Year: 2014

The Moral Folks create a National An(a)them(a)

While I have always wondered why our National Anthem Jana Gana Mana is played in the cinemas before a movie starts, I haven’t yet been able to find the reason behind it. All I came up with was that the tradition is being followed since the pre-Independence era, simply out of patriotism. It was the British National Anthem then. After finding many things else but an answer to that wonder, I next wandered to another question: What are the different types of videos that accompany the anthem? There are at least 4-5 different videos that play, the most patriotic one being the Siachen Glacier edition. Unfortunately that one was dismissed recently and now we have either that of the animated tricolor fluttering unnaturally or the one where the two greatest female singers of India sing gracefully.

There are lots of people who crib about the selection of edition when they go for a movie. And if the movie is a big-time bore, they discuss the various editions instead. The clear loser we can deduce from these discussions is the animated fluttering Indian flag edition, hands down. But, the scope of this article is to not care about such people. I am more interested in the guys who take moral policing in their own hands as if we don’t already have enough policemen who are behooved to act against women adopting immoral dressing trends. Whom I like to call the “moral folks.”

Lets keep the actual police out if it and focus on the case in hand: is it wrong to refuse (or voluntarily choose not to) stand up when our National Anthem is being played, irrespective of the place or situation? The debate will be meaningless. The recent cases against people (including foreign nationals) who refused to stand up in a cinema hall during the National Anthem puts light into the lack of law awareness we all have. It is in a person’s intellectual freedom to stand up or not for the National Anthem. It is not something to be dragged into a court or a police station. There are tens of students (at least from where I stand, on a particular day) in my college who don’t care at all when the National Anthem is sung (not played) every morning. Maybe it’s because they can’t hear it as it is sung in the first floor and people here in the third floor are losing the flow or restarting it out in the middle. So, the anthem goes on for about 10 minutes and we reach the climax with a bad taste in our mood. Change the situation: lets put these tens of students in the first floor, near the potential patriotic students (2 males, 2 females) who are singing and you will see all of them following the tradition of halting (if they were walking) and standing up (if they were sitting), and ending it with powerful tri-chants of (Bharat Mata ki) “Jai” with fisted hands in the air whereafter the most physically and visually fit guy (who shouts the chant’s prelude) prides in his strong voice and looks around if all the cute girls (1 or 2) saw how wildly patriotic and strong a man he is.

So, there we have. The students just followed the tradition not only just because they wanted to and to prevent making a spectacle of themselves by not following what every other person seemed to follow without protest, but also because there is a tiny speck sense of patriotism that is evoked from respecting and listening to the anthem. It is an intellectual thing. Ask an Indian which is the most patriotic national anth…? Before you complete the question, the reply will be “India.” Ask a Brit or an Oz or a Scot and we all know what they will say. There is nothing moral about the gesture. If you want to stand up, stand up. If you don’t, lets not be Preity Zinta, the latest voice of our moral folks.

The reason behind not following the tradition could be either an intellectual issue, like I have mentioned before, or a religious issue, a topic which I hate to touch. Taking a step forward and charging a person for sedition for not standing up to attention during the anthem is as bizarre as the laws which these moral folks have created as their weapon. There is only one legal provision relating to dishonour to the anthem and it criminalizes intentional prevention or disruption of singing of the anthem. So, surely, someone who does not subscribe to the notion of standing to attention, without disrupting or preventing others, would never be guilty.

This whole drama concerning our anthem has been a mockery of our own little act of showing patriotism and has been turned into people’s latest anathema by the moral folks. Now, people will stand to attention out of fear. Out of fear for the thing they previously used to love and adore and respect. Between this hullabaloo, we are risking to lose a small but important part of our patriotic tradition. Standing up to attention and singing along the anthem has always been a lovable activity for me and mostly all the people I know, but blame these moral folks, we might have to handle this aftermath with utmost care to restore the national decorum.

Note: With certain sentences, verbatim, from Somasekhar Sundaresan’s October 24, 2014 Mumbai Mirror article “Worshipping false Gods”.

A Bangalore Chronicle!

It was January the first and while the whole world was hungover after ushering in 2014 by staying up late & partying their brains out, we, 300 students of SIES Graduate School of Technology (GST), Nerul tried our best to reach Chathrapati Shivaji Terminus by 8 o’clock from different corners of Mumbai. Or on a narrower aspect, while we hurried to catch the train on time, some of our colleagues remained at home, building their most disastrous regret in life: a five-day industrial visit to Bangalore!

