Do we need a change or a positive change?

One interesting thing that our super intelligent politicians have learned from Late Mr. Arjun singh is that, if you want to show your importance in the country, to prove the usefulness of the existence of your ministry, you should bring some radical change. Ofcourse this is what all great leaders have done in the past, be it gandhi or nehru. But the problem is that they have understood only half of it. They unfortunately forgot that to be remembered as a great leader, this change has got to be a positive one, the one that will improve things, rather than taking reverse gear. The one that will take India towards the path of progress and help solve the existing problems rather than creating problems or say tasks for future leaders to work upon.
The latest such example is the proposal of MHRD to scrap IIT JEE. The supporters argue that, change is needed to make IITs more renowned in the world, that its tough for students of backward classes and towns to enter these elite institutions. Infact the best reason, that I came across was, we need those students to enter IITs who are actually interested in engieerning, rather than those who just study, crack good ranks in entrance tests and get the IIT tag and become anything but an engineer working in an engineering job contributing for the welfare of the society.
I and every educated, aware Indian would totally agree that these causes need to be taken care of. But the problem that I have is, that the proposal of MHRD is only going to aggravate the existing problems. Let me explain how?
First, let us understand the proposal. The proposal says that admission to all engineering institutions should be done through a combined score calculated on the basis of a common test and the marks of 12th board.
Now let me elaborate the problems with both of these things separately. The common test, will be an aptitude cum knowledge based test of physics, chemistry and maths. The first reason given by many supporters of this proposal is that they want to stop the exponential growth of Coaching centres, they say that by inclusion of aptitude, students not going to coachings will get equal chance. But don't they see the big CAT coaching industry, bank PO coaching industry and the fast growing NTSE coaching industry? All these train students only in the area of aptitude, and most of the aspirants feel, that aptitude tests can be cracked better by training. So, I don't see coachings feeling any threat, only that they will need to hire some more teachers for aptitude training from the CAT coaching industry. If we go into the basic reason why students go to coaching, we'll be able to understand that all students feel that their teachers at coaching are more talented and a lot better than those in schools, which helps them grasp the basics better and understand things in an easier way. Infact the difference between the qualifications of school teachers and coaching teachers speaks out this fact clearly. The only solution to this problem will be to improve the school standards, attracting more qualified teachers. But if you are saying that, making a test easier will solve the problem, it probably is like, saying, stop a kid from securing more knowledge while he is in HSC because he will create a better competition for others. And mind you, IITs are respected across the world because an IITian is believed to have more knowledge and intelligence than an average kid.
The 12th board on the other hand is a lot more complicated game, than it looks from the outside. Here, the biggest problem is in normalization and scaling across different boards. A student getting 85% in Maharashtra state board might be a better performer than the one getting 95% in CBSE or vice versa, but thinks about this? So, how do we normalize this disparity? The proper way to do so will need lots of resources and research, which will need atleast a span of 2-3 years with proper evaluation of the process itself. One of the worst examples set in this normalization is by the IIMs, who have included 12th and 10th marks as a criteria in their entrances. According to them getting 75% in CBSE board in 2004 is equal to that in 2005, but are the difficulty levels always same? There are unfortunate years when papers are tougher than other years and those kids can only curse their ill-fate. Also, IIM K this year received huge cries over unjustified and probably wrong normalization across various state boards.
