Wednesday, April 26, 2006

My Experiment with Politics-2

Year 2: March 2003 The time coincided with the general feeling of feel-good within the hostel, which had just conducted the biggest technical festival of North India of all time, Tryst 2003. As it turned out, it was just the calm before the storm, something which was to blow up the entire year apart. And, worst of all, I, unwittingly, was at the start, end and centre of it. There had been a controversy during Tryst which had tended to split the working junta of the hostel into two. The controversy was resolved, but it left almost permanent fissures within our batch.
The second year politics started off with the Elite Group (again almost the same set of people) deciding that the time had come to get up their act again. And this time they made their decision in a closed room, promising to give the posts to the most "deserving" persons. And then they came to me with the list. Now, well, I was a pretty important figure in my year, because I was on pretty good terms with everyone in my batch, and so my opinion did matter. But some of the decisions made by the group seemed controversial, and as always, I believed that the decision lay on the entire batch, rather than a group of people, even if it included myself. And I also believed, quite convincingly, that I would make the best Cultural Secretary, but the Group had chosen someone else, who was undoubtedly the most talented and the best representative we had, but who was reluctant to take up the responsibility. And that became the first step of the controversy between two groups, the Elite one and the group which had also worked for the hostel, but had not really wanted anything much, but were there just to voice their frustration at the scheme of things (except for me probably :D) (I will call it the working group). And on our side was the person who had been the Elite Group's candidate for Cultural Secretary And the fight later spilled onto other posts as well, pitting three people in direct fight in Sports Secretary, and two in Maintainance Secretary. The only post that remained uncontested was the post of the Mess Secretary, but that was because the only candidate had maneovered his way pretty well. He was the main proponent of the Elite Group, and while he is a good friend today, those days were not the best in terms of our friendship. In a consensus building exercise, the guy tipped to be the Cultural Secretary gradually agreed, and I (and a lot of other pretenders to the post) backed out.
The biggest fallout of this all was in Sports, where the three nominees represented the three groups that had informally built up in the hostel : the Elite, the Working, and the non-working. And a meeting among the three candidates themselves , they agreed on the third candidate. It was one of the decisions that was to haunt us for the next whole year. The other two candidates were much much worhtier in every respect, and while one of them (Elite Group's candidate, who after this was to become one of my very best friends) went on to become the BSA Gsecy as well, it also marked the end of a brilliant sporting career for the second (who was, and is, one of my best friends, and was the Working group's candidate), who went on, however, to make an invaluable contribution to the Karakoram BRCA team the rest three years.
The Maintaince Secy post, however, was by far the most controversial, where the two candidates were also very good friends :the Elite Group's one, who was banking on his "deserving" prowess, pitted against one of the most likeable guys in the batch then. He had a full supporter in me, because I believed him to be able to completely fulfil all his responsibilities.
Inspite of all the talk of consensus, things finally came to a standstill, and finally a batch vote was agreed on. And there I came into the picture, arbitarily one day deciding that the time was right for one, and inviting people to my room to come and vote. The people voted, and by the end the result was shocking : 34-17 to the working group's candidate. It was a verdict noone, including me, had predicted, and it led to vast allegations of anti-campaigning by the Elite Group. The batch was on a verge of a virtual split, when something else happened.
The candidate I had supported was asked by seniors whether he wanted to become an External Secretary. It was on the condition that he would resign from the Maintenance Secretary's post. He agreed, and the Maintenance Secy's post went to the losing candidate from the Elite Group. The worse thing, however, was that the winner was not even given an external post, because of some external changes at the last minute. It created divisions in the batch, and the initial 34-17 was divided into 3 groups: of roughly 17 each again: those voting the Elite Group, those voting the Working group, and agreeing that the new Maintenance Secretary was good enough (this included me, and almost the entire set of people who mattered), and those who were totally against the new Maintenance Secretary. It was a fight that was to continue next year as well. But for now, the first two parties had sort of made peace, and that was all that mattered.
In the external elections, it was the year that Kara got the BRCA GSecy. So it was a matter of great pride. And in a little detail, the only other external post that Kara got was the Hindi Chief Editor, which fell to yours truly. And I only knew about it while I was going inside SAC for voting. I was the BSP English rep, and so I even gave my speech in more English than Hindi. I was a complete misfit for the post, but being the only candidate, I was kind of accepted for the post. It was maybe a cookie for the Working Group, who had given their all, but had not gotten any bigger post internally (except maybe Cultural Secretary). And maybe it was also to assuage all those supporters of the winning Maintenace Secy, who could not become the external Secretary, he was promised.
Anyways, Politics had treated me pretty well again, and I was looking forward to the next year, when the ultimate prize: The House Secretary was to be decided.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Green Eyed Monster

