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Too early for tomorrow... our pet project

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Revolutions 2020

A few days back I finished reading Chetan Bhagat's latest book: Revolutions 2020. Bhagat has once again taken up a theme that affects the nation as a whole. He brazenly puts in black and white the industry that education has become in the country, hand in glove with corruption, which is a business in its own right. Some may get the feeling once in a while that he is overdoing the corruption part, in Bollywood style, but, then, that is how things run in this country.

Set in Varanasi, it tracks the highs and lows in the lives of three friends. How success or failure in early life can leave the deepest of scars in the best of friendships is beautifully portrayed. The ending leaves a good taste in the mouth, no doubt, but leaves one wondering if protagonists must always play the good Samaritan? Can we not have more characters like Balram Halwai? But then Bhagat's is a book of hope, an attempt to nudge the slumbering youth of the country into consciousness.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Up memory-lane

There was this time when I was a kid when I had asked my brother when does it become morning. He had told me that it was 2:30 am. That night in bed I kept asking my mother every few minutes if it was 2:30 already or not. My motive was to brag in the morning that I had woken up at dawn! It was only when my mother got angry at being woken up so often after what must have been a tiring day and threatened to send me out of bed did I give up and fall asleep.

Until a few years ago my brother and I had regular fights everyday. It mainly comprised one sitting over the other and punching the other mercilessly, until the role was reversed and the punched became the puncher. When we were kids and we got into one of these fights our mother used to lock my brother in the bathroom (and switched off the lights) and lock me out of the house. I remember standing outside and crying loudly when the neighbours came and enquired what was wrong.

The Bangla newspaper that we took in our house had 2 white spaces on the left and right of the masthead (as do most other newspaper mastheads). My brother and I used to put our signatures on these two spaces. But each morning we competed on who would sign on the space to the left of the masthead. Initially whoever woke up first would sign on the left and whoever woke up later would throw a tantrum. That's when our father arbitrated that we should take turns on alternate days to sign on the left. But I used to sign on the left out of turn on mischief and we used to have huge rows. Similar was the case with who would sleep on the only pillow with a Mickey Mouse pillow cover when it was decided that we would take turns.

We also had these games of counting the number of images of Ma Durga in the newspaper during the Puja season. We also counted the number of Mother Teresa images in the papers everyday in September 1997.

Then there were these psycho neighbours downstairs who thought any noise in the building was due to us jumping upstairs. They would come and complain to our parents of us disturbing them even if we were not there in the house. Our father therefore forbade us to make any noise on the floor. That is when we took some spare wool from our mother, wound it up into a spherical shape and used it as a noise-proof cricket ball. And did it bounce if you hit the deck hard! Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

I had on numerous occasions broken glasses in the house. On one occasion I had boxed the glass of our new showcase to bits because my father had not taken me to the market with him. My mother had kept me tied to the bedstead with my pair of track-suits after a sound trashing.

Today that I am away from home, away from family, these memories come gushing up memory-lane.

Friday, August 5, 2011

the end

Every time a book I am really enjoying ends, I feel that I should have read a little slower. That way it would have lasted a little longer. I had finished the Harry Potter series a year back. And now, when I have seen the last movie too, it has actually ended.

The last book was certainly not the best of the series. And the last movie is certainly not better than the book itself. Of course there are practical constraints in adapting a book into a movie. In a book, there are no limits to the number of pages that you can write. But in a movie, there is certainly a limit to the length to which you can stretch it.

But, one must just pause for a few moments and reflect upon the parallel universe that the author had so easily created in her books. A universe that the readers had no difficulty in relating to. She picked up a Dickens-ish orphan who was ill-treated by his relations, put him into a Blyton-ish boarding school, wove magic around the world, put in suspense and we had creations that were close to being thrillers. All are recipes that have enthralled readers for centuries now.

I must stand up and salute the creator. And if I was in the habit of wearing hats, I would certainly have taken it off to her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A lot of GAS

I have been a student volunteer in this workshop on Indo-US research collaborations. And at the dinner meet yesterday they had set up a panel discussion. The discussion was supposed to bring forth something concrete. But instead all people said was "We should..." and "We could..." and "We need...". They spent a hell lot of money in organising the stuff. I guess they could have funded a small project with the money they spent.

And it was all restricted to the IITs. No one bothered (or ever bothers) about an India with potential that exist beyond the IITs. If the quality of the second and third tier institutes in India is on a constant decline, it is mostly because of the step-motherly treatment they get from the governments.

However, it is hard to change the system.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Judicial Activism

It is said that the 3 pillars of a democracy are the legislature, the executive and the judiciary (some also speak of the media as the 4th pillar, but the less is spoken about it in the Indian context, the better). It was also said that in India the pillars of the legislature and the executive are broken. What stands as a hope for the common man is the judiciary.

