Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The joys of student life

It's fall, and the trees have caught yellow fever. The mercury refuses to 'Rise' 'Above all' over 6 and the sun behaves like an Indian Govt. servant on a sweltering day with a pestering wife and an annoying headache. Assignments are piling up, tests are nearing and to-do lists are getting longer. Everything costs an arm and a foot and the paychecks aren't coming. Doesn't really sound like the best time to exalt student life. Yet, the fact that I write this post should give you some measure of how I feel.

There's something magical and wonderful about running around to classes, haggling with your professor for that half mark and winning, giving and receiving inexpensive treats and looking for the cheapest brand of chips; economizing on money and making the most of your time. The rat race was just the opposite.

The classroom with the creaky desks on the 3rd floor beats the air-conditioned meeting room hands and feet down. I am definitely busier, there's a lot more to do. But isn't that the point!

Alfred Hitchcock once said that the anticipation of the fear is much worse than the fear itself. I use this example for lack of a better one. In a similar but entirely opposite way, the anticipation of a bright future is much more enticing that the future itself.

The best friends are those you share your assignment group with, those with whom you have pointless debates over the most inconsequential of topics the day before an exam, sacrificing both sleep and study time to gain an upper hand, and those who ensure that you see the pretty girl who just walked past.

A student is simply that, a student. Experience, background, age, orientation :), social status all wither away in a classroom before the professor. It's a social equalizer like no other. Everyone's there for the same reason.

I would love to be a student throughout my life, if scholarship committees favour me sufficiently. Because even of you get ahead in the race, you're still a rat :D

Btw, I am excited about Ra-One. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tervetuloa Suomi

After an extended exodus from blogging, caused mainly due to the demanding planning and execution and my academic career, I am back. Not too long ago, I was sitting in my cubicle with gmail and facebook windows minimized(goes without saying, but still) getting news of the BITS convocation, friends' MS and travelling experiences and the schoolboy in me tugged at my consciousness. Apart from the money, work-life didn't have much to offer.

Today, after more than a year of writing essays and e-mails, posting documents and loads of waiting, I am writing from 12E-67, Servin Maijan Tie, Espoo, Finland, having satisfied that over-enthusiastic and impatient schoolboy. Here at Aalto University pursuing my Masters in Radio Communications, I type with a bubbling enthusiasm in anticipation for what awaits me.

Each of us has wondered what it would be like to study and live in a new country, with a different culture, values and way of life. I cannot speak from bucketfulls (or is it buckets-full) of experience, but the differences between Finnish and Indian are much more pronounced than the 5000-odd km in between.

If the internet could be modelled as a person, his privates would surely be here. Internet speeds are so high that even before I turned on my laptop new 'stuff' was already on my desktop.

There are very few people here and far less running and noise and chaos per head and they manage it some pretty amazing automation. Everything is online, you even book laundry slots over the internet. Entire offices manage with 5 to 6 persons.

Driving here is pretty boring. There are no cattle running from pillar to post, cyclists and pedestrians have just about half of every road to themselves. All the driver gets to do is watch while the car does everything.

Finland is rules-based as opposed to negotiations-based. So words like 'please sir/madam', 'bas thoda sa kaam hai', 'jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai' and their equivalents would be met by uncomprehending stares. So much so, that if a bus driver sees a man running to catch the bus and it's time for him to leave, he WILL leave and sleep peacefully that night too.

Recycling is the buzzword here. The garbage bins have sections for paper waste, bio-waste, electronic, energy and I-don't-have-time-to-sort-garbage-sorry. They have a wonderful method to realize reuse. Once a student is leaving he leaves the stuff and anyone can simply pick it up. This goes for furniture, beds, microwaves just about anything.

The society is trust-based. Back in India we wouldn't trust people with our garbage. But here, if you like a piece of unclaimed furniture, just stick a paper on it with the word RESERVED. You can come back a week later and pick it up.

In the kingdom of countries, if the American God is ambitious, big brotherly, spendthrift and stupid, the Indian being noisy chaotic, multi-coloured and corrupt, the Finish God would surely be a nature lover, who runs and cycles. This place is heaven for nature lovers, tree huggers, trail runners, lonely lake starers(plenty of Finnish fall into this one) and enthusiastic cyclists.

I love the water system. You get both hot and cold tap water, both potable. The bath water is the perfect temperature. Back home I waste gallons of shower water tweaking the blue and red nozzles for the right feel, but here somehow the bath water is just spot on!

Everything not free, is really expensive. Transport, stationary, groceries. 200 rupees a kilo tomatoes anyone?

The food is bland and milk-products are abundant. I don't face much of a problem, but as those who know me will tell you, my taste buds cannot be trusted.

