other Common Room. Students are expected to brave the cold themselves by whatever means.

Add to that the inhuman idea of ordering classes at 8 AM - a system that is already showing cracks - and it is amply clearly that the so-called DOSW does not really seem to care much for "Students' Welfare." I would even say that until and unless (God forbid) some students dies, the authorities will simply brandish their outdated Standing Orders and leave students to rot.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Last Shogun: Part 1


“But, how could you do it, my master? What if the Old One does not accept?” asked Ashinamo, his voice quivering in fear as he dared to differ with his master. Sure enough, his question was answered with a tight slap. “You fool, you dare question me so?” asked Tokugawa Yoshinobu. He had silenced Ashinamo, but sensed that others in his court were not convinced either.

“Do not be in doubt,” he explained. “With the Shogunate in such great peril, and indeed all of Edo, the Old One would care for nothing but to see peace restored, be it by force. What have I done? Slain my incompetent, impotent half-brother who, as Shogun, weakened Edo like never before? Is that such a crime? When I am made Shogun at the Confucian Shrine, I will be able to protect Edo from her enemies and save countless lives. Is one life not worth so many others?”

He had finally managed to convince his court. Having achieved this, he went on to explain his plans. “Tomorrow, at daybreak, I shall leave for the Shrine, where the Old One resides. I shall present myself, without fear, and become the Shogun of Edo. There can be no other way, for the Divine decrees it so. We shall defeat the Commodore; crush Meiji and retake Sakhalin. The Divine decrees it so!” The court cheered and Tokugawa retired to bed, confident that the next day, he would be Shogun.
***
The Shrine of Confucius is located atop a hill in Nagasaki. It is believed that the tiring journey to the shrine prepares the mind for the tiring spiritual journey ahead. The Shrine was home to the Old One, the highest priest of the Edo Shogunate of the Tokugawa dynasty. It was his duty to ensure that, like the Kamakura, Muromachi and Momoyama before him, the Shogunate passed safely to the next blood of the Shogun so that peace and justice may prevail over Edo.

As the Old One heard the untiring galloping of the horse outside, he knew that the time had come. Ever since he had heard that the Shogun had been murdered by his own brother, he knew that he would be asked to pass on the Shogunate to a murderer.

Tokugawa entered the Shrine without removing his footwear; there was a clear triumph in his eyes, like the hound that finally pounces upon its pray after a tiring chase. “Old man,” he said. “I have come to take what is mine. My brother, for whom I had no love, has finally been slain by these hands. Now, I have come to take Edo: I have come to be made the Shogun. Oblige me.”

The Old One looked upon Tokugawa, his eyes full of pity. What could have driven such an innocent child to kill his brother and then, instead of repenting for his crime, demand that he be rewarded for his injustice?

“What are you waiting for?” demanded Tokugawa. “For Commodore Perry’s canons to bring down Edo? For the Russians to settle their dirty beings on Sakhalin and Hokkaido? For the British and Dutch to annex Nagasaki? Oh, perhaps you wait for your master Meiji to bring down Edo from its glory. If that is what you wish, you fool, you shall die for doing so.”

Finally, the Old One chose to break his silence. “The fall of Edo is not what I seek, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. All I seek is justice for its people. I seek righteousness for the people of this blessed land. I seek a Shogun who, carrying the blood of the former in his veins, shall drive away the invaders and unify our lands. But I do not see that in you, Yoshinobu, for an unmerited man is a poor choice to lead an army of the Divine. He, who has used the most wretched of means to conquer a man who loved him so, cannot be expected to love his people.”

(To be continued)

New Series: 20 Years of LPG

20 Years ago, the Indian economy faced an existential crisis. Inflation was high, exports were low, imports were unsustainable and forex reserves were nearly down to zero. It seemed that the socialist dream had turned sour.

In that hour of crisis, Finance Minister Manmohan Singh presented a radically new Union budget, one that would overturn the very structure of the Indian economy as envisaged by Nehru. The Policy of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) was a radical new approach to the Indian economy, a sharp turn right if you may.

