Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Impressive - NDA experience

I went to the National Defence Academy today at Khadakwasla.. For the uninformed, this is a place just outside of Pune set amidst hills and rough forest terrain.. Established just after independence as a centre to train people of the three defence forces (the army, airforce and the navy), it has an area of about 8000 acres and more land around it is available.. 8000 acres is huge.. Real Huge!!!!

I had gone for the passing out parade of the cadets of the 110th course ( a course refers to the cadets who are taken in every term and NDA has two intakes every year, june and jan). Very nicely organised and impressive parade, I must say.. Admiral Arun Prakash, who is the chief of the naval staff, was the reviewing officer and spoke at the function.

Also had time to have a look around the academy, their sports fields, their various battalion buildings and squadron rooms.. They have buildings which have been named after the state which donated funds to build these structures. The main building and the most impressive was the Sudan building, which housed the Chemistry lab and the workshop of some kind.. Named thus because money was given by Sudan as an expression of gratitude because India helped Sudan in some defence related operation. Also other squadron buildings are named after states, I remember seeing Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan etc..

During the parade, the highlight was the handover of the president's ( who is the supreme commander of the defence forces) flag to the passing out batch. Everyone had to stand and pay respect while the officers in uniform saluted. Amazing feeling.. Gives you a sense of pride, to be there, among so many people, who have done something/ going to do something for our nation, looking at the spirit of the guys there and the elation later. Another highlight was what is termed in NDA parlance as ' anthim patth' or in layman's terms, the last passage. Passage is a very rough translation and it effectively means that its the last step a cadet takes before passing out of the NDA. This is right below a hugt mast, taken from the INS Vikrant or some other naval warship around 50 years ago. This mast has two flags, one being the academy flag and the other being the Indian tricolour. These cadets who walk and take the anthim patth have to salute the mast and then take the last step.. And then , FREEDOM!!! For a month atleast.

The celebrations that followed were in keeping with true Armed Forces tradition, throwing up their caps and dancing around. Each squadron celebrated separately and, the joy was evident on their faces. Three years of a tough grinding routine had finally come to an end..

And for Me, standing there, amidst such people, was a moment which I would cherish for ever..


PS : - Pictures when I get back to Chennai :)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Reservation ?? Really??

Read a post on Sagaro's blog on the reservation issue, and some of his points are worth mulling over.

It is pretty evident, that this decision by the Indian Government, (yes, the guys you and I voted for) to increas reservation has multiple reasons, the most evident being vote-bank politics. Which politician, in a power-hungry country like ours, in which only numbers matter, wouldn't want the vote of nearly 77% of the country's population. Sagaro makes a couple of critical points, he says that the backward classes in question have not had a comfortable life like most of the general quota students and have had to work and study simultaneously in state run corporation schools. Agreed. They probably do deserve help from the government. I don't think a lot of us are against the idea of reservation per-se. Its the way its being/ going to be implemented now which concerns us!

From personal experience, I can say that it does hurt when you see a student, one that has studied with you all through school, been a very bright student, scoring lesser marks than you in one of the entrance tests ( and by lesser, I mean, a good 10 percentile points lesser) getting into an IIM, easily the country's best and most prestigious business school. This, when other classmates of yours have to slog and be disappointed in the end, because their seat has been taken by someone else. Is this Fair?? Is it fair that, in an educational institution of international repute (IIT, IIM, NLS, NALSAR, AIIMS etc..), you have a complete class of students, half of them entering via the back-door so as to say?? An argument that has been put forth by the guys who have used the quota system is that they compete against the general quota guys once they have been admitted. If that is what you want, why don't you compete against the general quota guys for the admission. If you're good enough to compete later, you must be good enough to compete now.

On NDTV, the other day, I saw a medic saying that he was from a poor family and din't have enough money to attend coaching classes to prepare for entrance tests. So, he took advantage of the quota system and now is a doctor. Fair play and well done to him !! These are the kind of people the government needs to be taking care of, providing them with assistance to prepare for these tests, maybe provide them good education at the primary and secondary school level, rather than at the graduate level.

