Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The TV

I did not need a trip in Calvin’s famous transmorgifier to convert into a vegetable. I just needed to go home. And I have vegetated into, not a nutritious carrot or tomato, but a bland potato. A couch potato, that is. I therefore find myself abundantly well placed in writing a critique of Indian television.

Indian television is bursting at the seams. There are in excess of seventy channels that are beamed to my bed room. There are the news channels – in local languages, in Hindi and English. The hindi news channels keep the masses informed. They have recently struck upon a goldmine – crime shows. Crime sells – in this case crime snazzlilly packaged into a half an hour with a rather intense looking anchor. The English news channels are all vying for a piece of the lucrative ‘rich’ market – with urbane anchors that would do a BBC or a CNN proud. They have added a dimension to Indian broadcasting.

The sports channels on my television have suffered immensely in the hands of the cable operator. He has stopped beaming Star sports and ESPN – and is beaming a new channel called TEN SPORTS – the channel which had inflicted itself on India during the soccer world cup. The channel is beaming the French open right now.

We all are pretty much aware that France is not India. Another proof of the same can be obtained by watching TEN SPORTS. Almost all the matches beamed are that of women. With a paltry sex ratio like 900 that India is known to have, the tournament could certainly not have occurred in India. Perhaps ten sports also agrees with majority of the world in that women look a lot better than men. Or perhaps it is playing to the market of the lecherous male (like yours truly). All said and done, the tennis is fantastic. I’m watching this match between Sharapova and Henin-Hardiene: and it is amazing tennis. With the power of the Russians and Williamses, who needs men? Ten sports seems to agree.

India has three primary English movie channels: HBO, Star and Zee. Unlike Discovery and National Geographic, verbatim vernacular translations of the movies are not yet available. So, we don’t get Hollywood dubbed in Hindi – much as the cable operator would try. Indian television (especially in smaller towns such as Nasik with purely profit maximizing cable operators) is right now a ear-sore. Bugs bunny almost says, Doctor sahib, kya upar hai? and Tweety says Mujhe aise lagta hai ke mein nay ek pyare billi ko dehka hai.

We Indians who have to put up with this live armed with vomit bags near the television in case of any such exigency. Besides the aforementioned well known cartoons. the story of the pyramids and the construction of the hong kong airport, as well as the way the lion catches its deer is all in Hindi. It’s either the vomit bag or the remote. Or both.

The Entertainment channels (the Inidan ones at least) have decided that the future is in ghosts - and are making feeble attempts at providing the same in their shows. This allows the shows to double as comedies; since, needless to say, the animation is somewhat amateurish.

Not to mention the religious channels. Men (invariably with fluent beards, observe it next time) try to disseminate what they know to one and all. The temple and show-biz meet.

Ah, what a nice invention the remote is.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

In Limbo

The course at IIT having concluded, some sort of all-pervasive laziness engulfs me right now. All that I am doing is looking at the news channels on television – and watching out for that eternally elusive weather ticker, while I gobble mangoes and other lesser fruits. It is with utter difficulty that I have brought myself to blog.

I guess this state of utter inactivity (joblessness, as I would have called it, in those good old days at IIT) would be quite common among IITians who shall be setting sail (or should I say wing?) to the US of A for higher studies. [Ah, how I delude myself].

I could do a whole lot of things right now. If only I could kick this laziness. Some ideas that I have decided not to pursue are listed below. I have also tried explaining why I am not doing them.

  • Write a book: I don’t write well! If you are a regular reader of this blog, you shall surely agree.
  • Learn how to dance: I don’t know, but one tsunami is enough for quite a long time. People who have seen me shall certainly agree, especially my father who would use a spherical co-ordinate system to define a point on me, given the chance.
  • Sing: I live in a flat. Greenpeace would call it sound pollution. The local wing of the SPCA would want a piece of me too: there are a lot of pets in the flat.
  • See a movie: I don’t like movies. As a matter of fact, I hate them.
  • Swim: It’s too sunny. Solar radiation shall refract through the water and heat me up. Since the majority of the body shall be under-water, evaporation shall not be able to cool it.
  • Learn how to cook: I love my family.
  • Update Wikipedia: The internet connection is slow. Too boring.
  • Go around the city on the car: Did you know about something called the Hubbert oil peak? It is expected to occur shortly. You could also join a community called ‘Peak oil crisis’ on Orkut. How could I do such and eco-insensitive thing?
  • Join the local Chapter of Greenpeace: I live in Nasik, Maharashtra. The closest I can get to Greenpeace is the saffron Shiv Sena. Perhaps they would be interested in saving the tiger. At the rate the cat is tumbling towards extinction, they will have to change their symbol to a dog or something to avoid accusations of being a fossilized party.
  • Write the paper, which I have promised my guide: I’ll do it tomorrow.
  • Sit and vegetate and make excuses and get abysmally fat: That’s exactly what I am doing.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Red End

Wodehouse says that the British red tape is only pink compared to the french red tape. Compared to the Indian red tape, I am sure the Plum would have termed the British red tape white in comparison with the Indian red tape.

Leaving IIT is not the solemn affair that the previous post seems to make it out to be. It is a hectic affair under a particularly malicious sun. The average student has to ensure that he has no dues in the hostel, the department, the library, the hospital, the computer center, the alumini office (how on earth can anyone have dues at the alumni office?) and what not.

The department no dues certificate requires seven signatures. The signatories often include really busy people - and are often not available. The student has to bear the brunt of all this. There's the head of the department - who is as difficult to sight at tigers in India now-a-days. And then there's the head of the lab, another rather endangered species. The process - just to get the department no dues certificate - requires a couple of days' dedicated work - and a healthy cycle - and a lot of crocins (headaches are quite likely when you shuttle under the sun).

