Saturday, December 29, 2007

An Engineer's Story

Look at the life of an average MU engineering student. The year is basically divided into 2 parts, when you have preparatory leaves (PL) and when you don’t have preparatory leaves. The former is the most boring and for some, the most daunting prospect anyone could face while the latter is always the ‘most-eagerly-looked-forward-to’ part of the academic year.

Having just completed one more PL, I realize that at the end of four years of my engineering studies I would have spent effectively only a year studying. The 12 months are formed by adding up roughly one and a half months of PL for each semester. I had this SMS forward which read, “4 years, 40 subjects, 400 practicals, 4000 lectures, 40000 submissions and roughly 400000 rupees, that’s what engineering is all about.” I couldn’t have agreed with it more!

Yesterday, at the post-exam chill-out session, my friends and I were discussing exactly that. Seven semesters into engineering and we really haven’t progressed much beyond our junior college in terms of the practical aspects of technology. Yes, we have written exams, given vivas, tried to grasp concepts in the process of avoiding KTs and we definitely know more about technology than people in other domains, but we have a long way to go before we become ‘employable.’ Right now, it is all restricted to general knowledge.

If we only study for a 25% of the time, then where does the remaining 75% go? That’s a question to which almost all people have an answer to, whether it is valid is a different issue. The answers include college festivals, society work, entrance preparations,etc. They don't contribute to the process of becoming a better engineer. They only give you first-hand exposure to organizing and managing events. We do all this when instead we should be involving ourselves in more projects and co-curricular events. I am not preaching but look introspectively and ask yourself "What percentage of you has become an engineer in the process?"

Having said all this, for a final year student, the realization comes a little too late. Another PL has ended and it is time to catch up with all that I have not been able to do because of exams. It is back to the good times. I will think about wholistic learning later.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I don't want to be Legend

I happened to catch up with “I am Legend” today. There are many movies which have captured the doom’s day scenario, but this one particularly got me thinking.

Imagine being the only survivor in a city like New York, where the only companion you have is you dog. Imagine having lived like this for almost three years. And when you think things can’t get worse, imagine, living in the perpetual fear of mutated zombies.

The movie highlights the catastrophe playing with the human genome can bring. In the wake of finding a cure for cancer, a virus is created which in the movie, goes on to bring the human race on the brink of extinction. The mutations of the virus cause the subjects under test to develop initial symptoms like those of rabies which with time create a full-fledged disorder in the host’s physiology to create cannibalistic tendencies.

Again, it is likely that the movie brings to life a far-fetched thought, but it is definitely a possibility, no matter how small its chances are. The more we play with nature, the more we are trying to change its inherent cycle of evolution and growth. There are strong indications that the AIDS virus which originated in the rhesus lineage was injected into humans due to lackadaisical handling during lab research.

Apart from the scientific aspects, what haunts me more is the prospect of being the only survivor in a city. It is a dreaded reality to come to terms with. Having no friends to call, no siblings to trouble, no pals to chat with- you might pull along for a few days to a few weeks, but sooner or later, it is going to push your sanity into troubled waters. Will Smith, who plays the character of Robert Neville in the movie, talks to his dog and sometimes out of desperation even to mannequins to satiate his social thirst.

I rather die than live in an apocalyptic world. Some people live on hope. It keeps me going too but the problem is that I can’t live on hope alone. Not every one has the courage of a movie hero!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Games People Play

I am generally not interested in what our dear politicians do, but the desperate campaigns both the chief parties, that is, the BJP and the Congress have had these elections have caught the attention of a lot of people across the country including me.

On one hand, is the saffron politics of Mr. Modi. He has achieved iconic status in the state. Sometimes, you wonder whether he has become bigger than the party itself. Moditvas- the new term coined by the media for his remarks while addressing rallies- have taken the state by storm.

When his campaign started, I was initially glad that he has kept his speeches free from the communal tones. But I guess the joy was short-lived because the true colour of the person resurfaced in his sermon in Godhra. Isn’t it disgraceful that you have the Chief Minister defending extra-judicial killings in front of 10000 people? Moreover, his whole defence was on the basis of him wiping out terrorists of the state. His use of the phrase ‘desh-drohi’ was such a let down. Agreed he has done a lot for fast-tracking industrial investment in Gujurat and building a conducive environment for economic prosperity in the last few years, but is the so called defender of genocide justified in becoming a leader of a state?

On the other hand, there is the Congress who have only campaigned against BJP rather than campaigning for itself. The still haven’t found a leader who can match Modi’s persona. They are yet to propose a solid plan for the future of Gujurat if there party is voted into governance. All Ms.Gandhi says in her speeches is that thousands are growing hungry, your chief minister is a ‘merchant killer’ and we promise you a government that will take care of the common man. When have thousands not gone hungry in India? If that is the case, then we should vote out governments in most states right now. When she uses the phrase ‘merchant-killer,’ she herself is aggravating a huge chunk of the Hindu merchants who are extremely pleased with the reforms under Modi. As far as the promises go, I think the people are well-versed with the fact that they are only made to be broken. Congress has always been on the defensive these elections which has been its biggest drawback.

It is hard to ignore the filthy games politicians are playing in the electoral battlefield of Gujurat. What is even more surprising is how successful these measures have been in polarizing the masses. There lies hope though, as I recently saw in an episode of “We, The People”, centered around the Gujurat elections. There were such heart-wrenching stories of people who have been victims of the riots as well as the attack on Sabarmati express in 2002. To mention some, a man whose wife was burnt alive on the train in Godhra himself said, that he never asked for Muslims to be massacred in the name of justice. All he wanted was the accused to be giving the most stringent punishment for their crime. The riots were only called for due to the politicization of the issue. Then another Muslim who lost all his industries and some of his loved ones during the riots said that it was time to stop being victim-centric and think about an environment where both Hindus and Muslims can move forward together. At the same time, there were a few who still had not recovered from the shock and were blind to the idea of development and growth when weighed against the scars of the riots.

All said and done, one wish the people on the show were quite unanimous about was their need for peace. It is a sorry-state that we no longer have statesmen, we only have politicians, and for them, human sentiments are of little value as compared to votes. The choices people have right now can be compared to the quandary of choosing between Hitler and Mussolini.

Monday, December 03, 2007

not very aMUsing

I wrote a similar one before the vivas and I am writing one now, the motive being the same - To vent my frustration.

I have this paper called Filter Theory and Applications (FTA) the day after. Don't gauge the level of sophistication of the subject by the big names used. Or hold on, may be the subject is highly conceptual in reality. However, the way the university papers are set, any one without an engineering background can make it through if he can mechanically absorb a lot of formulae and algorithms and put in some practice in perfecting these. The worst part is that the amount of portion incorporated is so vast that you don't get a chance to work on the finer details and learn everything superficially. Part of the blame lies on us because we don't start early, but we are proud to take consolation in the fact that the student needn't be perfect if the system itself is faulty.

I think I should stop cribbing now. I am taking a break and will not spoil it discussing Mumbai University. The feeling of boredom today was so intense that I spent around half an hour observing a congregation of crows, numbering in hundreds, if not thousands. They are so organised that you wonder why man doesn't learn from them how to stay in harmony. When two of their Raven leaders (that's what I took them to be) cawed, everyone seemed to listen quietly. And then at one go, they all dispersed like a group of cadets.

When you compare them with the pigeons, you realise their niche. Pigeons seem to be mentally challenged. They don't know where the exit to a room is once they enter, even though the openings remain intact. They are one of the most libidinous birds I have seen. Besides, they hog and hog non-stop and then keep defecating at anytime anywhere, making a mess of structures. Don't get me started on their cooing. Navjot Singh Sidhu will get a complex. Such behaviour might be attributed to their physiology or social setup, but still, I don't have a great deal of respect for them. How can someone be so stupid?

I can't believe I wrote this. Just shows the impact which the unimaginable long PL(preparatory leave) has had. I hope the exams don't make things worse though. Long live the crows.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What your pick up line shouldn't be?

We all love our social networking sites. Why won't we? They are a great place to catch up with new friends and find long lost ones too. But on the flipside, there's this whole menace of despo's scrapping. Being a guy, I don't bear the brunt of those scraps, but I have seen a lot of those in the scrap books of some of my female friends. Here're are some (marked in bold) I found from one of the communities against desperados for everyone to have a good laugh. I have supplemented them with replies of my own.

u are so beautiful.....it must have hurt falling down from heaven!

Yeah, pity I'll have to go back up there after reading this.I don't have any plans of falling down again.

You look so soothing . Do you really soothe others ?

Man, where did you see that side of me? Genius. I thought only my husband has experienced that bit.

U n I have the same b'day. Ummm Lets find out what more we have in common than our horoscopes.

Hmmm. Yeah despo scraps. U write them. I get them.

What will you say if I tell you that your grandmother was more beautiful than you and you will be more beautiful than your granddaughter ?, Please , explain.

U have even started hitting on my grand-daughter, huh? Heights of desperation.

Let's do breakfast tomorrow. Should I call you or nudge you?

