Wednesday, 29 July 2015

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A Tale of Two Countries

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”

Charles Darnay is about to be guillotined owing to his direct lineage to the Marquis of a French estate. Is he responsible for the torment and the repression inflicted on the French peasants by the former Marquis who is now dead? 
But who will explain this to the angry mob of France which is baying for blood? Years of torture has brought out this evil and madness in the French mob that has now the potential to feed innocents to the guillotine.

When you read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Dickens, you unequivocally sympathize with the protagonist and the lead of the story. You must be rooting for Darnay all through the book, lamenting his incarceration and desperately wanting him to be set free.

Cut to 2015. The clouds of the 1993 Mumbai blasts hover over this man spelling death for him. The brother of a mafia don (who is the prime suspect and seen as the mastermind behind the attacks), this man comes to India to clear his name uncannily like Darnay believing in the power of truth and justice (although the current blast convict is no saint; there is evidence of him being involved in smuggling; however he may not be a mass murderer as per the journalists, who made it their business to look deep into the matter, found). And now he stands on the threshold of being hanged. (Did Dickens get a premonition of the entire thing?!) 

These are the best of times; these are the worst of times... 

Sydney Carter’s good Samaritanism saved the day in Dickens' novel. But what will be the fate of this man who is part of a world of not fiction, but facts? 
Has the Dickens of our world’s story cooked up something for him? 
Or is our world way too real and unforgiving to have any of the drama and clemency that’s prevalent in the world of fiction? 
One can only wait and watch…

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

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A Tribute...

This is NOT a comment, although the larger heading says so. Like everyone else, I wanted to pay a humble tribute to the man of the stars and the man of the people.

I don’t know how to start this. I wanted to write something the moment my phone pinged and I read the newsflash. No title and no opening lines seem to befit the man - the national icon - the trailblazer - the rock star of science. I knew the moment the news of the demise reached us, social media would be fraught with messages, condolences and eulogies by one and all. And not one individual would have a bitter thing to say about the Missile Man, the Students' Ideal, the People's President, the man who revamped Indian astronomy.

Could we call him the Carl Sagan of India? Perhaps. But Mr. Kalam was in a class of his own. He had his characteristic coiffure, his simple and high ideals, his untiring efforts and dedication towards his domain of work. He was the quintessential Indian scientist. Of the likes of CV Raman, Susruta and JC Bose. He wore many hats- those of a thinker, philosopher, teacher, author and many such, elegantly and admirably so. When the name is APJ Abdul Kalam, one, whoever that one be, can’t help feeling a tinge of pride and a surge of inspiration. No barriers of caste, class or religion come to mind. Only the inspiring man with a humble background and an illustrious life. The son of a fisherman, who ferried Hindu pilgrims ashore, Mr. Kalam's life story is more surreal and beautiful than a carefully written piece of fiction. It seems as if each detail of his life had been intricately carved so as to inspire millions with its simplicity and greatness.

The 11th President of India, the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna awardee, Mr. Kalam is forever alive via his views, quotes, ideas and messages. In 2005, Switzerland declared May 26 as 'Science Day' to commemorate Dr Kalam’s visit to the European country. With his ardent devotion and his vision for ‘India 2020’, he took the country on space missions and missile launches, on unprecedented advancements in technology and on projects of the skies and the heavens. We are proud to have had a scientist president. How many countries can boast of that?

Mr. Kalam’s recent publication- ‘Transcendence…’ had barely hit the book stands; he was elucidating the concept of a ‘pure planet’ to the students of IIM - Shillong when a massive cardiac arrest struck him and cut short his worldly voyage. The loss couldn't be greater and couldn't be more greatly felt. The man had a lot of life left in him. 

As I closed my eyes during the minutes of silence observed at my workplace on the death of the great man, I wondered that this man of the stars has reached his stars today. When Oct 15 dawns this year as the sixth World Students’ Day and the first one sans his presence, we hope that many such Kalams are born. It’s a fitting tribute to the man with 'wings of fire'.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

From one Summerite to another…

I was about to crash out one night last week when I saw an unread email in my inbox. I wanted to postpone its checking to the following day when I spotted the sender’s name. I clicked on the mail immediately and in a few minutes had sent out a reply. Quite expectedly, I got another reply and it all felt just like old times. That was Meera ma’am and Shivani ma’am mailing from their joint email account. The outcome of our exchange was that I stood in the conference room of SFS last Thursday (16/7/2015) doing what was expected of me as an ex-Summerite. I gave a pep talk.  