Secondly, if you would notice a simple fact, the toppers of any state are almost always from some few so called Elite schools, does it mean all the talent goes to those schools only? does it mean my parents made a wrong decision by not sending me to the supreme XYZ school, and instead admitting me into a middle rung school? The reason for this lies somewhere else, the checking of copies of board exams are done by a large number of teachers, for whom this is a burden to be finished by some deadline rather than a responsibility of evaluation that will decide one's career. So, if the presumption exists in teacher's mind that since XYZ school is good, he'll give 8 on 10 to a student for an answer, while if a student from lower school writes the same answer, he won't give more than 5, because according to teacher, that school doesn't teach its students well. So, again I'll be ill-fated.
Go into the interiors and you will practically see this. There are schools where hardly any student will get less than 80% and also there are schools where a student will hardly get more than 80%. So you need to solve this disparity first, and it again will take a long time, atleast a few years. Another argument exists to solve this problem of disparity, on making board exams Objective, which will completely remove this subjectivity and problems in normalization. But lets not go into it.
Infact this disparity is magnified if you move across regions. In my college itself, students coming from schools in certain states hardly had lesser than 90%, infact getting a 92% would be not-up-to-the-mark performace in their schools. On the other hand, equally bright student from another region, say Maharashtra or UP might have been the topper of his school, best in his city, at 87%. And frankly, it won't be difficult for elite schools, who charge heavy fees, to spend some money and try to exploit into the board exam copy checking if importance of 12th board marks will increase. There are schools in south that guarantee that their student shall get 90%, which is just the visible tip of the iceberg. Spo, definitely there will be huge scope of corruption in here. How many of the thousands of teachers across India you think, will deny taking a few thousands and giving some extra marks while copy checking?
And again, do you think coaching institutes will simply shut their doors with the scrapping of JEE? Please go and check, they've already started giving out advertisements for a course that will help students prepare for both 12th and the common test. Go into their shops and see, how they are now showing the IIT dream to a student who has scored 40% in 10th class, saying that the new test is too simple to crack. So, if nothing else happens, atleast these coachings are surely going to prosper in near future. Since the early 90s, when the JEE was toughest, if you see the statistics, coachings have only increased exponentially with the entrance getting easier and easier, as more and more are being made to believe, that they are able to crack it.
Infact presently itself, the states where admission to engineering colleges is through 12th marks, have coachings helping them secure better.
Lets look at the existing system. Currently, those students studying in middle rung school have an equal right to grab a seat in IIT as someone in elite school, because they all appear for an unbiased JEE, where the school tag doesn't matter. Also, JEE has the respect of being untainted for almost half a century. There has been not a single case of someone being able to acquire a seat in IIT by bribing huge money.
Ofcourse, we need to improve things, to ensure that an under-privileged intelligent kid gets an equal shot at IIT seat. But rather than increase the competition for him from an always increasing population going to the coaching, won't the simple solution be to make JEE free of charge for him and helping him with free books?
So, dear Mr. Kapil Sibal, we all agree that change is always needed to improve things, but aren't you forgetting the term Positive Change? Please don't create a pile of problems, that will take another change to solve and eventually a vicious circle to follow.
Please leave your ego for the sake of India's future, for we are recognized in the world as a knowledge economy, lets not play stupid games with our USP.


