My Life

The World as I see and feel it.

22 June 2013

Book Review: Remembrance

Remembrance, by Mr Anurag Kumar, is a sequel to Recalcitrance. It’s set three years after the uprising, which was the theme of the first novel, and a sense of gloom hangs over throughout. We’re invited yet again into the lives of Chote Bhaiya and Narenderlal, who are doing their best to gather the threads of their lives.

The GoI Act, 1858 is in place, and the Crown is now what the Company Bahadur used to be. Clemency Canning is the Viceroy, and the British are now slowly but surely tightening their hold over the affairs in India. Veterans of the uprising, including, inter alios, Chote Bhaiya are watching this filled with despondence and anger and we get an idea that something is about to happen: for them veterans the epilogue is yet to be written.

For, in life, there has to be a purpose; all the more so for an impulsive soul like Chote Bhaiya. He is torn between various impulses, urges, and duties. We watch him pining for Farheen, his lost love from the previous book. We feel for him when he anguishes over having let his father down. We see him trying to make sense of what went wrong in the war. We even get to see him falling prey to one of his basic urges, and are relieved when he comes out from that one unscathed. This protagonist is all real; perhaps that’s why he doesn’t transcend at that moment in front of that train wreck.

At the very basic level, this novel is about love: love for the motherland, love for your family and friends, love for your muse, and so on. We realise that it’s “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. Love not realized gives you heart-burns  and that shadow always lingers on, affecting each and every thing that you do. But that’s nothing compared to the anguish of realising every day that you just didn't act: “girte hain sheh sawaar hi…” and all that.

We get to a dilemma here: what if you want to do something but can’t because of things that you have no control over? This angle is explored in Farheen’s track. Chote Bhaiya couldn't get her, and she got married off to someone whom she never would have married but for untoward circumstances. There is agony abound, and, towards the end, she puts it all on fate: that gargantuan, loathsome buffer. And yet, at the end and in a poignant epilogue, it’s fate that gets her to meet Chote Bhaiya again, after all and everything. However, it’s too late by then.


This book has a subtext of what-could-have-been. But that’s not all about it. We get interesting and valuable insights regarding the culture, customs, habits, trends, and tendencies of the region. The author writes in detail about it all, and this is something which is sure to delight many. We, for example, get to see how friendship is valued herein. We observe the godlike reverence towards elders. We get to see how modern Indian nationalism took roots in the Bengal-Oudh-Bihar region. There are many such beautiful and prized insights. This novel is a worthy successor to the previous one.

23 April 2011

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?


Of late, there’s been a lot of brouhaha on the Lokpal – Jan-Lokpal issue. Many column inches and TV-news-hours have been devoted to it; numerous people have been eulogized, and numerous others demonized, etc. I too have my $0.02 to add to the debate, as always.

I have been tweeting about the issue. I’ve read the Jan Lokpal bill draft (Version 2.2) on the indiaagainstcorruption website. I’ll list my tweets and the points I noted while going through the draft. The appending numbers are the specific clauses in the bill on which I have something to comment, with the comments accompanying. Tweets don’t have numbers appended; they have timestamps.

First, the tweets:
  • I can't feel anything but cynicism towards the Anna Hazare case; the pervasive corruption in our milieu is too huge for this act. - 6 Apr
  • As always, @acorn has some excellent insights on the ongoing issue. #JanLokpalBill #GrammarOfAnarchy - 7 Apr
  • So, finally, Rajkhowa too realises the futility of rising against the Indian state, says he's ready for dialogue. #GrammarOfAnarchy #ULFA - 8 Apr
  • I support & respect Anna Hazare's intentions - corruption has to be weeded out. It's just that I think his method is unconstitutional. - 8 Apr
  • Havells fans ads remind me of the extremely proactive 'civil society' in India. #GrammarOfAnarchy - 9 Apr
  • It's really heartbreaking to see that people are so disappointed in Democracy - the way it works here in India. But, this was coming. - 10 Apr
  • There is so much anger against the blatant corruption here, so much frustration. No wonder Hazare got such unprecedented a support. - 10 Apr
  • The proposed Jan Lokpal bill is draconian, or naive at best. It's good that a committee is constituted to look into this matter. - 10 Apr
  • The Bhushan duo have done some excellent work for the country in the past. Their inclusion in the comm. would only result in something good - 10 Apr
  • Here's hoping that our society is finally exorcized of corruption. It's a tough ask, but we are up to it. - 10 Apr
  • Devil's Advocate on CNN-IBN with Kejriwal clarifies a lot of points regarding the Jan Lokpal bill; nice watch. - 10 Apr
  • Amongst this Jan Lokpal brouhaha, Indian Express retains its voice of logic and sanity. - 13 Apr
  • It's a classic catch-22. Voting doesn't help as your vote doesn't matter; any other way to voice your dissent/opinion is unconstitutional. - 13 Apr
  • Frankly, i'm a bit surprised at Open Magazine's stand on the Jan Lokpal case. Also, their articles are unnecessarily provocative. - 15 Apr
  • It's interesting how no one is criticising Mulayam's antics in that Bhushan CD - shady-dealing on his part are taken for granted! - 21 Apr
  • It smells of an ugly conspiracy all over, every now and then a new controversy being raised against the Bhushans - 21 Apr

