Thursday, September 28, 2006

The weirdo that I am...!

Man, in all his spheres of life, strives to be successful. Some among humanity believe that being different from others or being abnormal shall make them stand out. There is just a narrow thin line between being different and abnormal, and that is when you understand that however different you are, you still remain an integral part of humanity, of the world and nature. But we all in our normal day to day routines of life do get strange occasionally; we become different from the people around us, by certain separate characteristic traits.

Sreejith and Gaurav have tagged me and in the process set me out on a journey to find these strange traces of my character sketch. In simpler words, they would like to know about the weirdo that I am.

There are a few rules to this tag, of course that I must tag six people, leave comments on their blogs, and also tell six weird things about myself. So here goes…

Built-In Echo System : I speak less and am the type of guy who would tend to go quiet when among a group of people. Yet when I speak something, I then keep repeating it in my mind, until I have spoken my next few words. I do not know whether this is due to my shyness or whether I am perfecting my speech, but most often this happens without my knowledge and my friends often tease me for that. Anyway so there you have it, one weird aspect of mine, which I have discovered.

Bathroom Dancer : Well!, this is a bit private, yet felt that this cannot be missed. You would have heard about bathroom singers, but I am a crazy bathroom dancer. I just love splashing water all over the walls, hopping around so much like a monkey and have a great happy time while I bath. I have always liked to dance, but I simply cannot get any steps right, when I want. So in the privacy of a bathroom, I just let go.

Green Peas Hater : I am a great lover of food. I can really eat anything except for green peas, something which I really don’t like. It`s not about the taste, it`s not about the shape, but the truth remains that I hate green peas, especially when they are fried.

Emotional Rollercoaster : In my six years of college, if there is one thing that I have enjoyed most, it is being teased, and yet at times my emotions differ from person to person. Some friends tease me like hell, and yet all I do is laugh with them, meanwhile I can easily get hurt rather irregularly when certain friends even make a passing remark. I know that this does not have anything to do with the intimacy of the relationship which I have with my friends. I believe it is yet another trace of weirdness in me. And gladly many friends understand me.

Snake Lover : I just have this great respect and admiration for these wonderful reptiles and yet I have to agree, I am awfully scared of them too. If there is one living thing on earth which has awed me with its persona, it will have to be a snake. And talking about snakes, my favourite one shall always be the King Cobra. Whenever I used to visit my ancestral house in Kerala, I always spend a couple of lonely moments near the sarpa kaavu or a small ecosystem, near the house, which is left alone and undisturbed for the snakes.

Constant Speculator : I constantly bet upon things happening around me and try to make predictions for the future based upon the results, though they have no relation whatsoever. For example, I would assume that if I cross the road before the red car comes near, then I will be able to leave early from office. I place my bets safely too, because the red car is always sufficiently far away. So much, for my belief in astrology.

Now I need to tag six people, so with great pride and privilege I tag…

Ram, Marutham, Reshmi, Passerby55, Hip Grandma and Jigs.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Renaissance

Pic Courtesy -

Deep burned the forest fire
To a thin line, did the river fade.
Red hot clouds covering nature’s raid
Vanquishing all, a huge funeral pyre.

Shrieks rent the air, so warm indeed
In panic, in haste did the fauna run
Thirst to quench and stomachs to feed
No trees, no shadows, under the red hot sun.

The Lame, the old, the weak and meek
Sadly succumbed to the hot pursuit
A quick farewell, others rush, solace to seek
Mere survival at the mind’s root.

Nerves of courage and eyelids droop
From hunger and fatigue, they all fall asleep
As dark clouds appear, like the enemy’s troupe
And the rain pelts down, upon the hill so steep.

After hours and hours, open are the eyes
Happy and thankful, a surprised smile
As flowers bloom, a sparrow flies
The forest whispers, life still worthwhile.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Indian Science Catastrophe

Every child has a dream. A dream of making it big, to become something, maybe a pilot, maybe a doctor, maybe even a bus driver. One way of defining success is to gauge how much an individual works out his/her life to bring to reality the dream, he or she had as a child.

As a child, I too dreamed of becoming a great scientist, making revolutionary inventions to save the world and was truly inspired by the likes of Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton. I did my bachelors in Applied Sciences, and thought I might become successful, but fate had other plans for me, and in the long run, I ended up doing my masters in Computer Applications, and eventually became a Software Engineer. I might not have been successful therefore but the way my career went I have gained a number of acquaintances who are still following their dreams to become scientists. I have high regard for them and their work, and in this post, it is their sad story, that I wish to relate, a story completely interlinked with our country on the whole.

Recently we witnessed the twin failures of the GSLV satellite launch and the Agni – III missile. The scientific organizations behind these efforts reported that these were minor glitches and it would be an action of pessimism, if we were to read too much between the lines from these minor glitches and make conclusions about their work. They may be quite true, but still apprehensions are not cast away easily

My friends in several research organizations across the country have shared with me several experiences about how research in India is functioning and they are all passionate about their work, but all of them, I’m not generalizing here, but the discovery of a common pattern was too easy to be ignored, all of them have shared with me how difficult it is to work in an Indian Research organization, which is doing government funded scientific work. Their problems lie not in the lack of facilities, not in the lack of equipment, not in the lack of commendable salaries, but in the lack of a good workplace culture, a lack of teamwork, a lack of values at the workplace, a total neglect for teamwork towards a common objective and any key values and priorities to hold together these organizations.

