Are We Really Connected?

The first website I log in to everyday is always Facebook. It helps me to get in (virtual) contact with my friends. I can safely say that I know quite a bit about my friends who regularly post and whom I follow. I get b’day and marriage invitations. I discuss love and hate, physics and metaphysics. I share their joys and sorrows. On visiting their albums, I visit places where they have been to. I connect to them but the question that haunts is,

ARE WE REALLY CONNECTED?

Virtually, Yes. But really, No.

Can “Like” and “Share” replace the abstract feelings that these words actually convey?

Can “Sharing a Coffee” on FB be the same as having it with your friend sitting in front of you?

Can “Online Invitations” on FB convey the same message that paper cards do?

Can “I Like You” on FB really be sensually same as telling someone face to face?

I think majority of us will reply in negative to all these questions. But all of us will become restless if nobody comments on our posts (I’ll, if no one comments on this post). We become restless until we share our feelings, our picture, our achievements or our sorrows. And it would be quite a punishment if we fail to log in to FB! But come to think of it, a few years ago, all these feelings were reserved for our friends who have become just pictures and letters on our walls!

“IT” has brought us so closer. It has brought the whole world into our reach but it has separated us from the very feelings which brought our ancestors together to form the concept called as society. In the name of racing forwards, we are basically running backwards. The civilization instead of a giant leap forwards is jogging backwards. First Mobiles, then email and now Social Networking is taking away the physical bonding and in its place individualistic mentality is taking control over us. We are very happy to connect, contact and comment on FB but will seldom do the same with all the friends that we have so greedily assembled on our FB friends page.

We are actually Loners who boast of having hundreds of friends. We endear relationships and friendships and yet are afraid of committing to them. FB is just the tool to give us some happiness in this disjointed world. Otherwise how can 30 something people enjoy Farmville and Cityville?

I presently have 470 friends on FB but how many of them I remember or actually want to meet is the million dollar question !!!

Let’s try to bring some reality in our virtual relationships.

Posted on Leave a comment on Are We Really Connected?

Abnormal & Weird: The Adjectives Which Define Me The Best

My students term me weird and abnormal. They think that I’m different from what they perceive is normal for a human being. Well abnormal means anomalous (in Greek, an- not, homalous- even) which means irregular, out of pattern. Truly speaking, it’s nothing new for me to hear these adjectives. They have been said by different people in different circumstances at different periods of time in my life. And I have found it to be correct 99 out of 100 times. Yeah, I’m quite queer and sometimes my weirdness stupefies me as well!

 

Well, abnormality (out of norm) has been a feature of my existence and has stuck to me since my birth. I was born as a very weak child (had only a well formed head and butt). Nobody gave me more than a week to live. But I, with extreme care and love of my uncle and aunt, defeated all odds and am still living sound and actually have move towards the fatter side! While every child around me was walking on their fours, I was using my butt as the fulcrum to glide forward. I cried so much that not a single bird ever dared to venture towards my uncle’s house! Everyone used to think that I would be normal as soon as I grow up! They were wrong!

 

When my brother was born, I used to sit on him to test his weight taking capacity! You have guessed correct, I was spanked black and blue. As a kid, generally nobody has difficulty in finding friends. But yours truly was different, he needed biscuits as baits to catch friends. Bait finish, Friends gone! I was not able to get a single friend but what I got was chicken pox at the age of 4. This incompetency brought me close to my first love, books.

 

Another trait of my character is the uncanny love for written things. Let it be paan-stained newspaper cuttings, newspapers, hoardings, books or Hardy Boys. While others in my class were playing, I surprisingly was gulping books way beyond my reach. I read “Man on the moon” in class 4 or 5 and read “Hardy Boys”, “Nancy Drew” & “Three Investigators” in class 9. Totally other way round! I was so engrossed in my story books that I used to finish one every day and actually screwed my class-9th result! People used to think me over-smart as I used to discuss and argue with not only my class-mates but also with teachers and seniors. I actually had gulped copious amount of books on different subjects and needed to discuss them which often lead to arguments. This knowledge made my life chaotic. Now, it was becoming difficult to accept things without reasoning and with my reasoning always different, I am always at loggerheads.