You can dial 100 and confirm the date.

read ur profile (timepass karna tha)....
found it quite interesting (maskaa maar raha hoon)....
u lookin good in this pic(yaar ab jhooth bhi bolna pad raha hai iske liye)....
will u like to b my frnd plzz (chalo tu nahi to koi aur mil jaayegi teri frndlist mein)....
i hope u wont mind me adding u (plz bhaav mat khana, add me )....
just check out my profile (kuchh likha nahi waise maine)...
u'l find we hav lots of things common (teri profile padh ke hi add ki hai maine)...
bye n take care ( mere bolne se jaise firk pad jaayega )

hahahaaaa just kidding ,dont mind.....can v be frnds? do reply,
and
Keep Scraping
tak care,,

enjoy life...

read your scrap (time waste hogaya)

jst hope you won't mind blocking you (zyaada naraaz mat hona)

good bye for ever (mere bolne se farak padta hai)

Browsing through your profile, it’s just a proactive endeavor on my part to extend my sincere gesture in the realm of friendship. Bordering on grounds of personal sobriety, i put forward this amicable gesture in front of you. In eager anticipation of a speedy response from your side. WANNA B FRIENDS????

I am unyielding when it comes to the scraps sent to be my those who have their hormones surging to titanic proportions. My firm resolve is that I will erase the rubble of futile amorous scraps from my book at their first signs. Since you stood your ground on the borders of sobriety, I will just take one step past it: Get a life moron!

hey u ve been voted 80% sexy... tht qualifies u to ve a chat wid me... n then if i feel tht u ve somethin more than just a pretty face.... i might give u a chance to think over the whole "um nt much into making "fraandshaps" wid random ppl" thingy...

I grab every opportunity with both hands. In addition to random people, I have also added Beauty Pageant judges to the list.

hello. i am vary alone boy and i am looking for desent frandchip in this materilistic worlds...i am hopes u will not say no to me as i am ables to be vary gud frands. if u saus yes then meat me at emceedonalds (mcdonalds) at the seaview

Cum too emceedonalds and meat the barger. Sertainlee, do reech by time.

Hi me very friendly boy wanting to make ispecial fradship with you!...
I read your profile and me very impressed with your thinking you are modern and nice and very good brain....me a good salary making boy living with my mother. people say that me very good looking and friendly and having gr8 personality..........plzz be my friend i will be very nice to you .....mother swear!!!..........plz makin special frandship with me!!!

I live with my mother and she has told me NOT TO TALK TO STRANGERS. Mother Swear! I can't disobey her.

u have already lots of friend and u have no love ooooooh very bad

u don't even seem to be having friends. oooh very bad. help yourself first. (The girl changed her name to Savitri from Kashmira, her age to 37 and relationship status to married with kids)

I just go trhugh ur profile and its reely intrusting an the thing is i wanna hilight in ur profile is ur frandly aitiude t0 ur frands so keeps it up :) and profile of u is sumway comun to myne one :) so can we be the sharing sum gud lines of comun intrusts if u dont mand ?? and yeahhhhhhhhhhhh 1 more similar things i.e. ur handswrittung in ur profile is 2 gud !!! evun i do !!! any of way just drop a lil scrap for me !! tczzz enjwoy life and keep smilung

Dropped. The scrap as well as you.

So my dear fraands, I hope you were as entertained as I was when I wrote this. Do leave some of your own favourite worst pick up lines and alternative replies if you have any.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Where is the Love?

What's wrong with the world mama?
People living like aint got no mamas
I think the whole worlds addicted to the drama
Only attracted to the things that bring you trauma
Overseas yeah we tryin to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin
In the USA the big CIA the Bloodz and the Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And if you hatin you're bound to get irate
Yeah madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates
You gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love y'all

People killing people dying
Children hurtin you hear them crying
Can you practice what you preach
Would you turn the other cheek?
Father Father Father help us
Send some guidance from above
Cause people got me got me questioning
Where is the love?

It just ain't the same all ways have changed
New days are strange is the world the insane?
If love and peace so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don't belong
Nations dropping bombs
Chemical gases filling lungs of little ones
With ongoing suffering
As the youth die young
So ask yourself is the loving really strong?
So I can ask myself really what is going wrong
With this world that we living in
People keep on giving in
Makin wrong decisions
Only visions of them livin and
Not respecting each other
Deny thy brother
The wars' going on but the reasons' undercover
The truth is kept secret
Swept under the rug
If you never know truth
Then you never know love
Where's the love y'all?(I don't know)
Where's the truth y'all?(I don't know)
Where's the love y'all?

People killing people dying
Children hurtin you hear them crying
Can practice what you preach
Would you turn the other cheek?
Father father father help us
Send some guidance from above
Cause people got me got me questioning
Where is the love?

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I'm getting older y'all people get colder
Most of us only care about money makin
Selfishness got us followin the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting their young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what the see in the cinema
Whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love, we're spreading anomosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feeling under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feeling down
It's no wonder why sometimes I'm feeling under
I gotta keep my faith alive, until love is found

People killing people dying
Children hurtin you hear them crying
Can you practice what you preach
Would you turn the other cheek?
Father Father Father help us
Send some guidance from above
Cause people got me got me questioning
Where is the love?

- Black Eyed Peas, 2004

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Photographer's Confession

There are different reasons why people smile- a dish well cooked, a painting beautifully coloured, an exam written successfully, an imminent threat averted and many more. For me, however, there are two things which can give me an immense amount of pleasure and satisfaction, more than any other possible. The first is writing, the second photography, not necessarily in that order. Of course, there are other momentary delights too, but then the two I have mentioned here are generally independent of factors(barring the laptop and the camera) around me, which makes them special. I will give priority to the photography in this blog entry though.

I love the digital camera. I could not have imagined clicking so many pictures of objects of nearly no consequence if I still had a film-based camera. Many professionals might think otherwise, saying no digital camera can match a film camera in performance, but then, photography was only revived because of its digitization. Now you can not only preserve insignificant objects in the form of pictures, but also keep trying till you get the perfect frame, without bothering about the film role getting over, or the costs of resources sky-rocketing. Moreover, modern photography has led to photo-sharing communities flourishing, giving the amateur photographer a much-needed platform to showcase his work. This would have been impossible in the previous generation.

Moving away from the debate,let's see what makes a good photograph? I don't claim to be a pro-photographer, so I will not go into the technical details of photography. For me, it's more about keeping your eyes wide open for possible objects around you which will make good photographs. Shadows (had to be), lights, animals, landscapes, reflections, insects, monuments, kids are a few of my personal favourites, although the list is endless. Once decided, the only thing you need is perseverence during the shoot and building that comfort level with your camera, while your teacher here is experience and experience alone.

My friends generally prefer photographs with people in them, but people don't have the patience to wait till I have achieved what I am looking for in the picture. Besides, people often find it unusual to pose for pictures, thinking it's only a model's job! On certain other occasions, they pose when they shouldn't. While trying to clicking a destitute boy, I was quite tired of trying to tell him not to look so happy, but he could not conceal the excitement of someone trying to shoot his picture.

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, but those words change with the person viewing it. That's the beauty of photography, express yourself, and yet, let the viewer draw his own conclusions. More often than not, the first reaction you get from people when they see a photograph is "It's good," or "Whatever is that!" or "Bravo!" or "I don't like the pic." Not many read a picture. The true appreciation of a picture is only when the viewer tries and interprets the message it conveys. So apart from seeing photographs the next time, also try listening to them, feel their pulse and in the process, open your inner eye ( no, no, I still haven't become sri sri whispering shadow nor do I want to).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shadowy Times Are Here Again

I eagerly look forward to Diwali, the festivals of light. It is an occasion where the entire family gets together to welcome the goddess of wealth into their homes, so it naturally gives you time to catch up with each other amidst the otherwise hectic routines. The shopping, sweet and savouries, candles and diyas and gifts are all an added bonus. Who doesn’t like such happening holidays? But then that’s not exactly the reason I connect with the whole affair. I love the shadows. Ok, I am sounding very abstract, so let’s analyse this a little further.

Ever wondered why I named my blog Whispering Shadow? That’s because I am enchanted by the concept of a shadow. I beg to differ from the entire community who use shadow as a synonym for darkness. With the poetic license perhaps it is acceptable to do so (read ‘Blame it on the Shadows’ on this blog), but in reality I take a different opinion on the issue.

How can something whose origin itself lies in light be compared to darkness? Their can be no shadows without light, yet darkness can flourish in such circumstances. They are so dark, yet their genesis lies in light. I think that’s what makes them special. On the other hand, darkness is a complete absence of luminance.

Apart from your name, the only thing that is associated with you permanently is your shadow. They follow you loyally, being neutral spectators to the events in your life, which takes an incredible amount of patience and persistence (especially if you are an irritating jerk :P).

Your shadow elongates and shortens during the different times of the day, but it still represents the same shape, which is your own. It shows the importance of moulding yourself with time but not losing yourself in it.

