Tuesday, January 26, 2010 0 comments

Happy Republic Day

So, am back again after another break. Tomorrow I shall start classes after a well deserved hiatus.

Anyways, one thought which always lingers in my mind is development. More specifically, I mean India’s development. I always wonder when India will become a fully developed country. Not for quite some time, at least, since it is plagued by a host of problems, most of which we are quite aware of, yet we refuse to do anything about it. If I start talking about all of them, I have to type for over 24 hours. So giving my fingers a break, I shall only focus on the major issues.

1) Overpopulation- This is the first thing that comes to my mind. Surprisingly, the Government is doing very little to curb population growth. One reason for this is, ‘More the people, the more votes we can get’ philosophy followed by many inept politicians. So let people produce more people and so on. Okay, enough of blaming the Government. Why can’t we do something about these ourselves? Everyday in the newspaper, I come across poor people who claim they cannot feed their family, comprising of 5-10 children. If you knew that you have financial problems, why on earth did you create so many children in the first place? Okay, some people will condone the poor guy, saying that he is illiterate, so he does not know about family planning. But I wonder, does one need education to understand the basic principle of ‘Short and Happy Family’? Can’t one use some common sense to realize that sustaining a large family is costly, as well as detrimental to the individual, society and the nation as a whole? Apparently not. The desire for a male child, combined with ignorance and superstition, is still the order of the day.

2) Corruption- Enough said, little done. Nothing is being done to break the nexus between criminals, politicians and law-upholders. Greed for money towers over everything else. I wonder what these people will do after siphoning so much money. Take it with them to the after-life? Eat it? Consume gallons of imported whiskey? Who knows. All we can say is that corruption has rooted itself in every section of the Indian bureaucracy. One step towards embellishing integrity, is the initiative taken by Nandan Nilekani. I am of course, speaking about the Rs. 150,000 crore Unique Identity Project.

3) Infrastructure- Even after 60 years of Independence, we have failed to establish or implement an impeccable Infrastructure design. Our roads are full of ditches and potholes, causing delays in transportation of goods(especially FMCG)- which results in losses worth millions of dollars per day. Go into any Government building, and you will be eager to get out ASAP. Not to mention the red-tapism which causes unnecessary delays. The private sector has done quite a lot, in this regard, but still the condition must be ameliorated further. Starting from schools, to hospitals, post offices and railway stations- we need a Total Refurbishment. If we even want to think of matching the Developed World Standards, ie.

4) Education- Any country which wants to get developed, must place the maximum emphasis on education and career development, especially in a country where the average age of people is quite low. But quite tragically and ironically, our country has neglected education more than any other sector(apart from maybe, health). At the beginning, the funding was abysmal. Now, the funding is there, but still little is being done. India actually has more number of educational institutes than the European Union and the USA combined, around 18,000 in number. Yet, quality-wise it lags far behind any developed country, and also many developing countries like China, which has gone light-years ahead of us as far as education is concerned. We just have a handful of colleges that provide good quality education(and they too are facing faculty shortages), and we are still following a monopolistic, unidirectional trend of education- that of engineering and management(Even in that we lag far behind compared to developed countries- No Indian institute even features in the top 100 worldwide). Whereas most of the developed countries follow an omni-directional approach, giving equal stress on Technology, Science, Research, Literature, Commerce, Law, Music, etc. In India, education is simply considered as a business. Rapacious businessmen set up colleges, since they know that most Indian students are degree-hungry. For the sake of a degree, they are glad to sacrifice everything else. I will continue discussing about education in my future posts.

