Sunday, September 30, 2012

America meets Nordic Mythology

THOR (2011)

Produced by: Paramount
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and others
Rating: ** of 5 (2 of 5)
Pros: Nice special effects
Cons: Incoherent, even boring at times, predictable plot

Nordic mythology has often evoked keen interest from Hollywood - I can recall Beowulf as being one fine example where a beautiful tale was recreated using all the tools of modern film-making. Thor, while aiming to use the same tools, perhaps even more, fails in its ability to, well, keep it real.

Now, that might seem a rather strange comment to make, but the least you would expect of a film based in mythology is to make it a little mythological? Thor fails miserably on that front - it goes from cryptic, formal dialogue to American slang in a matter of seconds, so much so that it even ends up mixing the two! The story has several flip-flops especially on the romantic front, which seems to be a construct of great workmanship, not a smooth, natural affair at all!

Thor, the arrogant prince of the Gods, is banished to Earth, where he must muster some humility and obtain the power of the amazing hammer. And with that, he must save Earth and his own world, while all the while longing for his lady love and his family. Phew! Quite a lot for one superhero, no? Unfortunately, Hemsworth goes through this drill with such military perfection that you can hardly feel any emotion. In fact, the way that Thor always wins with the help of his Hammer makes it terribly predictable. You could guess when it would budge out of the rock well before it actually did!

Now, the special effects are good as such, though if you compare them with other movies, they might fall short. But that is a more technical discussion - it's fine, all the same. Sadly, that's all that's fine with this movie. Definitely worth a miss. (OTFS)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Sherpa of Foreign Affairs

Brijesh Mishra (1928-2012)
Remembered by friends, family and countrymen 

Arguably one of the most influential officer in the history of Indian foreign affairs, Brijesh Chandra Mishra came from a family that was already steeped in politics. His father, the late Dwarka Prasad Mishra, was an Indira Gandhi-loyalist and a formed Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, but the younger Mishra chose to break away from the Congress.

He started his diplomatic career as Indian Ambassador to Indonesia, which was followed by extensive work in the United Nations, including the position of Permanent Representative, often seen as the highest diplomatic posting in the Indian Foreign Service. This went on till 1987. In 1991, he formally entered politics by joining the foreign affairs cell of the BJP. He was an influential person in the pecking order, a fact that came to full light once the BJP formed the NDA Government with allies.

In March 1998, Mishra became the Principal Secretary to the PM. From Nov. 1998 all the way to the defeat of the NDA in 2004, he assumed the additional post of National Security Advisor, a newly-created position taken from the United States. During his time, he deftly oversaw the diplomatic fallout of the second Pokhran tests (Operation Shakti). His handling of the situation saw sanctions being applied to India in the beginning and India entering into a strategic dialogue with the US that eventually saw those sanctions being lifted in the end.

Mishra was also involved in parleys regarding Kashmir with the dictatorship of Pervez Musharaff. The results, though not very directly, can be seen in the way many Kashmiris fondly recall Vajpayee's moves. The opportunities available to and decisions taken by Mishra made him so powerful that his clout actually overshadowed Cabinet Ministers as well.

But not just as NSA, Brijesh Mishra, now a Padma Vibhushan awardee, was involved in the diplomatic activities of the nation. When he expressed reservations over the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, he received a briefing from the Government, following which he expressed strong support, badly undermining the opposition of his former political party, the BJP.

A maverick, a staunchly patriotic Indian who defended his motherland in International fora and did not dither from taking a stand antithetical to his political interests for the good of the country, Brijesh Mishra's death in a Delhi hospital is mourned by OTFS.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Periscope

A past to be proud of, a present to mould,
A future to long for, an eternity to behold.
A day to ponder, a night to grow old,
A friend to remember, a story retold.

Go by the law

A lot of talk has been going on recently regarding the photocopying of textbooks published by OUP and CUP by students of Delhi University. In an article in The Hindu, an elegant yet one-sided presentation of the case against the 'erring' students was made, which was quickly refuted in two subsequent articles.

Fortunately, the law is very clear in this respect. All claims and counterclaims regarding intellectual property in this case come under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 (amended). Sec. 52 if the Act deals with activities that may not be deemed to be acts of copyright infringement.