I never thought this would happen to me
And this was not how things were meant to be
I was so green with jealousy
to see you with him, so happy

I should be happy for you, a voice inside me says
But then I remember all those long-forgotten days
When we were together,albeit for a brief time
And another voice tells me You should be mine.

I am sorry for feeling this way
But the green eyed monster refuses to fade away
I have become obsessive about you
believing we could make a fabulous two

I think you are made only for me
and so I get so angry, as to why cant you see
That I will keep you happy as well,
And I can even hear the ringing wedding bells.

The world would then be a much better place to live in
And whatever we might have to face, we would win
My only hope is that you will soon realize it too
That there is only one truth : I love you.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Experiments with Politics-I

First things first : I have made it to IIMC, and am looking forward to the next two years. And I guess it shall also spell the end of a long relationship with IIT Delhi. But thats later; for now, another Political Season at IITD ends. A season of hopes, disappointments, enlightenment and disillusionments. Observing the entire scene from the outside is even more fun, than being a part of the whole exercise. One of the lowest (or highest!!!) points of my stay in IITD came when I was nominated for the "Poltu of the Batch" award. I did lose (thankfully) but I guess the time is right to set the record straight. This is my interpretation of the things that happened. Might or might not be true. And please don't get sentimental about it, even though I would not mind some mud-slinging (It ensures more visitors:)). And don't complain about me whining. I am just telling you about how very "naive" I was.
Year 1: March 2002: My interaction with Politics for the first time came when a meeting of the entire year was convened by the "Elite" group of our batch. (This was a group of people, who while dedicated wholeheartedly to the hostel, also felt that the hostel was their keep). The meeting was convened for making plans for getting trophies for the hostel, but the hidden agenda was also to achieve a consensus on the reps, wherein the Elite Group hoped to use its superior persuasion powers to get the more debatable posts. I was also one of the speakers in the meeting, with my one focus on becoming the EDLC rep, because I truly felt I deserved it. (I was not a part of the group though, but they probably thought they could not ignore my contribution over the past year). There were four of us who had worked hard in the EDLC/QC clubs, and just three posts. Three of us were in one wing, so we decided to split the spoils between us. The fourth member, who since then has become a very key friend, did not interact much with the batch as such, and so we were able to convince him somehow. So I became the EDLC rep. There was fight over the FAC and FSC clubs, where the Elite group members were harking on posts, but we still came to some sort of consensus. I was satisfied by the outcome of the meeting. We had made various committees to work on various clubs, and I had achieved what I thought I "deserved. But our fourth year seniors had something else in mind, and an entire batch elections were called hurriedly one night. Elections were held for almost every post among people who had worked for a particular club, and I ended up "losing" the EDLC repship. The fourth member became the new EDLC rep, while I felt cheated, after having had a good rapport with everyone in the batch, having been elected as the BSP English Rep. I thought it to be the end of the world (Caution : It was not, and nothing ever is). There were two candidates standing for the post of the House Secretary, one clearly preferred by the Outgoing seats of power over the other. So we knew where to vote, and he became the new House Secretary in one of the most one sided elections in history.
I had no idea about what happens in the external elections and on the day of the external elections, was told that I was going to be nominated for the BSP English Editor. I felt happy (finally something!!) but just before going inside to vote, I was told (by the powers that are) that I was supposed to vote for someone else, and that they were sorry ("Its not a big post, you know." and all such justifications). I went inside, did my duty for the hostel, but somehow, the information was not dissipated among all the newly elected representatives, and while not voting for myself, I found myself elected. Big cheers!! I thought that I had committed some horrible crime, but then, it was no big deal. The scene at SAC was as it is every year: lots of people, most of them with no idea about things. And I was one of them, when came the news that Kara had won the SAC elections, but had lost the BSA GSecy election by one vote. But we made it up by winning the AIC elections within a month, and normalcy was restored. It was a scene of intense celebrations. Politics was treating me pretty well, but the only crutch came when I was NOT given the "Most Enthusiastic Fresher" Award. I thought I deserved it heads and shoulders above everyone else, but obviously, the powers to decide were not thinking the same way. Not that I havent gotten over it yet, but at that point of time it was pretty bad. And then we proceeded to the second year.

