Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Afghan by Frederick Frosyth

So the master is back! But is he really the master this time? From a debutant, The Afghan would have been considered a superb effort, but coming from the veteran of The Day of the Jackal and The Fist of God, it doesn’t quite arouse the same feelings! The book it seems swings between extremes, on some points one can detect the Forsyth magic at its work, but at others one can feel the lack of attention on the author’s part.

The storyline is current and in sync with the present world situation. It talks of a terrorist threat to the world that would even make 9/11 look insignificant. As the western intelligence agencies get wind of a possible catastrophe being planned by Al-Qaeda, they are desperate for more information. But who would provide it to them? For they have no moles in Al-Qaeda, and the secret is so well guarded that only the elite amongst the elite of the Al-Qaeda hierarchy actually know about it.

It’s impossible to plant someone in the Al-Qaeda unless they manage to pass of a westerner as an Afghan among the Afghans. Colonel Mike Martin is a 25 year old veteran of war zones, but more importantly is dark, been raised in Iraq and can pass as Izmat Khan, the true Afghan!

Is it possible for the British Colonel to pass of as a former senior commander of the Taliban? Does he have the potential to pass a test, the failure in which would surely guarantee a death ticket, but not before a journey through hell.

Forsyth has made references to the use of latest technology in the book and it seems that the modern thriller is going to have more of technology and less of the old-fashioned thriller stuff. However there are some glaring mistakes, mistakes which I feel a bit more of research and some good technical editing could have easily removed. One more thing which we as Indians would be especially interested in, Kerala has been referred to as providing a fertile place for Islamist extremism to grow!!!

On the whole I would say that The Afghan is surely not up there with The Day of the Jackal, but it does merit one reading.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Well finally the ordeal is over! The 3 days, when the entire student community heads to the RC is now a thing of the past. (At least for the next month!) Well newys I am not writing this to discuss how the insems were or how badly I fared in them. It’s something much more than that.

Let me go into flashback. A few years earlier in Jaipur. There’s this guy called Rohit studying in arguably the best school of the city. Well teachers are almost sure they have found the next genius, for you name it and the guy knows it. 5 time inter-house quiz champion, winner of various inter-school competitions. Period. Ok now, this wasn’t my pitch for trying to impress my non-existent girl friend. What it actually was an image, an image of myself, that I found staring back at me when I look down the portals of history.

And then there’s something else too; a question mark! A question mark as to what I have become, what have I done with my life and what is my future? What has happened to transform that studious guy into what I am today?

Well any ways I was discussing the insems that have just got over. After coming to the college, this was the first time that I felt that what I was doing wasn’t right. This doesn’t mean that I am going to revert back to that studious guy personality again nope dats not an alternative! However from these exams I learnt a lesson! I am not utilizing my potential! I don’t know whether joining AIESEC has to do something with it or not, but I feel that I have been wasting my time and now I want to make up for that. I wish to utilize every moment of my stay in this college. For at the end of the next three years, I wish to have a decent pointer, an excellent general awareness, a successful college magazine and an AIESEC legacy behind me! I know the road that lies in front of me is tough; in fact I don’t even know if there’s a road in front of me or not! But then whatever the case maybe, I’ll give myself a fair chance, I’ll do everything possible to achieve my aims. Amen!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Those were the Best Days of ma Life...

Almost everyone of has heard these words. And what do they remind us of? Bryan Adams, summer of 69! Well before the last weekend same was the case for me; but then something happened and it changed it all!

Around two weeks earlier I had entered into an organization, an organization named AIESEC and the this past weekend I attended my first ever AIESEC conference- the L-Cong! And trust me people words are not enough to describe those two days. It was something that you have to experience, to believe it.

During the conference I really got the opportunity to know what AIESEC really is, and it’s a lot more than any run of the mill youth organizations. The days were full of interesting sessions taken by professionals from TCS n Azure. The team game one by the TCS person was really great and I guess made us a more resourceful person in the process. Any ways for those who think that it was only work all the way are in for a pleasant surprise!

At AIESEC we believe in the dictum: Work like an animal and party like a beast! After the first day plenary ended at 9 pm, we all broke for dinner, and guess what? We were back by 10:30 and this time for the masti! The dance, the jives, the sculling competition…. It really was an awesome experience. One would say it would have been like any other party… but the answer’s a big NO. It was different, not only in the way it was conducted, but also in the spirit with which we absorbed, what quite a few of us would have termed as a cultural shock.

And how can I forget this! The dimension that made it certain without doubt that we will not forget this evening! For as the clock struck the midnight hour, the day changed form Saturday to Sunday, it was Venky’s (our LCP) bday! And how can a bday party be complete without some serious ass kickingJ. Well we were all part of a conspiracy to give Venky a nice time (pun intended). And am almost certain that Venky would agree to it! Any ways Venky was his usual self, and even performed babuji solo for us!

Anyways if we had thought that the L-Cong was over, we were grossly mistaken! For the second day was even better than the first day. What with us being allotted with our departments, the farewell to Noam and the surprise package: the AIESEC Baroda EB!