But first, some definitions. The Act does not explicitly talk about scholarly publications, but rather, it groups all publications and computer programs under the term 'Literary Works.' Since there are no exceptions made regarding this, we may assume that all works which have been brought into question in this case are covered by the Act.

Sec. 52(h) of the Act states that:

(h) the reproduction of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work-
(i) by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or
(ii) as part of the questions to be answered in an examination; or
(iii) in answers to such questions; 

..,may not be construed to be acts of copyright infringement. 

Therefore, in the extant case, students were found to be copying works of various authors (and it is actually the publishes that are outraged, not the authors) because those works are prescribed reading for them in the course of their instruction. This clearly matches the condition set forth in S.52(h)(i), which means that OUP and CUP have no legal case. 

To take the matter forward, this Section also clearly demonstrates the Indian State's resolve to prevent rampant profiteering in the name of education. It is important to realize that the reason these works were commissioned in the first place was to add to the pool of scholarly work on the subject and raise interest amongst students, not to generate money for publishers, who actually retain a vast portion of the proceeds. 

While in the course of research, it is legitimate to expect the researcher to purchase the titles being used or at least acquire them from a Library, the process of obtaining a higher education is seen, rightfully, as distinct. It is not just DU, but students around the country in a number of fields who photocopy material not for any commercial benefit but for the sole purpose of education. Therefore, the Indian Copyright Act serves as a strong legal bulwark to protect their interests.

Success!

Monday was a critical day this semester, what with two major events coming together. The first was the interview round of OPJEMS. Last year, I had failed to make the cut but I did it this year - I'm not exactly sure how. Of course, this year's paper was much shorter than the last, mainly because the two essays had been removed. And since, unlike previously, my account did open, I was able to give electronic responses to my answers. And, most importantly, unlike last time, this time, I hurried through the paper, maintaining a balanced composure for a short but adequate period of time.

The interview was supposed to be HR, but I found myself discussing the technical aspects of a BRTS network and the Delhi BRTS in particular. This, in response to a single questions - what do you want to do in the future? Of course, though I did dither several times, I did stick to my guns about the need to improve public transportation in India. There were a few standard HR questions, but those were rather few and far in between.

That discussion followed a massive 40min trip from AIIMS Metro Station to HUDA City Centre and then to my GRE test venue. Due to legal restraints, I can't reveal what happened in the test, but my raw score has come to 330 - 165 in each section. That, as of now, is the third highest in IITR and the second in LitSec. Which is of course, great news. At this score, I can hope to get a lot of great schools, especially since I also have a great academic profile.

All-in-all, it was a great day, even if the return ride was pretty rough!

Update: GRE AWA score came to 5.5 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Back to the Future

In his renowned poem All The World's A Stage, William Shakespeare describes how one goes from being a helpless baby to being a helpless baby once again, in old age. Life is like that - a loop that eventually brings you back to where you began, albeit with a different background.

Tomorrow is the beginning of yet another series of exams meant to determine your future. The GRE is the first exam that will take me to my future - I hope. It's not make or break like JEE, of course. That's because I'm an IITian with a great CGPA, projects and an internship at TUM, not to mention a variety of extracurricular activities. Unlike the rather illogical JEE, these admissions take a lot into account. Therefore, this is an important exam, but not make or break.

Yes, this is essentially meant to calm my nerves! Four years ago, I was writing a series of exams for college admissions. I'm back to that stage, though wiser. Unlike last time, I'm not losing my cool, neither am I assuming that I am hopeless. In the mock tests I gave so far, my score seems to be coming to 325-329, which is good enough. I won't blank out in this one, I know that.

The only twist of fate is that my OPJEMS interview has come up on the same day, which means that I have a lot of travel to do - Delhi Metro and it's Huda City Centre station to the rescue! I suppose this is another of those proverbial tests that life puts you through... nothing good comes easy, I used to tell myself, during those terrible days of apping for DAAD. Well, it's true of tomorrow too.

So, with all my documents set, my mind flush with a myriad of words, and my head held high, here I go!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Here, Here!

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation yesterday, on a day when his Government became a minority government with the exit of the second-largest constituent, the Trinamool Congress. In his typical dawdling style, the PM spoke to the nation about the hardships that we need to go through to get out of the economic crisis that India is faced with. In the midst of numbers and appeals, he came out with what will be remembered as the defining punchline of his administration: 'Money does not grow on trees.'