Now the points I noted in the Jan Lokpal bill:
  • 2 (6) ‘Government servants’ excludes Judges; 2 (11d) ‘Public servants’ includes them.
  • 6 (2c) Why this age fixation?
  • 6 (3) How these numbers were reached?
  • 6 (4) Define ‘unimpeachable integrity’?
  • 6 (10b) What ‘public feedback’? How would the majority Indians, the ‘Bharat’ if you may, provide its feedback? And this ‘Bharat’ is he who elects our leaders, due to its sheer numbers. This much for ‘democracy’.
  • 6 (11) In continuation of our glorious tradition, the President is merely ceremonial.
  • 7 (3e) Senior-most judges at the time of removal, junior-most/youngest for appointment?
  • 12 ‘Deemed to be a police officer’? Rank?
  • 12, 13 (4) The Lokpal is, therefore, Police and Judge at the same time?
  • 18 (viii) What if the President rejects the Lokpal’s recommendations?
  • 19A Apropos of the sheer volume of cases in our courts, and in light of the fact that there is the provision of imprisonment, can the bill envisage the chaos it may cause?
  • 19B The Lokpal chairperson is above the Judges? “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”?
  • 21B Guidelines to be mabe from time to time? Does the definition of ‘integrity’ change with time? And why, after being ambiguous and vague at so many places insofar as definitions are considered (implicit subjectivity), is this allowance of explicit subjectivity?
  • There is a time limit for everything, and no exception is added; what if there’s a genuine need for one?
  • As Shekhar Gupta pointed out, Musharraf type ‘impeccable integrity’ references abound. This is highly subjective and vague.
  • 22 (5) Suo moto transfer?
  • 23 (7) Arbitrary salaries?
  • 28A (8) Half of the funds shall lie with the Lokpal! [‘Lokpal Fund’ and the question of incentive for ‘extortion’ (for lack of a better word).]
  • 28B Mentions an ‘ethics committee’ all of a sudden; and is incomplete.

 Corruption is indeed a huge problem in India and has to be weeded out for the society and economy to develop to its full potential. But unconstitutional means, which do no more than drumming up jingoism, for/towards the same do only disservice to the cause and the country. A bill which seeks to undermine the basic structure of the constitution - our country is a Parliamentary Democracy, a Democratic Republic, remember - must not be allowed to hold our legislature hostage. Anyone who seeks to be a part of the legislature should come through the proper channel - by fighting elections.

18 March 2011

A brief history of Lucknow - I


Disclaimer: This post is written mainly by compiling pieces from various sources, and for the purpose of serving someone who belongs to Lucknow and is appearing for an interview. I have been reading about the city for the past couple of days, as, in my opinion, it constitutes an integral part of my ‘personality’ – I’ve been living here for the past 22 years. So, this blog post was long overdue, kind of. Anyway, cutting the flab and coming to the point, here’s ‘A brief history of Lucknow’, limited to the period prior to the annexation of Awadh by the British, in 1857.

Lucknow is located in what was historically known as the Awadh (Oudh) region. The name Awadh is derived from Ayodhya; legend has it that after coming back to Ayodhya from Lanka, Rama gave his brother Lakshmana the area which comprises today’s Lucknow to rule, and after him the place came to be called Lakshmanpuri, and later Lakhnau (Lucknow).

Lucknow has always been a multicultural city, and flourished as the cultural and artistic capital of North India in the 18th and 19th centuries. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as The City of Nawabs (the plural form of the Arabic word Naib, meaning ‘assistant’; it was the term given by the Mughal emperor to the Governors appointed by him all over India to assist him in ruling). It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.

The emblem of the Uttar Pradesh state government depicts two fishes; in fact, fishes were a prominent theme – as a symbol – throughout Awadh’s history. The Nawab’s seal had them, and even after they proclaimed themselves to be kings, they continued with the theme. The fishes trace their roots to Machchhi Bhawan (on the ruins of which stands King George Medical College today), built by Sheik Abdul Rahim, whose descendents, the Sheikhzadas came to rule Lucknow until they were defeated by Saadat Ali Khan I to establish the Nawabi era in 1722.

Muhammad Shah, the Mughal Emperor, made Saadat Ali Khan I the governor of Awadh and the army-in-charge of Gorakhpur on Sep 9, 1722 AD. As mentioned earlier, Sadat Khan tamed the local kings, zamindars and jagirdars, made his own palace near Ayodhya, and founded a new city Faizabad, which became the capital of the new government. Due to his management policy state's income swelled from Rupees 70 lakhs to 2 crores. Later on, when Nadir Shah invaded Delhi, Saadat Khan was called on to fight him; he fought valiantly, but lost. He later instigated Nadir Shah to invade Delhi, and committed suicide the night before the grand massacre at Delhi.

