Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Dear God, what colour is thy hair?

I am in a dilemma. I can’t write more on this topic. It isn’t a lack of time or words. Something more personal. Still, I had promised to write on this topic. And so let me just give you the gist of my feelings.

Do I believe in God? Yes and No. I don’t believe there is a body or a figure or a force which is omnipotent and omnipresent. But I believe in ‘a God’ for my survival. Read on….

With closed eyes and folded hands what do we pray for daily? Knowledge.. Happiness.. Love.. Peace.. Wealth.. Health.. In short, we pray for everything we don’t know the definite path to. If there were no diseases and all were blessed with longevity, would we have prayed for good health? If we knew how to make money (I don’t know how much that is) then would we have prayed for it?

God, for me, thus, represents the sum total of all the ‘Knowledge we Lack’. There are plenty of things we have found out about this universe. But many still remain as mysteries. Some exist as superstitions while some others continue to surprise us as miracles. It’s this ignorance and the helplessness there-of that makes us plead before the Almighty daily.

God is the elusive secrets and knowledge of this universe and prayers & religion provide us with a path to try and reach it. To uncover everything, and become omnipotent. We will need thousands of years more for that.

If there doesn’t exist a super-powerful being who is omnipotent and omnipresent, why should I believe in one? The reason is more psychological than logical. Besides air, water and food humans require one more fundamental entity for sane existence – Hope. When facing defeat, when no forward path is to be seen, it’s hope that pushes us forward. When we pray to God, we expect Him to rescue us from the situation, like a fictional super hero. Belief in such a super hero will give support to our minds and will help us see through any situation.

I have explained my Yes and No, I hope.

The Last Ink Drop: There was a brief, very brief, period in my life, because of a string of defeats in a single day, I became an atheist. I stopped praying and refused to enter temples. But this didn’t last long. I am after all human and I too need support. I became a believer again, quickly. And as for the colour of God’s hair – he’s bald.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Writer’s Block

It has been a very loooonnngg time since I wrote anything; anything. There have been many well-wishers who wanted to see new posts in this blog. Though there were many topics in my mind, I just couldn’t make myself write. A classic case of writer’s block.

I am one of those kind who can’t write just like that. I usually write when I strongly feel about a topic. It can be about a very silly incident or about something I recently read. Once the seeds have been planted, it takes some more time, after debating and crossing off points in my mind, before I finally put it down on a piece of paper. And exam season has always been the right time for writing anything new. That’s why you will find in my old college notebooks, the egg-shell remains of many of my articles and poems. I wont say I hate studying but it certainly isn’t something that I look forward to when I reach home. Given the fact that I have a very low concentration (maybe second only to my bad memory), it isn’t very long before my mind drifts off to some topic in mind. With no one to disturb you (as I am studying for my exams!!!) I end up discussing the outline of a new article in mind and when the urge to put it down in writing becomes strong, I just do it…

The past few months, I haven’t been feeling such an urge. And I purposefully encouraged it too. I wasn’t feeling very confident about my seventh semester preparations and I didn’t want any new brainwave to cause havoc. But now that the exams have been postponed I have decided to do some writing. Right now I have uploaded two articles I had written nearly one year back and have been published in cetafi.net. If you ask me why I have put old wine in new bottle; it’s simply because like wine these too have only increased in significance, with age. If you go through the articles you’ll find that the situation discussed is much the same even today. And some of my points have been proved true over the last one year. Before I pass out from CET, you can expect a more comprehensive and detailed article covering all the points mentioned in these two along with my final observations and inferences.

Now coming to my new article, I am thinking about re-writing an old one. It’s titled “Dear God, what colour is thy hair?” As you might have guessed, it has got something to do with God and His existence. I had written one under this title some years back, but it never saw the daylight. I lost that paper too. So I want to re-write that and add some more points, which I have garnered since then. Expect this in this blog in a few days.

I certainly will try to write regularly. There was a feeling of void and tastelessness in the last few months and I realise it’s because I haven’t been writing anything. I’ll try…

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

‘O Captain, My Captain…...’