The response to the PM's speech has been largely negative from the media and political parties (as expected) and largely positive from industry. However, an examination of the criticism yields much information on the nature of the discourse. Most of the PM's critics speak vociferously about the multitude of scams that the UPA is submerged in, about the great quantities of wealth looted from the nation and, in some cases, about the PM's lack of leadership and ability to inspire his countrymen.

The sad result of this discourse is that it does not look into the substance of the PM's speech. The speech can be described as one of the best yet. In terms of content, it rivaled the speech given by Churchill to the Commons on the eve of the Battle of Britain.The points he raised were very much valid - in fact, they were long overdue. Had this government had the spine to raise prices when they were low, such a steep price hike would not have happened. The point is and must remain that we cannot remain addicted to private transportation and the money saved needs to be channeled into improving public transportation including railways.

The Prime Minister did an excellent job of presenting facts and has finally shaken his Government out of its deep slumber. The loss of the AITC is actually an excellent thing - the way politics in India works, there will not be an early election and this minority government can get its agenda through. Not that it's proper to do that - but, as Dr. Singh said, tough decisions have to be made to save the future of this country. My future and yours.

Talking of Vitamin A

Practice for the GRE AWA Section



In making any decision, it is important to consider all the consequences of the decision and not just the intended ones. That essentially summarizes the flaws in the arguments made by the international development organization.

To begin with, the argument fails to examine a variety of issues related to the growing of genetically modified crops. What sort of soil is the new crop variety designed to grow in and does Tagus possess that sort of soil? Even if it does, what about the water resources needed to grow the new variety - is it the same as the older, natural variety or is it different? What about the climate best suited for the crop - does it require warm, moist weather in its growing period or cold and dry conditions? Does the climate of Tagus meet those requirements? What is its effect on the ecosystem - will it damage any of the existing food chains in the region? Seeing that the new variety has been developed in highly controlled settings, it is likely that such basic parameters would differ. While these differences don't mean much in a lab, they can be a matter of life and death for a poor farmer in Tagus.

Another fallacy of the argument lies in the idea that the Government will be able to subsidize the large-scale usage of the new crop. Tagus, as stated, is an impoverished nation whose government struggles to provide basic amenities to its people. In this situation, would forcing the large-scale purchase of seeds of the new crop not amount to denying basic amenities to the citizens of Tagus? And is that acceptable? If the answer is 'yes,' then it too is fallacious because merely ensuring that all citizens have sufficient Vitamin A will not ensure an adequate standard of living to them - education, employment and more advanced healthcare will. The Tagus government would not be able to do both and this move could very well have strong negative effects on the population.

The report also fails to focus on the dubious role that large agriculture corporations could play in the sector in Tagus if the new variety of millet is made universal - it would create an oligopoly and poor farmers would be subject to market conditions that they could not survive in, pushing them to the brink and achieving the exact opposite of the intended purpose.

Finally, the report fails to demonstrate how the new variety of millet is a superior option to other, natural crops rich in Vitamin A that could be grown in Tagus for a fraction of the cost and risks. This definitely deserves attention because natural crops do not carry the same environmental risks as genetically modified ones, such as the ones mentioned earlier.

Had the organization undertaken a full study regarding not just the genetic makeup of the crop but also its viability and safety, it would have carried much greater weight. The organization should have also looked into the current expenditure incurred in curing Vitamin A deficiency and whether that would help offset the cost of adopting the new variety. Lastly, the report could have also focused on alternative options rather than sticking, for no obvious reason, on one option alone. In the absence of proper reasoning, the argument seems highly flawed.

An Emotive Decision

Practice for the GRE AWA Section



At every stage of life, one comes across situations where one is forced by circumstances into making a decision. Making decisions is therefore, not a voluntary affair but rather an integral part of life. The decisions that one makes have a direct bearing on one's future and therefore, they must be made with great care.

