The Rime of the Ancient Engineer

Drunk Engineer

Drunk Engineer

Close friend of mine went to a New year’s party. He was looking for some action but got none. This poem was written by him but he shall remain anonymous because he didn’t want future employers to see this in case they googled his name. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the unedited version of “The Rime of the Ancient Engineer”.

To a club of honey and milk,
the geek goes to freak;
Accompanied by his ilk,
clad in his finest silk.
Of cheap liquor he reeks,
and to get laid he seeks.
With stealthy glances he peeks,
at the rosy ass-cheeks;
And longs to dip his beak
between the mounds and the peaks.
But his pants betray a leak;
And the pretty girls go “eek!”
While he stands like a hick,
with a raging lonely dick.
Alas! the misses call him sick.
And all that he yearned to lick,
is gone in a tick.

~ The Lonesome Engineer

IITs Trolled

IIT Troll Featured Image

Have had enough of people treating the IITs (and the IIMs) as something sacred that cannot be touched. Fanaticism of any kind is unwanted, and after seeing this meme at www.iitbakar.com, decided to do something about it.

IITs Trolled - by deswal.org

IITs Trolled – by deswal.org

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Reservations in Higher Education – Why I think they’re required

Reservation in Higher Education

We hear a lot of passionate debate against reservations based on caste in higher education in India. However, there must be some logic to reservations except vote-bank politics. Here is my attempt at listing a few of those reasons, and why I believe such reservations are necessary in our country.

Why reservations based on caste, and not other forms of affirmative action, especially, reservations based on economic status?

Simply because implementing and maintaining any other forms of affirmative action are way too expensive and would require too many formalities, paperwork, administration, etc, something that is impossible given India’s size and population. And these other forms of affirmative action come with their own intrinsic drawbacks. So in the present case, reservations based on caste are the most effective, cost-efficient form of affirmative action available to India.

As for reservations based on economic status, there are many problems here, a few of which are:

  1. To implement a successful reservation policy based on economic status, the government will have to come up with that very important annual or monthly income (lets call it point x), which would demarcate the economically backward and the economically well off. If point x is too high, it would include way too many people, and those at the bottom will lose out. If point x is too low, a lot many people will be left out and this also can lead to widespread resentment. Also, many of the downtrodden are daily wage earners. Which means they have no regular annual, monthly or even weekly income .So deciding upon point x itself is a difficult task which requires considerable beforehand study.
  2. Now lets suppose that point x has been agreed upon. The number of people who will hide their incomes to get their earnings down to point x, would reduce to nothing the governments efforts at curbing non payment of income tax.
  3. Another issue that arises out of this particular situation is that not many of the down trodden will be able to complete the formalities and acquire the documents to prove their disadvantaged economic status. Very few in India’s vast hinterlands have the know-how to complete complex government forms, specially those relating to incomes and expenditure. Such a predicament would be an open invitation to touts and other unscrupulous elements, opening avenues for them to swoop in and take money from already poor families, just to make sure they qualify as economically backward.
  4. Studies have shown that slightly increased monetary resources do not guarantee the stop of discriminatory behaviour against a backward caste individual. This is especially true for scheduled castes. The maladies affecting our society have their roots in hundreds of years of constant discrimination and denial of resources, and these cannot be tackled so easily. So in this case also, the Government of India (GoI) will have to decide that income after which discrimination stops.

The fallacies of ‘Reservations undermine Merit’.

Most opponents of the reservations policy believe that it cuts down merit and propagates mediocrity, as it passes over those who have scored higher in an examination, for the reserved category who have scored lower. The problem here is that the anti-reservationists mistakenly equate the number of marks scored, to the level of merit.

Simply put, the examination system prevalent in our country in no way measures merit. It is only a screening tool which is used since it would be impossible to administer any other form of screening given the size of the students applying. And because of that it is endorsed by the society and the government as being legitimate. It is also well known that entrance tests do not test intelligence or ability in the subject, but only an aptitude for a certain type of questions.

