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The Piano Recital

September 7, 2009

Taj Vivanta, Bangalore. The unveiling of Bangalore Institute of Music and Arts. Piano recital by the french pianist, Florent Nagel.

There are times when you experience something so special, that you have to do something about it. And in such times, you remember the existence of a blog you once started, which has since become comatose. The time is right, you say, for a revival, and therefore, taking a pledge to write regularly, you blog.

I, on the other hand, will be content to just finish this one post and hibernate for the winter.

Apart from the actual show, which was wonderful, the most enjoyable part of the evening was the private concert that happened after it. It was not  scheduled, no one expected it. 10 people. Family and family friends of a dear friend of mine, Florent Nagel and a couple of his friends, and me. This was the unscripted part of the show, and like most impulsive things done in the world, this was experienced with and partly cased by alcohol. I would recommend the Big Banyan white wine to all who want to move to classier stuff, but cannot afford the imported liquor. Unless of course, you live in Madras, in which case you can have old monk and my sympathies. The B Steiner grand piano was perfect, and more importantly, in tune. And in-case there is any confusion, I did not recognize most of what was played, and I don’t care about it either.  As a person whose name I am unable to recollect said more than once, “There is only one thing better than music, Live Music”


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If the news is that important, it will find me.

May 3, 2009

This morning, as I spent some time trying to clear out the clutter on my google reader, I came across this interesting article by Brian Stelter for the NY Times, from which this post’s title is taken. While being primarily about the role of Web 2.0 applications in the US elections, it makes an interesting point about the shift in the kind of media consumerism by our generation. The shift from the being only the consumers of media, to its conduits, is indeed happening, and with the kind of irresponsibility shown by the media, this should lead to a better standard. The recent Pink Chaddi campaign got most of its media buzz through on-line means. However, there might be a flip side to this. In a world where He who shouts loudest, wins, one has to wonder if the audience is actually intelligent enough to sift through the crap thrown at them. Who is knowledgeable/credible enough for their opinions to be given publicity? This has long be the purview of the print and broadcast media, who have for the most part done a decent job of it. But what happens when Wall Street Journal and somethingsoreal are equally accessible and compete for the same viewer? Does the post of the news director, along with the qualification it demands, and the experience it holds, become irrelevant?

This model may have such inherent problems, and will surely come under criticism from the traditionalists. However, I think the advantages it gives to free speech, and the eventual liberal shift in discussions well out weigh its cons. Its a complicated model, which should make for an exciting trend, hopefully solving some of the problems mentioned in the previous post, but it something that can only work if this tiny little problem of Net Neutrality doesn’t doom us all.

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Political system(s)

April 29, 2009

I was recently having an argument with a good friend of mine about certain prevalent anti-Islamic attitudes present in the country and the world in general. Over this heated argument a whole range of issues came up, each one of which would require more than one post to do them justice. Issues like illiteracy, oil, state sponsored religion and indeed religion itself obviously affect the core topic of the discussion, but those are not what this is post is going to be about. These issues are discussed, albeit not nearly enough, but discussed nonetheless through various means on various forums by the youth of the country. The discussion also threw up words like left, right, democracy, capitalism, communism etc. For an informed discussion to proceed, it was required that both of us have at least some semblance of clarity about these terms. Sadly, we were both found lacking, and for the worse, we skipped these topics. The parliamentary elections are going on in the country, and I hardly see anyone around me willing to discussing politics. And I am supposed to be surrounded by some of the most brilliant people in the country at that. A tirade on the irresponsible youth of the country would be expected here. Unfortunately, its the level of, or rather, the lack of any level of political discussion in the country in general which keeps them venturing into any such arguments. Trust me, there only one side we are going to take if you ask us to discuss the topic of corruption or the communal violence. I hope.

As per the preamble, India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Those are five words that I am sure are some of the least discussed issues in Indian politics. I expect someone to come back with the fact that these are not open for discussion, as they define our political stance as a country, and we should function within their boundaries. The argument that we should question and debate all such things aside, we should at least know what we are supposed to stand for. I for one, would not be surprised if most of were not able to distinguish some of these political systems from their alternatives. It would be interesting, if nothing else, for us to know how far from these political ideologies have we actually wandered.  Since the political parties are only willing to discuss the anti-incumbency issues, maybe after educating ourselves, we can demand from our political parities to clarify their views on a myriad of issues, starting with which political stance do they actually subscribe to.

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This is a Tennis match.. Right?

July 7, 2008

Thats Amritraj commentating during the Wimbledon Mens’ Final today.

Federer-> 26 aces.

Nadal-> What chases. There was no place safe from him on the court.

Considering that it started yesterday, and ended today, its hardly surprising that it was the longest final yet.

Brilliant, but disappointing to see Federer fall to Nadal after saving 3 championship points. Hoping for a comeback next year.

And yes, on a related note, its not a very good idea to have the Williams bothers battle it out for the Womens’ Championship.