From the logic above, it is clear that decisions are responses to situations that one is confronted with. In making these decisions, it is important to analyze the situations and predict the outcomes of those situations. Take for example, the decision on who to vote for during elections. A wise decision maker would study the candidates and vote for the one they feel best represents them. However, poor decision makers would not put too much thought into it and go by emotional factors - which candidate makes the most grandiloquent speeches, which one looks the best etc. However, as already stated, the decision has a bearing on the future: if the bombastic candidate wins and then breaks all his promises, the constituents would suffer as their interests would not be properly represented. In such a situation, there is no point in justifying your decision to vote for him - just as there is no use crying over a glass of spilt milk.

Of course, it is possible that even a candidate who seems competent to hold high office could break his promises, but that is a better risk than going by someone of whose integrity one has no idea of.

But decision making goes well beyond the realm of politics. Consider another serious example - the field of military strategy. An officer in the midst of war is faced with several daunting options and has to evaluate the best amongst them quickly. In this situation, it would be blatant suicide to make an emotional decision without considering the consequences. An Officer who makes an ill-informed, emotional choice that leads to the death of his battalion can hardly hope to use any logic to justify his actions and would be a very poor decision maker indeed. Of course, it is again possible that the emotional decision would prove to be successful, but that would be a consequence of either experience or sheer luck rather than decisiveness.

A third excellent example regarding decision making can be seen in the world of stocks and shares - investors pour through volumes of data everyday to decide which shares to buy, which to sell and which to hold. Emotional decisions made based on a biased opinion about a company or the assumed credibility of a 'source' can quite easily lead to irreparable loss and even bankruptcy. That is why so much money goes into making informed choices concerning investments. If a poor investment made on flimsy emotional grounds fails, then any amount of justification would hold no water. Once again, it is possible that such an investment could prove fruitful, but that would again be out of luck rather than any deliberate action.

From the above reasoning, it is clear that emotional decisions are, by definition, made without keeping taking all facets of the matter into account and carry a high risk. A decision maker who makes such decisions and later attempts to justify them would be prone to failure, which he will find very difficult to justify indeed. Decisions should be made with a sound mind and only after testing their consequences.

To conclude, the examples stated above and the reasoning associated with them clearly demonstrate the importance of making informed, reasoned decisions in all spheres of life. Anyone who depends on emotional pointers to make decisions would be taking a huge risk and is bound to fail one day, when his luck runs out. Therefore, such a decision maker would be deemed to be very poor indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Matilda, My Love

For IHS-15: Creative Writing in English

Matilda, so pretty, the girl next door;
She lives in my heart, never alone.

Matilda, so radiant, gently walks by;
She is my moon, my stars, my sky.

Matilda, so lovely, my adolescent desire;
I'll hold you forever, and never tire.

Matilda, so gentle, as graceful as a dove;
We'll enjoy the pleasures, of this Age of Love.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Questioning The Status Quo

An essay for the GRE

The only constant in life is chance, so goes a pithy saying. Indeed, change has been the one thing that has fueled humanity's drive into the future. But change us never easy and requires one to question the status quo, to challenge established norms. This of course, is easier said than done, but the few who have, have changed history.

Consider the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi against the British Raj - he questioned colonial authority and ultimately gave the world a new form of protest. Consider Rosa Parks, the quiet woman who refused to give up her seat in the bus for white passengers and sparked off the Civil Rights Movement. These and other characters in history have one theme in common - they have all challenged accepted wisdom and advanced our understanding of freedom.

The same principle applies to the sciences as well. Had it not been for Prof. Eddington of England, who bravely questioned Newton's work in favour of Einstein's, would we have had the insight into the universe that we do now? Certainly not! here again, it has taken a challenge to the status quo to enrich human understanding.

However, it is important for such challenged to accept certain norms of human equality. After all, the Nazis too questioned the authority of the Weimar Republic with disastrous consequences. Therefore, while questioning authority is indeed a necessary instrument of progress, it is important to objectively judge that progress so that it does not end up unleashing a dystopia.

To conclude, a challenge to authority is a sign of change, but it must be qualified with the understanding that some things, like human rights and freedom, are indeed absolute.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On Commercialization

This is a rebuttal to some harsh comments against the commercial nature of Kshitij that I have come across recently.