A trip always has to start with a bang and no wonder, this one chose not to differ. After few initial glitches about the tickets (the reason which I have kept for later, so as not to deflect from expressing my most emotive memories), we talked, laughed, and danced our way to the clean city or India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore. Sorry, I wouldn’t use Bengaluru for undisclosed reasons.

The wayfaring started with the boarding of train from CST at 7am. It was well coordinated with the help of escorts and volunteers. Every single update of the day’s schedule was informed to all the students via SMS. Special visits to ISKON temple, Brigade road, Cubbon Park, VishveswaraiyyaMuseum and UBCT were also arranged as a part of the industrial visit. There was an ecstatic performance by the impromptu theatre group named Yours Truly. On the whole, the trip was a worthwhile experience. (Manasi Iyer, a Printing & Packaging Tech. student)

The evenings usually were for light events. We visited the huge ISKCON temple and stood for minutes in front of the whole façade, dumbfounded every single time we blinked. Shopping (mostly window-shopping, to be honest), eating, sight-seeing are all one thing and what we saw on the last day at Bangalore was another. A local impromptu theatre group called Yours Truly held us spellbound with their theatrics. They released their fabulous repertoire one after other and we sat there with rapt attention. The best thing about it was that it was a mutual performance: we threw few words at them and they enacted it, with sheer diligence. The seminar hall of J P Cordial was abuzz with roars of laughter. Even the teachers joined us. Some of us previously had some exposure of theater, but this was extraordinary and when I ask people what is the most memorable thing from our trip now, after five months since the IV, they find themselves in a dilemma between this and the industrial visits at ISRO, Coca Cola, NGO Goonj, L&T, Gecko Tag & Sami Labs.

The trip started off with a cramped journey in the train because most of us were in the waiting list. That was a disappointing start. After the wearisome train journey, we reached the hotel in de luxe buses. We were all vivacious on the first sight of Bangalore! The hotel rooms added to our delight. Some of the beautiful places that I liked touring were the ISKCON temple and the Museum. Also, the UB City Mall and the street shopping were absolutely enjoyable. How I wish we got to spend more time there. This trip would positively be in the list of things I will remember my college life with. (Vishakha Nara, a Computer Engineering student)

There are people (which includes me) who always fret over the smallest things and the moment we arrived in Bangalore, rumors started looming around about the hotel that had been chosen for our stay. We got into six luxury buses to reach the hotel. Lo and behold, the hotel, J P Cordial swept these people off their feet and they were the ones who rushed for the best rooms. Fortunately, all rooms were the bees’ knees, although the idea of keeping the girls and boys on different floors made me sad. The gameplan for rest of the second day was to attend seminars by technology companies. The fact that most of us forgot that it was an IV trip is ironical.

A local start-up called Lumos started with its seminar. Gandharv Bakshi, founder, gave excellent tips and while he was actually talking Electronics, we could relate. Students of other steams, meanwhile visited their respective companies. Did I mention that the food we had before the seminar worked charmingly well? The reason I say that is because even if we devour on the nicest cuisines in town during college, the lectures after the break always has the capability to doze even the brightest students off, but in here we were so engrossed into what the speaker had to say, that I found many hearing about the corporate world’s social network LinkedIn for the first time. That effective was the opening seminar.

I was piqued by the large display of information at the Vishvesharaiyya Museum and I remember how some of the nerds enjoyed that specific visit more than how the few enthusiasts enjoyed the metro train travel.

I don’t need to mention those tiny things we took pleasure in while on the trip. Few love stories came out in the open, we saw teachers in an all-together different airs and most importantly, we received the much-needed exposure that would matter when we graduate. I had never heard of Lumos or Purple Squirrel Eduventures before but now both of them are two of the few companies I follow in the digital space.

Now, about the initial glitch: while many of us started deriding the organizers for discrepancies in the tickets, we finally figured out that it was the train’s Ticket Checker and few irresponsible students without ID cards who were to be blamed. Although, some us of didn’t have seat reservations and many complained about the inconvenience that it caused while travelling and sleeping. But what the trip had in store of us in the following days cancelled out all the distress.

PS: This specific post was produced for Purple Squirrel Eduventures, by demand from their PR team, but was possibly rejected due to its wildly honest and genuine chronicling of the industrial visit.

Compiled, with love from Nivedita Sarma & Prerna Tripathi.

What If Men Could Menstruate?