5) Finally, comes the most important part- the Will. No country can get developed if its citizens refuse to participate in the development process. The trouble is, greed and poverty has acted as severe impediments for this progression. Most of the Indian citizens have not raised themselves above their self-interests for a greater cause- their country’s development. The reasons for this may be many- ranging from poverty to selfishness, to indolence. Japan was demolished after World War 2. Yet its citizens worked hard, and selflessly devoted themselves for their country. As a result, it is one of the biggest economies in the world today. Same was the case with the United States of America, and similar is the trend currently shown by China. Unfortunately, we Indians have failed to emulate this principle. We still stand divided, under the banner of nefarious political parties. We are busy accusing and blaming one another, rather than working in harmony. We like to protest, bash up people, and destroy our own national property. Our sadistic and lackadaisical nature has allowed ragging to flourish even today, in most colleges. We are busy filling up our own pockets, and backstabbing our colleagues at the same time. We claim to be united, but we fight in the name of religion, caste, sex, creed, state of origin, etc. The only reason why most of us go to school and colleges is just for a degree, and jobs, and not for learning or for gaining (and spreading) knowledge. We have not learnt to treat women on par with men, and crime continues to be rampant. Yet, we still proclaim ourselves to be righteous citizens of India.

The time for change is NOW. We must act now, for the betterment of our country, and our fellow citizens. We must learn to rise above our self interests for achieving a common goal- India’s All Around Development.

Happy Republic Day. Jai Hind!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 2 comments

A letter to an Editor

The following is a letter(email) which I wrote to an editor of CNN-IBN, in reference to an article written by her.

Respected Madam,

This is in reference to your article dated 17th January, 2010 which appeared in the ‘Hindustan Times’ newspaper.

For once, I was glad to see someone cover the ‘other’ aspect when it comes to the success of ‘3 Idiots’. You have given quite a different view, regarding the film and its impact on the modern day youth. But I would like to put my own counter-arguments for the same.

You have gone a tad too extreme when you proclaim that the film tells us that India’s system of education is idiotic, teachers are brutes, rote learning is always bad, etc. I don’t think that the film takes up such an extreme viewpoint. If you do look at it, our education system has quite a few major flaws. Personally, as an engineering student myself, I have come across very few talented or resplendent teachers who are ready to teach for a cause besides their own material gain. And most of them get into the teaching line because they don’t get a job elsewhere (a few were audacious enough to admit this fact explicitly). According to a recent newspaper report, 1 out of every 3 IIT faculty seats lies vacant. Not to speak of the other institutes.

The eminent IIT alumni you speak of, such as Nandan Nilekani, Narayan Murthy, etc have become famous not because they were IITians but because they dared to do something different from the rest, and their ideas were mostly original. You can also take the case of Chetan Bhagat or Harsha Bhogle, both IIM-A pass-outs. We know them not because they were in IIM, but because they followed their passion and came out as successful human beings(and not brainless machines) rather than following the traditional path. This is what the film is all about- Following one’s passion rather than giving in to someone else’s(parents, peers, etc) desires. This does not mean that Wildlife Photography requires no effort, or that you are better off singing songs than reading books.

In our country, every good student is encouraged to become an engineer and join IIT, even if the poor child has absolutely no interest in engineering with minimum inclination towards Science. As a result, he dislikes what he studies, and loses his faith in the education system. Over 90% of my school-mates are currently doing engineering, though I can say with perspicacity that less than 10% take any interest in their engineering subjects, simply because they were never meant to be engineers in the first place. If someone wants to do Arts or Commerce, he is looked down upon as a poor student. The main reason for this(which I feel) is that we do not have any Arts/Commerce college at par with the IITs. Why cant we have IIAs(Indian Institutes of Arts), IILs(Indian Institutes of Law), IICs(Indian Insitutes of Commerce), etc?

Moreover, I am sure you must be familiar with the contemporary trend of an average Indian male(youth). Most of the engineers(around 65%) end up taking IT jobs, irrespective of their disciplines. Thus we have a serious shortage of skilled engineers, as far as Core Engineering jobs are concerned. Moreover, the best students opt for Management and rarely do anything which is related to their engineering course. Isn’t that simply a wastage of a degree? This proves that for an average Indian student, all that matters is the degree- along with Fame of course. Nobody is bothered with obtaining knowledge. Otherwise, how can one account for the fact, that a Chemical engineer, doing an IT job, shifts into Management and finally join a Bank(for the sole reason of earning more money). If he wanted to work in a bank, why did he do engineering in the first place? (As clearly mentioned by Aamir Khan in the film).