Nostalgia is a basic human trait. To remember your childhood is to be human, to be in touch with this world. It makes you what you are. Yet, it is also important to look upon the future with a sense of optimism, sense of hope, an understanding that time is not meant to stand still but to move ahead. True, as we move ahead, we might actually be going down the wrong path - but there is much to suggest, in fact, all of human history to suggest, that we are indeed going down the right path, in the long run.

Those who look back at the controlled economy, when each man was expected to work for the Government and not hold any personal desires, should remember that it was that very economy that created the dystopia that we lived in all the way till 1991. An era where people protested against computers for fear of job losses, completely ignoring the matter of efficiency (despite the fact that Nehru himself had pushed for efficiency in all spheres); and era when, to get a phone connection, it took years even with political contacts; an era when India lived on charity and aid and the only thing we had to be proud of was dance and music; an era when we used the most obsolete of construction methods and then complained of poor workmanship; an era when films were made with outdated technology and everybody, everybody, was afraid to try something new for fear of antagonizing the Big Government.

Commercialization and liberalization have changed that now. We now live in an era where computers have made it possible for us to run an intelligent public transportation system to ferry IT employees in Hyderabad; where most Indians can afford cellphones; where India takes loans and not aid and instead gives aid to more needy countries; where Indian films have taken management and technical ideas and rewritten the rules of the game and where entrepreneurs are free to try their ideas in the marketplace. That is what commercialization of this country has done - it has made it a country to be really proud of, one which we can have hopes for, one which the whole world can look up to.

Unfortunately, there are some like you, Sir, who choose to overlook these aspects and bemoan the fall in morals and selflessness and take your anger out on a bunch of hardworking kids merely because nobody else will listen to your ramble. Your self-righteous lecture on devotion to literature, coming down heavily on students doing things for placements, speaks poorly of your own record. In your day, you would have committed murder for your little Government job, literature and righteousness go to hell. Today, we are free people of a young country who work for ourselves - we have finer tastes, deeper interests, but we do focus those to bring glory to ourselves and we are proud of the fact that not only do we do it, but also that we can do it, because commercialization has made us free enough and we are good enough.

You, Sir, come with a heavy colonial mindset. You come from an era where torn pieces of paper and coloured pencils were the best that money could buy. We live in an era where digital printing and photoshop allow us to produce a magazine of greater quality than you could ever imagine. And you do not like that - Oh, I couldn't do it, how can I stand seeing them do it? - because you are a colonist who cannot see his 'subjects' get the better of him.  You shout and act all tough and we are expected to be quiet because we are the victims, the vanquished, the colonised. And for you, that constitutes the 'good old days'?

Commercialization is the best thing that has happened to this country and this magazine. Without profits (tangible and intangible) there would be no focus on high-quality output; why, even the building that You, Sir, so proudly preside over would have been impossible to build without commercialization of the construction sector; the systems that let your institution run so efficiently would have been impossible without it; the higher aims that this magazine can set for itself are because of it. Whatever be your grouse, the fact is that you are an old man with old ideas and in this clash, though you might have won out of authority, you will lose eventually, because your ideas are doomed to meet their end.

This rebuttal was written purely on the author's personal capacity and has no relationship to any official organization.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Time Has Come

The Union Cabinet today approved a host of economic reforms to allow vast FDI in the country and divest itself of some control over profit-making PSUs. The measures, which were overdue ever since UPA-2 was elected to power, could be a sign of hope in an otherwise downcast economic environment.

With data coming in to show that India's external debt has reached a precarious level unseen since 1991, the time had come for the UPA to either do something or step down. A lost Monsoon session added to that feeling. With this move, a bright light has torn across the dark clouds at last. However, on expected lines, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has set a 72 hour deadline for a rollback. Once again, those of the old Nehruvian era whose actions brought 1991 before us are trying to hold this nation back with their outdated dogmas.

If the UPA can actually sustain these reforms and see them through, and not buckle to allies, then it would be a huge testament to Dr. Manmohan Singh, derided and heavily criticized, who seems to have come back from the grave, figuratively speaking. Or is it just a mirage and tomorrow all these measures will be rolled back? Let us see.

A Legacy Left Behind

Dr. Verghese Kurien, 1921-2012
A Proud Son of the Nation
Survived by his kin and the millions whose lives he changed

The sad demise of the Father of the White Revolution, Dr. Verghese Kurien, asks us, as Indians, to stop for a moment and reflect on what he stood for. Dr. Kurien was not one of those to stand back and accept fate as it came to him and millions others in Anand, Gujarat. But then, most people claim to fight against destiny too. So what made Dr. Kurien different?