 

(While people find order in symmetry, I find order in chaos. “Ordo ab chao” is the motto for me. This habit of mine has crept into my life-system and is in most probability going to stay forever.)

 

My weirdness obviously made me a loner. I was a library where people visit but don’t stay! People don’t understand me and I don’t understand them either. Till class-10th, at least I had friends. Later it became difficult for me to make friends and even acquaintances. The more I grew older, the more I became queer and loner. The biggest problem maybe is my disbelief in the institution of society and relations. I have always a different set of ideas regarding any topic and it more than often irks people! Like, I hate anyone who carries his religion, caste, community up his sleeve. But that’s not, I presume, how it works in the society. We are supposed to support a group or the other, preferably the majority but then Subhasish Chandra is weird, right!

 

These differences in opinions and views have led to the development of a trench in between me and others. Others think I am weird as I am not like them and I think why can’t they be like me? Obviously, the other side is in majority and I get the adjectives! There have been occasions when it becomes difficult for me to tolerate myself. I have been asked by many, including my mother, to be little normal. But for some reasons, I can’t get along with the norms of the society. If they fit me then I have no problems. Otherwise I have to protest or neglect them. In that case I will be decorated with the adjective. And frankly speaking I don’t like most of the social norms. Recently, I came out of a temple because it needed the worshipper to do his ‘aarti’ in Indian clothes which I didn’t like! My friend felt offended and thought my actions weird as well because I was not even going to do an ‘aarti’ over there!

 

This is not the only case. There are several occasions when my actions have actually offended people but I found it reasonable at that time and even though I felt bad later, not because of my actions but because someone else was hurt, it’s highly probable that I would repeat the same again! Just can’t help it. Pleasing others is something which is not in my veins and I hope it never appears as well. Hypocrisy just doesn’t work for me.

 

If you have seen the sitcom, “Big Bang Theory”, you can readily associate me with a person who is 80% Sheldon & 15% Leonard. Rest is a mix of Howard, Raj and even the comic book store owner, Stuart!

 

Caution:

If you have found not a single trace of weirdness in me then you don’t know me at all.

If you have found weirdness in me and hence decided to keep a distance then you are a sensible being.

If you have found weirdness in me and yet like to associate with me then either you are a Mahatma or a weird like me.

Posted on 1 Comment on Abnormal & Weird: The Adjectives Which Define Me The Best

Appointment at Last !

It’s a long time since I wrote on this platform. The only reason for this inordinate delay was my pending appointment order. As now not only my appointment order is here but also I’m safely posted at Institute of Science, Nagpur, I can again dabble on the blogosphere. And the best thing to write now is the story of my appointment.

All this started way back (yeah it seems such a long time!) in May 2010. It was one year since my masters and I was roaming around the country giving examinations and interviews so that some institute finds me well enough to be a research student when Taresh told me about an advertisement for the post of Assistant Professor in Maharashtra’s government science colleges. I was least interested in the job as I had least confidence in clearing the MPSC interview as I was of the view that only connection played a part in government postings. I had no connections and hence was convinced it was useless to apply. But Taresh and my brother Santu persuaded me into it and I filled the form. They helped in completing the other formalities and the application was done!

I didn’t get into any research institute. Instead I turned up as Lecturer in Physics at MIET, Shahapur, Bhandara. I was soon engrossed in the daily routine of the college and forgot about my application. So, it was a surprise when Taresh called on 19th April, 2011 to tell me that I can expect a letter from MPSC as he had got his. Mine came on 20th. I was required to be in Mumbai on 26th for the interview. I was in two minds but my parents and the helpful lady at the MPSC helpdesk said that what the loss was if I gave the interview. Well they were correct and I went o Mumbai on 24th. I lodged at my friend Adosh and Sameer’s room at Thane. I was so convinced of my failure that I spent the evening before, i.e. 25th, chatting with Adosh, Sameer and meeting Chetana and Kaustubh.