After a lot of rambling, I come back to my primary question. As explained before, the origin of shadows lies in light, and the extra radiance during the nights of the fiesta harbours them even during the hours of darkness. This Diwali, I hope that more people are captivated by them, because it is just a question of interpretation, not reputation.

Happy Diwali !!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Viva for Dummies

The word 'dummies' in the title is aimed at two kinds of people - those who don't know what a viva is and those who have been proven to be just that (i.e. a dummy) by the end of a viva. Instead of bragging on and on about the dire situations we students are put in, I thought why not churn up a mock viva right here right now, hoping to arouse some sympathy in the hearts of those who don't face such misery.

The Background:
A pair of class three students, hereby referred to as, Defendant 1 (D1) and Defendant 2 (D2) sitting in front of the teachers, who will be further known as Prosecuter 1 (P1) and Prosecuter 2 (P2) for an General Science viva. P1 is the external while P2 is the internal.

Act One and Only, Scene One:
P2: Please be seated in this order, roll number 3 on the left and roll number 4 on the right.
P1: Which are the five constituent gases of the atmosphere?
D1: Air, Gas, Oxygen, Smoke, and...
P1(to D2) : Can you give the answer?
D2: Yes sir, oxygen, nitrogen, water vapour, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.
P1: Partly correct. Give the chemical reaction by which carbon dioxide during respiration?
D1: I don't know sir.
D2: (Blank expression)
P1: You people should know. It is not good to be restricted to bookish information. It's time you start exploring the world around you. (meanwhile his cup of tea arrives)

P1: Which chapter have you studied?
D1: Sir, the flora and fauna.
D2(looks at D1 in agreement): Yes sir, the plant and animal life.
P1: Ok, tell me how many leaves can be there on a banana tree?
D1: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......
D2: I guess 8.
P1(Looks at P1 and smiles): How do you measure the age of a tree.
D1: By measuring it's height.
P1: Aapka sab concepts gol hai. You have reached class 3 and you still don't refer standard text books. D1,do you know the answer.
D2: We can cut the tree and then count the rings seen on the big branch on which the tree stands.
P1: What is the big branch?
D1: Sir I know. Can I answer please.
P1: No wait.
D2: It is called the bark.
P1: Bark? Are you certain? What is the difference between the bark and the trunk?
D2: (realising he said the wrong thing) Oh sorry, I just got a little mixed up.
( D2 giving the 'oh yeah, now I remember' look)
P1: Mixed up, bhagwaan jaane tum log ka kya hoga. I am sure P2 no tumhe aise nahin sikhaya hoga, nahin to sab students unka lectures thodi baithte. Madam (looking at P2) do you want to ask them anything?
P2: Ok, just tell me which class of species does the frog belong to?
D1: Reptile
D2: Amphibian.
P2: Thank god someone answered. I told you the General Science viva is not a joke. Ok you can go.

Act One and only, Scene two:
(Students emerge from the room and crowds gather around them)
DX: Kya poocha?
D1: Vaat hai yaar. Lagta hai fail ho jaaoonga.
D2: Bahut kuchh poocha lekin ek bhi answer sure nahin tha. Pata nahin kya marks degi. Saala kameena examiner.


....And then the story repeats. The later you go, the more the reactions you hear and the more tense you get. In the end, the viva voce always stay true to its nature and maintains the element of shock and surprise! No wonder students are left bedazzled saying to themselves - 'Maine uskaa kya bigaada tha.'

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ennui

By now, I should have stopped cribbing about the routine of engineering life. In fact, I should have become comfortably numb. My feelings for vast portions of what comprises an MU students life are anaesthetised. Whatever agony remains is stimulated by a fine mix of incredulous ideologies of college and an ocean of endless submissions.

My college has been special at times, bizzare at others, when it comes to taking policy decisions. The so-called 'think-tank' thinks and also apparently makes decisions for the betterment of students, but the most unfortunate part is that it is in the wrong direction. The whole thought process is progressively degrading. The kind of trust, or rather, the lack of it, in the college's students has grown over the past 3 years and has reached titanic proportions this time on.

There is no emphasis on students' feedback. The measures which have been taken so far have only estranged students further from the idea of discussing their problems with the management. The worst part about the college right now is, there is the college, and there are the student, but then there is no synergy between the two.

My writing this doesn't make any sense though, because even if every student in college expressed displeasure over what is happening, the college is still not going to take any corrective action. So I guess I will have to become numb to this bit of my college life too - Expectations.

Talking of writing, I have been doing a lot of it, as all my other friends and associates at college. Sometimes you feel you have done it all, and then from no where, another assignment pops up its ugly head, or the squeaky printer from the lab calls for another visit. Why are we still doing this? What do the assignments prove about the merit of the student? How is the journal a proof of what you did in the lab? Even if all this is accepted, isn't it time that teachers draw out a schedule of impending assignments and presentations to be given before hand and not leave them all for the last week (another first for me at college)?

Alas, I am bored, tired, and not looking forward to another series of tests (think-tank thought that was a brilliant idea too!), especially not when you have vivas a fortnight away and you can't find the time to touch your books. Again, not that I am not used to this cycle, however, looking at the available prospect of giving us students some respite in the form of preparation time, I wonder if those people are blind or simply sadistic.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Caught in the Cold

Ailments are many, but none trouble you as much as the simplest of all, yet the one with the potential to cause the maximum disruption in your routine – cold. There were many things happening around me last week, which I felt I should write about, but my incessant cold has beset me to such an extent that it demands the priority.

I have had two kinds of problems with this intriguing common cold virus. First of them is the sneezing fit, which I attribute more to my hyper-allergic nature than the virus itself. Staying in an environment which Mumbai offers only makes things worse. Second is of course, the issue of a blocked nose. You feel choked, heavy under and above the eyes, and are often left gaping for reasons not worth it. Worst of all, there are no medicines which guarantee a cure for cold, except time. As the adage goes, “If you take medicine, your cold will cure in a week, if you don’t it will take 7 days.”

Now I have no intentions to explain what Wikipedia can about common cold. The whole point is trying to interpret how and why is it as big a problem.

Imagine that you have planned a date with the girl who you have had a silent crush on since eons. Finally the much-awaited day arrives, but the only glitch is you have a blocked nose. Yes, it will be very romantic, interrupting the conversation by blowing away the trumpet that your nose has become every 3-4 minutes. If you want to avoid the ignominy of the situation, the option might be not to talk at all, but then rather not go on a date if it has to be a silent one. They say eyes can talk, but hello, people are looking for more these days.

Another nightmare situation is a job interview in 15 minutes and a sneezing fit which refuses to stop. “Where do you see yourself five years down the line? Achhooo…What are you looking forward to the most in this job? Achhooo… Do you want us to reschedule the interview to a later time? Achooo… It was a pleasure meeting you. We hope we can strike a conversation by the end of the day.” You have literally blown away your chances of getting a job.

Even a thing like writing an exam paper becomes very tedious if your cold has taken dominance over you. Every time you sneeze or blow your nose, it seems that all the blood supply to your brain is momentarily cut off and you again start off blank, trying to assimilate your thoughts.

I can go on and on about what a common cold can do to you. Murphy’s Law says that if things have to go wrong, they will. However, there can also be a corollary to this- If things have to go right, they surely will. So the next time, try and time the period where you catch a cold. The eventualities might not be so dire, perhaps! Atra du evarinya ono varda. (That's Elvish, whatever Paolini has taught me)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Teacher Teacher

There used to be a time when the word ‘teacher’ used to evoke a sense of admiration, respect as well as authority. Even now, it brings to mind the same emotions, but the trouble is that you don’t find someone worthy enough to call a ‘teacher’. On this teachers’ day, I pay a tribute to some of the wonderful people, who have entertained me during the three years of my engineering, who at times have made life miserable for me, and who in this process, have always tried to ‘teach’. I’ll call them teacher here on, just because of the status attached with their job and not because I associate any of the above mentioned emotions with them.

I will be doing great injustice if I say the same things for everyone. It is only fair that I categorize my teachers before talking about them. So here goes:

1>Dedicated teachers who know their subject and how it is to be taught:
This is the rarest of the rare breeds, almost nearing extinction. Out of the 30 some teachers that I have had, barely 2 qualify in this category which explains what I mean. These teachers exemplify the archaic definition of teaching. They are the types for who teaching full of ideas rather than stuff it with facts. They are updated with trends and want their students the best in the lot. They are the ones because of whom the tradition of teaching lives on.
I Say: Thank you.

2>Dedicated teachers who know their subject but don’t know how it is to be taught:
These teachers are masters of their subject, but generally don’t know how to connect with the students. Sometimes, it is the lack of proper communication skills, at other times, lack of control over the students. They don’t make learning fun, though they are of good help when handled individually and with some background knowledge of the topic.
I Say: Not bad, but innovate and improvise.

