Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rewind 2008-09

As the academic year draws to a close, (in fact, I'm already done with it) it's but natural one would look back in retrospection trying to introspect and draw inferences and chuckle at memories and whine for ill-made decisions and opportunities missed. Given the utter joblessness suddenly jabbed on me, (exams over .. sometimes I think exams are good .. at least you have something to do all the time.. something to focus upon) I too am going to do the same.

"What a year!" .. of all people, no KGPian could deny that. Starting with a blanket ban on bikes, followed by the 11 PM ban, then Illumination, a drab placement season, number of open houses - highly charged ones, 22/3 and finally just before the end of the session - 23/4. It would certainly go down as one of the lowest 12 months in kgp.

On a personal front, apart from every one of those mentioned above affecting me, there were a few other highs and lows too. Bhai beginning his college; the internship-interview season; a poor start in Tech-GC; bro getting in finals of an all-India level exhibition; You know what (mmm .. ok .. i desperately want to write about this point but don't want to write about it - quite a contradicting quandary. hence, just 'you know what'); Midas - our robotic hand getting successfully implemented; an almost funded project which didn't take off :( ; the excitement of friends getting great offers from universities and companies alike; GRE - a disaster; the hall (and general) elections and then finally 23/4 - which hit me bad!

All in all, a session with not-so-many goods and predominantly a grim one. Particularly towards the end when the whole campus simmered with 22/3. Phul Tempo's critical condition was no less disconcerting (Thank GOD he's back in nice shape). A guy disappearing all together - and is still not found. Another falling off the roof and losing a terrible amount of blood. And finally, the nail in the coffin - 23/4 - Ramanand deciding to end his life. In particular, Tempo and Ramanand's were the cases which had the deepest impact on me 'coz I knew them personally. I would not want to go into any kind of speculation as to what led to Ramanand taking such a drastic step. It's only that you feel a strange emptiness, a guilt (for a reason you cannot fathom). The fact that he was my lab partner last semester fuels the disquietude. It makes one think - is life really that fragile. That one quality, the mystic aura which separates the living from the dead and the non-living .. is it so vulnerable? If it is, it certainly shouldn't be. Or there shouldn't be any life at all. Why subject humanity to this pain?

Life and death - the only two absolute truths in this world, and we are not even close to knowing what they mean; leave alone understanding the why's and how's.

Don't want to write further on this.

PS1: Life moves on
PS2: Busy with an application thing these days ..
PS3: Finally, Final Year .. I really want it to be over fast
PS4: Song of the day - "Pal" - KK
PS5: Reading 'Freakonomics' .. Initial review - go, read it!
PS6: Wonder if I'd be able to get enough internet access during internship
PS7: hmmm .. woke at 12 in the night, went out for a chit-chat with a friend, and now this blog - 5 am .. exams over - hell yeah!!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Haven't we all been exposed to a variety of home-grown and traditionally passed on knowledge from our parents and our parents' parents as well? Infact, I still had belief in many of them, until I read this last night. It made for a very interesting read and I would like to take out a couple of examples which I am sure most of the growing generation must have heard in India.

1. Sitting too close to the television will ruin your eyes.
How many times do we hear that? Well, all of you who hate to hear it every time your mom sees you, cheer up!! WebMD (click to go to the webpage) clearly says that the worst affect of watching television from up too close is a headache. There, now you can sit as close to the television and have it all for yourself, with a balm ofcourse :D

The website also goes on to attack another highly-prevalent myth, that reading in the dark weakens the eyesight. Again, headache is the maximum penalty you might to pay for that and not your eyesight. But yes, carrots do improve the eyesight and looking directly at the sun would indeed damage it - not all of them were a farce :)

2. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Another of those lines which I've heard innumerable times from someone or the other. Weatherimagery reports this as far away from truth. Did you know that the Empire State Building (Chicago) gets hit 25 times in a year on an average :| Also, the same place could be "enlightened" twice in the same storm. That sure is scary (not that you'd possibly survive after the first hit). Apart from that, the thing about 'it is best to avoid standing under a tree (or a high rising object) because they are the targets of lightning' is specious. Infact, it is very much possible that lightning manages to catch you on the ground avoiding the high trees around you. So now you know that you aren't safe anywhere from lightnings!!

It would be interesting to know some more such myths which have great acceptance in our society. If you know any, please share it here.

