Tag: SIES GST

The Lost Feeling of Graduation

I have been ceremoniously conferred an academic qualification twice; a diploma in 2012 and most recently a degree, both in the same sphere of Engineering. The feeling was great, of course, but there wasn’t much difference between the feelings when I walked out of my last board exam back in June and when I walked out last Tuesday with a degree certificate in my hand. Further, that walk out of the classroom after the exam was much more delightful than my graduation day, and there’s a reason behind that. Reasons, actually.

I do not know how graduation ceremonies unfold elsewhere in the world, so this is not a comparison quip from my part. This is just a first-hand experience of having graduated from an Indian varsity, Mumbai University, in 2016. However, this is definitely an article taking potshots at Mumbai’s various degree colleges which handed out degrees to their most valuable and loyal customers last week, on and around the 67th Republic Day of India. Having said that, this article is not exclusively about my college unless wherever remarked.

For starters, an amount ranging from INR 100 to INR 500 was collected from students for the graduation gown as rent. Other than the gaggle of people (who are the same students who were going to graduate in the first place, and some of whom are my now former classmates) who scrambled to cash in on this opportunity by urging the college administration to tie up with their known garment dealer so they could get a cut out of it, bad management at my college’s part was the biggest highlight. Some students, who were connected with the college’s administration, urged us students to fill a Google form while others suggested we call some random guy and register our names for the gown. While in my college we were asked to pay INR 300 for the gown as deposit with a promise of getting back half the amount on returning the dress, at colleges like K J Somaiya and Vidyalankar, students were charged a strict INR 200 without the give-and-take nonsense. Most of us paid the amount because we are sentimental people, we Indians. Wearing a graduation gown and photographing ourselves so that we can joke about framing it later during the dinner that night and eventually posting it on social media is a custom we have been unofficially following for years. So, yes, we paid the amount reluctantly and registered our names. I am assuming this had something to do (at least partially) with the people who chose to remain at home. But of course, I believed them when they said that their employers wouldn’t approve leave, in spite of the convocation being on a Republic Day or a weekend, or when they said they were holidaying at a hill station. Now that I have experienced the ceremony, I guess they are the smarter lot.

There was also some chatter about the colour of hoods (violet), which didn’t look that good. At the end, however, everyone thanked goodness that the management at least hadn’t selected that grotesque red-coloured gowns like the Nerul-based college RAIT had.

Moving forward, now this is focusing only on my college because commenting on something that I haven’t seen or experienced goes against the policies of this blog. I have only so much info about the ceremonies that took place in other colleges, and most of my friends tend to exaggerate without even realizing. The reporting time set by my college was 11 AM, and at around that time, the main verandah in front of the office was an example of total chaos. Students from different Engineering streams stood there with no discipline at all. Not that discipline was something to be expected from them, but the thought that these misbehaving people, all in their early twenties, were going to be awarded one of the world’s popular degrees was somewhat disturbing. Moments later I joined my group of friends, and soon I was one of them, chatting and shaking hands with my classmates and other colleagues like we had gathered for a party where people with jobs threw their weight about around people without them. Of course, people pursuing Masters were not going to jump into a flight for this mockery of an event. Even the jet lag from that flight wouldn’t be worth of attending the ceremony.

The second biggest highlight of that day was the unavailability of a large auditorium which could seat all of those who were going to graduate (sans the smarter people who chose to stay at home). My college has a tiny seminar hall with a capacity of hundred or so people, and to everyone’s dismay, the convocation ceremony took place in it. This is how it worked: Because there are only so few students in the rare Engineering stream of Printing and Packaging Technology (PPT), they were sent inside first. The group of students bought their academicals and marched into the tiny room. After the ceremony, these students were asked to expedite their actions of clicking photos and selfies and returning the gowns because it was the time of the IT stream to go inside, and there are only a limited number of gowns available. Since the PPT students were few in number, IT and Computer stream students didn’t have much problem. Things took an ugly turn when the beasts – Mechanical and EXTC stream students – entered the scene, and unfortunately, I was from one of them.