Naturally, it faced severe resistance. But shrewd and even dirty politics on the part of Prime Minister PVN Rao saw the budget through: and that moment changed India forever. Today, LPG remains firmly a part of our economy and has fundamentally changed it. In addition, it has also changed our society, polity and foreign relations.

In 2011, our country is but a shadow of its past. How has LPG changed the way we live? How has it changed the very definition of "Indian"? These and more will be topics of discussion, in this new series 20 Years of LPG.

New Story: The Last Shogun

The Japanese Shogunate was a military feudal dictatorship that went on for centuries until the Meiji Empire came into being. Over the years, the shogunate became infamous for strict social order, seclusion... and bloodshed.

The Last Shogun is a fictionalization of the last days of the Togukawa Shogunate, also called the Edo Era. It's bloody end has been rewritten, but the sheer power of the story remains intact.

This story is fictitious and does NOT resemble the actual version of history.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who Killed the Ending?

NO ONE KILLED JESSICA (2011)

Producer: UTV Spotboy
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Starring: Rani Mukherjee, Vidya Balan, Rajesh Sharma and others
Rating: *** (3 of 5)
Pros: Some truly stirring scenes, Rani Mukherjee with some uncanny lines
Cons: A boring post-intermission session, terrible songs

Delhi. It's a city that, for better or worse, always captures the Indian imagination. From the streets of Chandni Chowk to the corridors of South Block, the city has been the subject of many a movie. No One Killed Jessica focuses on an incident in Delhi that brought the media to the forefront of our justice system: the Jessica Lall murder case.

The story sticks to the original, more or less. Jessica Lall is an upcoming model and part-time bartender. On one assignment, she faces a drunk Manu Sharma, son of a powerful Minister in Haryana. Manu Sharma is refused a drink simply because there is none left: and he shoots Jessica for that. A simple murder case, in which 300 witnesses were present and the bullets were recovered, turned into a nightmare for Sabrina, Jessica's heroic sister.

Eventually, Meera (Rani Mukherjee), a young reporter for NDTV (her role bares a resemblance to Barkha Dutt, in more ways than one), comes to the rescue and the rest is the stuff of media legend.

All praise goes to Vidya Balan, who once again proves that you do not have to show skin and do item numbers to get famous in Bollywood. Her portrayal or Sabrina Lall evokes strong emotions. Rani Mukherjee too goes way out of her league to portray Meera, full of energy and attitude. Together, the two give life to the movie. The comic relief from 'mere Monu ko kuch nahi hona chahiye' makes it a perfect movie.

Almost. The problem is that, post-intermission, the movie completely loses its vision and goes into a sort of delirium. The same, rather boring song, goes on infinitely and the same candle-light scene stretches on and on. And suddenly, the ending arrives: no judge pronouncing the verdict, no cheering crowds, no celebration. It ends so abruptly that if it weren't for the "fashion show" at the end (don't ask), nobody would have guessed that it was time to leave!

The music is very depressing. 'Dilli,' although a hit in some circles, left me irritated. The other songs were not even worth remembering. Then again, music is not central to the plot. The costumes are quite good, with Vidya looking her part. The scenes of Delhi are a bit cliched and the depiction of NDTV could be outrightly wrong (I believe it was just STAR News back then?).

For all its flaws, the movie does manage to decently portray what was a landmark for the Indian media, an event that put people's faith in the media, a faith that was shattered only by 26/11 and Radiagate. But apart from that philosophical thought, it offers little else. Watch it if you're free, but don't waste your time otherwise. (OTFS)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Semester 4: The Most Hectic One Yet

Another semester, another set of subjects. It would have gotten terribly monotonous if not for the fact that the subjects just seem to get more and more interesting! So, with my first week of classes ending on a rather high note, I think it's time to comment on my new subjects.

