India

I write this post on the day India completes 66 years of independence. This is a very interesting time for a  22 year old to live in this country. For I, as a 22 year old, am looked upon as a part of the younger demographic of this country. And as many of my counterparts fly abroad in search of greener pastures, remarking on the pitiful state of affairs in my / their country, I ponder upon the implications of continuing to live in India. I ponder upon the dichotomies existing in the life of a 22 year old living in this country. And no, this isn’t any national awakening upon my part. Just a tenacious belief in the idea of India.

To illustrate few of the dichotomies. I plan to exercise my vote in the general elections next year knowing well that my vote wouldn’t matter in the larger scheme of things and also knowing that the party or politician I am going to vote for, neither represents my best interests nor satisfies any benchmark against which I judge him or her. So much for democracy. I have been forced (not by choice) to learn that being a Republic country means the affairs of state are a public matter, there is no room for administration by inheritance. Which is the antithesis of dynasty politics and political elitism existing in the Government. Not to mention the blatant abuse of power and burgeoning wealth of most of our leaders.

I don’t complain about the above mentioned illustrations, which is an entirely different ball of wax anyway. I don’t mean to whine about the disparities existing in our economy and the robustness of our administration or lack thereof. I just ponder about them, because growing up in India you are expected to adhere to the aphorism “This is how things work in India” and carry on with your work towards personal gratification. Your parents and the society expect you to have an agnostic stance towards your country. In contemporary Indian society, politics and welfare are for ‘other people’. Which brings me to the focal point of my post. The meaning of patriotism in modern day India.
According to many, patriotism  is changing display pictures in Facebook and sharing greetings twice an year. Patriotism is dismissing the Government as an incompetent authority. Patriotism is hating the enemy. Patriotism is about preferences in cricket. Patriotism is about disposition towards indigenous brands. All of these definitions of patriotism may or may not be wrong.

George Orwell, in his splendidly written book; 1984 says that “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.” If you could personify our country, I’d like to believe India toes the above mentioned line. In the present scenario there is a dire need to understand the country. For India is an experiment in democracy. A mix of political adventure and socio-economic diversity. I have been reading this rather intriguing book called ‘India after Gandhi’ by Guha. At times reading this book brings forth an array of historical occurrences which encourage the reader to think about the genesis of our country and the ontological argument about India. It is inhuman not be swayed by these emotions but on an unemotional note, I was surprised by what people had to say about our country back then.
In the book, Sir John Stracey, a member of the Governor-General’s council back then remarked that India is merely a label of convenience. A name which was given to a great region including a multitude of different countries. He says “Scotland is more like Spain than Bengal is like Punjab.” 
If you look at Stracey’s viewpoint, the idea of nationalistic feelings arising in a country with such diversity is almost improbable. Nations are divided and formed on the basis of linguistic boundaries or at times religious interests. But the eighth schedule to the Indian constitution lists 22 languages that the Government of India has the responsibility to develop.
To quote further from the book, in 1891 when Rudyard Kipling visited Australia, he was asked about the possibility of self-governance in India. To which he remarked “They are  4,000 years old there. much too old to learn that business.”  This sentiment was shared by many back then. Even Winston Churchill famously predicted that if British left India, the entire gamut of public services created by them would perish and India would fall back to medieval times.

We haven’t fallen back to medieval times, instead we have made progress if not rapid in various fields. You see, the idea of India back then remained a paradox. It perplexed many that a nation so huge in numbers, with such diversity in culture and with a history of religious conflicts could even exist as a single secular entity. At times as a citizen of this great country it baffles me as well. To me India is beauty in chaos. The idea of eating Tamilian food and appreciating Rajasthani folk music at the same time is beautiful. The idea of a person from Assam interacting with a Hyderabadi autowallah in different languages yet resulting in a more clarity of thought than our economic policies is beautiful. This beautiful narrative, the idea of India will not cease to exist if you stop believing in it. It will continue with a spirit unique to us. So as we celebrate our 67th Independence Day, do not let the patriotic fervour die down. Lets stop nihilism of patriotism. Personally I don’t think any person should complain about this corrupt and poverty-ridden country without having educated himself or herself about the country, without having fallen in love with this country, without having appreciated the idea of India. Because if you hate without having loved the country first, it is just downright unadulterated contempt and disregard on your part.
There is this sentence in our national pledge which is recited in schools.
“I shall always be worthy of it.”