A page from my life (a bit dog-eared): The venue is LMS compound and the event is CAP (Centralised Allotment Process). The demure atmosphere is punctuated regularly with tensed sighs and deep breaths. A computer operator manning an allotment terminal calls out the number ‘84’. Heaving a sigh of relief I, along with my father, responded to the call. Without hesitation, I gave my preferences. EC followed by AE and then CS, all in CET. The good rank withstanding, the computer allotted me AE. Disappointed I left, not before filling the higher options form. A few weeks later I got the course of my choice.


A page from an Engineering aspirant’s life, 30 years hence (fictious but probabilistic): Same venue and same jamboree. The gaudy sea of humanity is vibrating with the latest ring tones. A computer operator calls out the number ‘5567’. A candidate and his father walks up to the computer terminal and makes themselves comfortable with panache. “Merit seats in self-financing colleges have been filled”, the operator says apologetically. “There are plenty of merit seats left for EC and other courses in CET. May I allot you to CET? ”, the operator asks, even more apologetically. “Nah, we will go for a management seat in a good private college”, the candidate says imperturbably. Finally choosing a ‘good’ college the candidate returns home smirking.

I did break a few rules by letting Epilogue share space with Prologue in the first page itself. The past we know, future we can imagine but the present is the most difficult to assimilate of all tenses. Often the churning is felt only when the butter is seen. Our college is celebrating its 65th year of existence and in this context let me analyze the transitions in the professional education sector and CET in particular after the entry of self financing colleges into this sector.

CET, for long, has been the undisputed ‘best’ among Kerala’s Engineering Colleges. Till a few years back, there was no other college which could boast of such a large campus, infrastructure and an intellectually bright student-teacher community. It was for these same reasons that I chose CET without hesitation. Why ponder more? The exuberant placement cell is one good enough reason for any engineering aspirant to join CET (At last count the 2002-2006 batch has received nearly 581 job offers).

So that is how the unsinkable CET is cruising. Calm waters. No sharks. Complacent. Very complacent.

Before I ‘sink’ CET, let me recall the histories of some other Titanics. St. Joseph Hr. Sec. School and Model School were once upon a time two of the most prestigious schools in Trivandrum. Both boasted of eminent teachers and had facilities well beyond their competitors. Many of the present day celebrities and bureaucrats are alumnus of these institutions. But if one were to take a survey of the top ten schools in Trivandrum today, you will be surprised to know that they don’t even figure in the 10th position. The reasons are simple. They failed to upgrade and update with the changing needs. Unaided schools brought in a revolutionary change in the mode of teaching. Besides excellent teachers, they provided students with all the facilities needed for all round development. While St. Joseph and Model School continued to school with the same infrastructure, unaided schools regularly upgraded. So it wasn’t long before these Titanics were sunk.

These facts won’t suffice to convince the hardcore CET-ian, I know. So for these guys, here are a few more painful truths. Are our teachers the best? A difficult question to answer. We certainly have the brightest brains to teach. But how many of them actually teach. CET’s history, too, doesn’t mention about any teacher who has completed the whole syllabus on time. Now compare with a private college. The fatter pay packet has been able to attract quiet a number of good teachers. And by hook or by crook (extra classes on Saturday) the whole syllabus is completed.

Want more? Then, are our infrastructure and lab facilities the best? Everyone knows our college is an old one. But do we need to stamp that throughout our college. Cobwebbed classrooms. Piteous hostels. Defunct and rusty equipments. Shift the scene to a private college. Sparkling marble floors. Latest equipments working with clockwork precision (Speaking of clocks, there is an electronic clock in one of our Electronics Lab. The clock is as old as the college and works on electricity. It never shows the real time as tsunamis are more predictable than the electric supply). Moreover a demure environment has been provided for serious academics.

Still want more? Then chew this. Can anyone match CET in terms of placement? This is one area CET is still king. The number of job offers has been steadily increasing over the years. Though a few companies do visit other colleges, the students there don’t have the same variety and menu to choose from. Still, I feel, this won’t last for long. Companies need men and these colleges have the right contacts to lure them. Almost all the private colleges have a placement cell and it won’t be long before IBM or Microsoft poaches in these colleges, too.