He was succeeded by his nephew and son in law Safdarjung, who apparently paid Nadir Shah two crore Rupees. He was an able administrator. He was soon given governorship of Kashmir as well, and became a central figure at the Delhi court. After Ahmad Shah acceded the throne of Delhi in 1748, he made Sufdarjung his Chief Minister and gave him the charge of ‘Harem’. However, due to corrupt policy of Delhi court and confrontation with Ahmad Shah, Safdarjung came to Awadh in December 1753, where he died in October 1755 at the age of 46. He was buried in Delhi, at Safdarjung's Tomb, now situated on a road known as Safdarjung Road.

Safdarjung was succeeded by Shuja-ud-daula, who is best known for his key roles in two definitive battles in Indian history - the Third Battle of Panipat which ended Maratha domination of India (he sided with Ahmad Shah Abdali), and the Battle of Buxar that definitively established British domination (Robert Clive decisively defeated the trio of Shah Alam II, Mir Qasim, and Shuja-ud-daula). He again fought British with the help of Marathas at Kara Jahanabad and was defeated. On Aug 16, 1765 he signed the Treaty of Allahabad, which said that Kora and Allahabad district will go to Company and Company will get 50 lakh Rupees from Awadh.

After the humiliating defeat at the hands of the British, Shuja-up-daula was reduced to misery and penury. However, his wife, Bahu Beghum, who is the single most important woman in the history of Awadh, stood by him in this crisis and helped him with money and support. She did a lot of work in Faizabad – which was the capital of Awadh at that time – and in Lucknow as well, in the reign of Asaf-ud-daula.
Shuja-ud-dalula was succeeded by his son Asaf-ud-daula, who shifted the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775, ostensibly to escape the domination of his mother, Bahu Beghum. Towards the beginning of Asaf-ud-daula's rule, men of learning and art avoided Lucknow – because Asaf-ud-daula was said to have no regard for such people – and gathered round the Beghums' and their eunuchs' court at Faizabad, but later on Asaf-ud-daula took greater interest in such people and induced most of them to attach themselves to his Court at Lucknow. During the time of Asaf-ud-daula – and also during Shuja-ud-daula’s time – the Mughal Empire was steadily declining and due to this the rulers in Delhi didn’t have the money to support artists, etc. who started coming to the Awadh court. The prominent ones among these artists were poets like Mir Taqui Mir, Sauda, and Mir Siraj-ud-din Khan Arzoo.

Nawab Asaf-ud-daula is considered the architect general of Lucknow. With the ambition to outshine the splendour of Mughal architecture, he built a number of monuments and developed the city of Lucknow into an architectural marvel. Several of the buildings survive today, including the famed Asafi Imambara (Bada Imambara) which boasts of one of the largest domes in the World built without Iron or Wood, and the Qaisar Bagh area of downtown Lucknow.

The Asafi Imambara is a famed vaulted structure surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the Nawab started it as a charitable project to generate employment during the famine of 1784. In that ghastly famine, even the nobles were reduced to penury. It is said that Nawab Asaf employed over 20,000 people for the project (including commoners and noblemen). The Nawab's sensitivity towards preserving the reputation of the upper class is demonstrated in the story of the construction of Imambara. During daytime, common citizens employed on the project would construct the building, whereas, on the night of every fourth day, the noble and upper class people were employed in secret to demolish the structure built, an effort for which they received payment. The Nawab became so famous for his generosity that it is still a well-known saying in Lucknow that "he who does not receive (livelihood) from the Lord, will receive it from Asaf-ud-daula" (Jisko de na Moula, usko de Asaf-ud-daula).

A brief history of Lucknow - II


Asaf-ud-daula was succeeded by his adopted son Wazir Ali Khan, who ascended to the throne (musnud), with support of the British in September 1797. Within four month they accused him of being unfaithful; Sir John Shore (1751–1834) moved in with 12 battalions and replaced him with his uncle Saadat Ali Khan II in January 1798.

Saadat Ali Khan II was crowned on 21 January 1798 at Bibiyapur Palace in Lucknow, by Sir John Shore after the assurance from Sadat Ali Khan towards acquiescence to the company and carrying out its orders. He was made to sign another treaty by which the annual amount to be paid to the Company was increased by 20 lakhs to 76 lakhs. Forts of Allahabad and Fatehgarh, along with 12 lakhs, were given to the Company for putting him on the throne. The Governor asked him to reduce the force of Awadh (Which was 80,000 at the time of Asaf-ud-daula). His powers – and that of Awadh by extension – got reduced very much within three years of his reign. He became unable to pay the dues to the Company. Finally, on Nov 10, 1801, the Company took half of the Awadh from him, annexing the area of Rohilkhand, Farukhabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Kanpur, Fatehgarh, Allahabad, Azamgarh, Basti, and Gorakhpur, from where Oudh was getting an income of Rs. 3 crores; again after the assurance from Sadat Ali Khan for acquiescence to the company and to carry out its orders!