3>Exam-oriented teachers who don’t know the subject but can teach well:
They are the ones who are your ladder to scoring more in exams. Their in-depth analysis of how to score well in papers supersedes the need of in-depth knowledge in the subjects in a university like ours. They, on most occasions, strike a chord with students and use tests and assignments as a tool of helping students prepare better for exams, rather than mere 25 marks of term work. Students sometimes prefer type 3 over type 1, for their sheer disinterest in concepts.
I Say: No one's complaining. Something’s better than nothing.

4>Teachers who don’t know anything and can’t teach:
This is the most abundant variety. For them, teaching is reading out from a text book, or may be, making notes from another senior’s book and dictating them during lectures. Their sole motive behind taking lectures is to spend time and get salaries. If students bug them, they are always ready with weapons of mass assault, like extra assignments, tantrums during submission, test and re-test, mock viva, etc. Their lectures are the most ideal lectures to bunk, unless your luck is so bad that they happen to be very particular about attendance too.
I Say: You are not welcome in class. Why even bother to teach when the students can manage themselves?

5>Teachers who know the subject, can teach but have big egos and heaps of attitude:
These are mutations in the fraternity of teachers- Masters of their subjects. They feel it is against their pride to get down to the level of their students to simplify things for them. They are the ones who care as much of students as Queen Antoinette did about her people. They expect miracles, without putting in any inputs and like making things difficult for the students, when there is always an easier and better way out.
I Say: God bless students who have to bear their brunt.

To conclude, I have compiled a potpourri of quotes by great academicians.The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. Today, however, a teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. There’s nothing happy about teacher’s day.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Chronicles of Matheran: the monkey, the road and the poo

There is rarely a time when you hear the alarm ring at 4:00 AM in the morning and wake up to do something more than just turning it off. At least for night birds like me, it is pretty close to impossible. Exceptions to this case are times when you have something extremely exciting up your sleeve and the thought drives all the lethargy and sleep away. On last Monday, it was truly the latter because on that day, Matheran beckoned. Yes, I was up and raring to go at the break of dawn.

Ting-tong, "CST se Karjat jaane waali 5:53 ki dheemi local platform kramank ek par aa rahi hai." In no time, we found ourselves at Ghatkopar station, waiting for our train. Wait, when did I become we? My bunch of trekkers included a geek G, a topper T, a bubbly chirpy animal (strictly metaphorical) B, the youngest youngling Y, the mean M (Hindu astrology) and a makeshift Supandi that was, S. Here on I will only use the alphabets to refer to my fellow trekkers, in case I am forced to, not for reasons of discretion, but filling in more space with what we did, rather than who did what.

Traveling by local trains had never been so comfortable. There were enough seats for each one of us to go to sleep on. Initially, we spent a lot of time actually waking up and shooing the yawns away. The pleasant breeze contributed to the cause further. One hour into the trip, we finally looked like a bunch of noisy, energetic picnickers. That look also got the attention of uninvited visitors- the people who make the locals their homes every night. Initially they asked us for money, we refused and the left. But later, when we opened up our breakfast, some of them had the audacity to ask us for an entire plate of snacks, and oh my, they were so adamant that they stood there staring at us for a good 20 minutes. We gave the kids something to it, but then put a full stop on community service because we needed enough supplies to last the day.

Neral arrived in around an hour and a half. We could already feel the freshness in the air. We had a quick meeting to discuss the best route to Matheran along with the much awaited pee-breaks. Weighing our experience and stamina levels and the suggestions given to us by the locals, we chose to walk along the road, and bypass it wherever the jungles permitted (we underestimated the jungles). We were told it is a 6km trek.

It was time for a quick resource check, water, food, first aid kit, cameras, wind-cheaters, emergency medicines, all were in place. Putting on our respective hats, caps, glares, we finally were set to begin the trek.

The first impression we got was that the place had only two things, horse and horse poo. It was the repeated spotting of the poo that the group unanimously agreed to sing a birthday song for the a person who steps on the cake, the dung cake. As we moved on however, there were other things that took over.

The waterfalls and streams crossed our route on many occasions. We made it a point to stop over and freshen up wherever we could. On one of those, my dear friends decided to play a prank on me. The got me in striking range and then all of them with all their strength splashed as much water on me as possible. Freshening up is cool but I didn’t want to freshen up so soon after just having gotten out of the fall and dried myself.

We decided to cut across the road through the jungle once closer to the beginning, but were all itchy in around 10 minutes because of the thick undergrowth that lay scattered. We decided it wasn’t a wise choice. Another problem was that finding our way through the jungle was impossible without someone who already knew the path.
We had our share of encounters with animals, domestic and wild. I already mentioned the horses. We spotted cows and goats grazing on the slopes. We had a companion during a small stretch of the journey in the form of a dog. It didn’t look in great shape but followed instructions to the tee considering that we had barely known it for 15-20 minutes. Nonetheless, the animal that completely got us in frenzy was this monkey.

We were half way through at this stage. Walking along the road bordered by a narrow railing, we saw a few monkeys. We ignored them, but it wasn’t vice-versa. There was a monkey who I’m going to call Mawali here on. Mawali was particularly large in size and had a rogue like look on his face. The six of us were walking in pairs. Suddenly Mr. Mawali started trailing us. We still didn’t pay it much attention and continued to look the way. It suddenly caught up with T and B. They decided to put G in the firing line. As manly as he was, he tried to remain unperturbed, but then Mawali got the better of him. It pulled G’s wind-cheater first and then, when G threatened it with a pebble, he chased G. We never knew G could run so fast!! A timely screech by B scared Mawali off. Now, when I think about it, the whole incident makes me smile, but back then, I was so freaked out.

We took breaks at a tremendous rate, once every 500m. We stopped to click snaps whenever and wherever we could. We clicked everything covering the valleys, the trail, the jungle, the hills and the creatures (both primitive and modern, social and asocial). We stopped once in a while for a quick snack (not that we didn’t eat while we ambled along).

We also took breaks to get our breath back. Our lazy bones and weak muscles are not used to so much exertion. It was a little worse because some of us weren’t in good health but considering our past records, it wasn’t bad at all. At the later stages of the trek, I was beginning to wonder if we were taking breaks between walking or walking between breaks.

The Chronicles of Matheran: the food, the lake and the horse-ride

We reached Dasturi chowk, the entry point to the hill station. Whoever told us it was 6 km should have been shot dead because the sign board there showed Neral was 9 km downhill. We were so hungry that at that time, the only thing that was on our mind was lunch, so we delayed the shooting bit to a while later.

We found a reasonably decent restaurant and got ourselves something to eat. Dal fry and jeera rice never tasted so good before. All the time we ate, we had to be on the lookout for the monkeys, because they were all over the place and trying to find a way into the restaurant. We were over-conscious after having under-estimated Mawali. With our stomachs full, we reconsidered our plans with regards to what were we going to do while in Matheran keeping in mind the time we had on our hands.

We decided we will walk it up to Charlotte lake which was another 4 km from where we currently where. This time we took the mini-train track leading to bazaar peth and from there on the jungle trail on a trodden path. It wasn’t as difficult as walking on a cemented road was. Besides, the shade that the forest provided was another plus.

Charlotte lake wasn’t very tough to find, though we had our share of arguments on which way to take at times. The lake was serene. The forest had given it a green tinge. The water-fall emanating from the lake was a breathtaking sight. A peak faced it on the opposite end, its outline shimmering under the sun that was soon going to set behind it. We just sat there appreciating the beauty of nature. Anyways, we didn’t have enough strength left to talk or run around. There were a few very special moments, which made it all the more fun for others who weren’t a part of it. If you didn’t understand, forget it, you weren’t meant to.

In the end, we walked back to bazaar peth and from there decided to take the horse. Our legs were too tired to carry our weight back till Dasturi chowk from where we could get a cab. I haven’t had the pleasure of riding a horse before. It didn’t look very easy in the beginning but we got over our fears with time and managed to trot our way back to the chowk. How can I forget? Someone also felt a lot closer to God then.

We were back at the station by 6.15PM for a 6:38 local. With the spare time, we clicked the last few pictures of the outing. Five minutes before the scheduled arrival, M and Y realized they had misplaced their tickets, so the reliable G ran to get them a quick replacement. We made it in time for the train. Had we missed this one, we would have had to wait for a good hour before seeing a local to the city again.

We reached home in two hours and hit our bed as soon as possible to brace ourselves for the working day that followed. The next day, we all had bruised feet, tired legs, stiff backs, stiffer butts (thanks to the saddles) but revitalized minds and uplifted spirits, so the pain didn’t matter much. There’s nothing as invigorating as a trek, especially when it’s with your closest chums.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

60 Years : Age of Retirement?


The age of 60 is when most people retire in our country. It represents a change in life from the 9-5 routine to the 5-9 routine. Nonetheless, in the current context, when I say 60, I am not talking about the age of an individual and when I say retirement, I don't mean to imply retirement in the true sense. I am referring to the age of an independent India and the withdrawal of the rusty mindset that chains dynamism and the progress of a budding nation.