You have pointed out quite unequivocally, that majority of the educational institutes have too few seats. Should ‘High Quality’ education be reserved for only the ‘Best of the best’ students- a miniscule minority?

I do not think that the film states, implicitly or subtly, that students should abuse their teachers, hate their books, etc. Your last sentence is somewhat fallacious as well - ‘…We are in no mood to study and delighted that idiocy is at last legitimate.’ Even the worst of the students in our college studies before the exams. I do not think that anyone wants to ‘screw’ or execrate the education system as such. The atrabiliousness in our youth is caused mainly by the fact that they do not like what they study, and as a result fail to get a job, due to inadequate skills. There is a huge gap in what we are taught (plain bookish/theoretical knowledge) in college, and what is actually required in the industry. However, very little has been done about this so far. One such initiative has been taken by Infosys to provide a Campus Training Programme for college students to bridge this gap.

What India really needs is young, dynamic entrepreneurs who are ready to follow their passion and work for a greater cause- which will act as succour for India’s economy. Whether they are from IITs or IIMs is inconsequential. Many such initiatives have been successful. To give a few examples: Mr. Car Wash(a car washing scheme), Calorie Care(for the calorie conscious), Adwallz(which advertises via Wall Coloring), Sacred Moments(distributes Puja Kits) to name a few. We need to promote innovation and creativity, something which is inconspicuous by its absence in the education system(of course there are exceptions, I know a few people who are making brilliant innovations, like cheap techniques of purifying water, saving the environment, micro-satellites, communication, etc). People who do ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking are looking down upon with disdain, rather than being encouraged. The ever increasing avarice in a rapacious lot of people, is simply promoting the rat race. Can one answer a simple question- Why do we have such a competitive MBA entrance examination(CAT), but we do not even have a national level examination for BBA? The answer is simple enough; we do not have any renowned institution for BBA. People will gladly sacrifice their interests to be a part of the rat race. No wonder we have so few Nobel Prize winners- a fact contributed to the lack of willingness of Indian Students to pursue research. After all, that is a tedious job which will not giving you instant riches, and requires loads of patience. But for an average Indian youth, all that matters is making fast bucks. The film highlights all these aspects.

Anyways, on the whole, your article made for a nice read. I am looking forward to reading more such articles in the future.

Thanking You,
Yours faithfully,
Satwinder Singh,
(3rd year Engineering student)
West Bengal.
Monday, January 11, 2010 3 comments

Short Story:Ratiocination at the Interview, Part 2

Ah, finally a question which he was waiting for. ‘For acquiring business skills and making a mark in the corporate world. For setting up his own company or organization. For helping the fellow citizens of his country with his special entrepreneurial skills. For learning about the country’s economics, investments made, mutual funds, stocks, shares, debentures, asset building, liabilities, demand-supply,etc etc,’ He repeated in his mind.

Aloud he said, ‘Cash. Cold Hard Money. An MBA is an instant shortcut to fame and earning quick bucks. And I wanna be really, really rich.’

‘What is the meaning of this, Mr. Engineer? You want to do an MBA simply to get rich and famous?’

‘Are you deaf, Mr. Interviewer? I said that perspicuously, did I not?’

‘But won’t your engineering skills be wasted in that case?’

‘What engineering skills? I don’t have any. I never wanted to do engineering in the first place. Its way too boring. Thank God those 4 horrible years of my life are over.’

‘Then why did you do engineering? You could have done something else?’

‘Simple again. I did it simply because every good student does it. Because of the degree, which has a very high demand in the industry.’

‘But if engineers don’t do engineering jobs, who will?’

‘Who cares? And quite frankly, nobody bothers. All that matters is the degree, and of course money.’

‘Anyways, let us ask you a few questions related to your academics. Electrical, in fact.’

‘Go on ahead, I have memorized as many definitions as I could.’

‘Why don’t we use a special relay in a motor car?’