Happy Independence Day!

Open letter to Tarantino.

*No spoilers*
(For satirical purposes, maybe?)

Sup?

I’ll make this short. First off, thanks man. Django didn’t disappoint me like Nolan’s TDKR. Your movies are essentially a bloodbath with an epic soundtrack. I’m not complaining, but you need balls to make absurdity look cool. Also, you need balls to use a rap song in a movie based in 1850s. And this is Amit Khanna’s answer in Quora to

How would one describe Quentin Tarantino’s style?

Tarantino movies revel in absurdity. There is a very interesting scene in Pulp Fiction: Bruce Willis picks up an automatic and points it at John Travolta ( emerging from loo). The two look at each other. Nothing  happens. They look at each other some more. Still nothing happens. Then all of sudden the toaster pops out a very burnt toast with a very audible click. Bruce Willis pulls the trigger. The question is “Would he have pulled the trigger if the toaster had not broken the trance?” Probably not.
(courtesy:Amit Khanna, Quora)

I think, this sums up everything I think of the implausible, preposterous cockeyed movies you make. They don’t demand an explanation, they address absurdity in a matter of fact way. Not many can appreciate the gore and violence, I have to confess you overcook it at times but that amplifies the beauty of the movie. I haven’t felt this way since Nolan’s ‘Inception’. I’ve had to survive on shit churned out by every other director since. Your style could be matched by Guy Ritchie on a good day but that explains the rarity of your breed. And thanks for casting DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz.
Thanks for the German accent, the early black american dialect, the humor involved with Ku Klux Klan. Thanks for everything.

Much appreciated. Awesomeness overload.

P.S: I couldn’t wait till March to watch the movie. Blame it on Indian distributors and my insecure self hoping not to stumble upon spoilers on the internet. A good internet connection always comes handy.Django-Unchained

(Courtesy:Google)

Bigg Loss

In my defence, I didn’t want to sit and watch the show but what followed was personification of decadence, a caricature of stupidity and an afterthought on human psyche.

My sister was watching ‘Big Boss’ on the television. Now I’ll be honest, I never really watch television apart from football matches but I did hear about the show and learned that pseudo famous people are invited over to stay at a ridiculous looking place for 30 odd days and complete tasks without contact from outside world all this time.

This is what I saw or atleast tried to deduce from what I saw. A woman named Urvashi was invited over to an enclosed room, she then handed over some instrument and left. All this time, some guy was blabbering instructions to her on the microphone. After this, two people were seen rotating a huge rod in a circular direction. While they were at it, a huge group of people just barged inside and started dancing over popular south-indian music tracks. Rest of the contestants arrived near that place and started shouting for no reason. The random people barging in was an apparent test to gauge the concentration of the participants carrying out the task. Very few things in life are more frivolous and trifling than watching people shout for no reason and add two people rotating a rod to that brouhaha.You get my point?
The sense of reasoning behind such a test and the whole fragment of episode left me uttering 10 WTFs per minute. People then went shopping with the points they won in the task being the denomination of currency. Which was strange because the shopkeeper was bargaining with them about the coffee powder being atleast 500 points.

Now the analysis.  Normally one shouldn’t judge people based on their grooming choices or sense of humor but, in what turned out to be a 15 minute long torturous watch you can’t help but judge people based on the above mentioned factors. One guy was wearing a plastic flower on his bald head and another one was wearing yellow shoes, light blue cargos, green jacket, yellow spectacles and had copper coloured streaks on his hair. He appeared as one mighty image of brazen stupidity. Apart from that we have people conversing using the following dialogue “ Agar mere mooh se nikala toh what derogatory? Who kitna derogatory baatein karta hain ladkiyon se?”