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Hook, Line and Sinker

July 2, 2008

Oh, and I think I spoke too soon. The print media, it seems have just leveled the playing field.

Presenting Nazi Gate, courtesy Pen Pricks

If this is what the print media is publishing, I should start reading the stories much more carefully. Its insane fun to play word games hidden in real stories. Quite like National Treasure.

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The Executive Wing and The Media

May 26, 2008

The past week has been most ridiculous, if you have been watching any of the Indian news channels, that is.  What with Noida becoming the hub in Indian disorganized crime, the hopelessly ineffective Police department of the state is now the shame of the country. But then, this is not my opinion. I am all for giving them the benefit of the doubt and letting them go about solving [sic] the the case.

If only, the media had left it alone! With the groundbreaking stuff in China being ignored in favor of who can come up with the most sadistic twist in the tale of the murder of a 14 year old girl in Noida, its now in vogue for news channels to pick a tune and harp it until it competes with the latest bollywood buzz in the gossip market. Forgive this innocent interpretation of the duties of the media, but the current split of either being an upscale-luxury gadget-goa holiday-bollywood party brandishing channel or being a downscale-rakhi sawant-masala-faith healing promoting channel hardly fits the bill. Is is just me, or the fact that most of the country is hooked onto these channels remind you of afternoon Saas/Bahu/Grand Bahu addiction. It will be a great shame if these news channels were to replicate this great Indian middle class tragedy. And don’t get me wrong, I have this from personal experience. BBC, CNN et al have reported some of the biggest news breaks in India up to and hour before these desi wonders have woken up. Its a relief to see that the print media editors still have some sense left.

Of course, all this hype did rattle the Police Department. The result was the much publicized drama in which 3 different senior police officials each conducted their own press conferences and gave the final definitive report of the crime. Of course, there was just this minor snag of each report being different from the others.  Bravo, I say, for a job well done. To put it subtly, we in India have come to respect the difference in the way our police works, and the way we expect them to work. But to have the 3 different theories on a case confirmed pretty much seals the fate of the parallel universe question. 

As they say, its a vicious circle, if you’ll forgive the cliche. The media creates the case. I say create, because its not a case if its not on the evening news, its just an FIR. Then, after creating the case, the media proceeds to solve it, which given its expertise in creativity and inexperience in criminal investigation, makes for an (ahem) interesting read. This makes the Police Department look incompetent, so they come up with one of their own. Which works most of the time, since they come with only one. When they come up with more, this is what happens. The media picks whichever one makes most sense, or not. The whole thing repeats. Like an infinite loop, if you must.

PS: The above vicious circle is a theory that made most sense to me, considering the non-sense that has been going on of late. The media does report a lot of stories that ought to be reported while speculating without hesitation, and I am sure that the Police department must be solving a lot of the cases in which the wards of politicians have not been accused. Oh the Judiciary must be having a field day.

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Should IITs Diversify ?

October 14, 2007

Nalanda is often called the first great university in recorded history. It had over 2,000 teachers and 10,000 scholars living on a residential campus. Subjects being taught: Mahayana and Hinayana schools of Buddhism, Veidic texts, philosophy, logic, grammar, astronomy, medicine and fine arts. Taxila, was known for its military science, Vedic teachings, law and medicine. The Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology has under it 5 schools of learning, covering subjects like Engineering, Science, Management, Architecture, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. We see a similar structure of education in Harvard, Oxford, Yale, et al.

Unfortunately, in India, the system of education is highly compartmentalized. We see professional colleges, which provide specific education, in their own specialized field. A student of Engineering, say, entering such a college, will never be exposed to quality education in any other branch of learning.

This is not what education was supposed to be. When you educate a person, you inherently give him/her the right to choose what to learn. Such a unidirectional approach to education can only harm the student. Agreed, that at a certain point of time, one has to decide one’s major and career path, but that does not, in anyway mean that you make the system so rigid, that a person is forced to study and study only what he chose while joining a college.

While discussing this topic, one comes across people who argue that additional faculty, or visiting professors can always be hired in the required field of study. But these orphan departments can never hope to compete with the exposure and the experience that a faculty of a full fledged school of learning will bring to an educational institution. I call them orphan departments, because until very recently, IIT Madras had such a department, the Humanities and Sciences Department, whose only aim was to the supplement the education of the engineering students by providing them with some introductory courses in economics, philosophy, and literature. This department had no undergraduate students, and very few doctoral scholars. Now, they offer a dual degree undergraduate program, and since its inception, the department has seen a 25% growth in faculty strength. They will attract better and more experienced faculty, notwithstanding the increase in the variety of courses they will have to offer students of other branches.

The Indian Institutes of Technology. Technology, and not business, or arts, or social sciences, people might say. Well, being an institute of technology, one has to keep up with the scientific and technological developments. And when you realize, that by exposing students to a wide range of subjects drom different disciplines, you actually encourage original and innovative ideas, it is time you step up and implement it.

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