I was totally nervous but was certain about one thing. Even if I fail, I had a job in hand and hence it was not going to be the end of the world. Well I had a terrible interview. The interviewers just ripped me apart. I was in a dazed condition after the interview. I walked out of the building and straight way went to an internet café. Apart from the terrible interview I gave, I had to look for what my 4.8/6.0 GPA meant on the percentage scale. I searched the University of Pune but didn’t get any help. I was frustrated to the hilt and hence had my lunch and went to Gateway. I clicked few pictures and then the battery fizzled out (I’d forgotten to charge them!). I walked like a madman to Marine Drive. At 3 o’clock in that blazing sun only couples were there comforting each other. I had just my backpack for company. I sat there wondering about the day’s proceedings and when I was sufficiently hot outside as I was inside; I decided to walk back to CST. I could only walk to Fashion Street when I felt that it would be better if boarded a Double Decker. And I was in CST soon. Had a nice brunch at McD and came back to Nagpur on the next morning and went straight to JMPC, Bhandara where we were conducting a SEEE camp. All was forgotten about the interview. But destiny had other plans.

I was inclined in not sending the document supporting what my GPA meant. But then I decided o give it a try. Chiti, Avdhoot and The Internet helped me in securing the prescribed document and it actually reached MPSC on the very last date.

In the month of May, I stayed at Chikhla with my parents and came to Nagpur only on 11th June for my IAS prelims. Just for the sake of quelling the query in my mind, I logged to the MPSC website and see if any result had come. And lo it was there and yours truly were first in the merit list of the five selected! I just couldn’t believe. It took some time to sink in. I danced with Santu. I needed to tell this and immediately told my parents and then went to have Ice-Cream with Santu and Prasad. I informed a lot others and in the excitement forgot to tell Taresh without whom this wouldn’t have been a reality. I had to wait for another one month to get the letter from MPSC and the Attestation form. Now, I was officially selected. I duly sent the Attestation form on 9th July and planned to go to Mumbai as well. But the 13th July Mumbai blasts stopped me from going and then I thought that it was not wise to go to Mumbai just for the Medical board letter.

I waited and waited and at last a letter came. But while three among the five selected were given postings I was to go to Mumbai for the same Medical board letter which I had thought will come home. Well I went to Mumbai on 12th November and this time stayed with Avdhoot. On 14th I went to Mantralaya and got my letter. The people there were really helpful. On 21st November I did my medical at GMC, Nagpur who made it a 2-day affair. The police verification on 16th December went smoothly and I was sure to get my appointment letter in a month or so. I was happy as by that time I would have been able to finish the syllabus at MIET smoothly.

But suddenly on the night of 28th December, I received a call from my friend Dalesh that I’ve been appointed at Institute of Science, Nagpur. He told me that his uncle had seen on the internet and asked him to inform me. I immediately rushed to Prasad’s room. It took quite a time to search the file and the downloading was painfully slow. To add to my woes the 8.2 MB file’s downloading stopped at 7.3 MB! We downloaded again and this time it was successfully done. And finally I’d my long waited and cherished appointment letter in my hand!

Dr. Harde told me after my selection that even though my interview went bad, the others were even worse. I will remember this for life and never stop in taking a chance whenever it will beckon!

And now I must return to my work desk at my new college.

XOXO, Subhasish Chandra.

Posted on 2 Comments on Appointment at Last !

Majority Rules. Rethink!

About a month ago Tejashree, my student, remarked that if something wrong is endorsed by a majority it cannot be termed correct. Everybody present there acknowledged the fact but it escaped my mind and I forgot it. So I thought. Last Monday, while jumping a red signal I found majority of my fellow passengers doing the same and bang came the remark from Tejashree straight into my mind!
And along came certain incidents in the mind which are done by the majority but cannot be justified. Let’s have a look.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>Ø  <!–[endif]–>Majority of motorists jump red light. It facilitates if the policewallah is not there (I’m a habitual offender as well). It is illegal but since majority does it, should it be legalized?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>Ø  <!–[endif]–>Majority of us spit and throw garbage in public places. This is not only unhygienic but also uncultured. But since majority does it, should it be considered an act of hygiene and culture?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>Ø  <!–[endif]–>Majority of us give bribes to get our jobs done quickly. Again it is illegal but since majority does it, should it be legalized?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>Ø  <!–[endif]–>Majority of us love to take tobacco in some form or the other. Tobacco is a major reason for various ailments. But since majority does it, should it be considered that consumption of tobacco leads to better health?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>Ø  <!–[endif]–>Majority of us are jealous of success of others, known and unknown alike. Jealousy is not one of the virtues one expects to be present in one’s moral fabric. But since majority does it, should a rethink be done on the moral virtues one need to possess?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>Ø  <!–[endif]–>Majority of the students get marks in and around 50%. That means they don’t know almost half of what was taught or at least half of what was asked in the examination. But since majority does it, should 50 be considered the new 80?
If we were to answer these questions, majority will say NO. But then why are these repeatedly done by the same majority which does find them immoral & illegal?
So, what we find is that majority does not rule always!!! On a serious note since even a slim majority (not absolute (66.66) or even simple (50)) can get a wrong person or thing to be in the right place, we must chose correctly!
Posted on Leave a comment on Majority Rules. Rethink!

