This, that, bile, guts and wet, wet waterSuffering from an unusual (for me) ailment of having the stomach rebel against all input last week meant a keen desire to curl up and wanting to never hear the word "food" or any variants, sub or super, thereof. The mind's ability to conjure up emotive associations and cause corresponding somatic reactions in a jiffy is quite impressive. But books, movies and the World Cup diverted it some what, and I got through, didn't I?
Jun 29, 2006
Jun 17, 2006
Go.ndyaa parat aalaaThe Indian Express reports that the riveting 22 June, 1897 is marking "25 years" (see note 2), and the occasion is being marked in many a small way. I remember watching the film as a child, and was completely fascinated by the story, the acting and the narration. Infrequent repeat viewings have confirmed its status as a classic, and as the makers Nachiket and Jayoo Patwardhan mention in the news article, it was a uniquely dispassionate look at what is supposed to be the 1st assassination of a British officer in India.
The story is probably not well known outside Maharashtra, so a small summary is in order. In 1897, Poona is in the midst of an outbreak of plague, and the resulting insensitive actions by the British government causes extreme anger among the local residents. The Chapekar brothers, incensed by their actions, decide to assassinate Commissioner Rand. Their spiritual mentor is Bal Gangadhar Tilak (interestingly, the situation uncannily echoes the question of whether and to what extent Savarkar was involved in the Gandhi assassination exactly 50 years before). The deed done, the rest of the story deals with their attempts to evade arrest which is unsuccessful because of the Dravid brothers and subsequent hanging. This happened on University/Ganeshkhind Road, now an arterial road in the city and the spot (10 minutes from my home) is marked by a small memorial.
The film boasts of some wonderful acting by Sadashiv Amrapurkar as Tilak, and recognisably, Ravindra Mankani (whom I later came to know was an alumnus of COEP) as a younger Chapekar. Only today did I realise the contributions of Vijay Tendulkar and Shankar Nag as well. The only online notice of the VCD I could find is in this eBay extract and you would do well to take a look at the movie.
1. The title of this post means "Go.ndyaa is back", a reference to the codephrase employed during the murder.
2. The timing of this news article is a little suspect for if the movie was made in 1979, it would be either 26 or 27 years old and not 25. Perhaps this has more to do with the producers of the VCD finding publicity obliquely.
Jun 14, 2006
"And now for something out of the syllabus..."About five months, I was "commissioned" (without pay, naturally) by Kapeesh to write an article for the COEP magazine "Abhiyanta" (unimaginatively titled this year as "The COEPian" - what happened to all those deep-sounding sanskrit titles, and shouldn't it be "The PIET's COEPian"?), which I duly turned in. They published it (gratitude is in order to Abhishek for obtaining a copy for me). As a result of which, in the mag, I happen to be sharing space with an invitation to the (inter-caste) marriage of our prized Babcock-Wilcox boiler and a lathe machine, and (much to my horror and indignation) a running footnote paean to a partial set of COEPians studying in the US. An online copy is available here. This one is for all the COEPian bloggers.
They say that education is what is left over when you've forgotten all that you were taught. Normally, I'd salute only the wit in such smart-alec quotations, but in light of having spent life at COEP and now contemplating it from a safe temporal distance the size of an engineering batch, I can see the depth in what some of those old, grizzled and dandruff-ed grey hairs were saying.
For the more I think about it, in the guise of giving us an engineering education, COEP slipped in a lot more. It gave us a right royal lesson in the grand concept of "life", right from the spankings to the plaudits. But before you dismiss this account as a teary-eyed narrative of those "rosy and sunshine filled hours spent under the sweet-smelling coconut tree as we became fine citizens", let me disabuse you of those concerns. First, we don't have any sweet-smelling coconut trees at COEP (even if they were, I doubt if coconut trees could be sweet-smelling). Secondly, the rosiest times were spent at home in the PLs when one set of storms had been roughed and more squalls were expected.
So this account is a little anti-nostalgic, for it tries to take a more balanced look at the real post-learning-amnesiac education referred to at the beginning. For instance, let's invoke the popular memory of the COEPian in the queue. I don't know if autonomy has abolished the long held tradition of the COEPian queues; I hope not. For hours in that one serpentine ("Slytherin" for the modern generation?) mass of collectively increasing infuriation would teach you more lessons about pain, patience, obduracy, chivalry, fairness and fatalistic invocations than a month in a Benedictine monastery run by Pai Mei. For the first two years, I struggled and whined: why, despite the easily obvious optimal methods to apply to the process of collecting fees or marksheets, did we have to stand under the baking sun, growling at each other and whimpering at our inability to prevent those who conveniently discovered long lost pals ahead in the line. Gender wars originated and were resumed every six months, with the feeling that the glass ceiling had suddenly become a pane in an imaginary wall that let the smarter sex creep into the sanctum sanctora however late they showed up while separating us out from the "tatkaal". Only in the second half of my personal production of "My Life at COEP" did the zen-like realisation dawn that this was meant to be the introductory lesson, a one-oh-one into going with the darned flow. Later in life, you couldn't wring the neck of everyone who cuts you off ahead in the traffic, on the corporate ladder, in competition for that lass's affections, so learn to bite into your stiff upper lip, sonny boy. With such low-intensity tutorials did COEP make malleable your mind.
So what other life-threatening and life-altering lessons did the venerable Since-1854-er throw our way? How about the concept of submissions? I'm sure you've heard about Mr. Parkinson (of the Law fame, not the Disease) and how he cleverly figured out about the elasticity of work w.r.t. time. I'm convinced that we should have him over and get him to give us a few commendations. For few places such as us have embodied wholeheartedly the spirit of the elastic nature of work and have actually gone as far as to experiment with extremes by mixing in the eleventh-hour principle. Result: a searing lesson in how to get by, just before the clock hits twelve (or twenty-four). That's pretty much how the whole world seems to operate, so fine training for a bunch of youngsters in being grasshoppers during the summer and slogging away like ants in the winter, and what's more? - surviving till the next folk tale!