Have you ever wondered why sanitary (maxi) pad ads or even diaper ads use blue coloured solution and not any other colour? Why not red or yellow for realism? Well, it might be strange (or gross) to think of it, but not if you are into advertising. I now seriously thank the pioneers who thought of using blue instead of red or orange or yellow. Otherwise, I would retch every time one of those ads came up in the middle of my beloved Homeland TV series episode. Have a look at this parody video and satisfy yourself! And the answer to the above question is simply that human body doesn’t produce anything bluish. But then you will ask me, why not green? Maybe green didn’t strike those pioneers and they opted for blue, which happens to be more pleasant, pushed by decades of acceptance since the start, don’t you think?

That is just an interesting thought. But what if men really could menstruate?
(Have a look at this amazing video: The Story of Menstruation, according to Walt Disney, if you don’t know 2 things about menstruation.)

That opens door to many sub-questions like will both men & women menstruate? or is it just about men and now women’ll roam around opening their flies wherever they want in  the streets in Mumbai to take a piss like how men used to? The latter will look like a mere gender swap and I’ll sit here wondering about the plight of those already hapless transgenders. If both men and women could menstruate, then who would plant the seed? IVF won’t work. Nor will that oldest fossil sperm which was unearthed few days ago somewhere in Australia, because we are talking about a generation where we are trying to obstruct the balance of nature’s sexual orientation. So we will focus on the only question of its kind: what if men could menstruate, irrespective of either sex’s characteristics?

If men could menstruate, then the male members of the families won’t stare on the floor during those ads. Dirty-minded male students won’t share a glimpse and a wry smile any more when one of their female classmates asks for permission to visit the loo mid-lecture. Men won’t turn their heads away in a jerk from stacks of sanitary pads in a supermarket. Boyfriends will understand when their girlfriends use the terms like ‘headache’ or ‘pang.’ To sum up, the idea of menstruation won’t cause embarrassment. Not all men like to hear jokes on themselves and the guys who actually create jokes on menstruation won’t stand a minute when they hear it now. So, all jokes about menstruation will vanish.

The debate over what is most painful, a kick in the balls or child-birth will finally be concluded. It will be agreed by all the sexes that it is child-birth which is the most excruciating. But, if men could menstruate, there won’t even be a question about what pains more because menstruation itself can sometimes be a real pain in the ass (pun intended). The words ‘paternity leave’ will be used more in official leave cards. Ovulation will be studied widely but porn won’t be touched.

The idea of sex will get some introductions. Men will know everything about the safe days to have sex and Dr. Mahinder Watsa (of Mumbai Mirror‘s sexpert column fame) may heave a sigh of relief. Sex won’t find a new definition, although porn will still not be touched. Because porn is more concerned with masturbation than any other factor it tries to relate with. New positions may enter the Kama Sutra although I doubt men will want to try all of them out because of the latest inclusion in their body machine. The men who hesitated to model for ads of undergarments will now have one more ad in their kitty of dislikes: sanitary pad ads. I can never control but laugh visualizing one such ad involving a man.

Since menstruation is just the beginning, many more functions will be attributed to men like pregnancy, breastfeeding, lactation & menopause. I wonder if Oxford will adopt the word womenopause into its dictionary! Would we men finally start to understand the psychology of women, if menstruation is supposed a playing factor, that is?

I don’t know about that but it would be interesting to visualize the whole scenario. When I think deeper, the whole science of life gets jumbled up and the idea ends up suffocating itself. Anyway, I’m sure it would amuse the living daylights out of me to have those men filled with chauvinistic hubris visualize this thought about menstruation which is, and ever will be, considered a woman’s trait. Does that make me sad?

Flyers In My Soup

Jug Suraiya once wrote a column in TOI about the proportion of news and advertisements in newspapers nowadays. The front 2-3 pages have gigantic snippets of an automobile or a wrist watch brand or worse some construction developer singing its own wild praises. Then there are dedicated classified pages on weekends. Not to forget how there was a special 4-page paper stuffed with TOI’s bundle on the eve of Akshaya Tritiya which claimed to have all info about the occasion; it was filled with advertisements. I understand how nicely it generates revenue for the newspapers. I even understand Volkswagen‘s bizarre ad technique of placing a sensor-based sound chip in one of TOI’s editions. I also learned how a 60-year old lady fainted after she grabbed that edition from her veranda in the morning only to hear a gruff voice-over. They annoy, all right but it is when the local newspaper distributors add to the nightmare.

Everyday, for years now, whenever I open the main paper of TOI at least 8-10 flyers slip out. Last week it so happened that I was enjoying my tomato soup when I decided to read. I kept the dish to my left on the couch, grabbed the paper from the teapoy and turned to my left to get a cosy posture. Four flyers dived into the bowl like few daredevils did last month from Burj Khalifa.