Sagaro says,
Reservations have worked wonderfully in India. In IITs people tell me how these SC/ST guys at the first year are shy and aren’t very sociable, but by four years they are better off and even overtake these FC guys.

I don't necessarily agree with this. The aim of these institutions is to produce good engineers. Developing personalities is something that is upto an individual and happens along the way. There have been a lot of cases where these reserved students haven't been able to cope up with the general category students simply because they haven't got the kind of scores that most of their classmates have obtained in the JEE exam. Meaning, the kind of foundation that the others have is lacking somewhat in some of these students. It's not their fault mind you!! It's the system's fault. A system that says, "Ok, a seat is reserved for you, you don't have to work as hard as the rest, IIT mil jayega!!." Is this the kind of students that a premier institute like the IIT needs?? Remember, the IIT's are branded as the best engineering college in the country and brand IIT has a huge impact all over the world.

Increasing seats is not an option either. Lot of logistics and admin related problem crop up, like increasing classrooms, faculty and hostel facilities. This is not a feasible option, not for a while now atleast.. Also, in a country like ours, getting a OBC certificate is not that hard a job!! Or so, I am told!! :)

So, what is the solution?? Possibly a middle path!! Provide monetary assistance to these students, empower them at an early stage, so that, by the time they reach class 12 or so, they would not require to use reservation and compete with the general category students!!! This, in all likelihood, seems like the most plausible way out of this situation for now!! Though, knowing the government and the way politicians think, one never knows!!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

You know that you're in India when ....

-- You drive on the road and a cow suddenly appears outta nowhere!!!

-- You get caught for breaking traffic rules, and escape with either a very small fine or sometimes even talk your way out of it.. Like " I know this politician. that police officer and so on.. "

-- You find people not using the footpath / sidewalk. What is more, when you take a closer look, you actually find that the sidewalk is used for sleeping :-)

-- You drive down an arterial road in a big city, and suddenly have to slow down because a bullock cart is transporting bricks. The bull and the owner are oblivious to the problem

-- You find people using areas behind trees and bushes for relieving themselves!!

-- You see people crossing roads at all places except pedestrian crossings.

-- Auto Drivers indicating one direction but going completely in the other (Chennai specific)

-- Walk along any shopping area and find brands ranging from Mike, Rebook, Adidaas, Radoo all in the same pavement :P

I love the country :)
India rocks!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My GD/PI Experiences

Lots of people wanted me to write about my Group Discussion (GD) and Personal Interview (PI) experiences. My first one was way back in February whereas the last one was sometime towards the end of March. So, will just write a summary of each one!

Feb 14, 2006 - IIM Indore Venue : IIM Bangalore

GD - There were supposed to be 9 of us in the group. One person decided not to turn up. Hence, it was 8 of us. Topic for discussion was a case study involving some venture capitalist and some company. Very boring case and I couldn't understand anything :P. Hell, I din't even know who a venture capitalist was! Spoke some amount, din't exactly know whether I contributed to the discussion. Overall, a very average GD..
Rating - 5.5/10

PI - Was a two-member panel. Nice and relaxed interview. Touched upon a lot of aspects. There were technical questions which I was able to answer reasonably well! Also some other general questions on politics and sports. On the whole, a feel good type interview. Answered a lot of the questions.
Rating - 8.5/10

Final verdict -SELECTED

Feb 16, 2006 IIM Kozhikode Venue: IIM Bangalore

GD - Supposed to be a 10 member panel, only 7 turned up. GD was peaceful, about sting operations and the ethics of it, money involved, the like..Spoke decently, a better GD than Indore. Would rate it at about 7.5/10
PI- This was weird. There was hardly any tech. Most of the questions involved politics, and seemed like an extension of the GD. They also confused me and had some fun with me ( This I came to know later). Never mind, I got thro.. So peace :)
Rating - 7.5/10
Verdict - SELECTED

Feb 22, 2006 IIM LUCKNOW @IIM B

GD - Was on how good governance is the most effective way to curb and eradicate poverty in our country. Peaceful discussion. 7 member GD. We ran out of points towards the end. Another probable reason was that the moderators warned us beforehand to let everyone speak. I think we were being extra careful though !

