Friday, August 31, 2012

No Rest for the Weary

The next few weeks are bound to be tough with the given schedule. Can I do it? Can I weave the magic of multitasking again?

Lets see!

IITR Politics 2012

The last few days have seen another edition of the infamous SAC-1 elections, in which candidates jostle with each other to win a post in the Bhawan/Mess Council. Some do it just to be cool and add a line to their resume; some (almost none) do it to render yeoman services to the institute; and some do it to go on to SAC-2 and seize more power (less) and fame (more).

This time would be the last time for me in IIT Roorkee. The dynamics have changed of course, having shifted to Jawahar Bhawan. It's no longer about which branch and which faction you're from, it's become a clear B.Tech vs. M.Tech/MBA game. Of course, after the nominations were scrutinized and a vast majority rejected, it seemed as though the bachelors had done a coup of sorts. But because not a single nomination was accepted for Mess Secy, policies were reviewed and we now see a multilateral contest for most posts.

Campaigning has been strong only for the M.Tech first year students, who are still gullible. It's truly pointless convincing the B.Tech students because they've seen too much of this before. In RKB however, where factionalism does prevail, the competition has been tempered somewhat by the internship interviews, although since that's only for a limited number of branches, it's not a huge setback.

Tomorrow, Sep. 1, marks the final vote and I'm pretty much clear who to vote for. Another year, another election. All I hope is that the next SAC-2 can finally get the Mandi Cell for Cultural Council!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

One Last Goodbye

Forever with you, forever in your arms
A moment that never ends.
I'll make the pain go away
Take away your sorrows
And then I'll fill my life
With the beauty of your smile.

If I wrote a poem about you
It would have such beauty,
The greatest poem ever written.
You are my fire, my glow, my warmth
You are my courage, my hope, my reason
My wisdom - my inspiration.

These, my words, I give to you
Not to bring tears to your eyes.

I know you will be alone
But this is not goodbye, oh no.
This is my destiny,
And we are but its pawns.

One day you will be mine,
My soul, my life, my all.
And even in this end I see ahead,
A new beginning for you and me.
You will be mine, and I yours,
Forever and ever- till death do us apart.

(For IHS-15: Creative Writing in English)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Season of the New

It's that time of the year in Roorkee again when meetings are held in a great flurry at the senate steps; the cash registers in the restaurants are ringing away; people are roaming about all over, confused; and introductions sans JEE rank, over and over again. Yes, the Cultural Council has just completed its recruitment of freshers and now the time has come to welcome them to the family.

The two sections I'm associated with - Kshitij (emeritus) and Literary - have done their bit in their own way. Of course, with Kshitij, I was not involved with the process of selecting the new recruits but was invited to meet them. A motley group of kids they are from different parts of the country, surprisingly, there are no girls because the quality was rather poor this year (in English Ed, of course). The irony of course being that the Editor-in-Chief is a girl!

The Kshitij intro chapo, my last, was a good chance to meet the group - somehow, they seem to have heard of me before! Two of them are from Bombay, a city close to my heart. Of course, it was a very passive meeting since I won't actually be able to meet them too many times, let alone work with (on?) them, but such is life after third year in the magazine.

Literary, on the other hand, is witnessing a returning of the good old days of Abhishek Ahuja, with a large turnout of freshers in our second PD. It's now time to let them try their hand at the fine art, which also presents an opportunity for us to practice our adjudication. It's an established system that lets us improve ourselves as well as separate the chaff from the grain amongst them. With the Mock PD coming up, it's great to have a stable system in place. Last year, given the disastrous way the DebSoc shut down, this dual arrangement could not be sustained; this year, fortunately, we are far ahead of that.

The great part about freshers is that they inject a new breath of life into whatever they become a part of - which is why the first few months with them are the most insightful of all for any secretary. I do hope they have a good time in IITR!

The Kiss of Death

Out of the mist of darkness,
Comes a dream of light.
Draped in a veil of silence,
She gives you the will to smile.

A saviour in the darkest hour,
A messiah from a land afar.
She is a mother, a friend steadfast,
She is a lover, a lover long last.

In the final moments of deep despair,
Beside your deathbed, with loving care,
She stands for Eternity with a loving face,
Ready to set you free from fate.

Oh! Welcome Death, the great lover,
Hold her hands, shed your fears.
Oh! Hold her near, kiss her sweet,
Hand in hand, walk into the deep.

(For IHS-15: Creative Writing in English)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What a MUN!

Last weekend, I participated in my second Model United Nations (MUN) at Law College Dehra Dun, which is located in a rather remote corner of the state capital. As Delegate of the UK in the UNGA, it was my responsibility to see that my country's interests were protected in the Council. The agenda being - Basic Amenities as Weapons of Control.