Saadat Ali Khan II was succeeded by Ghazi-ud-Din Haider, who became Nawab Wazir of Oudh on July 11, 1814 after the death of his father. In 1818, under the influence of Lord Hastings, the British Governor General, he declared himself as the independent Padshah-i-Awadh (King of Awadh). He died in the Farhat Bakhsh palace in Lucknow in 1827. The Shah Najaf Imambara (1816), his mausoleum, on the bank of the Gomti is a copy of the fourth Caliph Ali’s burial place in Najaf, Iraq. He was succeeded by his son Nasir-ud-Din Haider.

By the time of Nasir-ud-din Haider’s reign, the Awadh government had started deteriorating. The administration of the kingdom was left to the hands of Wazir Hakim Mahdi and later to Raushan-ud-Daula. His administration was so corrupt that it even sabotaged his works for Awadh, like the Haidar canal project, which envisaged connecting Ganga to Gomti, but was a failure due to faulty planning and implementation, and lack of funds at a later stage.

Nasir-ud-din Haider died without an offspring and Ghazi-ud- din Haider's queen 'Padshah Beghum' put forward Munna Jan as a claimant to the throne, though both Ghazi-ud- din Haider and Nasir-ud-din Haider had refused to acknowledge him as belonging to the royal family. The begum forcibly enthroned Munna Jan at Lal baradari. The British intervened and exploited the situation to their interest. They arrested both the beghum and Munna Jan and arranged for the accession of late Nawab Saadat Ali Khan II's son, Nasir-ud-daula, under title of 'Muhammad Ali Shah', who promised to pay a large sum of money to the British for this.

Muhammad Ali Shah was 63 years of age when he ascended the throne. But he was an experienced man and had seen the glorious days of his father. He started to economize and set right the administration. However, by his time, the British hold on Awadh was very much complete. As a result, his administrative, financial and defense powers were reduced very much.

Muhammad Ali Shah built the Husainabad (Chhota) Imambara in 1838 and created Huseinabad Endowment Fund (now Husainabad Trust) to support it. He also built Husainabad Picture Gallery which is adjacent to the Clock Tower; this Gallery contains the life-size portraits of the Nawabs of Oudh. He also started to build an edifice similar to Babylon's minaret or floating garden and named it Satkhanda, but it reached only its fifth storey in 1842 when he died, in 1842, and was succeeded by his son, Amjad Ali Shah.

His father had made every effort to ensure that the heir apparent, Amjad Ali Shah, received an excellent education and had therefore entrusted him to the company of religious scholars, which instead of making him an intelligent ruler made him a devout Muslim. Thus, he became the most deeply religious, circumspect and abstinent ruler of Oudh. So much so, that the system of administration set up by Muhammad Ali Shah became completely disorganized due to the neglect faced on account of Amjad’s religious excursions, whereas the vicious officers had their day. He, nevertheless, took to some construction work as well. He constructed Iron Bridge over river Gomti and constructed metal road from Lucknow to Kanpur which still follows the same route. He also built Hazratganj, the great European style market. The great Aminabad Bazar and a Serai at Kanpur road were constructed by his minister Amin-ud-Daula.

Amjad was succeeded by his son Wajid Ali Shah, who was the fifth and last King of Awadh, holding the position from 13 February 1847 to 7 February 1856. Wajid Ali Shah, along with Asaf-ud-daula, is arguably the most famous ruler of Lucknow. He ascended the throne of Awadh in 1847 and ruled for nine years. His kingdom, long protected by the British under treaty, was eventually annexed peacefully on February 7, 1856 – days before the ninth anniversary of his coronation. The Nawab was exiled to Garden Reach in Metia-burz, then a suburb of Kolkata, where he lived out the rest of his life off a generous pension. He was a poet, playwright, dancer and great patron of the arts. He is widely credited with the revival of Kathak as a major form of classical Indian dance.

Beghum Hazrat Mahal, a wife of Wajid Ali Shah, played the key role in the Lucknow chapter of the great uprising of 1857.

I believe this much of information is okay insofar as an interview is concerned. I’d welcome and encourage readers to offer more, in case something important (for the purpose of an interview/personality-test) has been overlooked by me.

PS. (1) I’m grateful to Mr. Anurag Kumar who suggested me the names of books to read in order to acquaint myself with what amounts to just a minuscule part of the grand History of Lucknow.

(2)The area which is known as Madiaon today derives its name from Mandavya Rishi, who had his ashram in the area known as Kudiya ghat today. The place also had a religiously important Suraj Kund, which was famous for its disease-healing-powers. Adjacent to the area were established colonies such as Aliganj (by Bahu Beghum) and Maah Nagar (today’s Maha Nagar), in the modern era. The old Hanuman Temple of Aliganj was built by Lala Jaatmal in 1783.

(3) Chinhat of today derives its name from Chana Haat, a grain mandi (market) of yore. It was here that Asaf-ud-daula camped finally before entering Lucknow to establish his capital in 1775.