The Fate of Education in India

Last few weeks have been controversial for the Indian education sector. Narayan Murthi stated that most of the IITians are not industry worthy and the reason for this, according to him, is the mindless mugging and innumerable tricks learnt at the coaching centres. IITD director came with a thought that there was a need to rethink over the entrance tests. Concerned to this an article of Chetan Bhagat appeared. He says that it’s so difficult to run education without profit. And when profit takes the upper hand, education downslides. He hence concluded that there was need of private players like Infosys to launch themselves into the education sector. And lastly, Maharashtra government launched a state wide search and fact finding mission in the schools and junior colleges to find out how many students had been inflated by schools to siphon out government money. The analysis is still awaited.
I being a teacher am a part of this sector as well. And every day after each lecture, a thought always crosses my mind that whether I’m helping my students to become engineers or just graduates with degrees which would fail to serve them in their life.
Ours being a new college, we certainly have not received the cream of the students but reading Mr. Murthy’s comments about majority of IITians being in the same league gives me little solace and a lot to wonder. I wonder what exactly has gone wrong with our education system. I’m no expert but I’d like to make some observations of my own.
What I’ve observed in my students that they have lost inquisitiveness. They accept everything on face value and never question nor argue over anything I teach! Experts are talking about lack of quality research in India. How will that be possible if the questions have dried in the school days? Kids who are not interested in anything from Akbar to Atom cannot be expected to research on Strings when they grow up! It’s not that they are dumbos or fools but they are really not interested in knowing how anything happens. They are happy with what is going on. They neither want to be part of something new nor want to effect a start themselves. And it’s sadly everywhere! Observation + inference gives knowledge. When the first two are fast depreciating how can the third exist?
I strongly admire the government’s wish to get all kids to have compulsory education upto middle school (class 8th). But can anybody explain how that can be achieved and justified by never failing them upto class 8th and that also by assisting them with having no examinations at all. As far as I know, if I’m told at the beginning of any race that I won’t lose and I would get a bag of goodies if I just participate, I would cease to take enough efforts to win. So will be the story of maximum students. How can this goodie bag not bring complacency and help to lose concentration and eventually the interest to know. Education is no privilege which can be enjoyed. It’s a right which has to be earned. Yes, help may be provided in earning the right but to serve it on the platter and spoon feeding will spoil the menu!
Next is the idea of free higher education. Free education in government schools can be understood as it aims at students from under-privileged families to get a foothold in the disparaging society. But providing technical education at a sum as paltry as Rs 1000 is not digestible. Even if the government wants to help the students from underprivileged social and economic background, they shouldn’t give it for a sum like this. When the money factor is detached from education, students stop valuing it. A commodity (education) which is available for the price of a pair of jeans is certainly going to be valued in the same manner    . Charge them Rs. 10000 and see how many more students start valuing their education!
In India across the rural and urban framework what stands as a symbol of unity in the education sector are the coaching or tuition classes. Yes, the same which Mr. Murthy so dislikes. The whole town of Kota is dedicated to this cause as are few whole nagars in Delhi and Chennai. It is very hard to say that apathy of teachers towards teaching brought the success of tuitions or the tuitions brought the lack of interest in the teachers. Whatever be the cause it’s the ultimate truth that students cannot dare to think about succeeding in any exam without tuitions! And tuitions being a business where survival depends on the success rate of the students, the tuitionwallahs are forced to resort to methods which will teach shortcuts to answer quickly and efficiently. And this really takes a toll on the overall knowledge of the student. Personal attention should be showed to weaker students. But all that should be done by the teachers of their respective schools and colleges in the institution’s premises free of cost.
Whosoever has given any exam knows that it is more a memory test than a test of one’s knowledge. When I was in Xth, there used to be questions where we had to apply our analytical reasoning to at least 30% of the questions. But it’s all gone now. Everyone is hell bent to find more and more ways to shower marks on the students for what they haven’t exactly done. These freebies weaken the entire moral fabric of the students and the zeal to work hard to achieve success is decreasing rapidly. I’ll again say make them think. Life is not as easy as the examinations nor will the career they would undertake. As Aamir Khan said in 3 Idiots that one would be able to scrap through the examinations and get a degree but will be raped for his entire life.
Another problem with the students is that they are becoming aimless. Their lack of thinking has made them like a flock of sheep. They are following just the trend. Engineering has almost done away with basic sciences, arts and commerce as educational options. Who are unfortunate not to get into engineering (40% in PCM being the criteria it’s not that hard), take BBA, BCA or some other professional course. Medicine is the only course which still has a large pool of quality students who love their studies. In most other courses, majority of the students are just pushing through. They neither understand nor enjoy their studies. In the name of providing higher and technical education we are not creating intelligent horses but drab and unworthy white-collar mules. This reminds me of one encounter I had with a boy from Bihar at IUCAA, Pune.
The guy was a brilliant physicist. We just got into talking and I asked him in passing that even though Bihar produces a large number of IAS and IPS officers and has a major share in the applicants clearing various competitive entrance examinations from Banking to Railways, how it has such a miserable literacy rate. He replied that the Biharis are indeed an intelligent set of people. They find out right in the school that whether they have the potential to be an IAS or a cowherd. He also added that whatever profession they choose, they excel in it and try to be right at the top. He also lamented at the condition of other states’ students who because of lucrative educational facilities, fall prey to them and become the white collar mules I mentioned before. They are too proud to do a job below their belt and ill-equipped to perform the tasks which their degrees mention they will be able to perform!
I’m right now a novice and may not be able to rectify the system as a whole but would surely try to instill my views and thoughts into my students. Even if one in 300 wakes from their deep slumber, it will render a change. I learnt it quite late but I hope my students understand it early (Alas! They are fast losing this faculty)!
Posted on Leave a comment on The Fate of Education in India