Strangely enough, the UK does not seem to have any interests in this field! After all, an island hardly shares anything that might be called basic amenities. In fact, the very definition of the term ate away the entire first day. And the worst part was that the first-time delegates (a vast majority) were perfectly happy to debate without such a definition! The Chair, oddly, refused to recognize the major powers and their more experienced delegates.

Well, we soon found out why. With a late night Crisis Session focused around NATO, the superpowers got plenty of time to speak... except that the Delegate of the USA could not make it. So the burden fell on the Delegates of the UK and France! Well, my second MUN and I'm already in the centre of a crisis. But it did go off phenomenally well and, as the Chair told me later, my score was so high that it towered above the rest!

So, with a crisis managed, Day 2 was as good as before. By now, the Russian delegate had irritated everyone else so much that the US, the UK, France and China formed a bloc - we called it the French Bloc, because she was the only female delegate at the table. There was the problem that first-timers made it very personal and forgot their foreign policy - which saw the absurd situation of Belgium voting against a UK-France resolution and Poland following suit despite a set of threats from the UK and China.

But that aside, this so-called P4 Resolution went through unamended, with all the sponsors playing a crucial role. And when it came to voting, ours came up first because of the unamended nature... and it passed with 26 for, 20 against and four abstentions, a huge achievement!

And after following parliamentary procedure to the T, managing a major crisis and getting a resolution passed unamended, the Delegate of the UK was adjudged best delegate. What a great show!

The LCD team managed a great LCDMUN 2012, with very helpful volunteers, excellent and unsurpassed hospitality and some great MUN friends!

GRE Update: Over to Numbers

With a little less than a month to go for my GRE, I thought it to be apt to outline how far I've gone. I admit, i wish I could've done more, but given the exacting schedule, not to mention other personal commitments, it has been hard. Nonetheless, I have covered some ground.

The Barron's GRE Diagnostic Test put me at 334, which is pretty good! I've finished with the Vocab section and also went through the AWA Section. For AWA, I find that spontaneity would be the best way to go for me, since that's how I work with debating too. Nonetheless, I shall be writing a few sample essays, right here on OTFS!

I've also taken the time to do the Vocab section in the official ETS Guide, which I found simple enough (although the Hard questions were challenging, but not impossible). So now in the next few weeks, giving space for MTE-1, my task will be to finish the Quants section, which I am already in the process of doing, and then doing some of the Mock Tests.

I admit, I am squeamish right now and can't say how far I will get. Some of my juniors have decided to put bets on my score... well, good luck to them! But I am told that if I can clinch the GRE, then I am certain of being accepted for a doctoral programme at even Texam A&M or Purdue. So I am actually hoping that those betting on the higher side win!

PM Must Quit

The raging controversy over the so-called Coalgate scam - the opaque allocation of coal blocks to companies causing damage to the exchequer to the tune of Rs. 1.86 lack crore - brings into question once again the legitimacy of the UPA Government, which has caused more tangible and intangible damage to the Republic than any other since Independence.

At the heart of the sad affair is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a man whose once untarnished image now stands in ruins, who was also Minister for Coal back when the allocations were made. A report by the constitutional office of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India clearly shows that under him, the Cola Ministry as well as the PMO made undue concessions to companies causing significant loss to the nation.

This scam, the latest in a very long list, is sure to decimate any chances the Congress might see for itself in 2014. So desperate is the party to save itself that clamours for Rahul Gandhi to substitute Manmohan Singh have been growing from within the party itself. But no cosmetic change can save the country - the only solution now is for the Prime Minister to quit, for the Government to step down, for the President to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections.

The second UPA Government has always come on the brink of collapse in each and every session of Parliament. But this time, it must not survive, for the good of the nation. The country cannot afford another year of horrible governance and petty corruption. The Prime Minister must step down immediately or forever be remembered as the Congress-crony who let the country fall.

A Grand Success


Poster by: Aniruddh Jain



The DebSoc, under the aegis of the Literary Section, organized its annual Freshers' Debate on Aug. 24 at the EC Auditorium with much fanfare. With planning extending a good two weeks before the event, and posters popping up in the Freshers' hostels as well as all over Facebook. The event this year was planned to be an extempore turncoat debate - which means that topics would be given on-the-spot and the same person would be asked to speak for and against successively.

Compared to previous editions, the turnout was massive to say the least. With nearly fifty members who turned up of whom over 30 spoke, it far outstripped 7 (2010) and 12 (2011). The topics ranged from the serious (Democracy vs Dictatorship) to the fun (Harry Potter vs Twilight), a perfect combination for Freshers.