Dear Summerite,

I am writing this letter to you because I had promised to pen everything down in a coherent form.
I don’t know what I told you in that room that day. Because I have a tendency to ramble and digress when I am speaking, not to mention forget and lose thread. Still I hope it was all good and useful. Since I am more balanced when I write or rather I’m a different person when my trap is shut, I would like you to hear out both my selves. You met one last Thursday. You meet the other one today.

This post is mostly addressed to the XIIthees, since I had a chat with the XII batch when I was in school and since it is the final year of their school life and kind of a defining moment, after which they will be beset with mainly two questions- ‘what was your percentage’ and ‘where did you secure admission’. For the sole aim of preparing satisfactory answers to these two questions, the students (at least some of them) leave no stone unturned in putting up their best, studying more this year than in any of their previous years combined.
I will try and combine all my experiences and ‘wisdom’ (more like lessons) in as concise a manner as possible ‘cause the ones for whom this post is meant for hardly have time to listen to ramblings.

How to study

I won’t tell you how to study. Because I really don’t know. I told you how my study cycle used to begin with working at my desk for a meagre 10-15 minutes and end at the bed with the book lying flat on my face. Clearly, I’m no study guru. But I have some don’ts for you. You know enough ‘Do’s to actually want to 'do' them. So, here goes:


> refrain from asking if you don’t understand. You have a right to ask. That’s why we have RTI. That’s why we have teachers and that’s why you are paying tuition fees.

expect teachers to feed the knowledge directly into your brain. That technology hasn’t been invented yet. Maybe you could invent it? As of now, it’s a two-way process. Much like ‘God gives every bird its food but does not throw it into its nest’.

>  compare. Even twins turn out differently. So, if one (or more) of your classmates gets into IIT or St. Stephens, don’t beat yourself up.

>  tell yourself to study. You never will. It’s a human tendency to do things averse to those someone tells you to do. Use reverse psychology.

>  live ‘half lives’. By half lives, I mean half of you is studying while the other half doing everything to keep the first half from doing so.

>  be aware of the posture you are in while studying. For if that happens, you are not as much into it as you would like to be.

>  let the past bog you down. Whether you have been a bum student or a star performer in the past, it really doesn’t matter. Simply because the past is, sadly or gladly, over.

>  let the others drag you down. Whether it’s their expectations from you or disenchantment with you, let the ‘others’ (whoever they are, for God’s sake! I never seem to find them!) go to Mars for all you care. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

>  worship each and every rule people tell you to follow (including my DON’Ts). One person’s food is another person’s poison. So, if something doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Listen to yourself and carve out a path accordingly. It’s a lot like praying. The destination is the same but we have different ways of reaching it. As long as it works for you, nothing matters.

>  let the stress of it all bog you down. Easy to say, hard to put it into practice. Well, I am still trying! All the best to you too!


There are some myths that people come up with and readily swear by. Sorry guys, but I am here to burst your bubbles and bust your myths.

>  This myth is exclusively for Science students-
Myth: Stuff that is taught in my coaching class and whatever is taught at the school are poles apart.
Truth: Newton’s laws of gravitation are universal. So they work as well in the Milky Way galaxy as much as in the Andromeda galaxy. Your coaching classes are in this very galaxy right?
Myth busted.

>  Myth: I just never seem to score marks. Since I landed in XIth, my life just took a U- turn.’
Truth: Don’t despair fellow humans! I was there too. All I have for you is 'this too shall pass'.

>  Myth: There are multitudinous books, endless tests, a million xeroxes and zero time to prepare.
Truth: All you need to solve questions is understanding of the concept and a little pressure on your gray cells. Whether you solve one assignment or a hundred, study one hour or a ten, if you can get those questions right, if you know how physics, chem, bio and math run the world (including IT, English, Eco or any other subject you may have), you are good to go.

