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I was in IIT Powai a couple of months ago for a workshop in marketing which lasted a couple of days.
As such, we were put up in the in-campus residential suites for guests – which to say the least, blew my mind!

The hostel (2 people staying in a room) was nothing less than a 3 star place – which spacious and comfortable rooms, air conditioning, in-room phones, awesome food and even a great view. And all this from within the IIT campus!

I was attending the conference with Gaurang and we would stroll out exploring the IIT campus in the evenings when we had nothing else to do. For those who haven’t been to an IIT Campus, let me describe the place. It was beautiful!

A student haven.

Flood light lit grounds and courts open till late night, students painting the cultural center walls with art and preparing for the upcoming Techfest, some kids hanging out at the local juice wala – it was awesome! Something that I will always miss as a student who went to a day college.

During that time, Gaurang and me got into a discussion as to why there wasn’t any ground breaking research happening at the IITs. There is so much public money going to waste! (After all, the IIT fees are highly subsidized by the government)
For the amounts of money and effort spent on educating people by the government, as an outsider, I don’t see much happening in the research area (specially in the public sector / government fields) at the IITs. That in my opinion is a huge waste of talent.

Compared to us, colleges in the US contribute tonnes (as much as 50%) to the research that goes on within the country.

Well, I learnt something today which went a long way in explaining why our education system is the way it is …

I am reading “Imagining India” by Nandan Nilekani (the book is pretty awesome if you ever wondered why things are in India the way they are. It takes you on a journey of how the country has sometimes walked, occassionally run and often hobbled the 60+ years after indpendence along with tremendous insights on what can be done to change the systems. A must read for all our bureaucrats!)

Anyways, getting back to the topic – what happened is this.
Post independence, India was an extremely poor country. Inspite of this, Nehru along with the first governments, allocated a sizable amount to the development of the educational institutes in India. (and thankfully at that).

They even greatly subsidized the fees (at that time it was approximately Rs. 500 which was 1/3rd the actual costs).
However, in addition to this, they went and created special research organisations to research on various aspects instead of sending the research down to the IITs.

In addition to this, the amount of research which could be done in the IITs was grossly curtailed by the government itself.
Due to this, the college could not raise funds by doing research and the fees being highly subsidized, the colleges – became a loss making enterprise for the government from day one.

Which is the reason why nobody from the government cares much about the state of IITs and also which is why we have so few of them today.

Fortunately, what needs to be done is very simple.

  1. Free the IITs and institutes from the shackles of the HRD (which has a history of screwing things up at constant intervals of time).
  2. Let the institutes decide what fee structure they should go with and give them a free hand to implement this.
    (All US universities work on the same principle and it has worked well for them so far)
  3. Allow universities to do research in whatever area they please – so they don’t have to depend upon government grants as much as they do now. Not only will our teachers be better paid (thus raising the standard), our students will be more motivated to take up courses which have research in their key areas.
  4. Get rid of the stupid reservation system. It has been decades now since the Mandal Commission and its time for us to move on …
  5. Create thousands of more IITs. (Atleast people now are echoing this sentiment)

Anything more that you guys can think of, please add to the comments below. Thanks!
(I had a couple of more things in mind – but Wikipedia just went down and in that shock, I completely forgot what they were)

I hope the present government makes some drastic changes in this department. Starting with the HRD making an exit. (Don’t they have other things to manage anyways?)

Update (1-Aug-09):
Extremely interesting comments popping up  in the Comments section. Be sure to check them out and add to it :)

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I spent a good hour at Landmark (which is a pretty large bookstore in our city) the other day – having nothing to do. I ended up buying two books even though I entered the shop with the intent of just casually browsing through the store and passing some time …

While browsing, I had picked up a couple of books with the intent of buying them – but later placed them back on the shelf, changing my mind the last minute.
The books I eventually ended up buying were – The Alchemist (something that I have wanted to read since a long time) and Games Indians Play (a book in which the author tries to explain why Indians behave the way they do using Prisoner’s Dilemma in Game Theory)

The books I ended up placing back on the shelf were – “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini (not the right time to jump into a large novel) and “It Happened in India” by Kishore Biyani (wasn’t very keen and would be able to borrow it from a friend later).

Anyways, getting back to the topic at hand – the reason I wrote this post – is because I was wondering — how we willingly spend money for different things.