(4) Another important feature of Lucknow is the residency, built in 1800 A.D by the then Nawab of Awadh, Saadat Ali Khan II. It was constructed in order to serve as the residence for the British Resident General who was a representative in the court of Nawab. The palace gained prominence during the siege of Residency, at the time of the rebellion of 1857. Sir Henry Lawrence, who bore the responsibility 3500 human lives, undertook the defense and counter initiative when he was completely surrounded by the 'mutineers'; he died during the last days of the siege, before help arrived under Havelock and Outram.


(5) Suggested further readings: Yogesh Pravin, Anurag Kumar, and Abdul Halim Sharar.

14 November 2010

On The Social Network

I have a thing for Faustian stories; the idea of giving up something precious to obtain some other thing, all the more valuable to me, fascinates me. The relationship goes back at least to the day I watched Company, one of Ramu’s better works – of course, I wasn’t aware of Coppola’s masterpiece then – and only grew further as I came in contact with more of such stuff.

Life is defined by choices. At every point, you have alternate courses available; and it’s the quintessential manifestation of who you really are, nakedly reflected in the paths you chose. Thy way, highway; easy, and difficult way; ‘the road not taken’; foresight, and hindsight; all of what you are, and ever will be, can be captured in your choices. They are the true reflectors of your grit and character.

Fincher’s Zuckerberg is one such character whose life is brimming with such choices; his film, ‘The Social Network’, an inquiry into the decision-zeitgeist. The mood is set in the very first scene where a curtly arrogant Mark is dumped by his girlfriend Erica, who interprets his insecurity and social ineptness mixed arrogance and affinity for elitism as ‘assholery’ (for lack of a better word). Out of courtesy, she offers to be friends, to which he replies that he didn’t need any friend. Ironically, this act sets off a chain of events which leads to Mark establishing the grandest friending tool of our time: Facebook.

One good thing about the movies of this age is that they offer you to interpret the characters, proceedings, situations, etc. on your own. In this increasingly tangled and complex world, there are no absolute truths, only interpretations of facts. These interpretations enable a person to appreciate his own version of the world, which may be the polar opposite to his neighbor’s. The elasticity facilitated by all this enables the society to stick together; this is the reason why fundamentalists and liberals are able to coexist.

And the movie offers a plethora of interpretation-strings. On the one hand, you may feel for Mark, the compulsive nerd, who’s only fighting for what’s his rightfully; after all, “A guy who makes a nice chair doesn't owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair”. And, on the other hand, he may come across as the cunning and vengeful opportunistic hack, who devoured more than his share of luck, making a few enemies in the process of making 500 million friends; whose best friend sued him for 600 million dollars. One can’t naturally like him though; but that doesn’t stop him from craving for the same. And this explains why he is in so much awe of Sean Parker, he yearns to own his suave brilliance. Nevertheless, he’s not a natural here; his efforts are best summed up by Marylin Delphy when she offers him, “You're not an asshole, Mark. You're just trying so hard to be.”

This is what happens when you are too aloof from your surroundings to be able to look at them objectively, so detached that you can’t even mind them sometimes. One may think that it’s carelessness on their part, but that’s, after all, just an excuse. The reel Mark wanted to be forthright, but he was deemed an ‘asshole’; the real Mark may have wanted to make the web a more social and open place, but skeptics always cry foul at what they see as a breach in their privacy. Ultimately, he is not a bad guy, but a lonely guy he sure is. As we see him friending Erica and patiently waiting for a response in the last scene, we can’t help but wonder at this appropriate metaphor – the coming of age. An asshole Mark would never have the subtle squirm insinuated throughout the movie.

After all, everything comes at a price; and Faustian price is too dear, always.

01 October 2010

Black



I took this picture on a cloudy night. The moon is not a full one, and it's seemingly entangled in the clouds. Yet, it's a delight to look at - pristine and glowing. There is darkness everywhere, except for that little zone of luminosity struggling to hold on to dear life. 

I've always been obsessed with the color black; and I've noticed that a lot of people are, and each one of them has a different story to tell. I like it because of the fact that it covers every-darn-thing - a sort of blanket facade for anything one wants to conceal; because sometimes you hold a thing so dear that you don't want others to defile it.

25 September 2010

Where Merit and Equity Meet

 This is a guest post, written by my brother Samarth, originally written in response to this article. This is intended to be a comment on the 'open letter to Mr. Sibal'.

Dear Bijendar

Nice article! Great presentation and even better sarcasm. But I fail to agree with the core of your view... This is how I look at it.

I would like to take you back in time, the time when the IITs were getting established. Behind their formation, was the greatest socialist leader our country has ever produced- Pt. Nehru. He had 'social equity' as his core ideology and he sought to achieve it by - I am sure you must be knowing - the trickle down theory of development. This model seeks to achieve growth by first developing what can easily be developed, and then assuming that it will propagate outwards(/downwards). So, they established the IITs as centers of excellence, assuming that they will act as nodes, producing engineers of world class talent who will drive the country into the modern age. Huge funds were put into them, and still are. So the points to note are twin. First- that the IITs are not some private bodies, but are government nurtured institutions. Second- that the IITs were created not just to promote merit, but to use merit for all round development by giving it a chance to realise its potential.