‘What? Why are you asking me conceptual questions? Just ask me the definitions. Nobody has the time to bother about Why’s and Why not’s. We just study to pass in the exams and get that stupid degree.’

‘Okay, then tell me what sort of resistor should we use in refrigerators?’

‘How am I supposed to know? Go and check it yourself.’

‘Oh well. Tell me, what is the practical use of Differentiation and Integration?’

‘What? Are you out of your mind? How can those be of any practical use? Just give me a problem, and I will show you how they are done.’

‘I give up. That’s enough. It’s clear that you have only relied on rote learning, Mr. Engineer. You have absolutely no concepts.’

‘How dare you say that? Don’t you know that most engineers do they same? Simply memorize things a few days before the exam, and pass? Do you honestly believe that over 5 lakh people are interested in Fourier Transforms and Induction Motors, and Fluid Dynamics, and Operating Systems? No sir, they do it simply out of compulsion. So that they can pass, get a degree, and get some useless job which they will never like.’

‘You have been quite ingenuous to say the least, Mr. Engineer.’

‘Yes, Mr. Interviewer. I am here only because MBA is the latest fashion trend. People believe it’s cool to do an MBA, because it gives you load of money and makes you famous. Who bothers to know about Business or Economics or Finance or whatever? That junk gives me a headache. Plus, currently every engineer believes that doing an MBA is his basic right. After all, with more than 90% engineers in most Bschools, MBA has unofficially become an extension of engineering, has it not?’

‘You are right, Mr. Engineer. 95% of our students are engineers, and most of them are like you.’

‘The problem is that most students are confused. They have no idea in which direction to propel themselves. This is because they lack ambitions and the courage to follow their passion. So they just go along with the flow, doing what others are doing. Instead of doing something they will inadvertently hate, if they had just pursued their passion with dedication, they would be earning much more than by being nugatory engineers.’

‘For example, in our country, chemical engineers take up I.T. jobs, then shift to management and finally start working in a foreign bank. Now tell me, wasn’t that engineering degree simply a waste of resource?’

‘I was impressed by your frankness. We will surely look into this matter. You may leave.’

Finally, our hero leaves. He is not quite sure as to how he performed. Will he make it or will it not? Let us end this story here, and hope for the best.

Short Story: Ratiocination at the Interview, Part 1.

Okay, this is my first real attempt at writing a short story. Hope you like it.

Ratiocination at the Interview:

Characters in the story:

*-A ‘so called’ Engineer- The Main protagonist. An average engineer, whose name will be kept a secret for copyright protection.

*-The Interviewer- Again, his name will not be made visible to the reader for the same reasons as above.

*-The Second Interviewer- A so called friend of the first interviewer, who is rather too determined to take his friend’s position.

*-A Beggar- Who is actually a Soothsayer in disguise.

The story begins on a fine Monday morning. Our protagonist, Mr. Engineer gets up sharp at 6 O’clock. This is supposed to be the most important day of his life: His MBA interview. Already fed up with his short stay in an IT company, he is really anxious to join a reputed Bschool. He has prepared for this main event for the past few months. Now he is ready to deliver. He gets ready, puts on his best suit(with a matching tie), has a light breakfast and keeps all his files(with his most precious possessions- His certificates and marksheets) in order. Finally, he takes off, in his Hero Honda Motorcycle.

On the way, he stops in front of the traffic signal(which is obviously red). His interview is scheduled to start from 10am, but he is to report at the venue by 9. Suddenly, a hand grabs his back. He turns around to see a beggar dressed in rags.

‘Alms, my dear sir, please give this poor man some alms’, pleads the destitute.

‘Scram! Get away from me, you filthy idiot. You spoiled my brand new suit,’ screams our not-so-suave engineer.

‘Please sir, I haven’t eaten for three days. I have 15 kids and 2 more are on their way(twins, he is not polygamous). Please sir, have mercy.’

‘Will you get lost or should I kick you aside? Do you know how learned I am? And look at you, the only thing you have achieved is to know how to increase our population.’