The average age of politicians in India is way above the world average. Yes, we have a stable government, unlike majority of our neighbours and we are a very strong democracy, but is the current governance truly the epitome of the axiom ‘of the people, by the people, for the people?’

We still have politicians who came first on stage during the freedom struggle. With all due respect to their efforts, the big question remains whether their vision is still coherent with the needs of a rapidly developing economy. We are taught the new economic policies of Liberalisation, Globalisation and Privatisation, but they are surely not the only thing a nation needs to become a developed country from a developing one.

Having reached the latter end of my education, I can illustrate the above argument by quoting the state of the education system in India. You and I are among the more fortunate bunch to have received no less than the basic educational qualifications. But still, when we look at the larger picture, we know how much industrial value our degrees hold in the job market.

One of my friends asked her interviewer, which subjects she should focus her attention on in case she secured the job, and the blunt reply she got was “nothing, your courses are far too out-dated to satisfy the requirements of our company.” Our education system is content with producing graduates who are more into services and support rather than core research and development. If that is the case, we have no right to complain about the issue of “Brain-Drain.”

A revolution in the education system, or for that, any structure, cannot be brought about by people who haven’t sensed the nerve of the problem. The stimulus of reform will come by if we have educated people who set the right goals first and then adopt progressive means to achieve them.

We have young open-minded politicians entering the governance of the country, but their numbers can be counted on fingers. We as the youth of today have to take initiative. By initiative, I don’t mean we must all join politics. Feeding a hungry child might prevent him from resorting to begging, cleaning up a beach with your college mates will show a sense of civic responsibility, formation of citizen’s forums will assist municipalities to serve the area better, the list is endless. It is just that someone has to take the toughest step – to begin.

How many of us will celebrate Independence Day for what it is? Rather, how many of us only take it as a welcome mid-week break? I know I do the latter, but I also know that if that is the scenario, I don’t have the right to crib about the flaws of our motherland.

No state is perfect, but we can definitely strive to move an inch closer to perfection. In that journey, we have to keep in mind, that a nation is only as perfect as its people. On this 15th August, think about it. Happy holidaying!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ouch!

Trips to the dentist can be rarely classified as happy memories. I have had many experiences on that ominous mechanised chair, but few match the gory nature of the one which follows in the coming lines. Read further if you don't mind it getting a little disgusting at times, but then I have spiced it up enough to make it entertaining.

There are a few things, looking at which, you can't help but ask yourself the question - "What is the reason for its existence?" A Wisdom tooth is definitely one of them. What's the wisdom behind having a tooth which serves no real purpose but adds to your agony (not always though in most cases)! To top it all, you don't have one, but four whole wisdom teeth. Besides, a completely unrelated query comes to my head when I write this. Does any one know why it is called a 'wisdom' tooth out of all things?

Mine too had been contributing to my share of problems. Mine was indented beyond repair, so it left my dear dentist with no option but to extract it. The appointment was fixed with a dental surgeon. She had a nice name, and a nicer voice, so I thought a pretty doctor won't do any harm when your stuck in a mess.

Fast forward. I am sitting on the dentist chair. I see this extremely stern looking yet dignified post-menopausal lady who has just told me "Don't shake. It'll just prick a little" with a long metallic syringe in her right hand. Just another injection I thought, can't hurt so much. She gave one prick, another a few milliseconds later and one more after that. I began to wonder if it was only the tooth she was extracting or was there more to it. She proved the latter right in a way, but my pat interruption and clarification prevented her from extracting the upper tooth as well. In the meanwhile, my cheek and lips had begun to grow heavy and numb.

She said "Just sit back and relax now." I wouldn't have minded this coming from a masseur, but when a dentist says this, you should know what's coming. She took up a swab dipped in some terrible smelling tincture that smelled like a mix of a disinfectant and urine and cleaned, or should I say, mopped my mouth. More swabs followed later, albeit this time, without the stenchful liquid, and completely choked the little movement of my tongue which was possible.

I didn't realise that what would follow was a lot worse. The primary tool (call it weapon) was a drill-like device which made a loud buzzing noise. She put it in my mouth, and all I could sense was it vibrating violently and making screeching noises. I wonder what would it had been without the anaesthesia and really didn't mind the needle punctures.

Showing the typical stubbornness of a Taurean, my tooth refused to cooperate and I felt she had to take extreme measures. Following the Divide and Rule policy, she kept taking out pieces of my tooth every now and then. The root was especially tough and at one point, the drill bit just got stuck and popped out of the motored unit. Seeing something like a screw driver stuck in your mouth can give any normal person the heebie-jeebies. She manoeuvred the bit out in sometime and decided to use something like forceps to dig the remain portions out.

It was over at last I thought, but alas, I was so wrong. A needle and thread and some dexterous suturing followed. It wasn't all that painful considering what I had gone through but then I always feel that stitching is meant for clothes.

In the end, she added more instructions: "You will have to bite and hold this swab in your mouth for an hour till the bleeding stops completely. Apply ice intermittently. Your face is likely to swell. You can't eat solid food today at least, though cold milkshakes and ice-creams are allowed." If she hadn't said that last bit, I would have felt a lot worse, being a complete foodie.

I know death is painful, but I really pray I don't end my journey the way my wisdom tooth did. May it rest in pieces and let me be at peace.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The End of an Era



It was the day every Potter fan was waiting for - 21st July, release of the seventh and last installment of the series which many in our generation have grown up with. Having read the book now, I would like to issue a warning that this blog entry might turn out to be a bit of a spoiler, so go further if you don’t mind bits and pieces of the story being thrown open to you.

Jo Rowling couldn’t have thought of a better finale than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The entire story is so well narrated that you really can’t let go off the book once you begin. Unlike the previous books, this book as expected, is darker and moves at a expeditious pace.

I made my share of predictions in the Potter-o-logy article. Introspecting on where I went right and here I went wrong, here’s a brief summary:
1>Harry is the chosen one and he survives. I was on the spot there..
2>The Horcruxes were pretty much on target, except I missed out on Ravenclaw’s Tiara and Harry himself. As far as the latter goes, things were a lot different in the book because Harry now had the deathly hallows’ stone of resurrection with him.
3>Snape was on the good side all throughout. In fact, he turned out to be one of the best loyalists of Dumbledore himself.
4>Dumbledore was dead. I believed he would come back, but even though he physically did not show up anywhere in the book, he gave help throughout, through Snape and later in the chapter King’s Cross.
5>Grawp and the two-way mirror played important roles, thought not as big as I thought they would be.
6>The invisibility cloak was significant, because it was what got them to believe that the Hallows weren’t pieces of Xenophilius Lovegood’s imagination.

There are parts in the book where there is death and despair unlike any witnessed so far in the series. Nonetheless, all the way along, there is a sense of belief and reader’s kind now begin to understand the whole ‘power of love’ business which Dumbledore kept stressing on time and again.

All in all, a befitting end to a story that I had become obsessed with for quite a few years. As a Potter maniac,I am elated that Harry indeed turned out to be “the-boy-who-lived” at the end of the series but then somewhere down inside, I know that there’ll be no more magic to look forward too.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wild and Free


“’cause I want to live like animals
Careless and free like animals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
The wind in my hair and the sand at my feet”


When Savage Garden came up with this song, I really am not sure what their inspiration was. But yes, the song makes you want to break free. No, unlike my last blog entry, this time I don’t want to be an animal. Through this, I pay a tribute to all those people who epitomise the spirit of this song.



It is a result of efforts of these people that we still have a lot of creatures walking with men into the 21st century in spite of man’s mindless and self-centred growth. Yes, I am talking of the wild-life experts, film-makers and environmentalists.

Personally, I was not as much a nature lover till I got hooked to all the channels which showcase riveting documentaries. A lot of time I spent in front of the idiot box is with the Irwins, Corwins and Attenborroughs. Perhaps, in this case the idiot box proved of a more productive use than otherwise.

There’s so much to learn from them. The situation was quite hopeless when they started off with their efforts. The only reason they have succeeded in their cause is that they were resolute. It is heart warming seeing Irwin’s children continuing to contribute to their dad’s dream, despite the fact that he was killed by an animal himself. The passion that emanated from his work is nothing less than inspiring.

The direct consequence of this is, having educated ignorant people like me and inculcating in me a passion for animals. The fear of animals has been replaced by a new found respect for the species who share our planet.

Nonetheless, I am still appalled to see that so little is being done in our country for animals. Stray dogs are abused on a regular basis, cattle is transported and placed in inhospitable and cruel environments, the big cats are killed for the hide and elephants, rhinos and hippos for the ivory.

Good work is being done in our country by a few individuals and organisations, but until the masses remain passive and unperturbed by what is happening to their environment and habitats of other creatures around them, not much can change!

“Compassion in the jungle
Compassion in your hands yeah
Would you like to make a run for it
Would you like to take my hand yeah”

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Just Kidding

When you were one, perhaps the only thing that mattered to you was a nice siesta. All you had to do is just sleep, eat, and then sleep again. Say a little bit of dida and momma in your tongue and not bother about the syntax of the language. A little later, the latest toy became the obsession.