Friday, April 07, 2006

An article written a year ago

(This is an article I wrote for the Campus magazine a year ago. Just felt like posting it here. )

As I write down this article, I realise that it is the 78th last day of my undergraduate study in IIT Delhi. It has been almost four years, since I, along with 500-odd others, realised my long-cherished dream of studying at IIT. The past four years have been a beautiful learning experience, and I don’t mean academics when I say learning. These four years have taught me, and I believe many of my batch mates, a lot about life itself.
The most important thing that IIT Delhi has taught me is that whatever you do in life is independent of what your GPA is at IIT. I have seen five point someones with no hands-on experience of software, go and work in Software Engineering. I have seen nine pointers going to IIMA and start off on a totally new career field. And there have also been cases where six pointers have managed to do PhD or MS in their respective departments. However, this does not mean that GPA is not important. Its importance cannot be over-emphasised. All I am saying is that a bad GPA is not the end of the world, and a good GPA does not necessarily entail a good technological career.
And what is GPA anyways? Does it anyhow show the true worth of a person as an engineer? I would reckon no. Even though my GPA gives a very fair idea about how much (rather, how little) I know about engineering, a sad trend is that a great number of people with GPA greater than 7 don’t know much more than I do. A lot of my ‘seven pointers and above’ friends feel that their stay in IIT Delhi has been a waste of their four years as well as the taxpayer’s money. This is a disturbing observation. If the best people in the best institute of the country don’t know much about engineering, then who does?
The biggest problem with academics at IIT Delhi is that people who come here through JEE want to leave the intense study hours behind them, and want to enjoy life to the fullest. They feel that their future is secured and that they can now do all that they had missed in their preparation for JEE. Hence studies take a backseat and this leads to the concept of fraud, whereby IITians become experts in eking out the maximum output from minimum input. Only a very low percentage of the students are actually interested in engineering. And not all of them are nine pointers. There are some who are very interested in only a particular field of their study, and get A’s in these courses, but do badly in the rest. They don’t have particularly good GPA’s but their GPA is not a true indicator of either their interest or their technological skills.
The other important issue is that of the people in here (B.Tech at least) studying only for their grades. This is again a very serious observation which leads to people not exactly “understanding” what they are doing, and just cramming up and pouring out on the examination day. There have been nine pointers who have had virtually forgotten everything they have written down on paper after coming back from major. These people have mastered the act of studying for maximum gains. The system encourages them, what with the grading system here not taking into account the actual performances of students in the classrooms. The most common line in our resume reads “The stay at IIT Delhi has helped improve my analytical skills.” I believe there cannot be a bigger lie. My analytical skills have actually come down since the day I came to IIT Delhi. It might be due to my own shortcomings, but when this is the case with the majority, I believe the system might be at fault.
There are people who do nothing else but study all day, and they have low GPA’s. They are very interested in the technical field, but somehow they don’t manage to show it in the grade sheet. BTP is an ideal case in point. The grade in your BTP does not depend on the amount of work you can do, but the amount of work you can show.
Just as they say, “Money attracts money” I would like to add, “GPA attracts GPA”. A good GPA betters your chances of getting a good grade. That is why it is easier to stay at the top than to get there.
However, a good GPA is a must for many reasons. One, it helps to get you short listed for companies during your job hunt. And more importantly, it prevents you from getting sleepless nights trying to find the answer to “Why do you have such a low GPA?” which they ask you if somehow you have been short listed.
My contention is that the system should be revised so as to ensure that only people who actually deserve to be at the pinnacle in this technology institute get there. The grading system should be modified and there should be regular counselling available for different levels of students, especially for the five pointers. The importance of a good GPA should be made clear to all incoming students and there should be regular performance quizzes for continuous evaluation. Maybe then IIT Delhi can actually become a great centre for technical learning, as was envisaged by its founders. But till then, GPA shall remain more a case of fraud than genuine interest and hardwork.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Best Of times, the worst of times