All in all it was an experience worth having! I am still sulking over the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go to the NLDS because of my insems…Oh ya one more thing! I forgot to mention my deptt. TN

TN too sexy for SN

Too sexy for YDEP

Too sexy for the non-exchangers…


7th September 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Are We Ashamed of Merit???

Every other day, we read accounts praising the Indian brain; we are awed by the pay packages that are being offered to the students of our elite institutes. Yet we also come across stories relating to the so called improvement of our educational system.

Why is it that we are so adamant to change the educational system which has enabled us to emerge as global leaders in the field of education? Recently there was a report that CBSE was going to introduce 20% project work in Mathematics for 10th standard students. It was aimed at reducing the fear that this subjects induces in the minds of children. Already CBSE has done away with examinations and home assignments in the junior classes. All this is aimed at easing the pressure on the students.

Agreed there is pressure on the students but the educational system is in no way responsible for it. And besides by undertaking such steps we are only encouraging mediocrity. I fear that if we continue such measures that day is not far away when our students would be using a calculator to compute 7+5=12; just like their American counterparts.

Another issue which has been doing the rounds lately has been that of reservation and I am of the opinion that by increasing reservation we are doing nothing except diluting the quality of our premier institutes. It would do more harm than good. Reservation is not the panacea for all the ills that plague those who have not been able to reach the level of merit required for admission in the top notch institutes. Those who have reached the top have not become brilliant overnight; the foundation of the intelligent powers of these students would have been laid right from the primary school stage. Years of sustained effort has alone enabled them to rise to the pinnacles of success.

It’s high time that the politicians stop thinking of pleasing their vote banks and recognize the value of merit. The need of the hour is to preserve merit and not being ashamed of it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Talk With the Master......Prabhat Saraswat (aka papa bhaiya)

ok fellas here is what i promsed.....the interview wid our very own papa bhaiya....enjoy!

Did you always want to become an engineer?

Ya, it had always been my dream to become an engineer. In fact my dad himself is an electronics and communication engineer; so you can say that engineering runs in my blood. When I was young, all three of us that is my dad, my mom and me used to repair an old black and white TV every Friday, so that we could watch the Saturday movie. From my school days only I had an inclination towards science and have been taking parts in science fests since then.

What are your future plans?

Right now I am leaving for Switzerland, where I would be completing my PhD at ALARI (Advance Learning and Research Institute). It’s the second best university in the world for work on embedded systems. I am going there on a full scholarship, free accommodation and a handsome stipend. I would be working under Prof. Sammaria Giovanni and the duration of the course is 3 ½ years.

What do you plan to do after completing your PhD?

I plan to go for post-doctoral research at one of the leading labs say Bell Labs. After 2-3 years of research I would like a 1 year teaching stint in Argentina and then head back home.

Argentina; any specific reason for this choice?

I intend to make that 1 year a teaching and traveling stint. Also I have been inspired by Che Guevara (The Motorcycle Diaries).

After returning to India is there a possibility of you teaching here at DA-IICT?

(Laughs and says) Probably after enough raises and when I have nothing else to do! On a more serious note, yes it’s definitely a possibility. The new people that are coming, their attitude towards research is good, and it’s a healthy sign.

Your greatest passion apart from academics?

Music! No doubt about it.

Not many of us are aware of the rock star Prabhat Saraswat. Why don’t you throw some light about that facet of your personality?

When Prabhat Saraswat entered the college he had very short hair and this persisted till the 2nd semester. It was during my 2nd year that my senior Siddhartha Mohan made me enter the world of rock. I started growing my hair and during this year only I was gifted an electric guitar by my dad (it was the only real toy which I got!). Inspired by heavy metal and Rock n Roll, Chetan, Tushar and I formed a band called Igneous. We went to NIT Hamirpur and won the first prize over there.

However as happens with most of us, my mom had a problem with my long hair, but somehow I managed to keep them till the end of my 3rd year when due to placements and stuff I had to cut them short. This marked the end of the rock star Prabhat and the return of the researcher. But now looking back I realize that most of my papers were written when I had my hair longJ.

What’s been the secret of your success?

Success is a subjective term. It depends on what kind of a success you are talking about. If one’s happy, one is successful. But if one can make other people around him happy, he’s more successful. Sheer hard work has been the reason for my success. Putting something like 10 hours in the lab and sitting alone, studying in the RC is what has made me successful.

Don’t you think luck had a role to play?

I don’t believe in luck, and it doesn’t really mater for me.

How important a role do you think a college plays in a student’s life?

College plays a huge role. You enter as boys and leave as men! It inculcates thought, reason, and a way of thinking. It enables us to take a stand on issues. For me, the college caused a drastic change of view. The humanity courses, especially the ones by Prof. Shiv changed my outlook.

Would you change your college is someone gives you the opportunity to do so?

No way! I won’t change even for an IIT. When I came here, there wasn’t even a cafeteria here. I have seen this college building. I know how well it’s growing and have tremendous faith in DA-IICT as an institution. And besides, I wouldn’t like to swap the friends that I have now for anything.

Which is your favourite book, both technical and non technical?