  1. In a pool of applicants, the number of meritorious can never be pre-determined or pre-decided. But in all institutions today, that is exactly what is happening. For instance say the IITs have 14000 seats. Which means, according to the IITs, there are only 14000 students meritorious enough to occupy these seats, from the almost 3 lakh who apply for the JEE. Most educators, professors, etc. agree that the top 20,000 to 30,000 will have the know-how to suitably understand and apply what is taught in the IITs, but they can’t make it, sometimes purely due to luck.
  2. Common sense dictates that drawing upon a wider social base increases the diversity and the quality of institutions of higher studies. Having students from a small section of society results in a “frogs in a pond” situation. Recognizing this fact, the worlds best universities like Cambridge, Oxford and Stanford strive to introduce as much diversity as possible on their campuses by actively encouraging foreign students.

Mark Galanter, in his book “Competing Equalities: Law and Backward Classes in India” spoke of three kinds of resources to produce results in competitive exams:

  1. economic resources (for prior education, training, materials, freedom from work, etc)
  2. social and cultural resources (network of contacts, confidence, guidance and advice, information, etc)
  3. inbuilt ability and hardwork

When anti-reservationists say that merit alone should be the criteria for admission to institutions of higher education, they mean that economic and cultural resources are not important, but it is differences in ability that has resulted in Hindu Upper Caste students dominating the higher education campuses of our country. The biggest counter to this argument is that these same upper caste students decide to enroll for ‘coaching’, instead relying solely on their ‘merit’, ability and hardwork to get through the examination.

In relation to the above paragraph, I’d like to present a situation that misses most of us, in spite of being right in our face. The student groups of the IITs and IIMs of our country show a strong regional bias towards urban areas with lots of “coaching institutes.” This fact is also evident from the ads that the coaching institutes place in the papers trumpeting the number of their ‘successes.’ The coaching institutes try to provide the first two resources required to enter these institutions viz. economic and social:

a) Economic – By providing study materials, coaching and training. Also, many IIT-JEE training institutes have tie ups with nearby schools, by which the students can enroll with the school but are not required to attend classes, as the school knows that these students are bound to do well in the +2 exams. This takes care of the ‘freedom from work’ point.

b) Social – If one goes through the coaching institute ads appearing on national dailies, it will be apparent  that even the faculty with their MSc and BTech. degrees from IITs and other top engineering colleges are being used as an advertising tool. Why? Because through their degrees and qualifications, the institute is promising the social resources viz. the instructor’s network of contacts, guidance, experience, advice and information.

Now, to acquire this kind of help and guidance, one requires money. Money that the majority of the backward class don’t have.

So, the situation in brief is, to get into an institution I need 3 very important resources (lets call them a, b and c). This institution is funded to a large extent by the tax payer, which includes the backward castes.  Two of these three resources (a and b) have nothing to do with ‘merit’ or ability. I take care of resource c myself, and I go out and buy resources a and b. The government recognizes that the backward castes have been discriminated against for a long period of time, and consequently are not in a position to buy or acquire resources a and b. To counter this, it provides the backward castes with positive discriminatory action.

That is when I rail against these government measures, calling them unfair and saying that the only resource needed to gain admission is resource c (hardwork and ability). By this I imply that the backward castes could not secure admission because they do not possess resource c, en masse, and it is the Hindu UC, a mere 35% (approximate) of the population, who possess this ability and ‘merit’.

As is clear from the above paragraphs, the argument, ‘reservations undermine merit’, has no factual standing at all.

The ‘Creamy Layer’ Issue

The Creamy Layer don’t deserve any form of affirmative action whatsoever. Everyone knows that they have benefitted enough from the reservations policy, and through their continued presence, are now usurping much needed seats/resources, which were originally earmarked for the really backward sections of their own castes.

Here I shall try to explain the reason behind the GoI’s continued decision to include the creamy layer in the reservations policy. Like I had written in one of the earlier points, it has been found that social discrimination does not stop against a backward caste individual even when he/she acquires wealth and resources. That’s why it is difficult for the GoI to come up with a rigid framework or set of rules which identifies when a backward caste person belongs to the creamy layer of that caste.

This problem in urban areas is not so great. Social discrimination here is not so rampant, in fact, its very subdued. Consequently, its very easy to identify a ‘creamy layer’ person. But in the rural areas of India, the situation is not so simple. Discrimination is still rampant, with the latest example being a lower caste mother and daughter who were paraded naked, raped and then murdered in cold blood, by an upper caste mob. Reports said that this was because of a land dispute.