Or how about the famous "repeats" of the workshop, more legendary than real, but scary yet. Again, I wonder if the march of modernity and autonomy has filed away (pun intended) the bluntness of the workshop instructors, but once you've gone through that experience, it takes a lot to rattle your steel-forged guts (unless of course, you did better at plastic moulding).
Note that most of these vulcanising processes are placed early in the COEPian experience (further evidence: Applied Mechanics, Engg. Graphics, case rested). On a less sardonic note, look at the Punt Formation, a splendid example of teamwork, hoarse throats (of the PFOs), a general sense of "oh, it was so much better when we did it" renting the air among the alumni, and best of all, the experience is much more pleasant when you've finished it. Inside, it's closest to compulsory military training that our pacifist generation will ever get, with the mosquitoes, the something-masquerading-as-water, the hyacinth and the lack of bug repellant. But you survive that as well and slowly it begins to dawn on you, who is used to topping all that you do, that sometimes survival is good enough.
So what's the point of this little piece then? Well, a grand unified point wasn't quite intended, but perhaps a few little guppy points spring up. One, like a lot of great comedy, there's humour to be found even during the darkest times one may experience at COEP; that these darkest times are often found to be usually piffling little blobs of black paint at best later; and that there's much you'll do there that will give you a store of anecdotes to liven up the party. Probably, a lot like the real thing sometimes called Life.
Jun 9, 2006
Because they found the Philosopher's StoneThere is no other explanation.
Ads and media inserts have alerted us to another generational jump in the storyline of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, which as per my rough calculations, makes the time period somewhere in 2130. This is the greatest giant leap in the telling of futuristic science-fiction ever since Douglas Adams ordered one whisky too many in Innsbruck.
But what infuriates Shahnaz Hussain and co. is how Tulsi and gang manage to remain so ageless, fresh and crease-less (both sari and skin)? The only explanation is that Ekta Kapoor ("Eeektaaa Kaporr" today?) has found what has eluded even Lord Voldemort i.e. the Philosopher's Stone.
Move over J.K.Rowling - it's time for Tulsi and the BaSilly
Prez CorpsSo what's next for President Kalam now that he's ticked off another item off his childhood-dreams list? A ride on the Darjeeling Toy Train? A lift on Basanti's ta.Ngaa? A Segway segue?
As you can see, I'm not quite enamoured by the Kalam joyride yesterday and see it as "mainly pointless". I wonder if previous Presidents are going "I wish I had thought of that!" (I doubt it though - to his credit, Kalam at least seems to have the fitness for such things). But the exercise was essentially wish-fulfilment without being necessary; a mere perk of the office which shouldn't be encouraged given the amount of freebies on offer anyway. Perhaps one could argue the PR aspects for the air force, but unlike the previous (again carefully managed) PR exercise where the Air Chief Marshal flew a MIG to prove its airworthiness, this one had its roots in a bit of expensive lark.
The current President is supposed to be quite a children's hero, I am told, and one can argue the salutary effects of such an event on a generation of kids aspiring hopefully to the defence forces, but now that I am a (reluctant) adult, I'm not a fan of his usually mawkish statements. Like yesterday's (paraphrase) "All human minds looked beautiful from the air", for which we'll just have to take his word for. On the ground in Pune, his visit meant traffic diversions in the existing patches not dug up, and over a thousand policmen deployed on the short route from Raj Bhavan to the airport making it the densest concentration of policemen in a civilian area since that controversial Rakhi Sawant show.
But like the papers pointed out, the customary repairing of roads on a war footing took place and "Hema Malini's cheeks" appeared out of nowhere. Which inspires me to suggest that instead of Rajnath or Advani, why not the President take to the "Rath" and roam the length and breadth of the country? It will achieve the magical effect of disappearing potholes by his mere presence. The upper classes, me included, have been accused of living in a world far removed from the lower classes. But when I think that the uppermost probably last experienced a pothole about 3-4 years ago, I can only feel fear as to what will happen if the Presidential caravan were to sweep by a golf course.
Jun 6, 2006
Blood on the coverQ. What do you have to do to be accepted at the Old Man of the Mountain and Other Assassins Software Pvt. Ltd.?
A. Create a killer app.
British TV serialsSome of us have been watching quite a lot of British television series over the last couple of years. We thought a list of these serials with brief notes about them would be useful, especially to those from Pune who borrow DVDs (like we do) from the local British Library. These serials are mainly comedies and detective/police stories.
Jun 5, 2006
Middle PathIf printing "Hello World!" is 101, then writing an algorithm for binary search is 201; usually the first step on the next big thing you learn. Most of us learn algorithms repeatedly ignoring special conditions and even scale. So pretty early in our writing of professional code, our programs start to misbehave when pushed a little.
It turns out that even the professional versions of these seemingly simple constructs aren't free of complacency, as the man who wrote binary search for arrays in Java ruefully realises.
Jun 2, 2006
Titular separationThe upcoming film Alag (which with its subtitle of "He is different. He is alone" is probably the new record holder for ratio of length of subtitle to length of title) can justifiably claim that by definition, the film is "haTake" and different from the rest. This is called built-in immunity.
Banned standA series of bans have been placed on The Da Vinci Code in many Congress ruled states and Tamil Nadu, though the film has been cleared by the Central Censor Board. This leads us to observe that both of the mainstream parties are pro-ban in general but they only differ in their timing. The Congress prefers a pre-emptive, a priori ban that they claim anticipates social tensions. The BJP prefers the a posteriori approach, after demonstrable evidence.