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times " wrote Charles Dickens in his The Tale of Two Cities, referring to the French Revolution. It could also refer to the past week and a half, where I have moved from highs to lows pretty alarmingly. It has been pretty hectic, at times funny, and at others, frustrating.
Last weekend saw a friend dropping by from Bangalore, and it was great to have the original "losers" back doing what they did best: Nightouting at Nescafe. It was fun-filled, and all the gaps caused by the separation after passing out from IITD, seemed to have been filled, albeit temporarily. For those particular eight hours, though, nothing else seemed to matter, except for the fact that the six of us were together after a long long time, and probably for the last time as well. So it is perhaps fitting that the last memory remains such a happy one.
Sunday I saw "Being Cyrus", which has to be one of the darkest movies in Bollywood in recent times. The direction is brilliant, and while the movie is fast, it also manages to raise certain questions about existentialism. What is good and what is bad? Is the guy narrating the story necessarily the "good" guy? The movie is not an attempt at widespread cinema, despite an impressive starcast, but it would have been great to have Naseeruddin Shah, who is, arguably, the finest "actor" in India today, take more screen space. The hiterhto unheralded Manoj Pahwa, who plays the patriach of the Parsi family, has come up with a great performance, as has the talented Boman Irani. Its great to see Saif Ali Khan groom as an actor. The leading ladies, Dimple Kapadia and Simone Singh, have also played their part pretty well. A must watch, if you dont mind thinking while watching a movie.
The following week at office was probably the worst time at work in my ten months. This was the week before 31st March, which meant I had to submit loads of bills to save chunks of tax. And then there were different projects, one of which even made me spend One Night at a Call Centre. Well, not exactly one night, but six hours, and it was an unforgettable experience. And no, I dont mean that in a positive sense. It was cramping, and pretty bad. This, coupled with my desire to stop working (and start writing full time) built in plenty of frustration, which heightened on Friday Night. I felt friendless. I wanted to run away, to break free from the world. I felt like disappearing, closing my Orkut and Yahoo accounts and deleting this blog. Somehow, I hung on, and I am glad I did.
The next day was April Fools Day, and while there was noone to play tricks on, I invented small tricks people could play. "How about telling a girl you love her on that day?" was a question I asked almost everyone I met. It was foolish, but when sometimes you feel so terribly alone, its all you can think of. Like they say, an empty mind is the home of the devil. The day felt so bad. Then came the night, and then there was light.
An impromptu plan of going to Rishikesh and rafting was made. There were six of us, and we hired a cab, and were out on the road at 1230 a.m. Sunday morning. We reached Rishikesh by 7, and after freshning up at a hotel and a quick breakfast, were out on the raft by 10 in the morning. It was great rafting down the Ganga, through rapids named Three Blind Mice and Golf Course. Seemed like a scene from movies. It was thrilling, and adventurous. I almost sometimes missed paddling while in the rapids because of the strong current, but the others, and the coach, more than made up for me. It was awesome, and adventurous. And tiring. We covered the entire journey from Delhi to Delhi in little under 22 hours. It was an altogether new experience, and it came at just about the right time.
Just when I was again planning to give up on life, had life thrown me a lifeline. Yet again. And this time I plan to use it to the fullest. I am going to try extra hard to remain happy, for whatever reason. I just realised I have more than enough reasons to be happy, and my friends and family is not the least among them.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The trick of living life remains in prolonging the best and shortening the worst. That is the only way to live. It is all in the mind. You will be happy if you want to remain happy. There is just one key to feel happy. Let me say, when I am feeling low, just say "Let there be light." And then, let there be light.