While me and my friends were lucky to get our regalia soon as we arrived, some of our classmates had to wait. But since there was another version of chaos brewing at the tiny room, only 10 students were allowed to enter its lobby at a time, which was exactly the point when I crossed my ‘graduation day’ threshold.

I wanted to see my friends and classmates and the people whom I care for receiving their degrees. I wanted to click pictures of them receiving their degrees. I wanted to be snapped sitting with hundreds of students in arranged rows by the college-appointed photographer. I wanted to listen to candid speeches by college toppers, wanted to see them posing with their overjoyed parents. I wanted to bring my parents, wanted to click pictures with them. I wanted to feel those moments, and what I really got was a certificate stashed into my hands by some aged guy (probably a professor) wearing a red robe whom I didn’t know and whom I (or any one of the rest of the nine people) wasn’t introduced to before (the PPT guys might know who he was), and clicked by a lazy photographer who was in a rush. The only good thing that happened in the tiny auditorium was the compering, which was carried out by a student who thankfully remarked the achievements of certain meritorious students as they stepped onto the dais.

Between receiving the degree and walking towards the exit door, I was sought and requested to leave the room right away by, at last count, three people. Like it would take me a trek to get out of that tiny, non-air-conditioned auditorium! Anyways, after leaving the room, I was stopped by a volunteer and requested to snap as many photos of mine as soon as possible so that I could return my gown because the Mechanical stream guys were waiting and you don’t want to mess with them. There was also a rumour doing the rounds that someone had taken their gown home. The humour! The humour!

There was no proper dress code, and neither were the parents invited to the ceremony. My goodness, I would have needed cylinders of oxygen if that were to happen. Still, some students came in with their happy parents and probably went back home with horror in their eyes. River of tea flowing in front of the office, stamps of shoes on this river as it got thinner and thinner and wider and wider as time and more feet passed, students roaming around here and there because someone lost their hood, someone lost their mortarboard, someone misplaced their lakh-worth degree certificate, people complaining about mismanagement, etcetera.

The whole ceremony was nowhere near to what I had imagined. A graduation ceremony for what it’s really worth should be dealt with finesse and at least a dot of respect; that’s why in popular culture these ceremonies are regarded with reverence. Because it takes a person years to get a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree, the conferring committee should at least take the pains to organize a blasting ceremony that will be remembered by its passing-out students for years and who will share the stories that happen during this ceremony in the future alumni meets.

It has been hardly a week since I smiled into a camera wearing a rented graduation robe and holding my degree certificate, and I have no good memory of that day. Except that of the river of tea.

But who are we kidding!? An institution that cannot afford to rent few hundred gowns for the most happiest day of a part of their students’ academic lives is a testament to the fact that education in India is, sadly, only a business, nothing else.

What have been your experiences?

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.

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.

What’s The Fuss About SIES Graduate School of Technology?

This morning I received a message on a WhatsApp group chat. It was a screenshot of the front page of April 19, 2014 issue of the Mid-Day newspaper. It read Navi Mumbai college fines students Rs 5,000 for using cell phones!” By the time I bought the newspaper to read the whole story, the particular message had probably been forwarded more than a thousand times. Along with a smiley. By the students who are currently studying in the same college.

Later in the evening, another message popped up, which was a link to the Indian Consumer Complaints Forum. The complaint is about the arrogant attitude of the staff and draconian rules that govern the system inside the college. It can be read here! And do not forget to read the comments.

So, I, as myself a student of SIES GST, Nerul grew curious as to what is all the fuss about that everybody seems to be talking these past 24 hours. Actually, there is no fuss at all. But I will break down this story into small parts so that you can at least deduce some meaning out of this brouhaha. You should note that the SIES complex in Nerul harbours many organizations of which the Graduate School of Technology aka GST is the Engineering section.