At least now, admit defeat. Barring placements, self-financing engineering colleges have already overtaken CET in all other quality parameters. In spite of this, if CET is still considered the best, then it’s solely due to the collection of the best brains in Kerala. The present situation can be summed up in two lines, “If you want to learn the subject, study in a private college. If it’s only a job you want, then come to CET”.

‘O Captain, my Captain; the ship is sinking’. I will certainly swim to safety, as there is at least 30 years before CET will fully sink. Who will plug the leak and save the ship? I would like to know.

The White Smoke :- I want to use this tailpiece to thank the Alumni members for maintaining the site www.cetafi.net. Why? Because 30 years from now, the nostalgic articles in the website will help me describe to my children the wonderful college that CET was once. Even before I started writing this article, I had discussed its contents with few of my classmates. Most of them vehemently argued and adamantly refused to toe my line. So I am very curious to know how you respond to my analysis. Please let me know.

This article was written when I was in my Fifth Semester and before the College authorities had started utilising the World Bank funds for renovation and new equipments. The original article was first published in www.cetafi.net

Who is the winner?

“One year to rule us all;
Two parties to divide us all;
And one election to fight it all.”
The present political climate of our college can be aptly described by the above three lines. Even as I write this article, I am not sure whether there will be a college election at all this year as the University and College authorities are trying to make head and tail out of the recent High Court order. Still, to explain to the readers the new bipolar political situation, I would like to set this article against the backdrop of an election; a fight for power.

Before I start analyzing, let me provide some background information for the benefit of Alumni members to bring themselves up-to-date with the recent changes. Two years ago, i.e. before I joined the college, there were mainly three student political parties. The weaklings (read KSU & ABVP) though, got wiser and decided to stand united. Thus was born VOC (Voice Of CET). Though KSU and ABVP are its political parents, VOC in its disclaimer claims itself to be a politically neutral students’ body. So, now the college has a two party political structure with politically active students either leaning to the SFI or VOC.

Readers might have, by now, understood the meaning of the three lines at the top. There is, but, one phrase that I would like to emphasise – ‘divide us all’. One doesn’t have to be a voter to understand the significance of a majority in an election. A 50+ percentage is a frugal necessity for any political party aspiring to come to power. It’s also common knowledge that MH (and to some extent LH) equals SFI. It is this political equation that has helped SFI remain in power for so long. The one-party culture in MH has been good for them as it gave them cohesion and strength. But was it good for the college?

MH is a ‘fixed’ vote bank for SFI. A few hundred more votes and the victory of their candidate is certain. This was enough when the opposition was splintered. But with the opposition deciding to fight on a common plank things changed. VOC can never dream of making inroads into the impervious Red Fort of SFI – MH. But then the votes from MH doesn’t really matter if the rest of the college unitedly votes for them; after all MH accounts for only 600 out of the total 2500 eligible voters. The problem was, there was no single force or person to unite the splintered votes (mainly that of Day Scholars).

This is where the shrewd political strategists in VOC drew inspiration from Lord Curzon and his policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. To consolidate the ‘other’ (everything except MH) votes, VOC decided to champion the cause of Dayschis. If SFI is for MH then VOC is for Dayschis became the unproclaimed political slogan. How far they have been successful can be said only after the next elections.

The writing on the wall is clear with SFI (read Union) and VOC (read Opposition) deciding to conduct separate youth festivals, mock placement tests and strikes. You may call it double dhamaka offer. But I would have preferred one of each, organized by the ‘students of CET’. All this, vindicates my views on student politics and the need for reforms in Kerala’s College campuses. Before my analysis becomes an overdose of criticism, let me stop.

The White Smoke: - As school students we have learnt History. Wise men believe, learning History is to learn our past mistakes. The seeds of divisive, hatred politics have only been sown. Let us stand united and fight it; a fight for our CET.

This article was written when I was in my Fifth Semester and before the College elections for that year had been held. The original article was first published in www.cetafi.net

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Homo sapiens – a class of castes ?

The Indian Constitution guarantees all citizens ‘Equality’. The intention and meaning is simple and straightforward. So let me not muddle it with unnecessary definitions. But wait, the same Constitution, a few pages later, advises the govt. to make necessary ‘provisions for the upliftment of the downtrodden and backward classes in the society’. Now this poses a few questions. How can special provisions be made for a section of the society without it being unfair to the rest? How do we ensure equality for all? The answer is simple, but it certainly isn’t ‘Reservation’.