The first one was a black and white, extremely low quality flyer advertising some camp nearby giving out “free” thyroid check-up for 501 rupees. The next was in solid navy blue printed on bonded pastel paper; some developer in Dombivali requesting ideas for a township. 2 flyers of the same kind, there were. Next, a white & pink leaflet publicizing a women’s gym with a well-built man’s photo on it. I wonder what it was suggesting.

So they all found haven in my soup for few seconds before I studied them and slipped back in where they came from, owing to the fact that raddiwalas give you 11 rupees for a kilogram of these newspapers. Shamelessly stingy, eh?

2 points to be noted here:
1. The local newspaper boys do not have the sincerity of slipping the flyers correctly in every newspaper. They are getting paid for it but they insert 3-4 flyers in one pack to reduce their work, which further limits the reach of the ad.
2. Beat the newspaper on a wall a couple times before you place it on the breakfast table or teapoy. All the flyers that happen to be waiting inside to sip on your soup or milk or tea will know where they actually belong. Or better, do what I do with those innocent flyers; they deserve the recycler.

 

Why I Want To Be An External Viva Examiner Once In My Life!

I get jittery when people say “oral exams” or “vivas” as it is generally referred to in Engineering. I don’t specifically hate these words but I am mad at what they mean. The idea was purportedly conceived by some enemies of humanity, I bet. Every time I enter a laboratory for that inevitable viva, I experience butterflies in my stomach.

The cause of this prejudice could be the different interpretations by the examiner of the whole idea. Suppose you are a student (Engineering or others), your subject professor takes monthly vivas to test how much you know about that subject so that he can rate your knowledge for internal marks. He/She will probably ask some basic questions and then move deeper. This is very convenient, both for students & the professors because it happens & completes in minutes flat. This is one type of interpretation and as far as I can tell, the right one.

Some people ask me why I love appearing for personal interviews yet abhor vivas. Well, there is where our next interpretation comes in. The examiner thinks he is the king of the world and the students, traitors of his kingdom. Maybe he resembles so-called King Joffrey Baratheon from fictional Game Of Thrones but he doesn’t deserve my hate for what he did to Ned Stark than the questions these examiners have in their kitty. For a viva of the subject Radar Engineering, you can expect questions like “Difference between Radar & Sonar” or “History of Radar” or even “the cost and physical attributes of a Radar,” but the questions such type of examiners ask are “What is black money?” or “Which party do you support this Lok Sabha elections?” or worse “What, as a student, are your drawbacks?” These questions sure have answers, but the problem is context.

Next, the Samosa people! Their single and only purpose for appearing as an external viva examiner is to get free food from the college canteen. This type will usually be very late. The time set will be 9 AM and you can expect this external examiner at around lunch time. He will first have lunch, interrogate few students and then go for high tea before finishing his task. The questions they ask are straight basics before they smirk claiming the students aren’t capable of answering tough questions. Asking what integers are and then hopping to calculus is the hidden fashion such type of examiners employ.

Then there are lazy folks. They (usually females above 40) come, sit, gather 4-5 students and asks definitions, failing to which their preliminary or mid-term marks are asked. The viva marks are directly proportional to their their previous exams’. Ah, the irony!

Last but not the least, the perfect examiners. They dress well and reprimand the students for wearing t-shirts. They ask a relevant question and if the kid doesn’t know the answer, they will ask another simpler one. He then provides and explains the answers of the questions they do not know. This is the perfect viva session and I can relate to 3 or 4 times it occurred during my Engineering, spanning 6 years.

All this has constantly cause the birth of the idea in me to become an external viva examiner. Alas, my professors say it won’t be possible unless I become a professor myself. And that is not all, you got to have few years’ experience on the subject before you can represent the University in other institutions. But we all know Mumbai University and its lax methods. 10, maybe 15 years down the line, I would request the University, through my friendly professors, to have me as a viva examiner at least once and I will record the whole thing or maybe write a piece on the experience. Oh, that’d be a dream come true.

No, not as you think, I won’t harass the students. I’ll start with basic questions which I feel are in parallel to the curriculum. Then I’ll ask them interesting stuffs that are not taught in the books like “Did Radar play any role in the search for Malaysian Airline MH370” or “What is the difference between the local cable TV and DTH?” or better “What is the difference between LCD & LED & Plasma?” and I will make sure they leave the room understanding the answers to these questions. Maybe I’ll give them above 80% marks for I know the preparation students do hours before their turns for the viva is filled with sincerity and mettle. There is no competition during vivas; sworn enemies i.e. the top ten mark-scorers do not think about being at the top during vivas. Because I know, as a student, viva is a battle we fight in groups and not individually as may be the common misconception.