For the GoI, not including the creamy layer can turn out to be a very dangerous issue itself, and including them is seen as the easy way out by any political party in power.

Reservations and politics

Any party which successfully promotes the reservations policy as its own, will score a virtual home run in terms of vote counts. And no opposition will let that happen. Take the current situation for example. The BJP doesn’t openly and vociferously oppose Arjun Singh’s and the Congress’s moves. But, it is a well known fact that protests such as the AIIMS protest need an influential managing force or power organising it. A power that can guarantee these protesting students their safety from the police and other law enforcement authorities, in spite of the disruptions that they were causing.

In the same manner, the last BJP government, through Murli Manohar Joshi, wanted to introduce more seats in the IIMs. Though this step should have been taken for all institutes of higher education, targeting the IIMs focused media attention on it. Even though the Congress and other parties never openly opposed the move, yet the amount of coverage, protests, etc. could not have been random, unrelated happenings.

The use of the reservation policy by the politicians, has unfortunately, made it stink in the eyes of the urban middle class, just as anything that is associated with politicians. So much so, that reservations are just seen as a vote gathering stunt, all at the cost of the general category.

(I had written this long ago in June 2008 at my old blog. Reposting because I think it’s still relevant.)

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Life in Sherwood: Horsman Wing

To get started, Sherwood College is a boarding school located in Nainital, Uttranchal, India. The school started in 1869 by Robert Milman and has two wings: Horsman Wing (junior school, classes 3 to 5) and Dixon Wing (senior school, classes 6 to 12). In brief, Horsman Wing is where you are the protected little kiddies who look upto Dixon Wing in the same manner that a convict would look out of his cell at the free world. You are constantly brooded over by teachers, matrons and aayahs. Your every action is monitored and you don’t have many opportunities to do things that boarding schools are generally famous for. A bit of fighting, lots of tuck (goodies like biscuits, chocolates jam and tomato ketchup) followed by severe bouts of diarrhea. Sports are introduced early on (in my school before Sherwood, till class 7 you were only allowed to play carrom, ludo or chess maybe) and competition is cut throat (something that continues right till you pass out in class 12).

In Horsman Wing (‘horsy’ from now on), the first time you venture towards the small swimming pool, you expect lots of fun with splashing and screaming. Big blow to your expectations and happiness, the swimming coach is standing there with a 8 foot long stick shouting at a random kid to try and swim along the sides in an anti clockwise direction. The more adventurous and daring little brats were rewarded with a whack on the back, and all adventure and enthusiasm evaporated combined with an opening of the sphincter muscles. Of course, very rarely did one come to know about a boy peeing in the small pool, but going by the number of times I did it (mainly because I was didn’t want to miss out on the action by going to the toilets), I reckon 3 to 4 did it every time we were in there.

Horsy also involved a lot of fighting, some detective work (you tried to figure out who crapped in XYZ’s shoe in the night, and who ate ABC’s chocolates) and a lot of bickering over the most trivial of issues (I can say that only now, at the time they seemed to be of more importance than anything else on earth). The heroes and champs of the class would be those who were good at sports, seconded by the teachers’ favourites; these two groups invariable landed the plum jobs of class monitor and dorm monitor (positions of great importance, mind you, you got privy to staff politics, were allowed to come in late for dinner after locking the class rooms, and one word from you could earn an erring kid a sharp reprimand).

In class 5, our Math teacher, who was also the Junior School Headmistress, started a ‘Star Chart’. There was a big chart on the notice board with the entire class’s name written in alphabetical order, with space to put in the ‘stars’. If you did something good, like answered a difficult question, good behaviour or did your homework very well, you got a silver star. If you did something outstanding, like topped a difficult test, solved a problem which no one else could, or something similar, you got a much coveted gold star. Now the most important part, if you screwed up in class, you earned a black star. These would be awarded if you used used foul language (‘bloody’ was the foulest it got, and none knew what the word meant), if you scored poorly in a test, were caught talking or dreaming and couldn’t answer a question in class. Now, I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but the guy with the highest number of black stars in 1996 was me, with a grand total of 45 black stars. The nearest competitor, Rohit Yadav was on 43, and we left the rest of the field behind, the third highest being something like 21. The yellow star holders were, obviously, immaterial.