‘Okay sir, I am going. No need to release your anger on a poor man. But before I go, I will give you a curse, a prediction. Today you will speak only the truth, and nothing but the truth.’ Saying this, the beggar sped off leaving her hero speechless.

‘What did that mad guy mean by that? Who cares, I must reach my destination on time.’

The Engineer does not make it on time. He is exactly 2 minutes and 27 seconds late, but such delay does not make much of a difference. He gets himself registered and proceeds upstairs for the Group Discussion(GD) round, along with 9 other aspirants. However since this story is called, ‘Ratiocination at the Interview’ and not ‘Rationcination at the GD’, we will skip this part and go straight to the interview.

Time: 2 pm.

‘Mr. Engineer, please come in,’ says a voice from inside the interview room.

Our hero steps forward, extends his hand and stumbles. Instead of handshaking the interviewer, he manages to shake his moustache.

‘I’m sorry sir, I slipped. I apologize.’

‘That’s okay, Mr. Engineer. Please have a seat.’

The engineer sits down and gives his files to the interviewer.

‘Okay, Mr. Electrical Engineer, tell us a bit about yourself,’ remarks the first interviewer after glancing through our hero’s file.

‘Sir, I am an electrical engineer but I have been working in a software company for the past one year.’

‘Hmm… Go on.’

‘I have no interest in software. Or I.T. for that matter. Its all crap, just typing bunches of redundant code, while sitting on a chair all day long, in process spoiling our eyesight as well.’

Something was wrong. This wasn’t what he intended to say, it just came out automatically.

‘If that is the case, why did you join an I.T. company in the first place?’

‘Simple, sir. For the same reason as the remaining 65% of the engineers who take up an IT job. They take an IT job because it is quite easy to get into one. The company doesn’t even test you on I.T., so almost any guy without any IT knowledge can get through. But getting a Core company job or even a PSU job is really difficult. Moreover, who wants to run around working like a slave when we can sit in a chair, and enjoy the comforts of an Air Conditioner?’

Now our hero started to panic a little. This was definitely NOT what he had wanted to say. He was actually blurting out the entire truth, instead of speaking the lies he had carefully constructed over the past few months.

‘I think you are contradicting yourself a bit, over there, Mr. Engineer. Anyways, tell us then, why do you want to do an MBA,’ the second interviewer asks.

*To be Concluded
Friday, January 8, 2010 0 comments

Advertisements: Trivial

Well, for a change, I decided to make this post a short one.

Basically, its about advertisements or ADs, in short. I will review a few of them.

Recently I saw an AD in which a model dressed in a swim-suit comes out of water(onto a beach) in a provocative manner. The AD may have been suitable for some other purpose(though that may be strictly debated) but instead the AD was about a Cement company. Now what does a cement company have in common with a model in a swim-suit? Beats me, but you can ask the makers of the AD. No doubt it was a commercial disaster.

Another such AD showed some models(Non-Indian to say the least) taking off their clothes(Dont get too excited, not all of them) in slow motion, for what you might ask? To devour a new brand of Chocolate. One gets it poured all over her mouth.
Now how are the two acts related is beyond my imagination. It sure can turn many heads, glimpsing the scantily clad models, but is it actually promoting the chocolate sales in any way? I dont think so.

And lets go to two of my fav. ADs in recent memory.

One is the Max New York Life Insurance ad. Which depicts a guy being escorted by his parents inside a train compartment. In it, an independent girl is already seated and the poor guy is mollycoddled by his parents(Watch it if you havent already- the fun element will not remain if I type it out in english). But it is genuinely funny and original, no banality involved.

Second has to be the Tata Tea 'Jago' Campaign Ads. The first one was about interviewing a so called corrupt politician and encouraging the public(esp the youth) to cast their vote.
The second one was about taking and giving bribes, a nefarious act which should be stopped. (I particularly liked the saying- 'Woh Khatein hai kyunki unhe hum khilate hai')

Both of the above ADs were plain, good and appealed directly to the audience.