You then moved on to school. Education then was a lot different than what it is now-a- days, whether you coloured the giraffe purple or green, it really didn’t matter. There was no protocol to follow, not many rules to abide by, except the rationing of the television viewing time, based on intense negotiations with mummy dearest. Most young lads would express their desires to become pilots by profession when they wrote their first few compositions and they had the belief in them that it was a realistic goal.

You could cry when in pain, without having to feel embarrassed about it. You could dance in the rain and you would not have to straighten up, when you see a pedestrian staring at you. You could crack stupid jokes and laugh at the silliest of things, because a good sense of humour didn’t matter.

Marks were important, well you always had an incentive to score back then, though it was only something as small as your favorite pair of shoes or a box of chocolates. A scolding by your teachers was sufficient to get you back on track whenever you lost focus. How your body odour would offend your childhood sweetheart never was an issue, nor was saving pocket money for that special date.

Most of all, there were no strings attached. Deadlines could come and go, like the rains, but who really cared?? It was your world, your impenetrable bubble of joy.



A few years later, you reach the threshold of adulthood and the bubble just bursts. Not that there is no happiness in life now, but now there’s a price to pay, burdens to bear and risks to take. You realize the whole story of a fairy taking your pains away was a sham, just another placebo! Materialism takes a grip over you. You now have to follow the norms of the society to be accepted by it. Job, money, relationships and family commitments, politics and hypocrisy - Life all of a sudden seems more complicated than ever!

Ironically, you ponder, homework wasn’t that bad after all! The only thing you desperately want now is your childhood.

PS: A beautiful ghazal that comes into my mind when I think of the topic:

“Woh daulat bhi le lo, woh shaurat bhi le lo, magar mujhko lautado, bachpan ka sawaan, woh kagaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani, woh bhudiye jisse bachche kehte the nani…”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fasten your Seat Belts


“Sir, would you prefer a window or an isle seat?” the lady at the check-in desk asked me, and a smile crossed my face. “Window,” I said. I have flown so many times before but the silly fascination of sitting on the window seat watching the action out of those tiny vacuumed glass cubes remains unchanged from what it was when I took my first flight. An airplane always brings back the kid in me.

I especially was not going to miss this opportunity because, it was late afternoon, and this is the time when you get the best view. After the security checks and a cup of coffee, I boarded the plane. As always, I was as eager as the maintenance engineer to find out what was happening in that open turbine cabinet and the hydraulic shafts and kept catching glances from the corner of my eye.

I so hate waiting in anticipation of a good co-passenger. So far, on most occasions I have been unable to find that vivacious person with whom you can strike an interesting conversation during the course of the flight to save yourself and hopefully, him or her from the boredom of flying. Reading is always the redeemer. This time though, to my surprise, the two seats besides me were empty. I thought rather not have a companion than having an unpleasant one! Life isn’t binary after all.

The safety demonstration and instructions got the “yeah, yeah, we have heard that before” looks from most passengers. In the meanwhile it felt like the plane had been taking rounds of the around the take-off strip for ever. I was beginning to get bored.

Finally that loud roar of the engines, the rudders sloping downwards and the wings raised a notch above the horizontal like a bird taking off, my surroundings appeared to be sliding backwards at a rapid pace and I was soon (my chronograph showed 35 seconds) off the ground after what felt like mild tremors.

Now coming to the point why I am writing the blog? I am sure everyone has traveled by air before and I shouldn’t be bothering you with tit-bits you already know. I am going to describe to you what I saw.

As the plane grew in altitude, I saw the most amazing view of Mumbai and its coastline. Cars looking like ants and local trains like serpents in a maze. It looked like on of those images you see on Google Earth, but way better in clarity. The cabin in-charge has mentioned that photography is prohibited, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a few photographs in.

As we moved higher, all we could see below is clouds stretched over the blue sky, like ice-bergs drifting in the ocean. It was breath-taking. On the clouds, I spotted the reflection of my plane, and realized how big the cloud actually must be in contrast to the plane. Besides, like the cherry on the cake, we even sighted a rainbow. I so wish I could push open the glass windows so that I could actually capture that sight, but sigh, it wasn’t possible.

But nonetheless, it gave me some more pass time in the plane in the form of writing this entry. Hope I have a safe landing. Bon Voyage to all my engineering pals who are traveling out of town this vacation!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ban-ned Wagon and Crazy Party-ing

Ban Orkut. Ban Valentine's day. Ban this. Ban that. After all, freedom of expression is only theoretical. It's the fundamentalists who control the actual nature of our democracy. I don't think any of are unfamiliar with these agitations? Shiv Sena. Rings a bell?

Even more hilarious was the recent movement to rename Bombay Blues to Mumbai Blues. Like poet's have a poetic license, entrepreneur's surely do have the right to name their ventures at least! Besides, Bombay Blues is quite a name in dining. It's like asking the Indian National Congress to change their name to Bharatiya Rashtriya Parishad.

Knowing how jobless Shiv Sainiks are at present, and how much I love giving advice when it is not asked for, here are a few more suggestions to keep them busy, keeping in mind their calibre.

1>Rename Indian Idol to Bharatiya Idol. Sinful showing videsi names on national television.
2>Make sure all names are written in Marathi too on hoardings and magazine covers.
3>Renaming Nightclubs, red light - laal batti, velocity-gatti, poison-zeher..that will make things a lot more swadesi!
4>Any one abusing in English should be abused back in Marathi.
5>Starting new day's like, Marathi Manus divas (Maharashtra day ain't what we want)
6>How about rapping in Marathi?! Any takers??

These are of course some of the many things which we can expect our responsible political parties to do, once most of them stop doing bigger things, like triggering riots by coming up with policies as brilliant as reservations.

Oh no, they also come up with something better. India shining? Yeah, as if we didn't know. But why are they claiming they were the reason. Tube-lights, these people. May be that's why they kept showing off the name of the party between every few clips. The Indian people as usual, did nothing. A bunch of 795 intelligent leaders in that Parliament of ours did it all. Pat on their back.

It's a sad state, for us, the Indian Citizens. Freedom of expression is suppressed, freedom of choice is useless. There is no point cribbing because we are somewhere responsible, but then it does make us feel good, doesn't it? After all, that's perhaps the only game India plays well, the Blame game!

Oh that reminds me, how's that for the national sport? Hockey is in the dumps, Cricket is going that way, we need a substitute!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Potter-o-logy

I am self-confessed Potter-maniac. I am obsessed with the books and am eagerly awaiting the last instalment of the series. Since anyone and everyone is making their predictions about the end the story is going to meet, I really can't keep my big long nose out of it.


As far as Harry being a horcrux goes, it is improbable that Voldemort would want to kill Harry and destroy his horcrux. So far, we know about the following horcruxes:
1.Tom Riddle’s Diary (destroyed in Chamber of Secrets)
2.Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring (destroyed by Dumbledore in HBP)
3.The Locket (apparently destroyed by R.A.B – Regulus Black)
4.The Hufflepuff Cup (not a certainity though)
5.Nagini, the snake (again Dumbledore’s guess)
6. ????

Voldemort split his soul into seven parts of which the last part is still with him. At least for now we can be sure of the fact that Harry is not one of the 6 horcruxes Voldemort had created before he was banished. It is possible that he might be an unintentionally created Horcrux which even Voldemort doesn’t know about and in killing him, he would also destroy another part of his soul.

But somehow, this doesn’t fit in for me. Who will kill Voldemort then? Definitely not Neville, as the prophecy said “the lord will mark his equal” and we don’t need a bigger proof than Harry’s scar. Besides, the prophecy also stated “neither can live while the other survives.” Voldemort is bound to be defeated so the rumours of Harry dying will end as rumours only.

Another big thread which has been left open from the previous books is about Snape’s loyalty. Dumbledore is one of the most powerful and knowledgeable wizards ever. He having trusted and defended Snape during so many instances in the six books so far, clearly shows that Dumbledore had more than a reason too believe in him. Dumbledore can’t be as dumb, can he?

This brings me to the question “Is Dumbledore dead in the first place?” Yes, he is. Even Rowling stated that “Dumbledore is dead and he will not do a Gandalf.” Gandalf never died in LOTR. Let us no forget that there was no one who was more far-sighted than Dumbledore in the wizarding world. In order to get Voldemort to count on Snape as one of his men once again, there could have been no better way than Snape have killed the biggest threat that existed to the Dark Lord himself.

Besides, there is another catch to it. There is no mention of Dumbledore’s body in the book immediately after he is cursed by the Avada Kedavra. It is possible that Dumbledore had found a way to cheat death. If any one could, it was him. There was something mystical about falling from the North Tower. Even Dobby, the elf, had made a mention of it in the Chamber of Secrets.

We must also not forget that the unforgivable curses don’t have any effect if they are not backed by a strong desire to cause harm ( as seen when Harry tried the Crucio curse on Bellatrix in the Ministry in the Order of the Phoenix). It is possible that Snape used an unspoken charm to have killed Dumbledore which the latter had found a way to reverse.

