Friday, January 30, 2009

Dr No-Know

What are you doing here ?
- PhD. In theoretical computer science.
Why are you doing it ? You like it ... ?
- (pause) Why do people do things ... *shrug*

Between a student (junior, semester just began) and me (PhD, 6+ years).
The last sentence was a bit cliche - it sounded like "shaadi kabhi koi sochke karta hai?" from the movie KANK. But, really - why exactly am I doing a PhD ? That too in this good-for-boring topic.

It is definitely not job ... they are either PhD aspirants or wanna-be advisors who tell you that PhD can get you a good job straight away. More so if your topic is orthogonal to money making trades.

Money ... no job no athanni. And teaching jobs, the only ones we are not overqualified for, even claim to pay us with satisfaction. Its official.

Fame ... why not ask about being lucky to born as the prince of Brunei.

We are talking about books, journals and long nights with pen and paper ... so I am skipping the whole angle of social life, girls or glamour.

Someone at the corner beside the free coffee is mumbling satisfaction ... or is it me singing A situation leading to sweet salvation ? This is pure gambling ... achieving satisfaction is purely a mental skill .. yes *skill*. If you are desperate enough to be satisfied, it will happen. Things people do for ...

I don't think I had any particular benefit in mind when I decided to replace a good, interesting, paying (oh yes...) job by this doctoral pursuit of bottomless knowledge. I just wanted to see this field in greater detail ... and I think I just wanted to do a PhD. As simple as that. Well... not quite, coming to think of it. My job was interesting but was not creatively rewarding and not _that_ challenging ... you know ... yes, I enjoyed it but not in _that_ way. It is hard to pinpoint. Escape route towards fatal attraction ... a provocative mix to give birth to yet another PhD graduate student. Yours truly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

bananas ?

Do you know what a banana tactic is ? I am duh sure you don't. You can't. And you won't if you stop here. That's a good reason in my rule book, so read on...

I call it the banana tactic. I still have a mild addiction to my own life, so lets just say the name is inspired by what follows below. What is plagiarism elsewhere is inspiration in art and academics. So, no hard feelings please.

B: see u later. be back soon.
d: leaving ?
B: nah - going to get bananas.
(it was around 2:30 then and B usually finds midday ghas-phus around that time)
d: WHAT ! bananas ? you have decided to eat bananas for lunch to lose
that extra 2 kilos you gained <censored>
B: its funny. people don't respect fruits anymore.

And then I was bestowed the whats and whens.

You feel hungry. You step out. Wait you don't. It's cold so you find armour for windchill. As you add more layers, you start thinking where would you go ?

Incidentally, this question could be a hundred-dollar question or a hundred-cent question based on your spatio-temporal coords. Here it's really hard to find good stuff to disguise as lunch material. And if you have one of the many Indian restrictions, you are better off acquiring a taste in raw leaves. Which is not that bad anyway ... oh, well... I learned fast.

So ... instead of hoping for a miracle, B hoped to get a banana or two. They never fail, kind of like books or dogs or shrimp - all of them are hard to hate. If something nice to eat is found, good for you. Oh ... something nice do come up once in a while, it's not thaaat bad. And if you will pardon my adultery with food, I even miss McD fries after not having them for half a year. Personally, I find stuff to sate my appetite.

Oh I veer again. The point is, when you want something, you set something as your gold standard. Then you either hanky-panky try to reach that. Or you say that you are not going to get it realistically, and instead shoot for something less royal ... so much less that you are never gonna be disappointed. Either way, you can be content. Take your pick. I christen the latter way of life as banana tactic.

I personally tend to choose the former path. Being obsessive with almost everything I do, I mean the stuff I really really have a passion for, I overdo what I should do. Kind of like trekking my way to El Dorado instead of watching it in 3-D in IMAX. Failures and disappointments are my closest enemies. They come with this dude called me.

I think it helps if one has a blend of no-compromise and banana smoothie. In the end, being content matters. Do we agree on that one ? Maybe not. I have a fascination about the 'process' being right more than the 'end'. I guess the banana tactic is not my kind of game. Still its a good tactic. And a good name.

Do you want to know about Salami tactic now ? Fear not, it's not mine. Ask Ask.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It was shocking. It was shocking when I first heard it on CNN IBN livecast but at that time it was still in design phase. I read it today in The Telegraph and now it is seriously shocking!

After the 4 southern states and Rajasthan and Bihar, Maharashtra Assembly also passed a law for the domestic workers or housemaids or bais. What do they have to do? Register with the government. What do they get? Job security and perks like the salaried class. Weekly day off, proper sick leave, bonus, PF, pension, health insurance yada yada yada. Easy brownie points for the government.