Story 1:
Some over-smart kid, who has got to definitely be from the final year (graduation in 3 months) and has got some connections with the newspaper and so, spilled the beans about his/her own college focusing on one single attribute: the hefty fine levied by the authorities for mobile phone usage! This can be taken back to January 2014 when the third year students of all branches went for an Industrial Visit to Bangalore. This topic had cropped up when a theatre group called “Yours Truly”set out on a questioning spree to enact their spontaneously impromptu repertoires. So much that even a tiny tiff occurred between the Students’ Council representatives and haughty renegades where the former fought for the college and latter against. So the correspondent guy/gal in the question could be from this group. Phew!

Story 2:
The above complaint, on the other hand, was registered in the ICC forum sometime in October 2013. The rule came out in early 2013. Hundreds of students, including me were furious at first. With the rule actually taken seriously, many kids even got the opportunity to reduce their wallet’s weight. Further, the rule grew into us and mobile phone was looked at as a taboo and whenever a smartphone came into sight, the 4 digits 5-0-0-0 appeared everywhere in the air in bold typeface. Some influential students bothered to complain to the higher authorities but in vain. Now the campus had partially become mobile-phone free but it did more damage than what would have had the phones been not banned. Now here, the comments of this particular complaint comes into picture.

The user has complained about a lot of things, which somehow are related to this rule if we connect the dots.

  • He/She talks about partiality. Please tell me one organization, not necessarily an educational, where partiality (or nepotism) or discrimination doesn’t occur? Yes, tell me? No. So this point is invalid. If you are in the negative side of this partiality, you probably are the guy who comes up with “Teacher ka Pet” category in the farewell awards. For cryin’ out loud, stop!
  • Ragging by the principal. Now come on! A principal has got to be strict but that doesn’t mean you can misuse your vocabulary prowess and tag it ragging. Now can you? This accusation is ludicrous.
  • Faculty. I personally know the Electronics & Telecommunication staff and there’s nothing to complain about. And so much animosity? It is purely unnecessary. Low grades may have something to do with how you behave in the class, but as far as EXTC branch is concerned, all accusations are frail. I can’t comment about other branches’, though. You may want to read my articles on similar topics to get a brief idea: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4, Article 5, Article 6, Article 7, Article 8.
  • Donations. Let us not talk about it as we all know what’s what when it comes to management quota seats.
  • Placements. The college has a wonderful TPO, on whom the actual burden of calling companies for placement falls. I personally don’t know why SIES doesn’t have good companies at its doorstep, but again, should the principal bear the brunt?
  • Attendance. Is 75% attendance asking for more? Think about it! Unless you are a football-pampering, skirt-chasing, careless nomad who’s come into Engineering by mistake.
  • Humiliation to parents. It is the worst-case scenario wherein the student is so mischievous & notorious, the faculty has to take a look at the gene line-up. A bad remark or two of their pupil is no humiliation. Go play Counter Strike & get knifed by that cheat flashbang-fragger: that is humiliation.
  • Lab equipments. I agree. Some of them are outdated and faulty, but when the curriculum is outdated, what more do you expect? I have successfully completed almost all the practicals in my sophomore and third year. And tell me, do you really pay attention in those 2-hour practical sessions? They say the syllabi still teaches us about CRT TV and not LCD/LED/Plasma TV. You nimrod, when you don’t know the basic operation, why do you want to focus on the displays, which is secondary?
  • Assignments & examinations. True. But give me an example of one institute which doesn’t burden its students? You, my friend, are watching too many Hollywood college/teen movies.
  • Grades & Certifications. Let us not talk about it, either.

So, there’s that. The exaggeration quotient of both the complain & the Mid-Day article is astronomical. First, media is not a a plaything where you can fret over small issues. Second, none of the points listed in the complain have credibility enough for an action to be written.

Now, there are some grave stories that have originated from hearsay about the college which aren’t quite believable. Maybe they are true, maybe not. But, I personally know that if a parent of a student comes over to the management of the college to get respite from the fine, it will be allowed. Maybe a warning or two & then the mobile phone is returned. Should we punish if he repeats the mistake?

So, that is what really occurred. But there is a conspiracy theory about all this fuss. That the whole charade is a subterfuge by the college authorities to up the reputation. Parents do want their kids to go to a regulated, restraint-oriented college and what is more disciplined than the one which fines for using silly items like mobile phones. The story gets interesting when you learn that there apparently is a statute passed by the country’s Education authority that mobile phones are, in fact, banned in educational institutions and its premises. Looks like only SIES GST follows it. But, then again, it is a mere canard.