In the case that Dumbledore is not going to return, the only reason could be his plan would have been incomplete without this sacrifice. Dumbledore would have surely been aware of how defenceless would Harry be in his absence from Hogwarts. The exact reason is something which I haven’t been able to find so far.

Two other factors which might have an important role to play are – Grawp, Hagrid’s half brother and the two-way mirror which Sirius handed over to Harry in the ministry. Rowling would not have given these things so much attention had they been of no consequence.

Before I conclude,there is one last interesting piece of info which I came across and will like to share. Ever wondered about the importance of the invisibility cloak? Why did James hand it over to Dumbledore before his death? Dumbledore had stated in the Soceror’s Stone that he doesn’t need the cloak to become invisible. Besides, there weren’t many cloaks of this kind available anywhere. Is it something which has been passing in the Gryffindor bloodline? Is Harry the heir of Gryffindor? Is the cloak possible a horcrux of someone from Gryffindor?

Guess we’ll all have to wait and watch. The excitement is killing me. The last week of July will give all the answers.

With regards to all the fake e-books making the rounds, I wonder how do people not realise they're a far cry from Rowling's style of writing. I am kind of tired of hearing "This is the real thing!" Nonetheless, they are highly amusing with their entertaining plots and melodrama and make good reads when you have absolutely nothing else to do. For instance, did you know that Dudley is a wizard? I just read it yesterday in yet another e-book of the Deathly Hallows. There’s more to it too. He goes on to become the next Dark Lord. All I’ll say is - LOL.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hogger's Paradise

Ever felt hungry? Stupid question that. Ever felt like eating out? It is a rarity that any one normal will say ‘no’ to that. Ever felt like eating out without having to burn a hole in your pocket? Now I know you are listening. But where do you find such a place? Is it the new neighbourhood restaurant? Naah. Or is it one of the ever increasing number of food franchises (Read McDonald’s, Dominos, Pizza Hut). Definitely not. It is what sets Mumbai apart as far as its reputation for a food lover’s paradise goes.

Traditionally it was the paav vada and chaiwala stalls. With time this has evolved. Now you have cuisines from all over India and in some places, from places abroad too. The streets of Mumbai have been the residence of some of the city’s finest inventors of fusion cuisines. Thought there are many places worth a mention, this entry is dedicated to my regular haunt, the ‘khau galli’ at Ghatkopar.

The moment the clock strikes 5 in the evening, a busy but boring street junction turns into one of the most happening hangout places in the suburb. An array of street vendors set up their make-shift kitchens to serve you a great variety of delectable food. Be it the paav bhaaji or the dosas, the franky or the dhabeli, the chaat or the ice-cream, the kulfi or the golas, the juice or the sweets, you name it you get it.

It might not be a great place to eat if you were one of those finicky about hygiene, but it is definitely better than many college canteens (read mine). In around 60-70 bucks, let’s stretch to a maximum of a Rs.100 note, you can come back with your appetites more than satisfied. For that much economy, you can’t make comparisons with a fine-dining restaurant.

The pride of the lane is the dosa stall. It started off with 2 people with one thick black tawa and a coal sigdi. From there on, around 2 years down the line it has multiplied into a assembly line processing structure. 8 people handling various aspects of the job – cutting the vegetables, handling the stove, putting the toppings, taking the order, serving the dosas, washing the plate and they even have a cashier!! It now has around 6 stoves on weekdays and 8 on weekends. It boasts of almost 40 combinations, with the dosa being the only thing connecting them. I guess it is definitely something for the Mumbai B-Schools, if not the IIMs, to take up as a case-study.

I can perhaps go on about each stall and its specialty, but the bigger picture here is that the lane just epitomizes the spirit of the city. Everyone has busy days, tiring work routines, but nothing cheers us up as a good meal!! I am feeling all bubbly and chirpy and now I guess you know the reason. Burrrpp.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Indecision of a Bored Mind

It has been a relatively long time since I last posted an entry on the blog. Surprisingly, I had enough to write on while my oral exams were on. Now, when I have nothing to do in the PL, I have nothing to write in my blog either. Actually it is not that I don't have anything to write, but then, the boredom is sapping away all the creativity, like a black hole.

Often I have visited this page in the last few days, clicked on the create button and ended up writing a para and shortly after, pressed ALT+F4. This entry is a collection of all those random ideas put together into one long crazy potpourri. Read ahead at your own risk.

The first one in the list, Unearthed, a brilliant reality show. For the first time I felt that it was something close to reality, throwing away all those glycerin bottles and sentimental prayers witnessed by the hidden cameras in the bed rooms. I am a documentary lover so this one had my special attention. It was about 6 budding wild-life film makers fighting it out, to make the best short film. The action keeps you on the edge of the seats. By the end of it (4 episodes flat!), I had a new found respect for these naturalists, because they make it look very easy on the show, but behind the cameras the challenges are formidable. For those interested, Unearthed II, coming soon!

Second, was an entry on hypersomnia. It is a new bug that has caught the wannabe insomniac in me. As soon as you open the book, your eyes start watering,(yes, it's without the glycerin), your head starts feeling a little dull and dizzy, and your body shows a strong desire to just fall into bed and go to sleep again. Most of the much-needed studying has been washed away in those splendid and completely mistimed hours in the dream world. I am sure I'm not the only one facing the problem, so keeping fighting till you succeed.

Sneezing was another favourite. It was my only past-time these days. Whenever I was not sleeping, I was sneezing. I wanted to write the autobiography of the common cold virus, but then decided against it, cause it might not be impressed by my prejudiced opinion and would hit back with greater vengeance.

Also featuring in one of the more memorable of the past few days was my birthday. I could have written a blog on what a perfect gift would be like, but then what's the fun when everyone ends up giving you the same present and you are not left guessing? Or perhaps, what an ideal birthday celebration should be like? Yeah, that sounded like fun, but it's highly subjective. Or the least, update my friends on what I did. Well, if they're friends, then they can always call up or chat, why put up something you'll put in a diary on public space?

The last and the one on which I had almost written a full entry was digital photography. Yes, it's something I love indulging in. Of the many times I have been terribly low and colourless, the camera has come to my rescue. Like the other day, I spent an hour clicking (or trying to click) the perfect ripple and a drop of water. Trust me, though digicams give you a free hand at the number of pictures you can click and the auto mode makes life very easy, proper photography requires quick response and highly stabilised cameras. In this department, digital cameras are far behind the high end film cameras. If not a high end film camera, perhaps I could do with a sub-SLR digicam for now since I'm still learning. But then, it does no harm to aspire higher(sly grin). (If you want to view the pictures, please visit my flickr album. )

I have reached the end of a very very random entry. I guess it is not the best one for the reader but it makes me feel a lot better. Finally I have managed to churn up something. Hurray!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Resistance and Tolerance

No, I am not talking about the resistance and tolerance that we, wannabe engineers talk about as a part of our curriculum. Nor is this one inspired by the just concluded viva session. It is truly not something to write home about. I am talking about resistance to religious intolerance.

I will take a walk down memory lane, back to my school days. I did my schooling at an Asian school in the Gulf. I am glad I was a part of the institution I was in. It wasn’t because of the teachers, nor was it the infrastructure and facilities, nor was it the amazing co-curricular and extra-curricular set-up.

It was plainly because of the cosmopolitan nature of the crowd. We had people from at least 6 different nationalities, the majority being Indians, followed in numbers by Pakistanis. There were also people from possibly all the religions which are known to me today. We had friends amongst all. When we were friends, never did the question of nationalities or religion come in. We celebrated Eid, Christmas and Diwali with the same vigour. There were no prejudices what so ever, except when it came to an India Vs. Pakistan cricket match. Even that rivalry was extremely healthy.

I don’t claim to be really good friends with every one, but then, there was a great deal of respect for one another’s beliefs and culture, and we were always open to the idea of taking back something new. This is something which I really find to be missing in India.

We boast of unity in diversity and our secular values, but do we practice what we preach? I don’t want to sound accusatory but it is a fact. I don’t think everyone is intolerant but it is something which has spread to a majority, more so, with the middle aged and elderly population.

I see my grandparents telling my 5 year old cousins, not to fight when one person hits the other and rather go and complaint to one of the elders at home. Two of their favourite lines are “You don’t have the right to punish your sibling” and “Revenge doesn’t get you anywhere”. All this is forgotten when they defend the perpetrators of the riots in Gujarat or the policeman responsible for fake encounters of Muslims. Is it hypocrisy? Or is it just the post independence mind-set? Or is it just the feeling that India means Hindutva n Hindutva alone?

I completely respect my grandparents but that really doesn’t justify mine condoning their step-brotherly treatment to fellow Indians. I’m not standing for any religion or caste. It is a sad state that we first think as Hindus or Muslims and then as Indians. The politicians just thrive by adding fuel to the fire of communism.

Gandhiji once said “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” I guess that’s where we are headed, to a world of darkness. I sincerely hope it’s otherwise. There is no good religion or bad religion; there are just good people and bad people.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The World and its 'Word'ly ways

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....

