Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Spin Doctors!!

If you are a BJP supporter, my advice is not to read this post(or should I say the link in this post!!). It is bound to be in stark contrast from the way you have been looking at this party. Although I do not like to take sides from the political point of view, I can't see myself supporting BJP in its present form. Mind you, I am not saying I am a Congress or a Left supporter. Anyway, that's not the issue at hand.

This is a column in The Hindu written by P. Sainath. Anyone who has read this blog regularly would know that I am a great fan of this guy. I have already linked one of his earlier columns here. I am sure any BJP fan will come up with arguments finding faults with the other parties, but my request would be to first look at their own party and then comment on the rest.

Talking of spin doctors, I am wondering why so many writers like to draw parallels with Cricket! Many of my friends also have this habit of using cricketing terms while explaining situations in life.. I guess cricket is so much a part of our(read me and my friends) lives that it'd naturally keep surfacing in our conversations..

Monday, June 13, 2005

Competitive exams, education and the Larger picture

There has been an ongoing debate about entrance exams for UG students ever since the TN government came out with the decision to abolish the common entrance test. These exams tend to make education more urbanised with dedication coaching centres in all the major cities. The students in the rural areas really do lose out a lot because of this. Having seen many classmates of mine in college who have gone through a lot more difficulty and pains to get to the same stage as I did, I must say the system in Tamil Nadu was fairly even when it came to selecting undergraduate students, atleast in the Govt-aided colleges.

Now with the abolishing of the entrance test, the onus is on the students to do well in the XII standard exams. I have a feeling it was better when it was spaced out with the skill of students in both forms of test coming out in the earlier scenario. Now, if a student has a bad day at one of his exams, he doen't get a chance to make up for it. Competitive exams also test the analytical abilities of a student which I think is a very important skill. The IIT-JEE is probably the best example among all the entrance tests in our country.

However, the down-side of this is the additional pressure on the students to perform well in both the XII standard school exams and all the competitive exams. Having been through this myself, I know it is not easy for students to handle such pressure. In fact, the pressure is not so much just because of the amount to be studied. The worst part is the inevitable comparisons made with the peers and all the people who have been "successful" at such tests. This brings the larger question to the picture Is our education too result-oriented? Are we just looking at the short cuts to achieve a nice job, comfortable life? How many students enter their actual fields of interest? Today, most students tend to become either engineers or medical students by default. Isn't there something wrong in pushing the students this hard at such an age?

I have a feeling our country is losing out on a lot of other talents because of this craze for engineering/technology. Even if anyone was genuinely interested in arts or sports, the chances of him/her making it a career is seriously hampered by the constant comparison with all the peers. Unfortunately in our country, the "mob mentality" is a major issue. Just because hundred people I know got into IIT doesn't mean I have to follow them. However, this attitude is prevalent in our society. Cities like Bombay, Delhi and to a lesser extent Chennai, Bangalore and other major cities may offer other alternatives. However in general, in most of the smaller towns, the options tend to be more limited and the pressure is so much greater.

I don't know whether doing away with competitive exams is a step in the right direction. Whether this results in lesser pressure and a fairer assessment of all the students remains to be seen. However, at the ground level, I don't think it's going to change anything much. Students will still be expected to put in the same effort as they have been all these years. Its only the selection criteria which is changing, not the competition level or the options available.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Company, evaluation and google!!

When I was coming back from home this time, I had very interesting company. The gentleman travelling in my compartment was an IMA instructor. His wife's a Maths teacher having done a PhD in the subject. Well, I, my friend Prashant who was travelling with me, this gentleman and his wife and 1-2 more people were involved in a lively discussion on the political situation in the different states in our country, how different the issues are everywhere and where has all this has come from. How divisions in society have come about because of caste, religion, community, etc.. The IMA instructor raised a very interesting point about the people in West Bengal having faith in their government for 27 years now. His point being that any government which at the end of the day works for the benefit of ALL the people , especially the common man, is the one which will prevail. I can't possibly recount the entire discussion and shall not attempt to do so. However, it was very thought-provoking and I enjoyed it very much.

Read this column in the Hindu written by one of my favourite columnists - P.Sainath. It is a wonderful eye-opener for anyone who has forgotten about the previous general elections and the major issues to be addressed in our country. There's a book by P.Sainath called "Everybody loves a good drought". That's next on my "books-to-buy" list..

On a totally different note, if you google for the "hazaaron khwaish", guess what - Ramblin' Man's Pages shows up as the first search result!! Pretty cool, ain't it!!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Movies and Book Tags!

So I finally respond to the tag-game.. Have been book-tagged by Suksy and Soultanofswing..

Hmm.. Although I am not reading anywhere near as much as I'd like to, I have started about 3-4 books and am not anywhere near finishing any of them..

The last book I bought: Gorky Park - by Martin Cruz Smith. This is a book I have read 3, no maybe 4 times. One of my all time favourites.