Chair Fever

Aspiration for a chair, both literally and symbolically, has been a human trait from time infinitum. And everyone is entitled to harbour such an aspiration and take steps to achieve it. The chair is surely a seat of supremacy. It separates one from the rest. It provides one with a platform where one can be on his own. The chair provides security and great power. And with great power comes great responsibilities. George Bernard Shaw said,

Power doesn’t corrupt man. Man corrupts power.

The chair, a seat of power, also tends to be corrupted by individuals who take the success straight to their cranium. When a man cannot cope with his new found success, he starts feeling all others around him to be inferiors and treats them as his slaves. This absolute abuse of power not only degrades him in the eyes of his subordinates but also in his own eyes, if he choses to introspect even once. The succession of a colleague to the post of one’s superior is not always met with exhiliration and jubilation. There is always a tinge of sadness and jealousy when that happens. But there is always a satisfaction and belief that as one amongst them has been raised he will try to solve the hardships, which he had suffered when he was a junior himself. But more often that not it has been seen that the new “chairholder” forgets all about his past and tends to abuse his power. This trait of human nature is really beyond any comprehension! It must be remembered that a given chair provides one with a certain set of powers in a certain organisational setup. Outside the setup everyone is a nobody. There one has equal opportunities as the other bystander. The dynamics are completely different there. There would be a chair supreme in that setup which may or may not approve of the supremacy of the other chair! Remember life is a vicious circle and at the end of a day one is surely going to be paid back in the same coin that one has spent. A chair provides one with a certain set of powers but its the “respect” which one craves for dearly. But this craving cannot be satisfied with vicious actions. It’s not something which can be begged or asked for. It can neither be snatched nor be looted. A person gets only that much respect as much he spends on others. The one and only way to get respect is to give respect. In any other case one is surely going to be doomed. So, one must use the set powers attached to his/her chair wisely and respectfully because,

हम ही हम हैं तो क्या हम हैं

तुम ही तुम हो तो क्या तुम हो !

Posted on Leave a comment on Chair Fever