Anyways, I promised to keep this short. So adios, and keep reading. Thanks...
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 2 comments

New Year Resolutions for Earth's protection.

First of all, I would like to wish a very happy New Year to all of you. Hope you forget your old worries and rejoice in the awakening of 2010.

Here is a quote- ‘ An optimist is a person who waits till midnight for the new year to begin. A pessimist is a person who waits till midnight for the previous year to end.’

Okay, as promised here is a post for the common man, the everyday citizen of India.
I am sure many of you must have made New Year Resolutions, which on every count, you will eventually break(if you don’t, that’s excellent). But here are a few things you can do, to make life better not only for you, but for millions of others. Just close your eyes, and for a few minutes only, think of the underprivileged people. Think about those destitute people who do not even get to eat 2 meals a day. Obviously just thinking will not help them, or yourself. But you can certainly act for their sake. I am not saying to go and denote loads of money to charity (most such acts are just publicity stunts), but do something which will dispel global warming and prevent extreme climate change.

Here are a few things which anyone can do:

1) Switch off the lights and fans, when you are not in the room. I know this sounds a bit too repetitive, but the thing is most people don’t do it. They think that they will return to the room after half an hour, so why bother switching off the light. Some people keep the lights turned on even in the daytime. Why not simply open the windows and take advantage of Nature’s gift instead? Pure sunlight also has many other benefits. Just by switching off the fans and lights on a daily basis, you can save a huge amount of energy (and reduce your electricity bill as well).

2) Avoid using equipments that use too much electricity. For example, Air Conditioners, Geysers, Computers, etc. Minimize their usage. Unfortunately most people keep the A.C. running throughout the day during summer, and I don’t even have to say how much time the modern day youth spends in front of the computer. In this case laptops are a tad better, if they are operated via battery. Try using alternatives for the A.C. For example, there are special cooling fans available, along with items which keep your house cool.

3) Try to minimize water wastage as well. Most of us have the habit of letting the tap water run(and get wasted) while we are brushing, shaving, etc. Moreover, an average person wastes too much water while bathing. That does not mean we should become unhygienic and stop bathing. It only means we should be a bit frugal, while consuming water. Remember, there are millions of people who do not even get clean water to drink, let alone bathe. Avoid taking long showers. Do not keep the tap open un-necessarily. If you see water over-flowing anywhere, do try to close the tap/minimize the leakage. Don’t just remain a mute spectator, thinking that it’s not your responsibility.

4) Start walking more, instead of using that motorcycle/car for every small purpose. It’s good for your health, and will also minimize pollution. Nowadays, the young people have a tendency of flaunting their possessions like bikes and cars. Many a time, they simply go off for joy rides along with their friends. This not only wastes petrol and money, but is also pernicious for the environment. Try utilizing car pools for reaching your destination. Or better still, use public transport (I know the condition, but still).

5) Finally, this is one thing which few of us bother to do. Recycling waste products. If you can’t do it yourself, distribute such waste products to the concerned Waste Management Agency in your town/city. Do not litter away trash anywhere you like, especially plastic. Moreover, try to avoid wasting paper. Most of us do not think twice before doing so. Do not buy too many copies or exercise books at once. Try to make each copy last for a long time. If your handwriting is too big, try to make it small, so that you don’t have to rush off to buy a new exercise book after every few days. Similarly, avoid wasting food and other non-durable items.

6) Donate your old clothes to the needy. Do not waste food, and eat healthy, organic materials (cultivating them will be excellent) if possible. Try planting more plants(trees), and avoid burning excessive wood during winter.

I could keep on going on and on, but its better to do things one step at a time. Start small, but carry on with what you started. If you follow the basic steps above, I can assure you that our planet will be very grateful. We can still avoid catastrophe, by doing our bit. Remember, no problem is too small or too big. There is always a solution. Do not think that the things I mentioned are too trivial, and that everyone knows them. Knowing is not enough, and as the Martial Artist Bruce Lee remarked, ‘We must do.’

Take care, citizens of India and the world. Let us join hands to make the world a better place to live in, for all.