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.