Even after 58 years of Independence, our society is neck-deep in caste politics and, as though to sustain this forever, a large section of the population (known to psephomologists as ‘backward classes’) is still under-developed. To uplift these sections and to bring social justice to all, reservation is not the way. Reservation in education, I argue, goes against the right to equality our Constitution guarantees. Anything that provides a short-cut for a section of the people is definitely unfair to the rest. Before coming to the solution, let me discuss few more points, which explain the danger and ineffectiveness of Reservation.

To simply put it, Reservation is as ineffective as a ladder at the treetop. A student who secures admission to a professional course through reservation will find the going tough. He is under-prepared for the course demands and in most probability will lag behind meritorious students, if he hasn’t already dropped out after a year. This is not the student’s fault. He or she wasn’t given the proper training/schooling that would have equipped them to handle the course workload. If such students ‘somehow manage’ to complete the course, they end up as a curse to themselves and the society. Imagine the dangers half-baked doctors or ignorant engineers can do to the society.

The architects of our Constitution wanted special provisions for backward classes, with the aim of ultimately creating a casteless society. But today, the number of fake caste certificates being issued and the fight for caste-vote-banks is more prominent than ever before. There are many who cite the experiment of South Indian states with reservation as a success. There are reports, which suggest that the standard of education has gone down in most of these universities. Moreover, it is only a small percentage of the backward class population who benefit from reservation. The proposed number of reserved seats, though proportional to their population, is still only a small fraction of their population. Thus, while a minority among them climb up the prosperity ladder, others continue to support the ladder, hoping that one day they too can climb it. Even among the beneficiaries, a good number belong to the creamy layer whose ‘backwardness’ exists only in the caste certificate. Thus reservation as a means for uplifting the whole backward population is ineffective.

Instead of feeding at the finishing point, we need to start from the kindergarten level. Government schools with good facilities and teachers need to be set up in every nook and corner of our country. All sections of the population have to be made aware of the advantages of education. Once both these have been done, automatically we create a generation, who are equally well trained and differ from one another only to the extent of individual hard-work put in. The knowledge and exposure of all the students is same and this sets a platform from where admissions can be made to professional courses based only on merit. This is the solution and, unfortunately, the proposition government would least like to follow.

Reservation is a crooked short-cut harmful to the society; nevertheless a short cut. Creating excellent schooling infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country requires determination and is time consuming. It requires a large amount of money too. In comparison, reserving a percentage and increasing the total number of seats is easy and inexpensive. But if we consider the fact that the money required is little when compared to the thousands of crores being spent for Commonwealth Games preparation and also the reality that current resources in colleges are strained, my solution seems ideal.

As mentioned earlier, it will take same time before good government schools can be built everywhere. My younger brother suggested, as a temporary measure, adding 4 to 5 seats per division in each private school, to which admission would be only from the BCs. Mind you, the word was ‘addition’ and not reservation. But this won’t suffice to educate the whole population and ultimately it is the government’s duty to provide quality schooling to all.

I would like to go a step further and suggest means by which a student’s economic background can be made a non-factor in the admission process. Out of the total number of seats available, a few have to be reserved for sports, handicapped, Adivasis and other such categories. All the remaining must be filled under the general category with merit as the sole criteria. The fees for a course has to be fixed by the government, after considering all the expenses, and must be applicable to both private and government colleges. Students unable to bear the expense, should be supported by the government directly or in arrangement with financial institutions. A written undertaking must be obtained from such students, stating that the money spent on their education will be repaid over a period of time starting from the time he secures a job. This presents a win-win situation for both the parties concerned as neither is any student denied a chance to study nor is the government losing money as it tries to deliver social justice.

Reservation can never provide the self-esteem that the student enjoys when he/she gets admission through merit. Only when rulers realize this, and stop caste politics, will the backward classes’ true upliftment start.

The Last Ink Drop : I hope I live to see the day, when a student will have to fill in his admission form, besides Name, D.O.B, Parents’ Name and Address, only his Sex; because humans are only of two types – male and female.