This is one of the many unorganised sectors in India where some of the above perks might be beneficial but way too cumbersome. It does not make sense to have a compulsory weekly day off for a housemaid. What happens if the milkman says he won't come on Sundays anymore ? In fact, some of the perks are better left on a one-to-one compromise basis, as an understanding between the house mistress and the housemaid. That is how it currently is. In my opinion, there are other unorganised sectors which could be regularised with more efficiency and would actually make sense.

What was shocking was not the passing of this law. Well it was, to some extent. I, however, kept wondering how such a law is going to be implemented. Making a simple thing complicated by introducing paperwork never works. Then came the fun part. This law is going to be a welfare law, which means its just a recommendation. No one is going to be punished if they do not follow it, in short a big thumbs down to implementation. Shocked ?

The state is supposed to set up a Domestic Workers’ Welfare Board where housemaids have to register to avail these facilities. Presumably, the board will also take care of the government's share of the help. With any board in India, comes a party banner - is anyone else finding it fishy ?

I wonder why there is no such law in my darling state West Bengal. We are supposed to be the first to think and pen down the law on paper.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Green bong intellectuals

Kolkata is a city full of intellectuals. You can find them of course in schools and colleges, but surprisingly you can spot a few even in the local chai-shop, in the evening gatherings in a park or even in an government office full of sorry-we-donot-work babus. A few of them, I suspect, are self-proclaimed antels. That is not the point.

I do not know if intellectuals are only supposed to use their so-called intellect to endlessly ramble about subjects of their liking, or disliking or of indifference. Or they have nothing else to talk about and so they create a subject from thin air. But historically the bengali intellectuals have caused many a changes to the society. Mainly through their voice, their writing, their support and in some cases, their actions. Even the politicians of east India knew how to think. If you do not think, you do not exist. This is not exactly what Cogito, ergo sum means, but I consider this a necessary survival guide. Bengalis as late as in 1970s knew this in one way or the other. No more now.

Statesman Gokhale once said What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. This statement is true even today in a sense ... we kind of think even today - because we do nothing else.

There have been two occassions which caused a furore among these thinkers. One was the infamous Nandigram incident and other the Rizwanur case. There were mass protests by well known individuals, young credit-card rich generation and have-nots all alike. Kudos to them, but in hindsight both of them had a political flavour; protest the oppressions and favour the helpless. Instant brownie points - makes you a hero overnight.

Those who are in Kolkata or somewhat updated about happenings there know about the Green Crusade going on these for last half a decade or so. Sadly it can be summarised as Subhas Dutta vs State. Kolkata, along with the national capital, has been branded as the two most polluted cities in the region. Delhi is taking stringest measures, and is quite successful in that. That means we are going to the retain the top post all by ourselves. Feels nice ?

After a lot of drama in and out of the courtroom, finally the government seemed to be cornered this time. They had to remove all two-stroke autos from the streets of Kolkata. Well... as expected, that did not quite happen. The government found way to circumnavigate the ban; opposition and other parties raised other objections. In short, the autos are all back on the streets.

What is happening with the auto-wallahs and the government (the police in Bengal is effectively a government department) is expected. What I find surprising is the absence of any so-called intellectual in this movement. Couldn't they simply promise not to ride two-stroke autos. Granted that will cause them a lot of inconvenience. They can settle for a compromise - do that on every alternate day for the next 1 month. Something in which they suffer a bit to make sure the auto-wallahs and the unions and the parties suffer a lot more.

I heard TMC called an auto and taxi strike today - apparently Ms Banerjee thinks that if the public faces inconvenience, then there will be a flood of sympathies for the ban protesters. I am scared that she might actually have a working strategy there. Instead of countering her style of inconvenience by boycotting autos and making their life hell, the evergreen bong intellectuals will silently use other means and return to riding auto to earn their daily cup of tea. And talk about other issues like why is Australia cricket team doing so bad.

Here is a strategy: every alternate day, for 2 weeks, do not ride 2 stroke autos. 2 stroke autos are easy to recognise, they are labelled "2 RE" at their back. And a sign of protest, wear a green patch, cloth or paper, somewhere in their body.

Make them realise that you think about your city. You can at least be selfish and think about your own personal health that is in danger due to the smoke belching three-wheeler beasts. Make them realise that they could own the vehicle but you are the customer and decide the market. Make them realise that public opinion just does not mean rambling over cups of tea in coffee house and then hopping on to a Belgachia-Lake town auto because it is convenient.

Thinkers of the city which never stops thinking ... for once, stop pretending and actually think.