I don’t see how this show is unscripted but that is a different argument altogether. This show isn’t necessarily nonsense because nonsense can be a failed attempt to make sense but what I saw here was a fragment of idiocracy juxtaposed with buffoonery one would normally associate with a dog trying to cut its own tail. This show is an open market for prostitution of stupidity. And like every market has a demand and supply. This show very obviously commands a demand too. And for all those people watching the show. I have just one question ‘Why in the name of logic’s long lost mistress would you want to watch such a show?’

Here is what one could argue “ It is a source of entertainment similar to movies one can watch and forget.”
This unlike movies is a reality show and your subconscious is made to believe the scripted fights citing the reason of reality. And if you can derive entertainment from watching two people bicker over an omelette, you need to change your outlook on life. The greatest problem in one person’s life is the amount of dhanya powder in his omelette. And you have people crying and fighting over friggin’ dhanya powder on national television and in a show which apparently isn’t a work of fiction? This scares me, the vast majority of people fed on a diet of distasteful quarrels when there is a vote going on FDI in multi-brand retail.

Ok, people might not be interested in the economic growth of their country nor are they interested in anything meaningful but can you really judge a person based on the television they watch? The answer I like to believe is yes. People are just being white-collared stalkers, watching others go on with their lives in that house. They are being voyeurs without being branded one. No guilt trip as such. The question is not about chasing something constructive. It is about the impact of such a show on human psyche. Imagine yourself driving on a road and you watch two people quarrel. What do you do? You probably watch for about 5 minutes and drive away. Now imagine watching this on television in the comfort of your home for 45 minutes or make it an hour with mindless commercials. Again, imagine a bunch of 10 year olds learning the dirty politics involved in eliminating contestants. I don’t want to be the moral authority here nor am I questioning the procrastination preferences of people. All I am saying is it doesn’t make sense or as my dad generalized after watching the long drawn downward spiral, “People are mad.”

The weekend in IIST

A lot of people were asking me to update my blog. Apparently, the absence hasn’t gone unnoticed. And then, IIST authority provided fodder for my blog.

IIST admin had a brainwave after looking at the Quiz-1 marks, so they devised an elaborate ruse to make sure we are devoid of internet and electricity before Quiz-2. Ergo, our laptops. The soul sucking, mind liberating devices of our daily entertainment. So what now?

Here is my 5 step plan for an equally good weekend.

1) Fill the whole corridor with water. Take a good run up and slide. You have a ‘do-it-yourself’ waterslide. You can spice it up with games like water hockey and stuff.

2) Inter-hostel ‘ Mafia ’ championship?

3) Spread rumors. Facebook and G-talk won’t be there to confirm stuff. And, make sure you add necessary details to bring in authenticity.

For example- “Sarvesh Kurane went to Dominos today, he’s got Cheese Burst Margaritas to cheer us up. Parth Sharma ne bhi thoda contribute kiya hai, Rohini 204 chalo sab!”

Spread a little anarchy. Make people run around.

4) Gangnam style flash mob in the mess?

5) Or, you could be a bore and rush off to the city. I suggest you to try a restaurant in ‘ Bakery Junction’ . Serves awesome sea-food. Prawns, Fish et al. I can’t remember the name.
Maybe you could visit ATF.

3 years into College

I’m not the first person to attempt this, there must be shitloads of Chetan Bhagat inspired stories from every other engineering college in India. I’m not going to abnegate, the melodramatic quotient in this post. After 3 years of engineering , I question myself ‘What have I really learned?’ . I get no satisfactory answer from my brain. Maybe I’ve learned how to build an electrical circuit on a bread-board or adding two numbers in MATLAB. That is about it, the bare minimum required to scrape through to final year. The irony being, I feel enlightened regardless of that. This is the place, where I studied nothing yet learned everything. I’ll try and abridge my experiences.