I have never felt the pinch while spending money on books – I spent a good 400 bucks on books I didn’t even intend to buy when I got to the place.
Similarly, I never quite feel the pinch while buying computer hardware – say a new hard disk or some ram.

Honestly speaking, I have started feeling the pinch (computer hardware) a little as compared to my college days – but nothing compared to spending a similar amount on getting my bike serviced — or on buying clothes for example.

I found it ironic that I could buy books worth a 1000 bucks in the morning – and cringe when my mechanic told me later that evening that I would have to change the brake liner of my bike which would cost me 250 bucks.

I really wonder why…

Maybe its because the way we are brought up.
Maybe because I had a sort of a “no questions asked fund” for buying books as a kid – that I continue not to feel the pinch now.
Or maybe I just strongly believe in the benefits of buying books.

I really don’t know – but I definitely do believe — different people do have different policies on spending money on different things. I just really do not know why.

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This is to inform all you people who doubted me – I finally finished Atlas Shrugged!
Woohoo !!!

Okay, I shamelessly took 2 years and 2 attempts (the first time I gave up mid way at the John Galt speech) to finish it, but I finally did it last week and just wanted to pat my back a bit for the achievement …

Honestly, Atlas Shrugged is not a page turner per se …
It requires a good amount of dedicated reading and a lot of effort to get through some pages sometimes.
But saying that, its an awesome, awesome book – and a definite read if you had read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and liked it.

I am not going to do a book review here (because I am pretty sure I’ll suck at it) but if you have sometime to spare and want to get into the entire philosophical reading mode (without reading absolutely boring theoretical stuff), I suggest this book would be a good read.

The scope of the book is quite far fetched and exaggerated – and yet you wish such things could happen. You wish one person could stand up and stop the functioning of the world.

The name comes from the question about Atlas.
Atlas is shown carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders … What would happen to the world if he shrugged?

One of the most powerful lines from the book and my favourite (which is kinda clichéd) is by John Galt – the main protagonist of the book. It goes like this:


“I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 83.]

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Just a small heads up …

Yes. I am still alive and kicking.
This post comes almost a month after my last one – and though I have been pretty lazy in not blogging as much as I would like to, I will still go ahead and blame the weather …

Somehow, even though the colder months bring with them the promise of sitting by a nice fire in the garden, curling up on the couch under a blanket with a nice book – and many such activities that one can indulge in when the weather is so cold generally, the winters have always brought a lot of stress and difficult decisions to make for me …

One way or the other, I manage to get myself into these really cascading depressing situations which takes the bright and warm (nowadays exceedingly hot) summers to get out off …

In the meantime, I have read this book – Freakonomics – which I will recommend.
Even if you don’t agree with many of the controversial topics of debate that the authors have chosen (I somehow agreed to 99% of them), you will find yourself looking at things from a more economist’s point of view once you have gone through all the pages.

The other very interesting book that I am going through right now is – Games People Play – a book which deals with transactional analysis and social psychology in general. Though it makes for a pretty interesting read, it does tend to get technical at places …

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Who is John Galt ?

The Fountainhead was a pretty good book …

I was at Crosswords, the other day, and happened to notice that they had ‘Atlas Shrugged’ in stock for 275.

Didn’t think twice … bought it …

“Atlas Shrugged” is also by Ayn Rand and is another of her best seller …

This is the 35th year, the book is in production …

From the time I had finished the Fountainhead, I had been trying to get my hands on this book, and here it was … finally …

The book, may be pretty intimidating to many … its about 1100 pages, with a very small text…

I haven’t read the entire thing, just started today … read about 100 pages and thought of writing about the book.

The book, reads a lot like the Fountainhead, and reflects Ayn Rand’s style of writing …

She stresses a lot on emotions … and the character build up …

Unlike Fountainhead, this has a lot more characters and the story is quite interesting from the starting pages…

The manner in which she describes, each and every thought, emotion … her manner of writing … is simply superb …

Just 100 pages into the book, and she’s mapped out all the characters perfectly … and with every other page, the detail gets more clearer …

The book, like the Fountainhead, is based on her philosophies of life – namely Objectism … Or the virtues of selfishness …

The characters, are again, portrayed very strongly, and you can’t help but feel attached to some, and hate the others …