Guru Gyaan

These are some questions that are often asked in interviews. I never knew they were so important to one’s life. Ask yourself these. You will be amazed to find that these will be the hardest questions to answer. But once you answer them, your life will assume a much rosier tint than it had before.

Q1. What made you take up this subject?
Q2. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Q3. What is that which you will be happy doing for the next 40 years of your life?

There is a concept called Maslow’s laws of hierarchy. It says that once you have fulfilled your basic needs of food, clothing and shelter; you start looking for self-actualization. In our words, once your career can be called a career and once you have a steady job, you will start looking for meaning. In essence, the above three questions are the keys to unlocking your life’s meaning. All the best for finding your calling, people!

Despair not, worry not; you will pass +2 with flying colors. Believe you me, give yourself a year and you will be capable of taking such a session as I did, all geared up with positivity ammo and study weapons. Keep calm and conquer +2. May the Force be with you!  

Yours truly
:If I came out of it alive and kicking, you too will:

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Clean-Up Spree

Not a mote, not a speck
Dares stand before her 
A whoosh and a sweep
And the dust bunnies run for cover

Let me introduce you to the neatness nazi, the cleanliness freak, the stain-hater of the family...she is the one who has given a whole new meaning to the term 'spotless'. In her school classroom, she wields the duster on the blackboard. At home, she wields it on the filth. She will scrub and re-scrub even when the cleaning lady has done her job and left.

My mother has a thing against untidy things. It irks her real bad, so much so that I think she is probably on the verge of being an ablutomaniac. But Providence has sent me to Earth to countervail her tendencies.

Mom sometimes calls me a tramp in her rage. Like when she finds my bed sheet stretched up far back to reveal the mattress beneath. Or when my laptop and I canoodle in bed right before I shut down for the night (while the laptop stays on till it loses all its charge and shuts down in its own time). Or when I decorate my bed with foodstuffs of all kinds and refuse to remove the packet of unfinished biscuits and the bottle of water from it. These and many more such instances justify her sobriquet for me 'cause according to her, I behave like a hobo in my own home, stacking everything on the bed and treating my room and the rest of the house like a street. And so right before my cousins were to visit us after a really long time, mom charged into my room and warned me to clear up my space and get things in order.
"I am sick of doing your room.” she began in her don’t-you-dare-mess-with-me voice. “They are coming tomorrow. You better get this hole of yours to look decent. Like a part of the rest of the house."
I know when it's a harmless warning and I know when it's an order. It was the latter this time. I could tell by her tone. So I did the only thing people of my generation are capable of. And swift came Dr. Google to the rescue. I came across these 10 pointers on how to do a quick job of making one’s place look clean. I said ‘look’ because I only meant for it to 'look' presentable. I wasn’t about to actually clean! Duh!

I know it's nothing to brag about but I did clean out each shelf myself. Phew!

As I looked at the pretty picture on the webpage and scrolled down the article, things began to seem quite simple and not so arduous a task as I might have been led to believe by my fears.

Gave my Aristotle and Plato (my dear goldfishes) some food for thought!

And so I began. I decided to clear the bed and dust out my bed sheet. But looking at the food stains and the crumpled state of the poor sheet, I decided to just chuck it in the laundry basket and get a new one instead. When I got my bed a nice new red-white-black sheet, my eyes fell on the crumbs and bits lying about on the floor. They looked out of place with the immaculate bed now. And so I got a broom to just sweep them into a corner. Just a superficial sweep, you see. Then as I started keeping the articles back into their respective places, I found some of the places caked with dust. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to clear the area a bit. A little wipe here and a little sponge there. By and by, I went from nook to cranny and ended up covering the entire room, cleaning out corners and unearthing clumps of hair, tissue papers, half broken pencils, old rubber bands and suchlike.
So, you see what the article was all about? Instead of a few quick cleaning tips, it was a recipe for spring cleaning. Suave !

I so felt like jumping right onto the bed 
and messing it all up again 

Mom came home from the market, carrying a huge bag of vegetables and fruits. She entered my room and doubled back. 
“Did elves visit the tramp?” she deadpanned. I rolled my eyes.

Frankly, though, I was surprised at my own efforts. I had done a pretty good job of tidying up. My den looked like other rooms now, even better perhaps!

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