1) Swear words are brotherhood’s equivalent of marriage vows. They are more sacred than anything you will ever worship. ‘BC’ epitomizes everything you will ever stand for. You become a sacrosanct for using it. No moral authority will judge you for using it.

2) Maggi is a life saver. It has saved more lives over the past-decade than Mother Teresa in her entire lifetime.

3) You might bullshit your professor, your lab assistant, your intern guide. But, never, even for the high one might get of accomplishing the unaccomplished, try to bullshit your H.O.D.

4) Pink Floyd. Led Zeppelin. Tool. Jimi Hendrix. Need I say more?

5) Even God plays Counter-Strike and DotA.

6) Hostel mess might screw up your body clock, but, you’ll survive on almost anything later in life.

7) Escher’s definition of reality is an Engineering college.

8) After 3 years, I’ve realized I can forego sleep for 46 hours. I can now sleep at will (Classroom hours don’t count.)

9) I learnt that not all police officers can be bribed.

10) Switch off your phones and go offline after getting drunk. Just saying.

11) Professors will make you a better judge of character. Most of them will blatantly lie to your face. “This is an easy course, everybody will get above B grade, none of you will be debarred for attendance.”

12) Relationships are overrated. No I mean like seriously. I won’t question your integrity if you tell me that you’re too busy for a relationship. Grapes are always sour my friend, always.

13) End semesters are your professor’s idea of poetic justice.

14) Murphy’s laws are true. Seniors will be hotter than girls from your batch. Attendance will be taken only when you’re absent. This shit prepares you for life.

15) You’ll automatically learn to hide food. This place makes you a manipulative bastard.

16) Answer correctly, no professor will remember you. Be late for a class by 10 minutes, you’re marked down for execution. Coup d’état, you can’t so shit.

17) Money, like food is scarce. Food, like money is all powerful.

18) Don’t travel without tickets. Just saying.

19) Never, even when your life is at stake, answer a call from your home in a room full of friends.

20) Cleanliness is overrated, washing your clothes is overrated, having a bath daily is overrated.

21) Your roomie knows more about you than your parents, so be careful when you invite people for your wedding.

Fight Club

I’ve been meaning to blog on ‘Fight Club’ for quite some time now. I first saw this movie three years back, and my dalliance with this piece of art has lived on since. I’ve lost the count as to how many times I’ve seen it. To be honest, no ‘Fight Club’ fanboy can talk about the movie without sounding didactic . And, I fear if I continue to ramble on this, it might sound gibberish. Hence, I force myself to finish the blog in 1 hour.

To be honest I haven’t read the book, and I had bleak expectations from the movie. I wasn’t really startled when I finished watching it for the first time. I confess, I was a tad bit confused by what I had seen. Yes, the storyline was good. Presentation was subtle. But, nothing really stood out. And like a lot of other movies it was reduced to a distant memory in my brain.

Time went by and I was a sombre soul during the summer of 2010.Desolate times arrived with the onset of monsoon. For no reason whatsoever I found myself watching the movie again, as the first showers of monsoon rattled my window. And then, after the second watch came my moment of enlightenment. This isn’t your every day movie. It comes with a soul, the roots of which lie in nihilistic values.

Let’s delve deeper.

Fight Club isn’t for people who carry a ‘normal’ stance on life. It is a bombardment of philosophy, a school of thought far different from anything a movie can offer. This movie is for those ‘square pegs in round holes.’ For people who are bent towards a rebellious disposition.

Tyler quote 1: “We are byproducts of a lifestyle obsession….I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

How are we not byproducts of a lifestyle obsession? Who defines about things in vogue? Are we just consumers in the grand scheme of things? Why do people have to define clothing sense? Whatever happened to free-will? Why need a sofa when I’m comfortable sitting on a mattress? Those designer dresses cost an arm and a leg and look like shit at the same time, why buy them?

The heart of this discussion between Tyler and the narrator lies in the ‘free will’ and ‘forced by society’ conjecture.

Tyler quote 2 : “The things you own end up owning you.”