I am not much into reading fiction, but I do read some poetry and biographies. I particularly liked the biography of a mathematician named Stan Ulam and Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feymann!

Which is your favourite dish?

I am a foodie! I eat almost anything vegetarian. You can say that my favoutie is Italian and Mexican; since that’s what I have to eat for next few years, so better get used to it! And ya I love anything that I cook myself!

Do others love it as well?

(chuckles and says) they have to eat it! But then I am quite good a cook. When I was in 10th I generally watched the culinary shows only on the TV. (that’s quite strange, isn’t it?)

have there been any setbacks or it’s been a smooth ride all along the way?

I won’t say that there haven’t been any setbacks. There have been a few like when I didn’t get placed for 6 days during the placement fair. I will never forget those 6 days! Then there was a sem in which I got really low SPI. But on the whole you can say that these past four years have been a good journey.

Now that you mention SPI, what do you think of the decision to shift from a 4point scale to a 10 point scale?

It’s bad! The 4 point scale was adopted because it put us at par with the US colleges in terms of grading. I guess that on large scale discrimination would be more which isn’t good. In my opinion an ideal grading scale should be fuzzy so that the guys who are lacking don’t feel all that bad; but distinct enough to clearly identify the cream. The 4 point scale set us apart from the other colleges and lent an international touch to the institute. Changing to the 10 point scale, in my opinion is a step backward.

The Design Project which we have to do in our 2nd year is being made optional. Your comments?

It’s another bad decision! DP is our 1st project and we learn a lot out of it! In my case, 2 of my publications were based on my DP only. DP is a good learning experience and shouldn’t have been removed.

Keeping in mind the steps the college administration has taken, can we say that we are moving backward instead of forward?

I won’t comment that hard but yes its moving in the wrong direction. People need to rethink their strategy. DP, the 4 point scale are some things which make us unique. Revoking them will make us similar to other run of the mill colleges.

Our new Director hasn’t been any of the promotional visits to the leading universities in the world, unlike his predecessor. What do you think about it?

This is indeed a serious problem. A lot of applications, despite good recommendations and GRE scores were rejected because the universities don’t know what DA-IICT actually is. The brand DA-IICT is still not established. In Florida, the situation is good because there DA-IICT is in the list of most favoured institutions; and all credit for this should go to Prof. Kutchedkar.

What do you have to say about the various faculty members leaving the college?

That’s very sad. Faculty and infrastructure are 2 things which we can boast of. When a faculty member quits, a lot of projects and research ideas go with him. This seriously hampers the growth of research.

How would you describe your experience as a Research Engineer?

It’s been fine. In the US, RE is meant for post-doc people. As a brand it’s very useful to have it on your CV. My work here basically involved checking new equipment, helping people with their projects and guiding interns. Basically it was to help in increasing the research potential of the students. However it could have been more challenging.

Which scientist/researcher do you admire the most?

Nash, John Nash! I came to know about him a lot before the movie. I really admire the way he talks about patterns and game theory. Even as a person he’s brave enough to face everything. Despite suffering form schizophrenia, he wins a Nobel Prize and that too for applied Mathematics! Whereas his colleagues involve themselves in derivative drivel, he looks for original research ideas. I would really like to follow his footsteps.

And what about our faculty? Whom do you think has inspired you the most?

Over the years I have worked with a lot of them. Prof. Shiv moulded me as a free thinking individual. And for research I guess, it has to be Prof. Prabhat Ranjan and Prof. Sanjay Srivastava.

Which sports do u practice?

Playing the guitar is the only sport that I know.

Which is your most prized technical possession?

My lappie! Even though it’s outdated I can’t live without it. He knows me and I know him!

Is research synonymous with happiness for you?

Hmm… well researching at 6 am in the morning in the lab with all the windows open and Beethoven playing in the background; it doesn’t get better than this.

What do you like to do in your leisure time?

I watch all kind of movies, especially the weird ones! I like listening to music and spending time with friends.

Your favourite movie?

Hmm that’s a difficult one! There are so many of those….Serendipity, A Beautiful Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and all those Charles Coffman stuff.

How would you describe your stay at DA-IICT?

Time flies by so quickly! It feels like its been over in a flash. Looking back I would like to freeze the time at several places. I still remember those late night bashes! Its been a journey that has transformed me from a messed up adolescent to a free thinking person.

What has been your favourite hangout?

For the first 2 years it was the RC. For the better part of the 3rd year in the night, it was the music room and after that it has been lab 202.

Something you couldn’t do in these past 4 ½ years?

(Thinks 4 a while and then says with a chuckle) so many people found life companions in college ;) and I…..

What tips would you like to give to students interested in research?

Although there’s nothing specific, there are some pointers that one can follow. Research is synonymous with thinking, thinking differently and uniquely. Feel passionate about what you are doing. Its should be more of a fun rather than a burden.

Linux or Windows?

Without doubt Linux! We customize everything, our clothes, our food, the way we behave. And if we can’t customize our OS, it’s a shame!

Your parting message?

4 years is a small time window! Time’s too less and there are a lot of things to do. We need to try everything and then identify what we are good at. Best if luck for it!