A tale involving Horsman Wing cannot be complete without ‘Smiley Man’. We never got to know his real name, but this particular gent had been coming to Sherwood for almost the past 20 years (a very conservative estimate). With him he brought a box which contained packets of daal, candy, various namkeens and his famous smile. We’d get pocket money (a princely sum of 10 rupees) twice a week and his arrival was always eagerly awaited by almost 120 little boys. The chappus, who were the teachers-ass-licker types looked forward to the ‘Fruit Man’ s visits. They’d buy a bunch of flowers and gift it to Ma’am XYZ, ensuring a place in her good books.

The day I joined Sherwood, I got the roll number that would identify me for the rest of my stay there. Your name is not as important as your roll number. It is what you are know as and I was ‘roll number 318’. Even today if someone were to shout out that phrase, I’d instinctively respond, just like you do when your name is called out in a large gathering. I also got allotted a house – Little John (L. J. for short), our colour was yellow. For the next eight years, I cheered for the the LJ cricket, atheletics, badminton teams and was part of the LJ football, hockey and table tennis teams. 

Horsman Wing also made me an adept practitioner of the freestyle martial arts. I was constantly getting into fights and remember cutting open a classmate’s forehead by banging his face on the serrated edge of a large tin can. Knocking out another fellow (or at least he acted “knocked out”) got me my first “Yellow Card” in class 4. Three Yellow Cards = 1 Red Card = Explusion from the school.

A regular feature of the first year in school was diarrhea. It struck everyone and brought us to shame at one point or the other. My first “loosies” experience was basically a ninja attack. Went in the morning to the bogs to pee; farted while peeing, and there it was in my pyjamas. I had no idea why I’d just crapped my pants, specially since  the previous night, I’d felt none of the impending signs in the form of anal discomfort. Anyway, what was done was done, and now the most important job was to save face. So I walked back the most “normal walk” a seven year who has wet shit flowing down his thighs can walk. Once I got back to my dorm, I slyly took off the soiled stuff and tried to hide it in my dirty-clothes bag. 

Unfortunately, that didn’t work. If my memory serves me right, it was Saurabh Chawla, from two beds away, who smelt something shitty; saw the fugitive look on my face; put two and two together and made a mad dash to our Matron’s office. Asshole, it was okay if he’d just run and informed her, but for added effect he first shouted “Chee, Deswal has done kaka in his pyjama”. So there I was, standing next to my bed, adorned in shame, the entire dorm giving me the dirtiest looks that a collective of seven year olds can give, while I waited for the Matron to come.

She came, she smelt, she screwed her face in to a scowl, she pulled out her bamboo stick and used it to pick up the pyjama. Then she held it up, as if she were Sherlock Holmes who’d just found the final piece of the puzzle and was displaying it to the awestruck bystanders, and dumped the thing on the floor in front of my bed. I tell you, dear reader, I can feel the blood rush to my ears right now. The memory of that incident still makes me go red.

AND THEN THERE WAS THIS ONE TIME, WHEN THIS HAPPENED.

Yup, another bout of diarrhea. On this occasion, I knew it was coming. And this was right after lunch. So I ran to the Infirmary. Unfortunately, I still didn’t know what the loosies were actually called. So I told the Sister “my stomach’s hurting”. She gave me a pill and told me to gulp it down with water.

Dear reader, piece of advice: water does not induce immediate relief to a shaky anal opening, because water has no electrolytes. Therefore, don’t drink water when you’re fighting the crappy battle in public. 

Continuing with my tale of shit, well, I ran to the dorms from the Infirmary. I was wearing shorts. I lost the battle within seconds of ingesting the water. I left a trail of crap. Am going red right now. Seriously.

How do you react to brands?

(Image courtesy The Brads, one of my favourite webcomics)

Have you ever felt like this after talking to a marketing professional, or after reading a report about the research done on brands, ads and social media campaigns?

Well, it happens to me all the time. Specially when someone comes up and says stuff like “urban, educated and socially connected consumers between 25 to 35 think we’re a very mature and trused brand”. This regular occurrence in MBA marketing classes, where there are lengthy presentations that discuss the clever ambush marketing tactics as executed by HUL against P&G or by Kingfisher against Jet, with GoAir jumping in on the fuckfest. These guys are the exact counterparts of the economists who love their graphs and mathematical equations for theories that have little proven use in the real world.