Pocket friendly adventure trips

During my search of finding some of the best options for adventure sports in India, I found a need for resource which might cater the need of advice on options available. So, here is the post, which will help you out if you are planning to do adventure trip.
First, I’ll list the trip organizers which arrange for such programmes, where individuals can participate:

1. YHAI (youth hostels association of India)- www.yhaindia.org - This is one of the best options if you are looking for a 10-15 trip to north India. They organize trekking and mountain biking tours mostly. Very Economic. Total fee (including accomodation) for 15 day trip is in range of Rs. 4000.

2. NIM (Nehru institute of mountaineering, uttarakhand) - http://www.nimindia.blogspot.in/ - http://www.nimindia.net/ - Very economic 15-30 day courses in mountaineering. Here, demand is high so apply early. And yes, many a times, Sources also work. Total course fee (including accomodation) for 15 day course is in range of Rs. 5000.

3. ABVIMAS Manali (Atal bihari vajpayee institute of mountaineering and allied sports) http://www.adventurehimalaya.org/ - Similar to NIM, its also a govt. affiliated body offering economic options. They offer courses in trekking, water sports, skiing etc. Total course fee (including accomodation) for 15 day course is in range of Rs. 5000.

Below are the options available specific activity-wise:

Water rafting -
1. Rishikesh - Arguably the best place in India for river rafting. There are local agents which organize the trip.
2. kolad, kundalika river (3 hrs from mumbai along konkan stretch). There are various local agents organizing your trip and stay there. The agent who organized it for us can be contacted at - http://vadventure.org/GetCriteria.php?Link=Home - Approx Cost Rs. 500 per head.

Aero sports:
1. http://www.parachuting.in/skydiving.html# - organizes parachuting, paragliding etc. Organizes skydiving camp during october and feb generally at Dheesa, gujarat- Its a 5 day camp, 3 days will be for ground training and 2 days will be for the jumps. These will be solo static line jumps where you will be jumping alone from a height of 3500 feet to 5000 feet - Approx cost for a course of 5 jumps is Rs 60,000 and for 1 jump its Rs 17,500. This cost includes entire training, equipment use, aircraft charges and insurance. It does not include boarding and lodging.


Gujarat Vs MP

Boarded a bus at 8pm, had a terrible sleep, thanks to the free bumpy rides offered by the govt. of MP, then I suddenly felt a change early in the morning. No more bumpy rides, well yes, I had entered the land of entrepreneurs, gujarat.
Hailing from a rather blessed-with-unknown-politicians state of MP, I was rather surprised with the amount of contribution government can make towards a state's development. Having been in tamilnadu, where infrastructure has been blessed due to the strategic political support to central governments, I knew MP governments could have done better. But gujarat presents an amazing example, of what a determined government effort can do. Be it the case of roads, attracting foreign investments in industries, organizing Vibrant summits or controlling crime rate, gujarat sets a case to look up for every government. The fact that even girls can roam around freely at 2a.m. without any fear itself projects an image of gujarat as a desirable place to stay in.
On the other side, you have MP, where the commercial capital indore, itself struggles to attracts industries. Inspite of having the potential and advantage of being a strategic location for any company (centre of country!) it represents a poor political will to take stronger steps forward in that direction.
The biggest irony is that both are being governed by BJP, when the central government is of the opposition (in case if MP govt was looking for that excuse!)


review : Jaane tu.. ya jaane na

Quite an unconventional start, with a glimpse of normal love story in between and the typical bollywood-stylish end is what i will say about the movie.
Watching genelia in 'bomerillu'(telugu flick) and knowing the fact that Aamir Khan is the producer of this movie were enough reasons for me to watch this movie. And infact when you hear someone saying that this movie is worth watching 2-3 times then you seriously feel like giving it a try.
The movie starts quite well, with some good humour (remember? 'pappu can't dance') and goes on well until aditi(genelia) and jai(imran) realise that they don't love each other, and are just best friends. And then starts their search for soulmates, obvious twist in the tale. And infact they do find themselves new partners, but you can guess, how this has to end.
Regarding guest appearance of Arbaaz and sohail khan, guys please! for gods sake don't spoil a good-going movie. In some scenes they are okay but by the end, they go crazy and you'll seriously feel irritated. Riding those horses on the roads of mumbai, hats off!
Basically, the story is all the same, that of a usual indian romantic movie. But the way of presentation is quite a bit different, except specially the end, where those 'teen shartein' are fulfilled by the protagonist, however silly they maybe.
The good part is that the actors and his friends are not those only-found-in-indian-movie types, they are simple characters which we come across in everyday lives.
Imran khan seems to have learnt a lot from his uncle aamir, and for sure is a promising actor, the only one after neil nitin mukesh(from Johnny gaddar) I guess.. (of course regardless of who gets the best debutant award at the IIFA awards!). Genelia is one of those few actress who can do those bubbly roles(just like she did in 'bomerillu') with ease, just like preity zinta :).
Overall, the movie is okay. And I'll give it a 3.5 star. Go watch it if you are looking for a little change and yea, its a feel-good movie, so you'll come out in a good mood, which is not generally the case nowadays with hindi movies.
Cast : Imran Khan, Genelia D'Souza, Naseerudin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah
Director : Abbas Tyrewala
Producer: Aamir Khan, Mansoor Khan
Music: A R Rahman