Institutions. He did not hope to awaken the Government to to the plight of farmers in order to get a subsidy. He did not lead dharnas and start his own militia to overthrow the powers that be. He used the most potent weapon of all - the free market. Free, in its truest sense. He built a Co-operative, the world's largest today, where each farmer would pool his resources and get back according to as much he gave. Where the collective contributions of milk would be sold in the stores of India's biggest cities with all taxes included and no subsidies.

Dr. Kurien taught farmers how to fish - he showed them the power of the free market and built a revolution. Amul today is owned by farmers and run by professionals - those with surplus milk sell it to those in need, at the right price and quality. It is fair and for-profit: the profits go back to the owners in proportion to how much they give and that is how you transform a barren land into an entrepreneurial hub.

Dr. Kurien will remain an ideal man for scientists, policy makers and the believes of the free market alike.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No Place for Sedition

The recent arrest of a Mumbai cartoonist on charges of sedition brings back the draconian provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and how the Indian Republic has really become nothing more than a successor to British India. The charge of sedition, which differs from that of treason, was created specifically to prevent anyone from criticizing the Raj.

The British Government itself repealed the Sedition law in 2010, while it's former prized colony continues to keep the pride and honour of the Raj protected. Sedition is not an act against the unity and integrity of India, it is not an act of war against the nation. It is criticism of the Government - yes, criticism of a democratically elected Government can invite a jail term, such is the world's largest democracy.

Of course, the charge is not applied too often - in fact, just twice in recent history, this incident being the second and that of Binayak Sen being the first. However, if it were, a vast majority of Indians would go behind bars because criticism of protest are a part and parcel of the much-hyped social and national fabric of the country.

The time has come to remove this silly, anachronistic law and also end the random application of laws to intimidate citizens of a free nation. The Maharashtra Government can start by apologizing to journalists and cartoonists in the state.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Where is the limit?

The proposed quota for SCs/STs and eventually for OBCs in promotions in Government jobs is yet another example of the ugly turn-for-the-worst that quota politics in India has taken. From being a temporary, 10-year proposal to uplift the most oppressed of castes in the newborn Republic, the concept has been stretched to its logical and legal boundaries and is now being used to cover up a massive coal scam.

The arguments made in favour are the same standard ones made in 1950 i.e., to give a head-start to the historically disadvantaged, social equality etc. coupled with the latest assertion of quota politicians: the de-linking of economic status from social status. The essential argument is that economic development does not bring with it enhanced respect in society and discrimination continues unabated and therefore, the need for quota persists.

The problem with this argument is that it is circular in nature: essentially, it shows that a quota, if given, does enhance an individual economically, but that just creates more barriers for him/her to cross and new forms of discrimination to face and therefore, those too require a quota. In other words, quotas give rise to a need for more quotas! If this were true, then the best way to achieve equality would be to eliminate quotas themselves, because they seem to be creating more inequality that needs to be addressed by even more inequality-generating quotas.

An emotive albeit spurious argument made every now and then is that surname and not economic status determine social status. If this were true, then everyone would simply change their surnames through legal methods, which is actually very simple, and there would be no discrimination at all. Linking surnames to quotas like that is a ploy to perpetuate a system that has yielded rich dividends to the well-off amongst the SCs/STs.

The timing of the legislation is also suspect - right in the middle of a massive Coal scam, when the UPA seems to be ready to taste supreme defeat in 2014, this bill came as a diversionary tactic to divide the opposition and shift the nation's focus. Enhancing quotas where they are not required, and where they do more good than bad (since promotion is being de-linked from performance), will not generate any progress, it will further divide the country and leave the youth thoroughly disenchanted. Investigations and arrests into a massive scam will help the country make amends and correct the dangerous course that we have set ourselves on.