First, the non-DCC subjects. This semester, we are treated to the most boring subjected devised by man - ES-201: Introduction to Geo-Science. An absolutely pointless subject that seems to deal with rocks, rocks and more rocks, it consists of an unending list of minerals that we are supposed to commit to memory. Although the class is just two hours a week, it feels like much more.

Then, we have BM-201: Management Concepts and Practices. After HS-201, I wasn't expecting much from this course, but I was wrong! Now, six teachers would take this peculiar course, so it is a bit premature to comment. Nonetheless, this was the last class of the week and nobody slept at all for the two hours. A Guest Faculty, who is actually a practising CA who also teaches, the teacher is the best I ever had so far, answering over a hundred questions from the whole class with due diligence.

After the terrible experience I had with ICY-01, this time's elective is a breath of fresh air. IMA-01: Advanced Engineering Mathematics brings me into the same class as our year's IR-1 (Institute Rank 1; or maybe he's IR-2? Doesn't matter), making for a nice challenge, although most of our subjects have been common before. The subject itself is very interesting and will be my last Maths course at UG level.

Now, for the department courses. CE-212: Water Supply Engineering, from the Environmental Engineering Group, is a rather boring subject, but the practicals are exceptional This subject, for some reason, amalgamates the practicals for CE-102, CE-212 and CE-311, thus getting a distribution of 3-1-2. The lab is probably the cleanest f all the Civil labs, but I can't say it's the best.

CE-222: Principles of Surveying is an all-out practical-oriented, hands-on subject, that will see us using theodolites, measuring tapes and other instruments three hours a week all around IITR. Being our first subject from the Geomatics Engineering Group, it is being taken up slowly, but is sure to be interesting.

CE-242: Channel Hydraulics is the next step in fluid mechanics. While CE-241 dealt with mostly pipe flow, CE-242 deals with open channel flow, a critical aspect of agriculture and water management. The practicals are a bit confusing but a lot of fun, while the subject itself is interesting. The Hydraulics Engineering Group is known to be liberal in marking, so this subject does not attract much fear from me, particularly not after my A+ in CE-241.

Lastly, we have CE-252: Structural Analysis-I, our second analysis course and first from the high-profile Structural Engineering Group. The subject already appears challenging and our teacher - the Head of Department no less - has already warned that it would be the hardest course yet. Now, that's a scary thought.

Along with these, I've got my proficiency, PR-506: Literary. Given that I participated in only one quiz and no debate so far, but am an active member of Kshitij, I don't know what grade to expect. As long as its not an F (and it never is), it doesn't matter much, since this is just a one credit nominal course. Still, I should do more in this, and I am trying to.

With a CGPA of 9.2 (approximately), I've placed myself very comfortably and can hope to expand my knowledge this semester in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Superb Beginning

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (2010)

Producer: Warner Bros.
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes and others
Rating: ***** (5 of 5)
Pros: An amazing silhouette depiction of a scene, sticks to the story as far as possible
Cons: Parts of the movie can be rather confusing, particularly for those who skipped the books

Harry Potter remains the greatest series of books that this generation has ever read. But, alas, every good book must give way to a movie, such is today's world. Nonetheless, the proof of the movie lies in the extent to which it is able to tell the original story. The Harry Potter franchise has, unfortunately, not done too well here. But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 stands out as an exception.

Voldemort and the Death Eaters are gaining strength and the Ministry of Magic could fall soon. With Dumbledore dead, Hogwarts is no longer safe. The Order of the Phoenix is desperate t protect Harry Potter, but Harry has other plans. Joined by Hermine and Ron, the three friends go off with inheritances from Dumbledore to find and eliminate Voldemort's Horcruxes and thus render him a mortal.

The story if kept as close to the original as possible. Of course, it misses a few things, but that does not affect the overall scheme of things. Having played the same characters in the other movies, the lead actors play their parts flawlessly. The movie itself comes with the standard dose of special effects and emotional moments.