Such a utility word. It can mean your are thinking, imply you are concerned, just buy you time, fit in anywhere you don't know what to say. It all depends on how you use it and how the listener perceives it. Perhaps the most commonly utilised expression!

Today, language is filled with a multitude of such phrases. It makes the language a lot more flexible at the same time leaving something open to the creativity of the reader or listener.

The F-word, for instance, is the only word that can fit in as a noun, verb, adjective, exclamation and adverb. It has all possible forms possible in English grammar. Its potential has been exploited (and abused) to the core. The only problem being it is still a far cry from the needs of formal communication.


One such accepted word is "okay". Again used in a lot of places to imply a lot of things. Personally, an okay used anywhere but to suggest a tone of affirmation gives the vibes of disinterest.

But imagine..Wouldn't it be great if we had more of these words incorporated in our formal vocabulary.

Then, of course there are words which are a part of an individuals 'frequently used list' just like 'sheesh' is for me. I have been using it even for non-exclamatory remarks these days. Friends have accused me of being a 'sheesh'er.

Some of my favourite utility words from what my pals use are chop, badiya hai, sahi, awwwwww (thou this one has restricted applications), balls and pucao. (Will keep updating this list)

The only reason for concern is that we are losing touch with English Grammar as time passes. Not that big an issue thou. The purpose of language is communication and as far as that is served, kisko padhi hai!

Friday, April 20, 2007

New-s-ense

Today's headlines on Star News:
Aishwariya Rai and Abhishek Bachhan to tie the knot
Gere shocks the Nation by kissing Shilpa Shetty on stage
Locals in a rush to drink 'miracle' water
Young boy trapped in a manhole

Please note, everything written above is extremely mellowed down as compared to when it is said in Hindi in the most melodramatic ways possible. Coming to the point, there are a two things ironical about what I have written above -firstly, the definitions of the headlines these days and secondly, the whole joke of calling that channel Star News!

Wonder what is wrong with the mass media of our country? By no means am I generalizing this accusation for all the news channels functioning in the country. There are few who are doing a really fine job. However that doesn't shirk off the responsibilities from any of the other news channels to not do the same.

After all, they are on national television, and what they depict can have a great impact on what the people think. Perhaps, being a part of today's well-connected youth with oodles of exposure, this may look like no big deal, but I have seen illiterate people being driven in the wrong direction because of the frenzy they create.

Take for instance, the whole issue of Baba Ambedkar's statue being sabotaged. The incident occurred at only one place, but the way it was blown out of proportion, it looked as if statues had been brought down in a million places in the country. I don't need to elucidate on what happened after that.

Forget illiterate people, even the educated mass sometimes gives in to the gibberish showcased on these channels. There seems to be absolutely no distinction between the daily soaps on the entertainment channels and what is seen on a few news channels these days.

Television as a medium is such a powerful tool to generate awareness and bring the facts to the masses. There is no denying the fact that some broadcasters have handled this power with great responsibility, as seen in the Jessica Lal case or the Right to Information campaigns. However, the whole good which these channels do is negated by their counter-parts that I have discussed above.

What sells will be shown, but aren’t we capable enough of altering the taste of the viewers. Of course, no one is asking these channels to not show all the gossip and one-off eye-catching incidents, but you can’t give them more coverage than matters of greater public importance. It will be ideal if the news bulletins are restricted to the news, and the gossip to page 3 shows. The least the can do is get their priorities right. Nonetheless, that’ll be too much to ask from these commercially motivated 'news' channels. Talk of sense and sensibility!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Crossroad

Often there comes a time
When you have to make the choice
Between the roads that are perspicuously drawn
But where they lead to, is unknown.

The logic of the head
The cravings of the heart
Each as effortless to give into
Relinquishing either is equally hard too.

A path you have always wanted and deserved
The one you have trodden on before
Safe and sure, with no risk of getting lost
But is it, once again, worth the cost?

The other is a journey aboard
A ship that sails in the ocean unexplored
With new challenges, and greater danger
Are you willing to be the intrepid ranger?

The best alternative or the right one
The crossroad is hazy and vision is blurred
In darkness, when the sun sets
For enlightenment, I look up to the stars.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Overwhelmed

Have you ever put in your heart and soul in something? Have you prayed that the means meet the end? Have you ever hoped that your hard work and efforts pay off? These are the first few expectations you have of a mega-event, for which your team and you put in more than 8 hours in a day, for almost a month.

Focus '07 was all this and more and I can say with great pride that I was a part of it. The challenge was in the fact that the success of the event was not defined by the size of the audience who attend the event or whether the people were entertained. It was never meant to be that. We didn't want it to be the best symposium, we wanted it to be a class apart.

"A Thought for the Lesser Tots", a discussion based on the theme of underprivileged children, was at the heart of Focus. The purpose was to spread a message and spread it right. People preach and often don't practise. You keep watching such discussions on TV, but they are forgotten as soon as the show reaches its credits' section.

We aimed at striking a cord with the audience. When people volunteer to give their share of food to the kids in the slums nearby, or pay them a visit with one of the guests, then you know that you have reached what you start out for. Even contributing indirectly to the cause by purchasing articles made by these kids, is a decent start, if not a great one.



Personally, the joy of being able to work for a cause was unmatched. I will be lying if I say I felt very strongly for the cause when I began working for it, but with time, as I found our more about the misery in the life of these youngsters, I was working for them rather than the symposium. I guess that was what kept most of us going through those long tiring days, though, full of fun, work and unforgettable moments!

We as a team had our share of differences, in opinions as well as ideologies, but the fact that we loved the reason we were working for, besides the fact that our society was as important a part of each and everyone's life, eased out friction completely. It seemed a near impossible task in the conceptualization stage, but the team effort definitely did pay off well.

29 people, one team, one cause, and one grand event! There are few events which are etched in your life forever, and for me Focus ‘07 is definitely going to be one of them.

To know more about the event, read the report in DNA .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Placebo Effect

In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Ronald Weasley made miraculous saves to help his house win the Quidditch finals. He was under the impression that he had taken a dose of the luck potion ‘Felix Felicis’. However, that wasn’t the case and Ron was under a mere illusion. He was made to ‘believe’ he had consumed the potion.

It’s amazing what effect a person’s psychological state can have on his physical state. This was fiction but in the real world too, the power of the mind hasn’t gone unutilized. This phenomenon is called the Placebo Effect. It is defined as the psychological and/or physiological changes that result from the administration of a physiologically inert treatment.

Placebos are most widely used in the field of medicine. It’s interesting to note that placebo in Latin stands for “I will please”. Whenever a placebo is requested in a medical prescription, it simply implies a statement by the prescribing doctor that “This patient has come to me pleading for treatment which does exist or which I cannot or will not supply; I will please him b giving him something ineffectual and claiming that it’s effectual.”

Sugar pills are often given instead of medication, as pain killers and anti-depressants and they have had a proven positive effect on the patients. Many homeopathic medicines have been replaced by placebos in clinic trials and a sizable number of patients have continued to show an improvement. A few critics argue that the use of placebos is sham medicine and practitioners are misleading their patients but the medical world is still eager in expanding the sphere of treatments based on the placebo effect.

The Placebo effect has its physiological influence, but the psychological responses are even more astounding.

Arthur Anderson audited thousands of companies, and those audits gave us confidence in those companies, made them appear more stable, which, not surprisingly, made them more stable. Then, post Enron, the placebo effect disappeared. Same companies, same auditors, but suddenly those companies appeared less sturdy, which made them less sturdy.

Even the price of products in market can alter the efficacy of products to which they’re applied. In three experiments, it was shown that consumer paying a discounted price for a product derive lesser benefits from consuming this product compared to consumers who purchase and consume exactly the same product at its regular price. For example, consumers of an energy drink thought to increase mental acuity were able to solve fewer puzzles when they bought the drink at a discounted rate.

The power of placebos is also observed at home. A person watching a frightening scene in a movie will experience a sudden rush of stress hormones, even though that person knows he is in reality perfectly safe. A teddy bear may help a worried youngster get to sleep, even though a teddy bear has no intrinsic sleep-inducing qualities of its own. It is the child's mental processes, triggered by his awareness of the presence of the teddy that induces much needed sleep.

There exists a negative placebo effect too. We all play pranks, don’t we? Wait for a friend to drink a glass of water and then say to him "You didn't use THAT water did you? They found a rotting pigeon in the tank. The last person to use water from THAT tap was off sick for a week." It’s not very surprising that within a short time the poor guy who drank the perfectly normal, healthy and wholesome water will be feeling unwell! You have just turned a harmless glass of water into a negative placebo.

The human mind is capable of playing strange games. If its power is wielded in the right way, life can improve significantly. The current research on the Placebo effect is just the tip of the ice-berg. It has been neglected as compared to the conventional approaches in various fields. We’re standing at a threshold of a unique branch of human psychology. There’s a whole new dimension waiting to be explored!