Unfortunately, the current UPA regime is desperate to save itself and generate some chance, however small, of Rahul Gandhi becoming PM in 2014, and so governance and accountability are the least of its concerns. The Quota bill is a ploy to divide and rule at a time when the country is rallying against the current regime.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thoroughly Unbecoming

Prince Harry, well-known for his playboy image, was at it again in Las Vegas, with pictures of him in the nude with other people got leaked. Apparently, the "royal" Prince  was holidaying in Sin City and the incident took place in his private VIP suite, where he was playing 'strip billiards' with some friends... and some young women that he happened to liked in the hotel lobby.

While as a personal affair, this is entirely the Prince's own business, it is unacceptable coming from an heir to the British throne. Prince Harry is unemployed, unless you count being royalty as an occupation. He lives on public money and therefore, is expected to maintain a sense of dignity and responsibility. True, the anachronistic monarchy does not really need to worry about public opinion, nonetheless, propriety cajoles the royal family into maintaining some decency.

So now Prince Harry decided to use a part of the over two hundred million pounds a year of tax money allotted to the royal family to go partying in America and decided to invite some strangers, albeit beautiful ones, to a suite paid for by taxpayers and also chose to have perverted fun, again at taxpayers expense. All this bodes poorly for the Monarchy, which presides over a depressed country which is returning to the lows of recession now that the Olympics have ended.

If the House of Windsor believes that their young princes can live a lavish, playboy lifestyle while teachers and doctors lose their jobs and families go hungry, then it would do them well to remember just how monarchs elsewhere have been overthrown. The Monarchy must rein in such demeaning activities that further alienate the commons and attract disgust.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Little Too Much?

As the final four MTEs come into the picture, my eyes are set on the first of the last - MTE 1 Autumn 2012-13. So, as always, lets have a look at the subjects. At just five, this semester marks a low, at par with 3-2, for number of subjects. But it certainly comes close to 2-2 in terms of working hours!

The easiest, as of now, is CE-461, a core course that has proved to be rather easy. In class, it seems as though a lot has been covered, but it's actually more common sense than anything else! A closely similar story in CE-463 (DEC), which seems very difficult on the face of it but is actually simple. And given that I've had the chance to apply a lot of the principles in my ongoing Minor Project (CE-401), it's gotten even easier to remember everything, another fine example of how studying yourself and applying what you study can do wonders.

CE-441 is a somewhat challenging course - mainly because, for whatever reason, I fail to understand anything in class. But I have applied my old trick - do the tuts yourself - and I hope it will be good enough to make up for lost classroom hours. IHS-15 is probably the lamest subject I have ever had to study, what with the stupidity of 'learning' what has been a hobby and the senseless things we have to write in class!

And then there is CE-451, a monstrous subject not because it is difficult, but because the faculty, the HOD no less, has made it difficult by not teaching anything and expecting us to do it ourselves. This is a huge shock because our fundamentals in RCC Design are already weak and now this is exacerbating the situation. This was expected, of course, because this course has been run in that way for God-knows-how-long. And I know that some of the kings of Structures had struggled with it, so it will be a close shave for me. Oh dear!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wanted: A Maharashtra Government

In the last few days, some rather absurd and disturbing events have taken place in India's economic nerve centre, Mumbai, that have once again brought to fore the pathetic state of Governance in Maharashtra. First, a protest against (mostly false) atrocities against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar nearly turned into a riot. Then, as a consequence, the State Home Ministry was forced to remove the Police chief of Mumbai. Then, to add fuel to fire, Raj Thackeray, who did such a fantastic disappearing act during 26/11, staged an illegal protest and has now virtually usurped the Mumbai Police, threatening to brand Biharis as "infiltrators" (and therefore flagrantly disregard the Constitution of India) and toss them out of Mumbai.

All this points to a state of lawlessness in Mumbai. As Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pointed out, it seems as though the entire Government has outsourced the administration of the city of the MNS. At the same time, floods returned to the city, albeit momentarily, forcing the common man to nwade through neck-deep water again.

Clearly, the Maharashtra Government, which is in place for the sole reason that the opposition stood divided in the last elections, has failed in Mumbai. Ironically, while it was once Bihar that was infamous for lawlessness, Bihar has now become a relatively peaceful state while Mumbai has gained the infamy. This is a sad state of affairs that will need to be corrected immediately.

Mumbai is a city of India and every citizen is allowed to live and take up occupation there. If this fact is allowed to be denied, then we might as well defenestrate the Constitution.