PI - Moving on to the interview part, this was easily my worst interview. I was asked about anything and everything from Diamonds to VLSI to politics to capitals of countries. The number of times I uttered the "I Don't know" phrase would have exceeded the number of cows that Laloo Prasad Yadav possesses. In short, even I wouldn't have selected myself. Although, I must add, the IIM L professors seemed to think otherwise and offered me admission. Which I have regretfully denied :P

March 1, 2006 IIM Ahmedabad @ IIM B

Supposedly the mother of all interviews, atleast according to a lot of people!

GD - Supposed to be a 9 member group, one person decided that IIM A was not worth his/her time and hence, decided not to show up! Meant that it was reduced to a 8 member group and the topic was a case study, typical WIMWI style. For the uninitiated, WIMWI is an acronym for Well known Institute of Management in Western India. Was a fun discussion, I actually understood and could contribute to the discussion!

Interview - Again, very generic. Asked me about everything from sport (I had written that I support MAN U in the form), cooum in chennai, politics in TN, different newspapers in the country, and my project (which for the record was a total fraud project).

Well, after speaking to me for about 25 minutes, these guys decided to offer me admission into IIM A and thats where I am headed this June :)

Will talk about the other two in another post!!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Time for a Change?? Really ??

Its election time in my state and wherever you go, the mood is the same. Debates within family members as to who will come to power, my grandmom asking me why the DMK is not contesting the Saidapet seat, my driver telling me that DMK is going to come back to power, and I retorting saying that Amma will make it again!!

However, over the past three months or so, there are a couple of other parties that have joined the fray, most notable among them being the Lok Paritran about whom enough has been said an written!! Their campaign managers have been telling us to vote for them because they promise change! And eradication from corruption. They don't promise insane stuff like color TV's and rice for Rs.2. Which is great. Its a refreshing chnage from the verbal wars that the two Dravidian parties have resorted to! Karunanidhi on the one hand says Jayalalitha claims to be working 20 hours a day and appeals to the voters to give her some rest from the 8th of May, not for her benefit, but for the benefit of the party. Jaya on the other hand blames the centre (of which the DMK is a part) for not having assisted the government enough during the tsunami and the rains last year.

There have been quite a few mails floating in my class' yahoo group about the elections, TN politics, Lok paritran, some independents, and even Vijaykanth :) I hear that 'CAPTAIN' is contesting all 234 assembly seats!! Wonder how this is going to affect the vote share of the main parties because he is sure to eat into the vote base of both the DMK and the ADMK, but may not win that many seats! Some students of my class have been involved in the campaign for Lok Paritran and have been using the group as a means to campaign. So, I asked them, why should one vote for the Lok Paritran. The answers I got were various, ranging from the young and enthusiastic party, to the educated people, to the IIT brand. But, really, is it fair that one should gather votes based on a 'brand' like IIT?? I don't think so simply because an IIT + NYU education can prepare you for organisational skills and all that, but you need hands-on experience in grassroot level Indian politics to be able to compete. India is a very diverse nation and different people (sometimes members of the same family) voting for different candidates for a variety of reasons!

Whether both LP and Vijayakanth can eat into the vote base of the dravidian parties, we'll find out, come May 11th!!

As of now, after saturday, all the political parties will have their fates decided by the voters of this state! All I can say is that its going to be a closely fought election and that "Yeh Public Hai, Yeh sab Jaanti Hai".. Roughly translated, it means, "Its the public and knows everything"

Cheers folks