The internal politics which is very explicit has scarred the image of a good career and achievement for many of them. One of my friends who works at a research establishment in Chennai tells me of how there, different people at different levels in the hierarchy used to assign him work and later used to admonish him for working for the other person. He used to lament about how he could not complain to anyone because he never used to know, when and how his words would get misinterpreted and used against him in a different situation elsewhere. How does one work like that?

Healthy competition is always a good thing and it may be argued that these things happen everywhere, but the main problem is that unlike other business organizations, where there is a definite business objective at the end and work has to get done ultimately and it therefore never goes unrecognized at least at the end of the day, it gets confusing, in a research organization, the outcome is not definite and depends a lot upon the dedication, commitment and the intellectual input of the people who work. There lies the biggest problem, because the workplace is not conducive to that effect.

Another of my friends who works in a research organization in Hyderabad tells me how she has to work a lot of times in projects for which she knows there will be no credit for her in the end. She worked on a project which was in existence for two years in a dormant state before she started working on it. She put in some real heart into the project and made it ready for publication. When the time came for submitting the paper, she found herself in the middle of a big controversy and was discredited from any work in the project. She tells me how she will have to take it silently, bear the brunt, the only consolation being that she learnt a good deal from the project. She laments about how she was in a situation of total helplessness, no one to complain to, no one who could be trusted.

If politics is one thing, sexual harassment is another. There have been instances of seniors in research organizations, making lewd gestures, asking for sexual favours and the like. The victims on the other hand take it silently knowing well that their work could very well be tampered with. I understand I may be guilty of painting a very vile picture of Indian research organizations, I understand that I may be knowingly or unknowingly bringing across a bad reputation for those few research organizations, where this is not the case, but this is not a mere personal rant. It is in consideration of improving the scientific contribution of India to the global society.

What these places need is a proper performance based culture, methodical approach to human resource management, proper values to go along with the work done. An open door policy, where no one has to be feared and people get the fruits they deserve for their hard work. A proper emphasis needs to be laid on teamwork and common objectives. A proper guidance structure needs to be framed to evaluate the team’s and the individual’s concerns and a stable human resource management structure put in place to build a professional working environment.

Though history is proof to the fact that India has made a lot of contributions to the scientific community, from the earlier vedas, the invention of zero etc., the fact remains that after Sir C.V.Raman, there has not been any Indian who has won the Nobel prize for any outstanding contribution to Science. I may have not got my facts right here, but at least as far as I know, it has not happened.

There are however many Indians who work abroad and gain recognition there. As my few friends also prepare to leave India to work in universities abroad, in Europe mostly, I feel happy for them, but also feel sorrier for my country because it is a national loss. This situation can obviously be remedied and is not a bottleneck scenario. Let us hope that the government brings across some stringent reforms to this sector. This has been a long post, but I hope that sometime, somehow it will help to spread awareness and bring across a much needed change. This is but a small warning bell to signal the need for a remedy.

Update : Prof. Subramanyam Chandrashekar won the nobel prize for Physics in the year 1983, fifty three years after Sir C.V.Raman. Two is still less a number I guess. My thanks to Rashmi for correcting me.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Darkness in the Classroom!

When I was in school, in my second standard, I was a child who had the worst handwriting in class. I was often used as an example of how not to write by my classmates. My hands used to sweat, they still do and that used to turn the four lined notebooks into such an ugly mess, that at the end of the day, I used to hate myself for being such a failure, for being so clumsy and used to go home and break the pencils in rage. The mere sight of a four lined notebook with those red and blue lines used to make my nerves restless and I would shrink in fear.

And one fine day, I found myself in the third standard. Our class teacher was a very prim Anglo Indian Lady. Her name was Ms.Mitchel. She used to write for us on the blackboard and we used to copy it silently on our notebooks. She once walked by me and happened to notice what I was writing, to her horror and my embarrassment. That day, she asked me to stay back during lunch and sat by my side. She took my hand in hers and slowly made me write the alphabet. She did it around five times and then suddenly let go of my hand. You can imagine the joy I then had, when suddenly there flowed out from my hand, freely written beautiful letters. Now this is not something which my teachers in the earlier classes or my mother had not tried to do with me, but that moment was somehow so magical for me and from that day I wrote better, I wrote more legibly.

Now there is no reason for me to have remembered this suddenly, but the fact is that after reading about the recent events which have been happening across the country, I am totally devastated. In Maharashtra, we witnessed the death of Prof. Harbhajan Singh Sabharwal, a sad result of the students going haywire due to political motivations. A big blemish on the student community, this one incident shall remain forever. Later in another separate incident we heard of a teacher in Jammu and Kashmir, who had poured acid on few of his students in a school, scarring them for life. How can we not feel confused? How can we not feel anguished? The purity and importance we give to the student-teacher relationship is suddenly being tested in a way, which has both put us to shame as well as had us seething in anger.

I have always remembered all my teachers, though I have committed the mistake of not having gone back to them later, once I got promoted or once I passed out of the school and had to go to another city to join college. I could not get time to go and meet them. However I shall make no excuses. That was a mistake on my part.

But today when the word classroom creates in our minds a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of having been enveloped in permanent darkness, I am crying out to my teachers, that I love and respect you from the bottom of my heart and sincerely hope that you will always consider me as a good student of yours. Some of you have hit me, some of you have scolded me but none of you have inflicted grave pain on my heart or scarred me permanently. I thank you all for that.

Over the years my handwriting did deteriorate, but whenever I wanted to write something neatly, I always reminded myself of Ms.Mitchell and later did a good job. There is right now darkness in the classroom of our minds. Let us hope it is temporary and that classrooms the world over will continue to spread light, will continue to spread warmth.