The quality of speakers was also very impressive, with some coming out with very well-thought out points and also articulating them in perfectly fluent English. There was also a good turnout from girls, who always tend to be short in number in the DebSoc.

The event was held smoothly with participants using their allotted time well. It ended with two students being declared the winners and five as the top speakers. Overall, the event was a grand way to welcome the new entrants to the Literary Section.

Love & Pride

For IHS-15: Creative Writing in English

Oh, hear the warrior's clarion call,
As his glowing sword casts his enemies' fall;
Oh, see him sleep with no fear of death,
His motherland's bosom, his rocky bed.

Oh, hear the infant's churlish cry,
As his prattle and play make even the gloomiest smile;
Oh, see him sleep, all fears cast away,
On his mother's bosom, with a gentle sway.

Oh, see the heroes of a great nation,
In one's hand the present survives;
In others mind the future resides.
Mather and motherland - their love and pride.

Independence Day Lecture: On the Quality of Protest

The right to protest is never stated explicitly.You will not find it laid down in any word or court of law. Yet, it is an inexplicable part of the freedom of expression that each human being is entitled to in a civilized society. Protest is a necessary prerequisite for progress for, without demanding change, how can change come?

Of course, change for the sake of change is questionable. But then, how does one know what change is for progress and what is not? It is an iterative process, full of ups and downs. But in order to achieve progress, it is necessary to make mistakes on the way. Protest therefore, is not just a means to bring about change, it is a means to experiment with society, a means to make those mistakes that are necessary in the endless search for progress.

Protest Itself
But what of the quality of protest? What constitutes quality protest? And why does it even matter? Does, for example, the violent revolt against Muammar Qadhafi bear the same force as the silent protest by Mahatma Gandhi on the very first Independence Day in Calcutta?

No. Protest has one innate trait that must be met for any protest to be legitimate - the protesters must not commit the same mistakes that they aim to protest against. That test represents the highest test of all - the test of hypocrisy. In all of history, protests have time and again failed this test. The Bolsheviks used violent protests to unseat a Czar who himself used violent oppression against his subjects. The Tea Party protesters inflicted economic damage upon an imperial machine that aimed at exploiting the colonies economically by means of an undemocratic Stamp Act.

However, there were some protests that did meet the test and they are the protests that have left a mark in history. So be it Mahatma Gandhi's salt march, that aimed to give salt to its rightful owners without denying the colonizers their share; be it Rosa Parks, who refused to leave her rightful place in the bus but would not ask for separate buses for blacks; be it Irom Sharmila, who decided to hurt herself rather than the guilty. These protests, small in scale, hardly as glamorous as one would imagine and with very little smoke and fireworks, endear to this day because they meet the greatest test of all.

Looking Ahead
This Independence Day, the nation faces a series of protests that need to be examined by the same yardstick. The Anna Hazare protests, which went from being a silent Gandhian demonstration to being an all-out media circus and now a political movement like a ship without a rudder. The Ramdev Movement, that failed its own standards from the very start and also chose to impose its own moral standards on people in the most undemocratic of ways. The protests in Mumbai against the Assam riots that itself became riots.

Clearly, all protests are not the same. But what if their outcome were the same? What if Anna Hazare's protest did force the Government to yield? Would it then carry the same force as a Liu Xiaob? The answer lies in examining , retrospectively, the results of such agitations. The violent struggle led by Robert Mugabe to rid Zimbabwe of the colonial wretch eventually saw him destroy the very country he sought to create. The protests against the illegal French occupation of the Rhineland saw the creation of one of the most ghastly forces in history. 

Any protest that fails to rise above that which it is protesting against is doomed to fail its own cause. It might see the end of the old problem, but the root cause of the problem would still remain and from it would rise a new evil. Therefore, any protest must meet the test of hypocrisy in order for it to meet its fundamental principles. 

On this day, we remind ourselves of the heroes to gave their lives to the cause of Independence and recall that freedom was not won by those seeking to seize control: freedom was won by those who wanted to hand it down to countless generations hence.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympialust

Another year, another Olympics and yet another mixed performance from India. While the London Olympiad does have some reasons to cheer - a record medal haul and a new set of promising players - it leaves much to beg for.

India finished at No. 55 with 6 medals (0-2-4), the last one coming on the last day from Sushil Kumar, who has made history by winning two medals in two consecutive editions. In Saina Nehwal, we found an athlete who excited the nation and ignited minds. In MC Marykom, India re-discovered her Northeast and a thoroughly neglected region received some of the attention, albeit short-lived, that it deserves. Vijay Kumar, the armyman who kicked off India's run, has brought cheer to his ranks in the Armed Forces and given us another reason to be proud of it. Gagan Narang and Yogendra added to the cheer as India reached its highest total ever.