The book, is not a page turner … as per se …

Its no a mystery book … and sometimes, it gets slow … but at the same time, is very intense …

I’ve thought about it a lot, and I don’t think a movie might ever be possible on either of the books … the character portrayal will be just too impossible …

Anyways, if you have read and loved the Fountainhead … I think you’ll enjoy this book too …

Am already doing so …

More, after I have finished reading :)

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The Book Bug …

Just finished with the all so dreaded pracs a few days ago … which I am happy to report, were not all that bad …
So, now with the theory exams about 20 days away .. I decided I needed a couple of days of break before I had to go back to the monotinity of it all …

Yeah .. we do it every 6 months … have done so for the past 2 years … have still 2 more to go …

Anyways … generally I like to unwind … take my mind off work by either playing a game … or catching a couple of movies … and stuff …

I love to read … but have been avoiding that for quite sometime now due to the “not so much time to spare factor“, but I decided to hit the books this time …

I had purchased a Wilbur Smith – 2 in one special some months ago … but had been able to read only the first book – “The Dark of the Sun” which basically dealt with the adventures of this African Missionary …

Wilbur Smith was born and brought up in Africa and most of his books reflect the beauty and the brutality of the wild country …

I fell in love with his works … when I first read through the very big quot;Monsoon” … which dealt with the adventures of the Courtney family … english sea captains and pirates to many …

He has written many such books which span generations of a particular family ( The Courtneys ) in this case … and the previous book dealt with the father of the heroes of this book and the next book will deal with the sons of the heroes of this book and so on …

What struck me about this author was the amazing attention given to all details

… and the pictures he paints …

Throughout the 1100 page or so book … you are taken on an emotional roller coaster of joy, fear, disgust, anticipation, dismay … and all so many feelings that you cannot experience within a week …

The book which I am going through right now “Sunbird” is a tale of this African archaeologist and his quest to uncover these certain Phoenician ruins in a terror and war torn Botswana …

Again, the attention to detail is impeccable …

It does get boring at sometimes … but its like watching a movie in your head at 80 mm.

I did read a couple of “Hardy Boys” when I was in the fifth grade or so … but got extremely bored and was thankfully rescued by a friend who lent me his not so heard about “The Three Investigators” … Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews kept me company for most of my high school and I must have read most of the 50 volume series …

The series were written by Robert Arthur and later Hector

Sebastian and each book was introduced Alfred Hitchcock …

Unlike the Hardy Boys which were sooo predictive, the three investigator books

were smart, slick and believeable …

Later, I found “Agatha Christie” pretty slow … esp the Miss Maple series … the Hercule Poirot cases were interesting until too much french put me off …

Then have jumped from “Robin Cook” … who again gets repetitive after a while to “Sidney Sheldon” … same complaint …. ( but Tell me Your Dreams was too awesome ) and now the “Wilbur Smith” series …

In the middle … after my HSC exams … I happened to bump in to the “Perry Mason” series which were just awesome …
The books were small enough to be completed with a part of the day and the steries were amazing … If any of you are avid mystery readers … I couldn’t recommend a better book …

I exhausted all the copies from my local library and was still not bored …

But after all this, my favourite book is “The Fountainhead” by “Ayn Rand“.

I started the book twice … and was able to actually start reading only on my third attempt …

My mom had given me her copy which was a small, 1980 paperback edition … with small print, and very thin yellow pages …

It took me a week to finish the book … but it was one of the most amazing experiences ever …

The characters in the books are … agreed … a little larger than life … but I bet every person in the world will be able to identify with either one of them …

Be it Howard Roark, Peter Keating, Dominique Frankon, Guy Frankon, Gail Wyand or Elseworth Toohey … you can identify with atleast one or more of them …

So much emotion and philosophy couldn’t have been captured better …

The book sort of changes your life around … in so many ways … It tells you that if you believe in yourself and your ideals … then balls to everyone else …

Thats how you should life your life …

My most favourite part of the book ( one from the so many ) is the one in which Elseworth Toohey comes out to meet Roark from the Stoddard Temple ( which later is converted to his School for Subnormal Children ) … after having screwed him over … and tells to Roark :

Why don’t you tell me what you think of me ?quot;

But I don’t think of you” is what Roark replies …

Just too amazing …

Now to somehow get my hands on “Atlas Shrugged”

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