PS1: BFW marches on with second win in Thunderbolt ;)
PS2: Yo Good Friday!! :)
PS3: Picture credits - the website of irishhealth (the pic has been modified) and openphoto :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The story of the 'untold' 'hirsute'

'I am sorry, you'll have to leave', said she with no efforts whatsoever to hide the hint of nonchalance. It was indeed baffling to find that a driving license aided with the institute identity card (the institute just happened to be an IIT) proved insufficient to confirm one's identity.

We(I and my friend. Co-incidentally, a third college-mate had also scheduled at the same time) were at the prometric (blah blah) center - the organization which conducts the GRE in Kolkata. Both of us had this queer and nervous enthusiasm about GRE and wanted to get over with it as soon as possible to be able to find how much we scored. We had reached the center not before making rounds around virtually the same plot of land twice in search of the Sarat Bose (Sarat Chandra .. ehh) Road - thanks to the great directions we got from the people around. The eerie quietude inside the air-conditioned room where we stood now was a bit disconcerting, for me atleast (I am never comfortable with falling temperatures, particularly when I had just come in after experiencing the famous Kolkata humidity).

But more than the milieu, the more pressing matter at that moment was the refusal to allow my friend to give the exam because he did not have his passport with him. This seemed outrightly unjustified to me. Is a passport the only identity proof which proves YOU are YOU? Ain't a driving license supplemented with an institute I-card more than enough? The logic fails me. Though, it would be incorrect on my part to blame the personnel there for this. It was our fault we did not read the instructions carefully enough to realize that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are the sole countries where the passport is the ONLY accepted identity proof...huh!! I felt helpless trying to reason out with the staff; after all she was on the correct side of the rulebook. The disappointed expression on his face made me feel all the more bad - he is a good friend after all. I certainly feel that the rules could be relaxed slightly in cases like this where the genuineness of the person is irreproachable. After all, rules are to help make things better, not worsen them.

We had to relent, and he had to leave - shrugged. More than the 9-thousandish bucks spent for the test which now got forfeited (for what reason??), it was the futility of all the enthusiasm which hurt. Particularly, when this friend of mine was certain to do well too with all the preparation and hard work put into the build up.

Nevertheless, soon enough after he had left, I was shoved into the test room - again an air conditioned room with the temperature falling by another couple of degrees. Was given a brief on instructions and general rules pertaining to the examination and was soon seated in front of the monitor staring at my first set of instructions.

After quickly perusing through them, I started my issue topic which surprisingly turned out to have familiar keywords - 'formal education', et al (remember the 'Issue topic episode 1' post). Though it was slighty on different lines, but atleast it comforted me to find words I had dealt with no longer than 3 days back. I felt the Issue writing section was decent for me. Next, the Argument writing section was a breeze. I had not attempted such an essay before and therefore was a bit apprehensive about it. But found it quite easy and could point out the errors in the correlations the author drew.

At the end of the analytical writing section, I was satisfied with my performance - something which honestly speaking, I hadn't anticipated. A 10-minutes break followed in which I got the fan directed towards me switched off. By the time I returned on my desk, I took note of an ear-plug provided. I tested it and found myself comfortable in it. Immediately then, I began my next section, which to my surprise turned out to be the quantitative section. I did not know earlier that we could've got either the quant, or the verbal section first. This did stir me a bit, because I had been mentally prepared to deal with the verbal section first. But then, I had to give the test, couldn't have changed things.

I found the quant section to be of a level or two higher than the ones I had practiced from various sources. A bit of calculations were also involved in a couple of questions which were virtually absent from the mock tests I gave. At the end, I thought I might have faltered atleast in one question - something I did not want. But then this could be known only after completing the test and there wasn't time enough to fret about it then.

Moving on to the final verbal section, and this is when things started to go wrong. In the mock tests, I had realized my tendency to make mistakes in the beginning of the test. Knowing this fully well, I was extra-conscious this time - and probably that doomed me. I was asked an antonym in the first question, a straight-forward Barron's word. Unfortunately, in a slight instance of over-confidence, I went ahead with a word with a near-about opposite meaning and realized my mistake as soon as I clicked the 'confirm answer' button that the exact opposite word was given in one of the lower options. A loud "F&*$" was all that my mouth could utter. The blunder had been done and it was just the beginning. A first-question mistake is the worst thing you could do in GRE. You are heavily penalized for it - more than you can imagine. Something to the tune of as much as 30-40 marks depending on the question. At that moment, all those hours I poured into Barron's seemed to have become futile.