With much fanfare, Justice Balakrishnan was appointed the first dalit Chief Justice of India some years ago. And going by his tenure one could conclude that the last pillar of the Indian democracy is also broken. First it withdrew its stance on the OBC quota issue and gave in to the government. Next it did nothing when UPA I bought out support in the Lok Sabha after the left withdrew support. Predictably, this dalit ex-CJI's kins are now facing charges for amassing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.

How about the judiciary's shoddy dealing of the Bhopal gas tragedy conviction and the Binayak Sen case?

Faith is slowly being restored to the Judiciary under CJI Kapadia. The judiciary under him is giving the governments a hard time: the CWG scam, the 2G scam, black money in tax havens, the Godhra train burning conviction, the Netai case, etc. The common man can once again turn towards the judiciary for justice.

Can all judgements passed under Balakrishnan's tenure be re-examined?

Read a related TOI article here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On the way to home

Came home for a one week mid term break. The journey by train was by and large uneventful this time as the train was bang on time.
There was this gentleman, however, who was on constant suspicion that the catering staff are not giving him his due. He deserved better food but the railways was stealing from him. Why was the railways overcharging him?
Mr. Gentleman, suppose you work in a government office. The office starts at 1000 hours and ends at 1830 hours. You go to office at 1130 hours and leave for home at 1700 hours. (Note that I am not, in the least, exaggerating.) You steal 3 hours of public time every day. 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months in a year makes it 720 hours stolen in a year. If you can steal from the government without any scruples, can the government not steal from you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


You must have heard of those talks that go on here every day (and sometimes more than one in a day). Well there was this talk by John Hopcroft (of Hopcroft-Ullman fame) the other day that people say was very nice. I don't know for sure because I was fast asleep in my room when it took place.
As if to make amends for my sleepiness I went to this French guy's talk in the evening (sorry I can not recall his name at all). He talked on Lambda Calculus (of which I knew nothing beyond the spelling), had a heavy French accent (I could not decipher half the words he spoke) and cracked a joke once in an hour (I couldn't laugh as I was too dumb to get them). And after two and a half hours of endless drawling he finally said that it was over. I had just sat through the worst talk in my life. I fell half asleep and hurriedly ran to the coffee-shop as I had a report to complete. The talk had started with around forty people in the room, but, as people could stand it no longer and trickled out, there were only five left in the end.
But there are these nice talks too. There was one on P vs NP. A professor sitting through the talk was trying very hard to stay awake but was invariably dozing off on his neighbour's shoulder. On another such occasion, a professor was nodding off and as his shoulder strained he jerked to consciousness. This happened every 5 seconds. And every time he awoke with a jerk he put on an expression that he was the most attentive listener this side of the table.
But the best show was put up by a senior professor who came in late, took a chair, closed his eyes, leaned backwards and went off to sleep. He kept nodding in his sleep, as if to agree with the speaker. He was brought to reality by his phone ringing. He went out answering the phone and never returned.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I like journeying by train. The liking is mostly due to my passion for the railways which I have nurtured since my childhood.

Among several reasons that I do not like air journeys within the country is that they are very short. Another is that the passengers are very unsocial. They tend to keep their nose high and lips pursed.

I reached Delhi by the Calcutta Rajdhani Express. Although there is always more entertainment in travelling by a sleeper class coach of a less hyped train, a Rajdhani does not always lie far behind. Take for instance the family travelling with a one and a half year old child who kept roaming the compartment on her own tugging at people's books, newspapers and laptops, all the while smiling. Then there arrived another child who always looked angry and the two children immediately took to rivalry. A lot of crying and shrieking followed of course.

Then there was a Bengali family who boarded the compartment at Dhanbad and woke up an old lady sleeping on the lower berth because she could not climb to the upper berth and immediately picked up a fight (typical of Bengalis) with the others on where to put the luggages.

But the peak of the event came at dawn. At Kanpur Junction a girl boarded the compartment and woke up the nice lady sleeping on the berth below me claiming that the berth was hers. I immediately knew where the confusion lay but chose to wait and watch. After a lot of debate and cross examination of tickets I raised my voice and asked which train did she want to board. She promptly and confidently replied, "Sealdah Rajdhani". I smugly replied that this was the Calcutta Rajdhani. The Sealdah Rajdhani would follow in 10 minutes. She hysterically cried, "O shit! o shit". But, shit or not, the train had started moving. It was left to the merciful Deputy Train Superintendent to find her an empty berth and let her travel 'ticket-less' for the rest of the journey to New Delhi.