Tyler calls for the inherent need of setting oneself free. This movie was released in 1999.Hence, it is a reflection of the corporate culture prevalent in the late 90s, where-in, the whole generation was leading a mechanical life and chasing hollow dreams. It carries an anti-capitalist subtext throughout.

The basic idea of the movie is ‘liberation by isolation’. People felt saved after a fight. In our reality, a fight club is not feasible but we are in an age of declining masculinity. We are too normal for our own sake. Going for salsa classes is not what men inherently like. What if salsa had no women? Would men be interested? This doesn’t apply to football or basketball. Men would go and play a game regardless of the conditions placed.

Ask yourself. If you would fight a celebrity who would you fight?
I’d fight Rahul Dravid. Not for personal vendetta nor that I hate him. But I’d like to see what a perfectly normal guy would do in a fight.

Any historical figure?
Gandhi. Considering he gets a rage. Who wouldn’t want to see the conclusion of that scenario?

The finest moment of Fight Club appears after an hour into the movie. The bastion of nihilism, as I’d like to put it. Tyler burns the narrator’s hand with lye(a chemical).

Tyler quote 3 : “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing. Like the first monkey shot into space.”

Tyler quote 4: “Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”

Tyler quote 5: “You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you, never wanted you, and in all probability, he HATES you. It’s not the worst thing that can happen.”

Tyler quote 6: “Fuck damnation, man! Fuck redemption! We’re God’s unwanted children, SO BE IT!”

I personally think, the montage of these quotes can be best summarized like this.

Fight Club is essentially atheism against materialism. But it is not atheism against God. God does exist and he is not, as Freud has put it an ‘enormously exalted father’ or simply, the nuance that God is not great makes sense.
If God is omnipotent, why would he not create a perfect world? How can anyone gain gratification from watching the world suffer? According to the movie, God is a sadist, he is not somebody who should be elevated to positions of respect nor should he be condemned. God is to be left alone, he created you and does not care about you, like a vagabond father. Why would God invent the idea of death? If you  were God, would you want your creations to fade out? The people who worship you are to be reduced ashes, why so? Sometimes I feel God has to be professional, like a surgeon cannot show love towards his patients, in the same way God created the universe and forgot about it. God and his repertoire of ideas and reasoning aren’t perfect and you shouldn’t station yourself on a moral highground by respecting him out of fear nor should you hate him for that. God is perverse. God is fallible. Metaphorically, God is human. Hence, we need to forget about divine punishment for a sin and deliverance from evil and carry on with our lives.

I reiterate, these are not my personal beliefs but  things I could deduce from the movie. I say this carrying the risk of sounding like a polemic, I maybe wrong but you can’t totally dismiss the argument mentioned above. If you found the above idea interesting, I’d recommend the works of the three masters of the ‘school of suspicion’. Friedrich Nietzsche on Übermensch, death of god et al. Karl Marx in general and Sigmund Freud on psychoanalysis and being polymorphously perverse.

Looking at it from a normal perspective, the movie has to be among the best there ever will be. Screenplay is exceptional, it is one of those mindfuck movies with Memento, Inception albeit with a reduced intensity. It advocates anarchy, helps you connect with your twisted mind. This movie will grow on you. Brad Pitt’s finest performance till date, Edward Norton is the soul of the movie. The intermittent hints dropped regarding the climax will amaze you.The author of the book found the movie better. The subtlety of the story combines with Flincher’s eye for direction to create a marvel. It tells you that personal gratification is everything and you are the centre of universe. It preaches narcissism and nihilism, has disdain for everything normal, your outlook on life might be questioned. Go watch it, if you haven’t. If you didn’t like it, you’re too normal for Fight Club. I’d like to conclude with one of Tyler’s question, his quote and his speech

Tyler’s question: “How would you feel about your life, if you die right now?”

Tyler’s quote: You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Tyler’s speech:
“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

[Tilt your screen]


Calculate the velocity required…

“IIT Council on September 14, 2011 decided to have a common entrance test for IITs/NITs, state government-run and private engineering colleges throughout the country from 2013.”