Thanks! - for listening

Sometime back I had written about the 'state-quota in NITs'. Thanks to the media, for when it was published in JAM, it did get some notice and brought me some appraisal :). But it feels great when something that you bring into the light, gets noticed and some step is taken towards it by the government. Well, I agree it won't have been just my article in JAM bringing this revolution, but I guess there's nothing wrong in claiming for your piece of cake, if you deserve some. :D

According to the corrigendum issued by the
Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, for filling up seats in NITs
amongst the candidates declared eligible for counseling, on the basis of results of
AIEEE conducted by CBSE, the seats in the NITs shall be filled up with following
(i) 50% of the seats in an NIT shall be filled by the eligible candidates who
have passed +2 examination from the State in which the NIT is situated. For
example, in NIT Agartala 50% seats shall be filled by the eligible
candidates who have passed their +2 examination from Tripura.
(ii) Admission in NITs for rest 50% seats would be on All India Merit basis.
For these seats candidates would be admitted from amongst All India rank
holders in AIEEE.

Although this may be a little disheartening for those guys, who still don't have NIT in their state.
But its a good news for all those crying over not getting the dream college even after excelling in AIEEE. Still 50% is to be filled by the home-state candidates, but atleast the rest 50% will be filled on purely impartial way.
Although I was shocked to hear about this news considering the fact that our HRD minister is still the one who has the credit of bringing some 'historical' changes in the admission process in India, bringing in 'quotas' and arousing people to destroy railway lines in rajasthan to get the officially coveted status of 'backward class'.
But, after this rule coming into action from this year onwards (those taking admission in july'08) ,I think the better crowd these NITs get, better is going to be their reputation. And I guess the 50% home-state quota too is on its way to make way for 100% admission on All India Merit basis. Just keep your fingers crossed, because the HRD minister is still the same!

JAM's Engineering admissions - book review

One of the most confusing times of my life was while taking admission to engineering college, whether to take computer science in NIT calicut or Ceramic Engg. dual in IT BHU or mechanical engineering in NIT trichy was the question that haunted me the most and I think it did almost everyone appearing for AIEEE councelling, and thanks to India Today and other magazines for publishing those annual rankings which are almost always disagreed with, expect ofcourse by the colleges getting better rank than what they deserve like VIT (vellore institute of Technology) getting a rank above the so called much better institutes of our country this year, which always adds up to the dilemma for the students. But finally, something is there to bring relief to all the engineering aspirants and the problems they face while taking admissions.
My first, cynical as usual, expression on hearing about this book was, 'what? another rank list?' and that too by taking feedback from the students themselves. Well, tell me, who will speak bad about his college? (atleast after he knows that his college's reputation is associated with his). But being proved wrong is what happens for good sometimes.
The better part of 'Engineering admissions' is the insight that you get about engineering and life at various colleges rather than just giving a rank list. Many of those already engineers still don't know the difference in Computer science and IT.
Anyways, there are still certain glitches in the book, like

1. The book doesn't cover architecture. Well, considering the fact that most of those who take admission to architecture(B.Arch.) are the ones who prepared for engg. entrance exams, if not much then this is true atleast for those doing architecture at IITs or NITs. So, excluding it is a bad idea.

2. Although most of the rankings are what is generally accepted, but there are some loopholes. As in I was shocked to see PEC, thapar and SGSITS(indore) being given A+(euivalent to IIT roorkee!). I agree they are good colleges but disagree with them being given status better than NIT calicut or equivalent to IIIT hyderabad and BITS pilani. Talking about SGSITS in particular, most of students are placed in bulks like TCS, infy and wipro. The number of companies visiting the campus being around 30 -40. If you talk about NIT calicut(which is given 'A') itself the companies visiting the campus is much more than that. And the no. of companies visiting NIT trichy, IIIT Hyd ('A+') is a lot more than that.