Now the basic fallacy of such a model is that in trying to use merit as a tool for future equity, it creates more inequity. Also, the people who benefit from it - in this case the middle classes - never do what is expected from them. What happened as a result was called brain drain. The "brand" which the IITians have created, although a big achievent of Indian intellectuality, is a big failure of the government. The fault here is not with the people, but with the government policy itself, which somehow assumes action in public interest as something coming naturally to a human being.

How do I see the recent governmental policies vis-a-vis the IITs?
1. on opening up new IITs..NO...not because it will tarnish the image of the IITs, but because it is just an extension of the trickle down theory. The money can be better spent directly on the bottom of our socio-economic pyramid. Infact if you ask me today, I would not support even the creation of those seven in the first place.
2. On reservation...NO more of populism please!...They only benefit those are already well off to support their basic education and have a decent living, not those who have nothing.
3. On a common entrance test... YES!...because it has the obvious benefits of integration, but it should take the varying needs of institutes into account.
4. on taking the board marks into account...please prepare the framework it needs first, then do it. It will give a better idea of the overall personality of the student. But dont try and reach the moon with an autorickshaw.

People who benefit from a government policy start opposing newer policies, even if the newer ones have the same ideology as the ones which benefitted them, if they think that they will negatively affect their self interest. The OBC groups opposing the women reservation is an example, and so are the IITians opposing newer IITs. The basic goal of any government of a country should be to allow people to act in their self interests, and only support those who really cannot, rather than creating distortionist policies based on false assumptions.

It's high time that merit finds its way out (on its own, of course)!

12 September 2010

MBIC

Mahanagar Boys' Inter College [(note the positioning of the apostrophe, you dimwit r-tards!) (now – sadly – Montfort Inter College)] was established in July 1959 by the Society of Montfort Brothers of St. Garbiel (or was it ‘Gabriel’? Someone please confirm) in Lucknow, India.

It originally went by the name of Mahanagar Boys’ High School (until – what else – it could screw kids in the Intermediate too), and received recognition as an intermediate college in 1984. In 2007, in a decision which saw the effigies of a certain effing cobbler being burnt all over Lucknow, the name was changed to ‘Montfort Inter College’. Now there are rumors that it’s being made a co-ed institute. (No, I don’t want any ‘grapes’ jokes flying; so STFU.) Next - LGBT pride marches by the egalitarian students; heck, I can imagine Shaji Joseph salivating at this prospect!

The college runs classes from Class VIth to the intermediate level and prepares students for the High School and Intermediate Examinations of the Uttar Pradesh Board. Teaching is in English medium; however, some people claim to have cheated the fool-proof system and studied in Hindi medium. The current Principal is Bro. Monachan K. K. (However, there are rumors of him getting fired after all. Someone, again, please confirm.)

The school boasts of a rich history, varied heritage, yada yada yada. Sample this: “The Directorate of Education put on record its special appreciation for Mahanagar Boys' School and its management for their willingness to accommodate wards of the Defense personnel of the frontline N.E.F.A, as well as the refugee children from Assam, consequent to China-India war in 1962. However since the war came to a speedy end the situation of the North East normalized early, preventing the migration of students to Uttar Pradesh.” How can you possibly beat that? So, in short, we are awesome; and we like to bask in this awesomeness like Dr R. K. physics-don’t-need-no-a-c-classrooms Mitra in his small-ass teaching room at Ravindrapalli.

I gather that the awesomeness-quotient is waning nowadays. But, hey, everything that goes up comes down some day, only to go up again some other day – yin-yang and stuff. So, in short, Boys’ is awesome, and so it shall remain. Period.