It's pretty quiet all the time, everywhere. Finnish don't socialize in public. So you won't hear the Finnish equivalent of "Oye yaar, kaisa hai. Bahut time ho gaya" with hugging and back patting.

I had better finish the gun-gaoing soon. The weather is going to start to suck pretty soon. And boy is it going to suck. It will be a black hole of sucking. More on this once the suction begins.

I would also like to tell you guys about the flexibility on offer here. I am not fully aware of how things work in US and other places, but the system in Finland deserves a separate post. Wait for it.... Dary :D

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mobile Number Portability - Pointless or well-pointed?

My tribute to Faking News. I may have gone overboard... it was intentional.

"I am so excited about this whole Number Portability Thing. I will now be able to change my cellphone and keep my number" were the words of an excited Kangana Renaut when asked about what she felt about the latest craze in the Indian Telecom scene at the Filmfare awards. Our repeated attempts to correct her and inform her that she could have always changed her cellphone, was met with angry and confused stares from the film and television industry. We preferred to just stay shut.

Mobile Number Portability gives users the freedom to switch service providers while retaining their old numbers. In a developing Telecom market such as India with falling call rates, rising unsolicited calls and horrible voice quality, MNP would lead to greater competition, further decrease in call rates and other associated changes-opined a ponytailed Arindham Chaudhari in an interview in his office at the basement of the IIM, Bengaluru campus. "And we also provide free laptops to our students." We didn't stay to hear the rest.

On asking Nandan Nilekani, whether this was somehow related to the UID project- after an initial baffled look, he smiled, then stared pensively at the ceiling for some seconds and scratched his head. For a while it seemed he was about to answer but then held back and told us that he would reply by e-mail. We have received his mail but are yet to read it.

When our correspondents visited the offices of Idea, Vodafone and Tata Docomo to inquire about the intricacies, working and ideology of Mobile Number Portablity, why they believed it is going to be the next 'in-thing' and why their advertisements seem so pointless and have stupid background scores, we were asked to fuck off.

A study was conducted by the "Seven Sisters' Cultural Empowerment and Socio-Economic Development Agency" over the Golden Quadrilateral route in this regard. They concluded was that regardless of the service provider, the monthly pre-paid bills remain unchanged for a certain age group, economic stratum and gender, with a mean variance of 0.5%. We probed further, we asked them what mean variance meant and they just shook their heads.

Rumours abound that Spice is currently working on a Penta-SIM phone, that charges itself on exposure to pretty women and has a button for controlling movement of bears. "This will give us a significant advantage over our competitors", said a grinning Spice CTO Edward Chashmish in an exclusive interview. When asked about the secret to the company's revolutionary products, a candid Mr Chashmish revealed, "We invest a lot into R&D, our stickers don't fade easily"

With most Telecom Operators already offering the service and the rest with plans of jumping into the bandwagon soon, only time will tell whether it proves to be what it promises. If it fails, there's always the World Cup and IPL after that to keep us occupied.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BGM diaries

So how was BGM? Everyone's asking. Every non-attendee wants to know how it felt to be part of the first ever BITSAA Global Meet(Music please) Here's my take.

For an event such as this, success can be measured at many levels. Whether it was successful as a Global Event, I cannot comment. At an organizational level too, opinions would differ. An excruciatingly difficult quiz held without buzzers, with the participation outnumbering the audience and with most of the attendees floating(read high) would be stamped a poor show by most, but I thought this made it cooler. From my individual POV, it was a tremendously successful. But you don't want to know what I liked or disliked about the event. Best, I compare it to a parallel event and then you decide. Please note, the event was attended by some real big names in the industry, and there were people of all ages.

Here's my comparison. I tried to put it in a table but html seems to totally hate my guts. :(

At Any Global Alumni Meet
Anyone shooting paper rockets towards the stage would be shown the door immediately.
while At BGM
The MC encourages the audience to shoot rockets, and the first is met with loud cheers.

At Any Global Alumni Meet
If a young nervous chap is speaking for the first time on stage at an august gathering and he stutters, he is encouraged and asked to go on.
while At BGM
He is asked for an intro and the BITSian salute :)

At Any Global Alumni Meet
A prominent politician delivers a calculated and diplomatic speech.
while At BGM
He speaks from his heart and then 'gale-mils' and makes merry with his batchmates

At Any Global Alumni Meet
During a stage performance, a youngster makes indecent comments and is reprimanded by the usher.
while At BGM
The founder member of a major company makes indecent comments, the usher is confused and the youngster is snickering.

At Any Global Alumni Meet
After a couple of drinks, if you see a professor, who has made several appearances in your nightmares, you turn the other way and move away.
while At BGM
You 'cheers' him... (no it wasn't me! damn... and it's an easy guess who I am referring to)

At Any Global Alumni Meet
Nobody speaks of the illegal acts that he committed in his fledgling company.
while At BGM
On the dias, a businessman speaks of his deals with a smuggler when his company wasn't doing so well.. Cheers from the crowd

At Any Global Alumni Meet
After dinner you see several cliques, oldies talking business, entrepreneurs talking money, salaried people talking family and children, and wannabes walking in and out, here and there.
while At BGM
Everyone's talking to everyone about everything.

