I procrastinate, therefore I am.

I procrastinate, therefore I am.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alma Mater

I did my undergrad from a university in Kolkata. I made some great friends, was lucky to be mentored by a bright young professor, and spent some wonderful time dreaming about algorithms, girls and my future as a researcher in theoretical computer science. It has been more than two years since graduation, and with the benefit of hindsight, I have to confess everything was not all right in my alma mater.

We put too much premium on success in competitive exams. One becomes a superstar if she manages to crack IIT. As an ordinary mortal, I was not able to attain this extraordinary feat. But I somehow got into a university of reasonable repute that guarantees a job in the software profession. There students (including myself) used to bunk classes on a regular basis; most of the classes were not worth attending anyway. Copying was rampant in class tests, occasionally even in semester exams. I was guilty in this count as usual. Majority of the professors were bad teachers, majority of the students did not consider studying to be one of the top priorities.

Ours is a peculiar society that judges people by their ranks in competitive exams. I sometime wonder about the extent to which professional success and exam scores are correlated. Yet I have seen people boasting of their academic backgrounds quite often. A person should be evaluated on the basis of her professional achievement after she gets out of college, not by the name of the college she managed to get into. The education system can do with some reform.

I am neither proud nor ashamed of my college days. I simply cherish the sweet memories.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Last few posts dealt with the rather interesting topic of politics. This one is to cheer myself (and the multitude of four people who still follow this blog) up.

Suppose a man in his early twenties embarks on a grand voyage in India by public transport; and providence dictates that he has to sit right next to a young member of the fairer sex. Without loss (lots?) of generality, his fellow traveler will fall into one of the four categories.

1. Normal type: She spends most of her time reading books, looking outside through the window, or sleeping, and can be easily put up with.

2. How Dare You type: She feels every single (pun intended) gentleman on this planet earth is eagerly waiting for the opportune moment to propose to her, and it is her holy duty to nip in the bud even the most innocuous looking approaches. For example, if she has occupied the window seat in a bus, and the poor mortal asks where her destination is just to know when he can grab the vantage point, she will deliberate vehemently in her mind before (if at all) condescending to give an answer.

3. I have a Boyfriend type: She loudly chats on her cellphone, consciously conveying the message to people around her that she is talking to her boyfriend.

4. I am a Princess type: She travels by train, and cannot stoop to carry her own luggage. Moreover, it is incumbent upon her fellow passengers to place her bags in the upper bunks before settling down themselves.


1) Types 2, 3 and 4 are not mutually exclusive.

2) This post is entirely in good humor. No offense meant.

3) Feel free to point out if I missed some other types. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

NRI puja

I came across an interesting article by Ramchandra Guha.

Idle Worship, Or The Non-Resident's Role Play

It is surely worth some introspection.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom of Expression

I was watching this week's The Big Fight on NDTV. Vikram Chandra is one of the few anchors I admire; he is composed, articulate, and unlike most of his ilk, is not in the habit of shouting at the pitch of his voice or rudely interrupting the invited guests. Having enjoyed the show, I decided to convert my thoughts on the topic into a blog post.

Vikram asked an intriguing question that can be briefly summarized as follows. A democracy cannot function properly without freedom of speech. However, consider the following situations. 1) A person makes a hate speech instigating the audience to kill members of a certain religious community. 2) A person makes a comment that is clearly racist, or derogatory to women. 3) A person writes a book offending religious sentiments, people throng the streets demanding a ban on the book, and riots may ensue if the government doesn't succumb to their demands. Shouldn't we be better off by restricting freedom of expression under such circumstances? Can a country ever accord unfettered freedom of speech to her citizens?

I do not hope to settle such a nuanced question in a short essay. Nevertheless, I state my point of view. Freedom of expression necessarily implies the freedom to offend. If I am only allowed to praise you, and you will put me in jail whenever I say something that you consider offensive; it should be called freedom of sycophancy, not freedom of speech. Moreover, if I am allowed to offend your political sentiments, reason dictates you must allow me to offend your religion (or in case of atheists, the lack thereof), as well as race, gender, and every other identity. This provides an answer to the second and third questions: No, freedom of expression should not be curtailed under these situations.

As an aside, I should mention that being a liberal, I get deeply offended to hear someone make a racist or sexist statement. And sometimes a sensible government might have no choice other than proscribing a sacrilegious book, though such incidents will further highlight the fact that we have a long way to go in order to become a mature, tolerant and progressive society.

Finally, freedom of expression does not imply the freedom to kill or physically hurt someone. Hate speeches and inciting riots don't fall under the purview of freedom of speech; there should be separate laws to deal with religious fanatics.