08 September 2010

The 90s meme

There’s a new fb meme doing rounds. It brought upon me a wave of nostalgia, and I could connect to most of the points mentioned therein. So, here, I’m putting it up on ‘My Life’, with some minor modifications:
You Know You Grew Up in India in the 90s when…
1) You know the words to ‘In-pin-safety-pin’ and ‘akkad-bakkad’ by heart. 2) Cricket is almost a religion for you, and you idolize at least one of Rahul Dravid/Sachin Tendulkar/Saurav Ganguly (Who were the bowlers, again?). 3) You have read at least some ‘Chacha Chaudhary’ or ‘Tinkle’ comics; you know that ‘Raj Comics’ heroes have a thing for animals (which means that they can communicate with them, you dirty mind!). 4) You’ve watched ‘Shaktimaan’/’Mowgli’ on TV at least once in your life. And you can immediately recognize the character when you see him. 5) You have some ‘NRI’ relatives. They used to bring you chocolates, ‘real’ chocolates. Speaking of which… 6) You couldn’t wait for it to be December so you could have the Toblerone/Hershey’s chocolates your NRI relatives brought you. 7) You watched Cartoon Network, and then the late night movies on TNT that came after Cartoon Network ended. You remember the ‘bomb explosion’ of 6 p.m. 8) You watched corny dubbed versions of Small Wonder, Dennis the menace, and I Dream of Jeanie 9) You were THRILLED when McDonald’s opened in your neighborhood (or even eight kilometers away) 10) A visit to Pizza Hut/Domino’s used to mean a special treat. 11) You have seen Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun at least 5 times each. Ah, parents! And you thought, at that time, that KKHH was cool. 12) You still remember the theme song of Hum Paanch. (Hum Paanch, Pa Pa Pam Pam Paanch!). 13) You have played hours upon hour of running and catching, chor-police, Ice-pice (I spy you), ‘Doctor, doctor, help us!’, ‘Lock and key’. 14) You have seen girls play ‘Amina Super Sina’/’posham pa’ more times than you can remember. (And you still don’t know what it means!). 15) Dog ‘in’ the bone was your favorite co-ed game. 16) Much of your free time in school was spent playing UNO. 17) You collected trump cards of wrestlers, cricketers, and airplanes – hogging up-on shitty bubble-gums for your ‘collection’ – and did not quite understand why your younger siblings were obsessed with Pokemon and the other Japanese trends that followed. Finally, ‘South Park’ came to your rescue. 18) Your summer vacations were often synonymous with visiting your grandparents or cousins. 19) Your parents, at some point, told you ‘Dark Room’ was a bad game to play. But you still loved playing it. 20) Bole mere lips, I love uncle Chips! And Lays’ was Ruffles, and it sucked. 21) You know the song ‘Made in India’ by Alisha Chinai 22) You have seen many many many episodes of ‘Antakshari’ on Zee TV and know the only thing constant in the show is Annu Kapoor. Why was Pallavi Joshi with him again? 23) Many evenings have been spent watching little kids gyrate vulgarly on Boogie Woogie on Sony. And ACP Pradyumna-yahan-pe-to-laash-hai awed you. 24) You were the coolest thing in class if you had a computer in your house while it was still the 90s. 25) You learnt BASIC in school, CHIPPING-IN was the book to have, published by ‘Independent Business Machine’ Pub!! 26) You couldn’t wait to start 4th standard so you could start writing with PENS instead of with pencils! 27) You often used terms and phrases like ‘two-say’, ‘same to you, back to you, with no returns’, and ‘shame shame, puppy shame, all the donkeys know your name’! 28) You most probably saw Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at the cinema at least once. You also fantasized about singing songs in mustard fields as in the movie. (Admit it, you!) 29) You have seen David Dhawan and Govinda movies and laughed at them, at the jokes, not the way you’d now. 31) You have said ‘haw’ or ‘yuck’ when you saw people kissing in English movies. (now-a-days kids are used to it!) 30) Titanic was, in all probability, your FIRST ‘favorite English movie’. 31) You thought seeing English movies and speaking English made you the coolest thing ever. 32) You remember the Gujarat earthquake very clearly and could possibly tell everyone EXACTLY what you were doing when the earthquake occurred. 33) Barbies for girls, and GI Joes for boys were the ultimate status symbols. You just wanted more, more, more, and more. And how can I forget Hot Wheels, for both boys and girls? 34) You thought ‘imported’ clothes were definitely way better than ‘made in India’ clothes (never mind that a lot of clothes brought from overseas by NRI relatives were actually made in India, before ‘Made in China’ started appearing on EVERY existing thing). 35) "Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai Pata Chala Hai! Chaddi Pehen Ke Phool Khila Hai Phool Khila Hai!" You watched "The Jungle Book" every Sunday morning at 9.a.m" and just loved mowgli, bhalu and bagheera. A few years later, you watched Disney Hour, which had cartoons like Aladdin, Gummy Bears, Tail Spin, Uncle Scrooge! 36) At some point or other, cool/kewl was your favorite, and therefore, most overused word. 37) Captain Planet was your first introduction to environmental consciousness. 38) You have tried to convince people around you to not burst crackers on Diwali, and then gone straight back home and burst them yourself. 39) You have had endless packets of Parle Gluco-G biscuits, and of Britannia Little Hearts biscuits. 40) You loved licking off the cream from the centre of Bourbon biscuits. 41) There were no Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Puma. Action, Bata and Liberty was the way to go for your sports shoes. And Kapil Dev convinced you to get ‘Joote-me-hai-light’ Action-Shoes! 42) You have probably consumed more Frooti in your lifetime than there is oil in Iraq. 43) You watched Baywatch/VIP/Silk Stalkings on Star World when nobody was home even though (or because) your parents said you shouldn’t watch it. 44) You bought packets of potato chips for the specific purpose of collecting Tazos. And you had Tazos depicting everyone from Confucius to Daffy Duck to Daffy Duck dressed as Confucius. 45) For the longest time, the Maruti 800, the Premier Padmini, THE Fiat, and THE Ambassador were the only cars you saw on the road, and the Contessa was cool because it was bigger. 46) You would literally jump up in excitement if you ever chanced upon an imported car (Oh my gosh, is that really a MERCEDES?)! 47) You spent a good part of 1998 drooling over the Hyundai Santro and the Daewoo Matiz , debating which one was better. 48) ‘Lucky Ali’ started being cool to you. 49) You sometimes had contests with your classmates about who had more tattoos on their arm, leg, knee, hand, forehead, wherever. 50) You thought Mario and Contra were the coolest things ever invented, especially if you were a boy. 51) You knew that having the latest Hero or Atlas bicycle would make you the coolest kid on the block. 52) You love ‘Mile sur mera tumhara’. 53) You have, at some point of time, worn GAP clothes (real or fake) like SRK in KKHH. 54) Seemingly senseless acronyms like 'SRK', 'DDLJ', 'DTPH', 'KKHH', etc. actually make sense to you.. 55) You have at some point debated who was more beautiful: Aishwarya or Sushmita. 56) Baskin Robbins ice-cream was THE thing to have! 57) You know what Campa Cola is. And you also knew that Coca Cola was THE drink. 58) You would watch WWF keenly every evening/afternoon and loved Bret Hart "Hitman"! really thought Undertaker had seven lives and he made an “actual” appearance in the Akshay Kumar- starrer ‘Khiladiyon ka Khiladi’. 59) When all backpacks (or ’schoolbags’) and water bottles and tiffin boxes had strange cartoon characters that were hybrid versions of seven or eight different characters, and you still bought them, because a green man wih a water pistol, boots, a jet-pack, Johnny bravo hair, a rajasthani mustache, gloves, and underwear (long johns) over his pants, called ‘Mr. X’ was OBVIOUSLY a status symbol. 60) You remember the Nirma tikia jingle. 61) You remember the Nirma girl. 62) You remember the ‘doodh doodh piyo glass full doodh’ ad and also the ‘laal kaala peela, gulabi hara neela classic hai badia bristles wala’ and 'roz khao ande' ads. 63) You grew up reading, if you read at all, some or all of Nancy Drews, Enid Blyton books, Hardy Boys, Babysitters Club, Animorphs, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley series, Judy Blumes, and Tintin, or Archie comics. Because naturally, reading foreign authors made you much cooler than reading Tinkle. 64) Towards the late 90s (1998-99) at least some of us started our Harry Potter obsessions! 65) You absolutely HAD to go to Essel World if you were with cousins! “Essel World mein rahoonga main, ghar nahin nahin jaaonga main!” (I never went but always dreamed of going there!) 66) You watched the Bournvita Quiz contest on TV pretty religiously. The smarter ones amongst you actually took part in it and had your entire school and your entire extended families watch you on it! 67) Maggi 2 Minute Noodles = ultimate snack (and tiffin, lunch, dinner)! 68) If you grew up in the early 90s, you recall the nation’s obsession with Mahabharata on TV. 69) In the later 90s, you religiously followed ‘Hip Hip Hooray’ on Zee… may be ‘Just Mohabbat’ on Sony too. 70) You remember Parzan Dastur saying "JALEBI!!" in the ‘Dhara’ Ad. 71) You eagerly awaited ‘Friendship Day’, so you could give friendship bands to all your friends, and get bands from them in return. Then, of course, those with the most bands loved to show them off. 72) Backstreet Boys' 'Quit Playing Games' was one of the first English songs that you LOVED! 73) 'Andaz Apna Apna' is and most probably will always be your favorite comedy flick! 'Aila Jhakaas!' 74) Cordless phones were ultra-cool. 75) You know what ‘Name, Place, Animal, Thing’ is! 76) Yow owned/dreamed of owning a geared bike, preferably ‘Hercules Top Gear’.
77) You can think of more things to add here!