And mind you, if someone comes to me and asks for a good Engineering college for their ward, I wouldn’t think twice before recommending SIES GST. Period.

Theft System, Part 1 – The Lady Who Killed The College

The asphalt on the road grinned at me joyfully as it rained. I got inside a standing area to prevent the stack of writing pages I was holding in a polythene packet from getting wet. I was dumb. Next moment, I was angry.

The pages in the stack were single-side ruled. I wanted double-side ruled and after admitting my mistake, I asked the guy at the counter of the shop in front of the standing area to replace it. He refused and it became the moment I was talking about in the starting paragraph. Both types were worth 35 rupees and contained 50 pages each. This was approximately my third purchase.

The guy at the counter was physically and mentally impaired and I always showered kindness to him and was assigned the job by the college administrators. But it had nothing to do with the replacement. The seal was still gluey sealed and I had all the right to get it replaced. After few more persuasive requests, he finally complied with his own state of mind and stark refused to comply with my state of mind. I was flabbergasted. He told me to talk to the principal about the then-petty-now-big issue. After realizing the principal’s absence, I hurried back to the store to find the guy blabbering to someone through a desk phone. He handed the receiver to me and at the end of the following conversation, she was accused by me to have murdered the college where she presumably worked as a senior clerk.

Murderer: (in inaudible voice) Hello!
Witness: (loudly) Hello!
Murderer: (in slightly audible voice) Sunil!
Witness: Hello! Yeah tell me!
Murderer: What is the problem? (in a voice opposite to what she started with)
Witness: The guy over here won’t repl…
Murderer: That guy? Who is that guy? Show some respect to…
Witness: Oh, not that guy, Suni… Mr. Su… Reverend Mr. Sunil just won’t replace the sheets I bought from him today at around… one-thirty.
Murderer: Why do you want it replaced?
(The story was told to her & Sunil was that guy… oh sorry… reverend shopkeeper’s name)
Murderer: What kind of shit is this?
Witness: (somewhat flummoxed by the inept use of words) Huh? I just want it replaced and I think he has what I need.
Murderer: Look, keep what you have and you may use it later in your engineering life and for what you need, you can pay 35 rupees more & buy another stack.
Witness: What? That just won’t do, ma’am! I won’t need these single-side ruled pages in engineering.
Murderer: Don’t teach me about engineering, okay! Just don’t trouble him… you know he’s a handicapped person…
Witness: I know that, ma’am and I always show him respect (I glared at him), but this is just a slight request I am making.
Murderer: No… (the voice attenuated again)
I handed the receiver back and Reverend Mr. Sunil blabbered something in his own language which Google later failed to translate.

After placing back the receiver, he finally deviated from his erratic state of mind and uttered few magical words which I interpreted to be “You won’t get any replacement, you bastard!” But let me make it clear, his words came out so softly that you’d be forced to give respect.
I presumed the lady on the phone to be that fat, fair complexioned imbecile I once had an altercation with in the office. Her face reminds me of the villainous nurse in One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest. ’nuff said. And the meaning of this piece is to show how colleges can go the distance in oozing money outta poor students’ hands. This is the most fascinating example to show how colleges run & turn out to hold such affluent administrators & owners.

And about the murder, I no longer am in terms with the rules & regulation of the college, which unfortunately I study in. Although I have to follow them sometimes, the small amount of respect I had for my college has been erased by the lady and not to say, has been undoed & moved to the guy… err. Reverend Mr. Sunil.

To cut this originally long story short, I had to hobnob with some administrators later to finally achieve my right to replacement  and got what I needed. This is in no way, a derogatory post for the psychically or mentally impaired persons, but just a reminder that how the cruel world can harness them for some benefits. I will never forget the words of one of the administrators who was kind & strict at the same time: “Profit is not the motto,” he replied when I threw a taunt at him about the in-shop.