Then the hostel no dues certificate. By no means a piece of cake - especially if your mess bills are not paid that regularly. Fortunately, the ATM revoultion is making life a little easier - the student no longer has to queue up in the bank. After the reciept is shown, a few more forms are to be filled - including a rather crypitc gate pass - which requires the usual gamut of signs - including one from the chief security officer. In my case I had to face some incompetence from an inebriated peon - who forgot the certificate somewhere on the campus. He had to cycle back and get it. But he did in the nick of time, and I was able to submit all of them in the Ad-Block just in time.

A sense of achievement starts to form in your head when you submit all your no dues certificates. The viva was easy. This was the difficult part.

What will our last memories of IIT be? The viva? The thesis work? Or the millions of uncomfortable hours under the sun spent trying to make some sense of the IIT madras red tape? Do we want it to be this way?

Now, what I am coming to is this: why all this? Why all the wasted man hours and paper and printer money. With the all-pervasive lan it would be quite easy to get the whole thing online. I guess our juniors will have it easy.

It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

Michael Stripe might very well have been talking about an IITian leaving IIT then. There is a slightly sad tinge to leaving - but the optimism for the future that IIT gives you ensures that you do feel fine.

Lots of sentimental blogs seem to abound right now. Every one seems to be weeping at the very thought of leaving IIT and is saying it out. So, I shall join the tear parade.

Life's been quite good here at IIT (though I have been persistently complaining about the weather and the grading system). As a matter of fact it's been amazing. I have found lots of good friends here at IIT and have been introduced to research by one of the most inspiring professors in this place. Things, overall were amazing.

And hence a heavy heart on leaving IIT. The room was being packed up today - it was something of a judgement day for some clothes - they either come home with me or stay here. The computer was put inside the carton and the music system was packed for good too. The end of an era. I've had these things with me for four years.

Ah, they've seen a lot. They saw saw me crack under pressure in the criminally overloaded and compressed third semester. They saw me stage a rebound of sorts in the next semester (owing mainly to one course (Dynamics of Machinery) which had caught my imagination). They have also borne witness to the millions of programs I wrote as a part of my MTech project - and all the million drafts of the paper and the thesis. They have seen rather large proportion of red font that the Prof. invariably used to inflict on it.

How could the computer miss the millions of saarangs and shaastras? The peseverent preparation for the simulation championships, the rather hasty preparation for the lone wolf quiz (we weren't caught off guard luckily, though), the obscene bulls eye IPs, the equally obscene list of judges for speaking events, the farce called the reality show, the blasphemous rag (Saarang newsletter).... the computer has seen it all.

My music system was an Iron maiden devotee when it popped in in my second year. Years saw me metamorphasize into a person who can appreciate Bach as well as Maiden -- and a lot of the stuff that comes in between. IIT has broadened by perspective here again. It is contemplating listening making me listen to carnatic classical too now. But is it too late?

I'm more confident now. Period. I can stare anyone who is bullshitting in the eye and tell them so - more so in my field - heat transfer. I am sure that this confidence will grow in Texas too. I'm a confident mechanical engineer. The kind that gets excited whenever he sees a machines in the nude. As a concequence I am perpetually excited when in transit - especially by railway.

I've also found love at IIT - in the form of a girl (fortunately). We have decided to wind up together - our regular flare ups notwithstanding. More on this in future blogs.

Here's to preserving an IITian life style forever.

Friday, May 06, 2005

My Blood Starts To Boil

Recent developments, like recent developments at other points of time have not failed to make my blood boil. It is as if the world were conspiring against me to keep my blood in a vapour state. Not just me, every proud citizen's blood should be boiling now.

I have spent a significant part of my life in the wonderful state of Maharashtra. I still go there at least once every year to say Hi to my parents, and shall keep doing so. I've been in touch with the place since 1990, which makes it 16 years. Back in the old days Maharashtra was known as the Industrial hub of India. Perhaps, it still is - but it is just so.

Maharashtra never had power cuts. That was something to gloat about when I went home to Vizag or Hyderabad. Ah, how the tables have turned! Maharashra faces a shortfall of 4000MW. A 25% peak shortfall. Cities experience power cuts for 3 - 4 hours a day. Villages experience power for that amount of time. Bad planning. Political bickering. Whatever. My blood boils. Nucleate boiling.

As if that's not enough - it is even more alarming to note that it took a violent protest from one of India's most capricious and narrow minded parties, the Shiv Sena to bring this issue to the forefront - using violence - ransacking offices and beating up MSEB officials. There was precious little in the press before Bal Thakeray & Co got into action. And now we see a spate of articles in almost every newspaper on earth. What does this tell us? To get heard, be violent. This makes my blood boil all the more. DNB. Gandhi would sure be smiling, were he alive.

The only way out? The government has to suck up to the guys who bought Enron's Dabhol disaster. Dabhol uses natural gas as fuel. India has to import that Natural gas - which pollutes almost the same as coal. We don't use our own fuel. We use the neighbour's (and pay him a lot more). My blood is film boiling now, not just nucleate boiling.

Another solution: Panhandling for electricity from other states. But they have woes of their own. Looks like being a common man in India is just a big rip off. First some MNC comes and tries to rip you off - and then politicians do it. And of course the babus do it all the time. I don't have any liquid blood left at this point of time. Perhaps MSEB could attach a steam tubine to me and get some power now. Every penny counts.