But one part of the movie stands out as being exceptionally good. The depiction of the Story of the Three Brothers, using Silhouette imaging is perhaps the finest use of technology in film making that I have ever come across: subtle, delicately made yet stunning. The minute-long scene takes the cake as the best of the entire movie and is surely the centrepiece of the movie.

Overall, the movie is excellent, although it can be a little to fast paced (a necessary evil, I suppose) and difficult to keep up at times. Still, the movie deserves to be watched and nicely sets the pace for Part 2, which could be one of the greatest movies of our times. Honestly speaking, the wait is killing me! (OTFS)

Monday, January 3, 2011

For Heaven's Sake, Talk


Now that the SKC report is sumbitted and the Central government is going through it, the situation in Andhra Pradesh's political circles seems tense. The Union Government has called the eight parties from the states to discuss the issue on Jan. 6.
As always, the TRS has decided to become the proverbial kabaab mein haddi. It, along with the BJP (which has played a highly irresponsible role in the whole affair), has refused to participate in the crucial meeting, calling for the Centre to virtually ignore the SKC report and create their new state.
Such political posturing in unacceptable. What AP needs today is political maturity on this serious time. Hyderabad is a wreck today: nobody wants to invest here due to the uncertainity, as clearly indicated by relative real estate prices in the city vis-a-vis other metros. The unprecedented security in the city, which was last seen during the fall of the Nizam, portends difficult times ahread if parties do not show maturity.
By stonewalling the all-important meeting in New Delhi, the TRS and BJP have once again proved that they are irresponsible parties that only work through hooliganism and cannot stand on a democratic plank. It is necessary for the Centre to remain firm and not give in. Andhra Pradesh is a state of the Union of India and cannot be left to these political clowns.

A Worrisome Situation

The Federal Government of Pakistan now faces its most serious political crisis since the fall of Prevez Musharaff. First the Awami National Party of Balochistan and now the MQM of Sindh: both parties, although still regional allies in coalition governments in their respective states, have withdrawn from the Federal Government.

Although they have not withdrawn support - yet - the PPP now funds itself alone. Any mistaken political moves would easily bring down the administaration in a time when Pakistan faces some of its most grave crises since Partition. From a wrecked economy, wrecked further by last year's devastating floods, to insurgency, militancy and the War on Terror, as well as continued strains with India, make it necessary that a stable, democratically-elected Government remain on top.

So desperate is the Gliani Government to save itself that it has appealed to nemesis PML(N) for help: which of course, is not forthcoming. Although nobody is interested in pulling down the Government (as of now), there is always an imminent danger of a crisis erupting: and a good Government cannot be held hostage to that.

Pakistan needs a strong Government right now, one that can concentrate on its duties rather than its political survival. it would be best is the ANP and MQM, in the larger interest of the nation, do not bring regional politics to the National level.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Surprise, Surprise!


Well, I was wrong. My prediction that my CGPA on 9.038 was unstable and would fall to around 8.5, a more stable number, was totally wrong. As you can see, not only am I still a 9-pointer, I actually increased my "unstable" CGPA!
So, what changed the game? After a shocking B+ in ICY-01 (it was expected, but still, given how other people scored, I thought an A might be on the cards), and an A in MI-201 (just 0.75 away from an A+), it seemed as though I was indeed going to fall into the 8-range. The A+'s in HS-201 and PH-201 were expected, but not enough. A in CE-201 was not a disappointment but it did leave me nervous about where my CGPA was going.
And once I got back to Roorkee to see my final grades, the shock came. An unexpected, out of the blue A+ in CE-241 and a surprising but not so unexpected A+ in CE-251. Together, not only did these two wipe away any anxieties I had but also shot my SGPA up to 9.478, thus ensuring another semester for me as a 9-pointer.
Of course, many others scored a 9-point SGPA and some just entered the 9-point CGPA domain. Clearly, the branch changers have changed the scene in Civil Engineering!

New Year, New Idea