Of course there were loads of numbers being exchanged(not what you hope this means :( ) I did manage to get one... yeyeyeye. The dinner was good...I think. I remember refusing drinks and it's just a mental block after that. The 'Kingdom Of Dreams' put four moons (chaar chand??) to the meet. Hats off to the guy who thought of that.

A major take-away was the meeting with Ashok Malhotra off-stage where after talks of philosophy, yoga and his work with children, he told us a story he tells little children, 'Bulbul aur Jugnoo ki kahaani'. The best thing about him was that, he made what he did seem so very simple and easy.

The one thing that made me feel really good at the end was that I couldn't really find any other marathon runners there :) So I guess I am not doing too bad after all #sastikhushi

Monday, January 3, 2011

A day at a railway platform....

I really like the railways. I mean really really like. Though you'll often find me complaining about long journeys, backaches and deplorable food, the truth is, there's no real break in your schedule like a long train journey made alone. These moments, rather prolonged instants, are the only times I find myself without internet, phone connectivity or people I know. Just the constant dhud-dhud dhud-dhud vibrations of the train. The contemplative power of this time is unparalleled. There's obviously a lot of rubbish in my head too, that keeps popping up like..... a pop-up window. So amidst the thoughts of Shiela vs Munni, Blackberry vs iPhone, and which universities to app to, my mind somehow thought up a few stories that are related to - yes- the railways. So here's my first tribute to the arteries of Hindustan, the lifeline of India, the only thing every Indian seems to want 3 months in advance (People here can't plan pregnancies but trains from everywhere to everywhere are advance booked)

A day at a railway platform....

I awoke with a yawn as the first ray of sunlight hit me. Another wonderful day on planet earth begins. I took a deep breath and let out the oxygen. Or is it carbon dioxide?? whatever... chemistry was never my forte. It was chilly and as the 6 am train swept past, the wind blowing through my arms, a shiver ran down my spine. It has happen countless times, but every gust of wind that the morning train brings just sweeps me off my feet, makes me feel... elevated. I sometimes wonder if it's dumb to enjoy such trivialities, whether it's my goalless meandering through life without any thought of purpose or higher meaning that lets me enjoy the flutter of a butterfly, or the smell of fresh roses. I sometimes wish I had more to do than just inhaling and exhaling all the time.

Everyone around is so busy these days, either on the phone or their laptops or just lost in thought. There's always a weird look on their faces, I can't quite describe it. It's like they're constantly trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Peace eludes them. It wasn't like this when I was younger. Then, I'd often see people simply enjoying the breeze, gamboling down the platform, some would even hug me and I'd hug them back. They never seemed to be worried or annoyed, though in hindsight their problems were bigger, much bigger. Tattered clothes, tanned faces and toothless but hearty grins. People have surgically sculpted radiant teeth now, but what's the use? Every smile seems to have a hidden cryptic meaning, there's no bliss.

A eunuch walked past. People are just terrified of him... or her... or it. I wonder why? It's just another human being, what's to be afraid of?

I've heard that there are those who spend 5 days of the week being miserable, so they can spend 2 days having fun. Crazy I say! What sense does that make? They take up hobbies, go fishing, drink at parties, just to return every Monday to more misery. It makes me wonder who it is that lacks purpose.

To my left, a one-legged beggar was pleading to a young lady, who sympathetically fished out a couple of coins from here purse and handed it to him. Just then the station master came out of his office. The 'cripple' sprinted past a couple of youngsters chasing their train, a second foot simply sprouting out of his bandage. The look on the lady's face was worth a million bucks.

A pretty little girl walked up to me and smiled. Ahh... how I love kids. I bent down and pecked her forehead. Her smile widened. Her train arrived and she was whisked away by her mother. Until the train was out of sight, her eyes never left mine. I wonder if I'd ever meet her again. Probably not, but it would be really awesome right! Of course, she'd never remember me. But that doesn't matter, I never expected much from people. I was always taught not to.

The clock says 6 pm, and the platform is deserted. Soon all the shops will close, all the gamblers and drunkards- the human bats- will come out of their hiding and begin their show. I wonder why they're called anti-social elements. They seem more social than everyone else.

There goes the sun. I look for the switch... where the hell is it? Everyday I do this and everyday I forget where I kept it. Maybe it's my lack of a central nervous system, that I am so forgetful. I guess other trees must have the same problem. Guess I'll never know.

About Me

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I am Arjun P. Kamath, and I am a nice guy to know.