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Change August 19, 2006

Posted by Subramanya in Uncategorized.
4 comments

There was a time, not very long ago,when the very thought of an automobile would put me in an ecstatic mood, when I counted Mercs on the streets of Delhi, when I mugged up engine displacements and prices of cars I would probably never lay my eyes on let alone touch or drive them. I remember this once, when we were living in Lonavla, I touched a Merc (This was when Mercs were still rare in India) and I refused to wash that hand for the next few days. I read and reread automobile magazines, caring naught for date or relevance. I filled up drawing books with vain attempts at designing the next big thing in automobiles,all of which my mother claimed looked like banana peels.Then I would go on and on explaining why it was significantly different from the earlier drawing of the Banana peel.

I read everything I could read about automobiles. About engines, about designers, about designers, about the automobile manufacturers, everything. The first thing I did when I was introduced to the internet was to visit the websites of every one of the automobile companies whose names I knew with special attention given to the Ferraris and the Maseratis of the world. I even decided that I would end up as an automobile engineer and be the next Ferdinand Porsche, Alec Issigonis or Bela Barenyi.

I even took up Mechanical Engineering.

And here I am now, sleeping fast in B slot class, Internal Combustion Engines. In the past the topic would have brought a tear to my eye, but now it just causes me to yawn. I see the powerpoint presentation on the screen and wonder when the 50 minutes are going to be up. On friday, I went to the IC Engines Lab for the demo and did not pay any attention to what was going on. Here I was in this place with so many of the things that I had worshipped for so long and the only thought that came to my mind was wishing the 50 minutes over.

It is not that I have lost interest totally in the world of automobiles. I still keep in touch with what is happening in the “industry”. I read the car magazines, the car websites; I try to catch the occasional episode of Top Gear. But it is somehow different, the passion is dead and gone. I worshipped Jeremy Clarkson, I still do… But the reasons have changed. Things have changed and I am poorer for it.

Convocation… July 28, 2006

Posted by Subramanya in Uncategorized.
3 comments

Yesterday was the 43rd convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology,Madras. A lot of the people I have become acquainted with in the last 2 years were back for the event, and it was nice to see them one last time before they go out in the world…

I arrived for the event at the absolute last minute. A moment later and it would have been impossible to find place inside to stand, let alone be seated. I went inside and found my friend Mahesh who had dutifully taken a seat at the back. I somehow managed to find myself some place to sit on a ledge at the back of the SAC.As is expected of a public event in India, it started late, Ratan Tata, the chief guest was late. The stated reason being that the flight was delayed and Mr. Tata was on the way. Mr. Tata finally arrived around 30 minutes late.

Thankfully, things got rolling fast as the board of governors, along with Mr. Tata, bedecked in their white robes came walking in a long procession, to the accompaniment of what sounded to me a mixture of “When the saints go marching in” and some other tunes. This was by the band of the Officer’s Training Academy, which is just down the road on the way to the airport. The function got going very fastly after that.The director started off with his report, reporting that it was in short, but even then going on and on for ever. The only really entertaining moment was when he thanked the ministry of Human Resources Development, calling them “enlightened guidance”. It was nice to imagine the disgust anyone of us would feel if we were forced to mouth such things. I was almost in half a mind to boo the statement, but the director doesn’t really have much choice, does he? Also I would probably have been the only one booing him and that would probably have left me in a spot of trouble.

Next, the chairman of the board of governors spoke. His speech was most notable for the different ways in which he pronounced Mr Tata’s name, as he praised his virtues as “India’s illustrious industrial son”. Besides the accepted pronunciation, teta, tutta, tota , were also heard. Mr. Tata himself then took to the stage and mumbled for sometime into the mike in an extremely weird accent. However, he kept himself thankfully short. This led to applause from the audience. The people then went about the business of conferring a ” Doctorate of Science, (Honoris Causa)” upon him. I thought these fake doctorate givings were fairly simple things with a certificate just conjured up from nowhere and given to the recipient like any other memento. But, the people here have an elaborate ritual, which begins with telling Mr. Tata what he did in his life, and then printing it out and giving it to him, and then giving him the certificate produced from nowhere.It was quite enlightening.I would have been more amused had I not been fiddling around with my camera trying to get the exposure right, which I ultimately failed to do.

The people finally got to the business at hand, giving out degrees to 1267 people, 965 of whom had faithfully turned up for the event. They started in the alphabetical order of the branches, starting with Phds, in vague robes in beige and maroon, which looked from afar like the sari-jacket dress that Jayalalitha popularised during her heyday, the Mtechs and finally the Btechs. And it was here that the thing got unbelievably boring. In a scene vaguely reminescent of the music video for Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, a long queue of indistinguishable people went and collected their degrees, each one taking less than 5 seconds.

It was a well oiled machine, one person in white robe handed certificate to the director, who gave transferred degree to other hand shook hands, gave degree and then repeated the action in the exact same way, 965 times. I sat through a few branches, but gave up on the whole affair and left after realising that I did not really know the real names of a large number of them.

I did, however, catch the ending of the function on a live webcast. even though it was the intranet version, it was really impressive. The sound and video were both excellent and they had live titles so you could read what was going on.

It is odd, however, the way millenium old British traditions hold such strong sway in India, albeit with a bit of Indianness seeping into them, (Vande mataram and all). It is hot in Chennai in July/August. It is humid, you can’t walk a metre without getting really sweaty.  I am unable to see any reason to continue the way we are going. I am sure we will be able to come up with a ritual that is more in keeping with our climate. Why wear a cloak designed for the cold climes of England, when an angavastram, or anything for that matter which is more suitable to the climate would have done.I hope that someone sees the light within the next 2 years and I receive my degree in a function which does not put me to sleep and is more suited to our conditions.

Hello! July 27, 2006

Posted by Subramanya in Uncategorized.
8 comments

I say hello to the world of blogging. Again. This is my third, or maybe fourth attempt at starting a blog. The last one was maybe the only one that went anywhere, 3 posts, after which it became my personal software testing centre. The others never even got off the ground, at all. An account was created… A draft saved…And then the password… and /or the username forgotten.

The current attempt is courtesy of two things. Primarily, the extremely thoughtful and well received actions of the Government of India, and two, the attempt at blogging that my friend, Varun ,has just commenced. May his blog flourish, unlike mine which has largely been barren.

The primary reason, though is the one that I would like anybody reading this to be concerned with. The attack on freedom of speech by semi-literate babus in the Department of IT/ Telecom (let them fight that one out) is what drives me to this. When I first read of this the first time, on Boingboing, I was literally driven out of my wits. If there is one thing I am even remotely proud of in India is the apparent strength of our democratic institutions and our quite remarkably unscarred, except for minor offences by the late Smt. Indira Gandhi and family record as far as freedom of speech is concerned. And the attack on this sacred right really struck a chord. The articles in the International press were embarassing to even read. Here is a country which has aspirations to being a global power, but is so insecure as to be significantly worried about the rantings and ravings of a couple of madmen on some obscure site, that most people will never even come across.

I will end this post now. I know it is a very blunt ending, but this is a very hastily written post. I started on the spur of a moment, If I may say so, and I haven’t really organised my thoughts. Here’s hoping for a longer more organised post!