However, behind the celebrations, there is a sense of defeat. India failed to win any gold medals - and worse, the Indian Hockey Team, once the invincible titan of world Hockey, failed to win a single match, marking it's worst Olympic performance ever (after it failed to qualify for Beijing). In tennis, India's golden boys Paes and Bhupati failed to bring cheer, while boxer Vijender Singh crashed out. Archery, another one of India's strengths, also saw a humiliating defeat.

Clearly, while some distance has been covered, much is left to be done before India can reach any respectable position at the Olympics. That will require grassroots change, where sports becomes a key component of our daily lives and particularly at school. It will require the Government to cleanup the Sports Federations as well as invest more. And it will only happen if people start supporting sports apart from cricket.

A long way to go indeed. But for now, a job well done for our Olympians.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Final IntroTalk

Aug. 9, 2012 will go down in history as the culmination of everything that I have been aiming for since the great disaster of the branch change. It was in that sad august of 2010 that I sat, amongst the freshers, as ingenuous as them, and as sad as they were happy. It was, without doubt, the lowest point of the whole affair, closely followed by me having to be interviewed by my own year.

Cut to 2011 and a lot had changed. I had established a foothold in not one but two sections - and from being just another face in the audience of freshers, I was just another face on stage. Well, that was just the start. Having failed to defeat the politics in Kshitij, some hard decisions were imminent.

Well, the rest is history. Today, as I climbed up as Additional Literary Secretary and waited for the Secretary to finish his speech for Quizzing, I felt a sense of peace.

"... Additional Literary Secretary, In-Charge of the Debating Section. When I think of what a debate is, I am reminded of Denzel Washington's words in The Great Debaters. Debating is blood-sport, we do not debate to find a compromise, a middle path amenable to all. We debate to defeat, to vanquish the opposition, to annihilate an idea.

Every week, the Debating Section comes together to hone our skills. We make words our allies and logic our weapon. We then take these skills to tournaments all over the region where we debate with the best in India. Amongst the engineering colleges, our nearest rival is none less than IITB.

In the Debating Section, you will not get famous; you will not get a fancy uniform; and you will not get too many chapos. You will however, learn how to make an argument and defend it - and trust me my friends, that is a skill as valuable as any piece of paper this institute can give you."

Those were my few moments of fame - my answer to the challenge life threw at me two years ago. I had planned to just go for Literary, but my juniors insisted that I come for Kshitij too: and so once again, I replied, twice! Although the event was sad, with very few freshers, it was not supposed to be great anyway, because the CulSoc IntroTalk is mostly a formality.

But for me, it was a very special moment: on one end, Literary Section, where I have lived my dreams and earned it; and on the other, Kshitij, to which, I think, I have a permanent bond that no rules can break. I can only summarize this who tale with a little couplet:

Round and round, the world goes round,
Ups and downs and ups and down.
One day we return to where it all began,
Higher and higher, as high as we can.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Mixed Weekend

The Indian Institute of Technology held its convocation this weekend for the Class of 2012 - certainly a memorable event for all students who, having gone through the rigours of their course, have finally left: as equals, as they had come, and also much better. The years spent here surely change you.

Sadly, it was not as memorable as it should have been. Aside from the hard feelings of having Kapil Sibal as the Chief Guest, the new rules of procedure made it a lame joke of a Convocation. The awardees received their degrees not from the Chief Guest or Director, but from the clerk in the office. And not in the beautiful Convocation hall but outside, under a tent in the rain. Described as a fish market, it was the perfect way to insult the batch of graduates.

Fortunately, because of the silliness of it all, a majority of graduates skipped the event and chose to do something else - stay at home, go to Haridwar or (the most popular option) snap pics in front of the Main Building in those robes. And of course - meet their juniors.

Friday evening we had a PD with the former Secretary, a great event for me, who is now reduced to the only debater from his year and greatly misses such high-quality debates. The result did not matter - my side lost despite proving a Team Slide, which is against the rules, which disqualify team sliders - the experience was great. And of course, a chapo followed!

Saturday was for the Kshitij chapo - few seniors came, and because my favourite ones did not, I thought it would be subdued. But my juniors insisted that I come - and they recalled the work I had done last year. That felt great - posts and certificates, or the lack of them, might be something, but to earn the respect of your subordinates is much greater.

The rest of the weekend was spent dousing some flames in Kshitij. History might be about to repeat itself - how the tables have turned!