The last book I read: The Mahabharatha - C. Rajagopalachari. Had heard a lot about Rajaji's version of the epic. Read it when I was home. I find The Mahabharatha amazing when it comes to the sheer complexity of the whole story and the beautifully woven characters.

Total number of books I own: No idea. I really don't know how many I actually "own". Have read hundreds of books though. Many of which I have bought myself.

Five books which mean a lot to me: I don't know whether they mean a lot me, but these are some of my favourites.

1. Gorky Park: The murder investigation as well as the love story of Arkady Renko is simply brilliant. The best part about the book is the sheer vulnerability of the "hero". Makes him all the more "likeable"..

2. To Kill a Mocking Bird: A true classic.

3. India's Struggle for Independence - by Bipin Chandra: This is a very different account of Indian history starting with "The Revolt of 1857" from what we read in the text books. Although it may not be completely impartial, the author(s) provides a good insight into the ideologies of the different sections invloved in our freedom struggle - starting from the Moderates, the Extremists, the Communists, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League - and of course, Gandhiji and his followers.

4. The Chamber - John Grisham: Although this book of Grisham's is not as popular as some of his other fast-paced novels, I found this book really thought-provoking and it brings out lots of issues like racism, justice, death sentence, family relationships, and even politics to an extent.

5. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien: Brilliant imagination.. The very idea of "The Evil One" and "Mordor" was amazing.

6. The Day of the Jackal - Frederick Forsyth: Brilliant pace. A gripping story with an amazing ending.

7. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie: Have read lots of Christie's books. This one is by far the best.

8. The Hound of the Baskervilles: Sherlock Holmes' best. (err.. I should say Conan Doyle's best!)

I know I was supposed to mention only 5 but couldn't help mentioning Nos. 6,7 and 8.

That takes care of the books. Now on to movies. Was tagged to this by Elf.

1. Total number of films I own on DVD/video: 0. I haven't bothered to buy a single movie yet.

2. Last film(movie) I bought: Plz refer to Answer no. 1.

3. Last film I watched: CD - Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Theatre - Kaal, TV - Pirates of the Carribean(for the 4th time).

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me:

i) Anand: Brilliant movie. Beautiful message. Extremely moving. My all time favorite.

ii) Jaane bhi Do yaaron: The "Naatak" scene with the dead body as Draupadi is probably the best comedy scene made in the Hindi movie industry.

iii) Spy Game: The movie rocks.. Robert Redford and Brad Pitt are simply brilliant.. I have seen this movie about 5-6 times.

iv) Forrest Gump: The movie is all about Tom Hanks. I have lost count of the number of times I've seen it.

v) Sholay: The "complete" Hindi movie.

There are so many other movies running at the back of my mind right now that I think I should stop before any of them pop up!!

As for continuing the game, I think I have joined it a little too late to carry it forward. Most of my blog readers have already participated in the game. So that's all about my favorites..

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The "boy" is back in town!!

For all the regular readers of this blog(there aren't many I know), my apologies for the long absence from the blog-scene. I should have had atleast bothered to post about that. Anyway, I am back now and hopefully, my blogging frequency will keep increasing.

Liverpool beat Milan in one of the most dramatic UEFA Champions' League finals of all time. Although I would have liked to see Maldini lift the cup rather than Gerrard, full credit to Liverpool for coming back from 3 goals down at half-time.

Rafael Nadal stormed his way through the French Open beating the most talented player in the world and completed a very successful year on clay becoming the first player after Mats Vilander to win it on debut. I watched most of the matches at home this time and the quality of tennis was simply amazing.

The chaos caused by Advani's "interesting" remarks on Jinnah and Babri Masjid demolition was quite amusing. The VHP has wasted no time in making their unhappiness clear and this has sparked off some life in an otherwise dull political scene. The by-elections that took place also threw up some interesting results, with neither the Congress nor the BJP faring as well as they'd have hoped. Wonder what that means for the political situation in our country a few years down the line.

One other thing I can't help wondering about is the heat wave. I don't know whether it is just my imagination, but I felt that the temperatures this year seemed to have risen quite a bit. One also gets the real effect of the heat when travelling by train through the heart of our country. With global warming becoming an increasing danger, god only knows what's in store for us in the future!! However, having said that, I really have to appreciate the weather in Bangalore at this time of the year. One has to experience the North Indian summer or the Chennai summer to realise the true worth of Bangalore weather.

I need to catch up on a lot of things at office as well. It is really tough getting back into the groove after a two week lay-off from work. Still struggling to come to terms with the latest happenings here.

Can't help wondering how one's thinking changes with time: When I was in college, I used to think how good it'd be when I'd finish college and start working. Wouldn't have to bother about exams and all. Now, although these wishes have come true, I miss college life, the night-outs before the exams, the long holidays and of course all my college friends!! Life is strange and so are we....