Read one of the newspapers I was browsing through.

Kapil Sibal had a brainwave.He was worried about the stress level on students, financial difficulty faced in buying examination forms.Apparently, abolishing  IIT-JEE was the solution, which translates to merging of AIEEE and IIT-JEE.For the ignorant lot, cracking IIT-JEE is a pretty big deal.In Andhra Pradesh, it is a matter of life and death.You can see parents pushing children to pursue the JEE dream right from class 6.You’ll be surprised to see the efficiency of the routine a bunch 6th graders follow.It involves getting up at 5 a.m. and sleeping at 11 p.m. with a one hour break for lunch and dinner.This continues for 7 long years and culminates on one of those fine April mornings with a 6 hour long exam.This effectively destroys the formative years of a person, and if you screw up JEE you are left with excruciating memories of effort gone in vain.The incognizant parents put up their lads in such coaching schools just because a colleague’s friend or a neighbour’s daughter is pursuing the JEE dream.This is one of the main reasons as to why the selection rates from A.P. in IITs is very high.

But in retrospective, cracking JEE is the best challenge high school education in India has to offer.JEE gives you an ontological argument of purpose, a lot of people I know(including me) were attempting JEE just for the sheer kick one gets on accomplishing something no one expects you to be successful at.Others are genuinely interested in technical studies and rest are forced by their parents.The rush one gets after solving a question from Irodov is worth the effort.

ISEET(Indian Science Engineering Eligibility Test) will fail to be a definitive substitute for IIT JEE.The reasons being
1)It has a 40% weightage on 12th board marks.Which is total bullshit, frankly speaking.The syllabus and marking schemes vary throughout India.In A.P. one can easily score above 90% with minimal effort.The same cannot be said about I.S.C. or C.B.S.E. Statisticians are talking about applying normalization to minimize the diversity.Who are they kidding?

2)You screw up ISEET, you are dead as a dodo.Earlier you had a chance to make up for the JEE disappointment through AIEEE.What if a student falls ill?What if he has a panic attack or a nervous breakdown during the examination? His chances of getting into an IIT or NIT are gone just like that.He’ll have to waste an year to attempt the exam again.

3)How does one gauge the difficulty of the question paper to be set?Should it be easier than JEE because you’re merging with AIEEE?But then, should it be tough enough to prevent a decline in the quality of students getting into IIT?

JEE was one of the best things that has happened to me.I’ve gotten into a good college(IIST, used to take students through to IIT-JEE, has now shifted its modus operandi to ISAT), met some quality people.But then, engineering hits you right on the head.I cracked JEE because it gave you a sense of accomplishment.Get into an ‘Arts’ or ‘Economics’ college after high school.The contemporary Indian society will look down upon you.At the same time, getting into one of those colleges is an easier way out.Hardly challenging.But if you are unprepared for the battle, engineering will molest you with all those integrals and bullshit you didn’t sign up for.
Lot of people are living  a deluded life, mugging away notes, sucking up to professors, getting a job, getting married and living happily ever after(?).Others end up as confused dimwits, getting a 6 point something and desperately hoping to find a way out.Is this what you signed up for as a 17 year old?Are you passionate about the syllabus you are studying?And finally, does studying this shit make you happy?

Which brings me to the purpose of this blogpost.We need reforms in our education.We need to encourage 15 year olds to take up journalism or photography as career options.I know bucketloads of IITians own a photography page.Why take up engineering then?Because your parents would be embarrassed if their colleague confronts them with a question “Aapka beta kya kar raha hai?
What would they say? “Photo keech raha hai” and the colleague would be like “Usme kya paisa hai, Sharma ji
Abolishing IIT-JEE is not a way to do that. Why deny people that challenge?Why not bring reputation to our non-engineering colleges.Do we have an answer to Oxford and Stanford?Why not work towards that? Why chase political agendas through educational reforms?
17 is a very tender age to deal with disappointments.What about all those suicide stories in IITs?Someone rightly said “One cannot judge an elephant on its ability to climb a tree.”