3. And yea, sorry to sound cynical but there are more than a few spelling mistakes in the book.

4. Lastly, the biggest setback for the book is its price, I mean if I were the engineering aspirant looking out for some guidance on selecting the right college, I would have preferred taking advice from my coaching teacher available free of cost (which I actually did thanx to the lack any other resources at that time) rather than buy a book worth Rs. 400! Well, its a little too much for a student in 12th standard. It could have got more buyers, had it been priced at around Rs. 200.

Compiling all those articles published in JAM over the years, like 'unofficial prospectus' of various colleges, is a good business idea by JAM's editor. But still the book is as important for an IIT aspirant as it is for the one taking admission to a local engg. college. Dedicating a whole section to IITs is impressive. Moreover considering the fact that the editor doesn't have an engineering background the work is quite good. Articles giving description of various branches are enlightening. A must guide for all the engineering aspirants, I would say.

what are we waiting for?

one of the things you would have surely come across being in india is, how people break the traffic signals/rules. Infact we all have been a part of it sometime or the other. And when it comes to us we say, 'chalta hai yaar, everybody is doing it so why shouldn't I?'
But one more quality of Indians is that they are good followers(yea!). Somewhere in their heart they know, they are doing the wrong thing, but what they need is someone else to show them the way and that too with an example.
If you don't believe me, just do one thing, go to any traffic signal where no one is following it (ofcourse it means, no traffic policeman would be there!) and you stop if the signal is 'red' , for it to go 'green'. And believe me atleast 50% of the ppl would follow you and wait for the signal to go green, who otherwise would have surely broken the rules. And they will definitely follow it atleast for next two signals. You may not have brought a big change but this small change can definitely bring about a big chain reaction.
Many would argue that whats wrong in breaking a signal? As they are expert enough at driving to avoid any accidents, but dude! its not about you. I know you are a good driver, but not everyone is, atleast not all those who will follow you in breaking the signal. So maybe you avoid an accident but wats the gurantee of that person who followed you?
I see people who would give an excuse for the above thing as, the absence of traffic policeman is government's fault.
I accept it is, but isn't it atleast near to enough on their part to atleast put up the traffic signal?
The thing is that, we too are the citizens of the same country, so isn't it our responsibility to follow the rules made for our own benefit?
can't we change this country by taking an initiative ourselves? rather than blaming those in power?
P.S. - I read somewhere that Indians are generally scared of opting for entrepreneurship. I think I 've got the basic reason, its in their blood. Their inability to take initiative!


blogging workshop @ NITT

Blogging is something that is catching up slowly in India. We are not still much into this phenomenon, for I keep facing such questions from my friends as ‘ye kis chidiya ka naam hai?(which bird’s name is this?) and then as usual I try explaining them, showing my technical(or say internetechnical) superiority over them. (as being an engineer, you are supposed to know all these things happening on the internet).

I had heard about rashmi’s blogging workshop in IIIT hyd and IIT kgp and the feedback from IIIT was good. So this was one thing I thought we must have in our campus too, and what better the occasion than in Infotainment section of our department’s technical symposium. And I knew enough bloggers in campus to make sure, that response will be good.

But unfortunately, rashmi bansal was unable to impress the audience as much as one gets after reading her blog or JAM! For the simple reason that the audience didn’t turn out the way she had expected. While in IIIT the audience was around 80% already bloggers and 20% wannabe enthusiasts. The ratio turned out just opposite over here. And not knowing much about blogging, you certainly don’t enjoy watching others go to stage and display their blog and get personal feedbacks.

Although I don’t think of it as a fault on rashmi’s part too, but I certainly think that if you are going to conduct a workshop which is not yet common, its better to be prepared to face audience who expect you to start from the 'ABC' of the phenomenon.

Anyways, I and others who are already into blogging, did get something out of the workshop but by the overall response of the audience, I think it would have been better if we had asked rashmi for a lecture on ‘entrepreneurship’ instead!