Within a couple of minutes, I encountered a question (this time an analogy) in which I hadn't heard words from two options in the answer options ever in my life. The other options were seemingly incorrect, and I had to go ahead with a pure guess. And the final nail in the coffin was a word so commonly used, but the question clearly wanted the test-taker to think of a secondary meaning of the word which he (that is, me) failed to. Barron's had left out that meaning too :( . This time, a pure guess from 5 options. Taking a humble figure of atleast 2 mistakes (shouldn't be more than 3 .. the rest of the questions were not that difficult) apart from these 3, I easily made a total of 5-6 mistakes which included a first-question mistake. I had realized this by the time I completed my test and knew my score won't be impressive at all - which was exactly what happened.

I just wanted to get out of the place as soon as possible. Just imagine the absurdity of having to fill a "feedback" form after such an experience before being allowed to leave. All in all, there were quite a couple of things to learn from today. Apart from the regret I have for having destroyed a chance to get a good, decent score myself; I hope I don't make such mistakes in such important junctures where a step here, a step there could make or break.

PS1: What's my score? Don't ask, don't tell...
PS2: Am thinking over re-appearing for the test .. what do you say?
PS3: Questions not revealed due to a clause in the test which prevents me to do so. Those who would go any lengths to know them, improvise.
PS4: GRE is one of the most money-hogging examinations undoubtedly.
PS4: I have a class test tomorrow .. and I don't yet know a thing :( Someone save me...

Update (around 12 hours after this post):
1. I'm already coughing!! damn those air conditioners :(

2. Wow test .. thanks to my aage-wala, peechhe wala and bagal wala :P

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Issue writing episode 3

"The media (books, film, music, television, for example) tend to create rather than reflect the values of a society."

Media has always played a very important role in shaping up the society as a whole. It has been the most powerful agent ever which could change perspectives, instigate emotions, mitigate precarious situations, make someone an overnight hero or bring down stars to dust. Media has indeed often been guilty of having a predisposition to create, but it would be incorrect to say it hasn't been reflecting the values of society.

The pen is mightier than the sword. Truly said. Only that now the pen, apart from maintaining its own potency, has graduated into extended manifestations like the television and the internet which have only worked in media's favor. These newer incarnations have allowed a much wider scope of reaching out to various corners of the world at a much faster rate. And this has contributed into making media all the more important.

Media has indeed indulged in sketching characters and creating situations with which it sometimes becomes difficult to identify with. Characters like 'Harry Potter' and dracula while movies like 'The Dark Knight' present the creative best of the media which hardly reflect the values of society. But on the other hand, there are also examples of books like 'The God of Small Things' and movies like 'Hotel Rwanda' truly gather the essence of various aspects of humanity. ------

The tendency to create and to explore unchartered territories arises from the ingrained character of the human race to desire for what is not, to seek what has been elusive. Media caters to this demand and in the process does stray at times to create unreal characters. But, nevertheless, it won't be correct in its entirety to say they don't reflect the values of a society. Infact, many times it does happen that such characters are inspired from a living example. Also, mostly they are shown dealing with problems the society faces and the idealistic way of going about them.

Both in the past and in the modern times, media has certainly tended to go overboard in a few instances. The tendency to give too much emphasis on satiating the human urge to go beyond the truth of life gets underway at times. But never so much that they shirk from their fundamental responsibility to act as the society's mirror. It is said, our sweetest songs are those which say about our saddest thoughts. Indeed, this goes a long way to explain how media even if tending to create, do not completely lose track of the society's values.

The world has been on the path of progress socially and in the most harmonic way possible. If nothing, media can certainly be applauded for having played a major role in that. Yes, it has tended to create at more than one occasion, but saying it does not reflect the values of society and always relies on just superfluous creations would be stretching it too far.


This is the essay topic I got in a test in the powerprep software sent by GRE conducting organization - ETS. Under timed conditions, this is what I could render. Not my best work, but I tried to be have a more poised approach instead of taking an extreme stand. But my first instinct after finishing the essay was that I had repeated ideas a lot. Let me know if you think that too.

PS1: 3 hours to take the train to home .. damn!
PS2: I realllllly need to be sure of the meanings of the words
PS3: I faltered in the verbal section which I gave immediately after this essay. I guess the 10 minutes break is indeed necessary.
PS4: I haven't yet attempted an argument-type essay :(