22 August 2010

Fb

I've been spending quite some time on facebook these days, and have discovered/learnt numerous things. The very first thing - which is the most obvious as well - is that it's so much better than orkut, which I used as my primary social networking site till now. The interface is so much better, easy to understand and use, and easy on the eyes as well. All the people who matter to me - well, almost all - have moved on to fb (or twitter, but more on that later).

But, for all its awesomeness, fb does have its own share of issues. The most important of them is the issue of privacy. As anyone who's been on this site for a while will testify, the privacy settings are pretty cryptic. And in saying that I'm actually being generous! Setting proper safety settings on fb is as tough as its important (take your sweet pick!); and I could find my cuppa, with help from this post, after devoting a considerable amount of time to the stuff.

The most important safety feature on fb is that of lists. Basically, what it means is that you can 'tag' your friends as per your wish, and allow only specific people - a list of them - to be able to view any particular content. Say, for example, you want to post a pic of you flipping the bird to your boss, but you don't want your office people to see it. What you'll do is that you'll put all your office people in a list - effectively tagging them - and then prevent those people from seeing that pic on your wall, by hiding the pic from them, as you upload it. Yes, it is that simple!

You can also enable only a group of people to post on your wall, only for them to see other people's posts, or even hide the whole wall from some people, the combinations are endless! Ideally, one should limit those friends who can access one's info on fb; but that's strictly my own opinion.

One way orkut is better than fb - in my opinion, of course - is that on orkut you can access someone's private album even if you have the direct URL address to it. This isn't so in fb, and that's a dangerous thing. Still, the pros far outweigh the cons, and so, for now, fb it is!

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