What’s the problem here? Just that ambush marketing isn’t about the consumer; it’s about tactical one-upmanship between marketers. How does the ad effect your target group, those who actually fly with your airline or buy your shampoo? Did anyone ask them what they thought or how it made them change their minds? In the end, these clever tricks end up in Internet meme dumps like ROFLIndia where people say “lolzzzz!! awesomest ad ever….kingfisher is still too expensive”.

A good laugh over the bullshit we peddle

Want to have a good laugh and at the same time, spend a few seconds of your life ruminating over the bullshit that we as a society are given to peddle?

Well then, check out the following two links

The first one is simply a marketing gimmick helping IIMC stay in the news. Anecdotal evidence suggests a sum total of zero students will actually give a rat’s ass about this pledge a few seconds after dutifully mouthing it. By the way, in this case, “anecdotal evidence” is the MBA jargon for the sniggers I saw when I asked four friends at IIMC about this pledge. Between TOI and me, I’d choose my small sample size and “almost-a-logical-fallacy” argument over the awesome journalism being splattered about by the fine folks at aforementioned newspaper.

The rat’s ass, as will be given by the kids at IIMC to their pledge of honesty.

Let’s look at the second link now, shall we? If ASSOCHAM seriously believes that 83% of MBAs prefer job profile over a hefty package, then the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India needs to have a hard look at its understanding of the “talent-in-pipeline” that shall be taking our country to greater capitalistic heights in the coming future.

Anyway, I’ve decided to be altruistic today and give away some deep insights for free. So here it is, the insider’s guide to what an Indian MBA actually wants

  1. Money – is important. The majority of us have worked pretty hard to crack those entrance procedures and after having beaten 45000+ other aspirants, taking up hefty loans to pay 11 lakh+ fees, meeting the stringent requirements of your organisation and then shifting to cities where the cost-of-living is quite simply, exorbitant, yes, we do expect remuneration.
  2. Make a bigger impact, faster – No one gets in to a top b-school in India without having some ambition in life. That’s why Group/General Management Profiles (GMPs) with relatively lesser pay are still super hot. We’re raring to go out there and get stuff done. Setup a framework for the same in your organisation and we’ll follow you like the rats did the Pied Piper.
  3. Opportunities to fail and learn – It’s the learning bit that totally snags us. The more varied, the better.

Oh, and if you want an example of people who got it right, go through this link about TAS.

Sherwood, on the Night of India’s Independence

Sherwood College, Nainital

    Sherwood, On the night of India’s Independence in 1947 !
     
     
    I was in Sherwood (RH) from 1941 to 1947 . In those days we used
    to sit the Cambridge exams and I did my SC in 1946, and followed
    up with Inter Science in 1947.
     
    Prior to being in Sherwood, I was in Philander Smith College on
    Sherkadanda Hill , from 1939 to 1940 , when it closed down . I
    believe the buildings are now occupied by Birla School.
     
    You ask what we got up to …..Well , with Independence Day
    approaching, this brief escapade might be of interest.
     
    On the night of Independence in 1947 about 8 or 10 us sneaked
    out to town after lights out . We went down to Malli Tal and on
    our way acquired a very nice Tricolour . We then proceeded to
    Talli Tal and greeted any folk we met with a robust ‘Jai Hind’.
    I believe that the people were pleasantly surprised and pleased
    by our joining in on this very auspicious occasion.
     
    In Talli Tal we went to one of our favourite Indian Sweet shops
    and persuaded the owner to open up and serve us. The time was
    about 2 to 3 a.m. ! I don’t think we were charged very much for
    the sweets we consumed.
     
    We then headed up to Ramnee Convent and planted the Flag in
    their playing field . We had to make a hasty exit because we
    hadn’t been too quiet in this operation and people were
    beginning to stir.
     
    From there we went to the Teacher Training Block at All Saints.
    Some of us had girl friends in the TC block, so we threw gravel
    up at the windows of these particular girls. However, we awoke
    more than the ones we had intended, and again we had to vanish
    as fast as we could.
     
    We got back to the dorms undetected , for a brief sleep!
     
    I look back on this event and consider that we were very
    fortunate to have had the opportunity to celebrated India’s
    first day, hours, of Independence.
    – Paul Dickson (Sherwood College, Nainital, 1941 to 47)