August 27, 2009

Research Quality

IIT professors earn Rs. 50,000 while Harvard professors earn Rs. 5 lakh. So IIT professors have been demanding pay hike and went on one-day token strike.

Hmmm..I like that idea. Let us compare ourselves with leading US universities. But why stop at the Professor’s salary? Let’s offer good fellowships to grad students so that we can retain some good students for the research. After all, aren’t they the ones who do most of the research work which gets turned into research papers? And in their own words:

They point out that abroad, each time a researcher publishes a paper, he is paid for it separately.

And this incentive, say the professors, will be seen in future research work in the country. Already, the attrition rate in various IIT departments is worrying.

So doesn’t it make sense to give the grad students some kind of fellowship? May be then we can convince some IIT graduates to pursue their PhDs in those “globally acclaimed IITs” (note how both the professors mentioned in the article did their PhD in US), though I am still doubtful.

As far as I am concerned, I would pursue my Ph.D. in India (of course hypothetically speaking. I have no intention of going through this hell again. EVER) if they get rid of some of the office politics (actually I will prefer all but I am being reasonable). While at it, they can change their examination method to understanding-based instead of memory-based, just like MIT and Harvard. And then they can attempt some collaboration with R&D labs of major companies and get some real problems to work on instead of purely academic, again just like MIT and Harvard. And above all, they can stop using their grad students as their personal servants (an average PhD scholar in our dearest “globally renowned IITs” is expected to get groceries, vegetable, milk for the professor’s household on daily basis). Then may be students like us will consider getting a Ph.D. in India and the quality of research might improve. Giving a raise to Professors ain’t gonna do it.

While I am at it, let me clear a few more things. The main reason IITs are so well known is due to the bright students graduating from there and not because of the quality of research done there. And the reason the students are so bright is due to the immense competition in India (Of the 384,977 candidates who appeared in the examination conducted on April 12, 2009, 10,035 candidates have been declared qualified to seek admission in IITs: from Wikipedia). The only way to succeed in India is to be the best. It makes Indian teenager very hard working and goal-oriented as opposed to an average US teenager. The pressure from the parents, family and society adds on to that goal orientation and hard work. BTW, did you know that India has the highest teen suicide rates in the world (read this and this)? But I digress.

The point of the post: let’s give the credit where it belongs. Give better fellowship to the poor Indian grad student and stop treating them like servants. May be it will attract better students to pursue Ph.D. in IIT and hence, improve the research quality.

P.S.: I didn’t even consider the ridiculousness of comparing Indian and US salaries without considering the cost of living in the countries. You need to deflate/ inflate one of them by respective cost of living! Being an IIT professor and all that, this should have been obvious to them.

August 25, 2009


Now this is called sense of humor:

Link via a friend (thanks Varun) on Facebook.

August 19, 2009


By Gregory Maguire. 


Well I mean the book and not the musical.  I just finished reading it. I have seen the musical too but this post is about the book. I had been wicked2curious about the book ever since I watched the musical. So last week I finally borrowed it from my room-mate.

The book, as its full title suggests, is about the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Remember The Wizard of Oz? Poor little Dorothy Gale from Kansas trying to get home. Good witch of the North (or was it south?), Glinda giving her the ruby shoes of Wicked Witch of East whom Dorothy killed when she arrived in Oz. The Scarecrow, the Tin man and the Lion lacking the brain, the heart and courage. Wicked Witch of West trying to get back her sister’s ruby shoes from Dorothy. And in the end Dorothy killing the Witch by throwing a bucket of water on her which melted her.

Well this is the story of that Wicked Witch of West whose name was Elphaba, the eldest daughter of a missionary of Unnamed God. She is green from birth. Oz, the kingdom where she grew up, is in midst of political turmoil. It’s under a tyrant, a foreigner who arrived in a balloon, called the Wizard. As the book progresses, the political turmoil comes more in focus. Elphaba, a strong willed teenager, gets involved as she couldn’t watch the atrocities and injustice of the administration from sidelines. The Animals ( the sentient animals, the ones who can think and talk) are being marginalized and enslaved. So when her natural science teacher Doctor Dillamond (a Goat) is murdered before he can publish his findings about Human and Animal being equal, Elphaba leaves her school and joins a terrorist organization working in the underbelly of the Emerald City (the capital of Oz). There she fells in love with an old classmate from college whom she accidentally meets after a long time. But he is murdered brutally the night she fails to assassinate her college head (who was responsible for Doctor Dillamond’s murder). The murder of love of her life sends her over the edge and she spends 7 years in a monastery to recuperate. When she emerges from that monastery, her only mission in life is to seek forgiveness from her lover’s family (his wife and children). However when she arrives at his village, his  wife refuse to forgive her or even listen to her story even though she accepts her as a house guest. Elphaba is trapped in that castle as she can’t move on unless she is forgiven. But Sarima, the wife, is also murdered along with her sisters and her son when Elphaba went to visit her family after a long separation. Only survivor is Nor, the daughter who is held a prisoner by the Wizard. And then arrives Dorothy…

Yes you got it. It’s no longer a kid’s story. Murder, politics, assassinations, religion, philosophy: it has it all. And that’s what it makes it a weird book. There, I said it. It was a weird book to read. It was weird because it was based on a story that has almost become a fairy tale. It had familiar characters in completely different environment. It was like watching a dream turn into a nightmare. And may be that’s why I couldn’t muster any sympathy for Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of West. Or may be it’s  just my aversion towards terrorist groups.

I think that was the weirdest thing about the book. It was written to explain the wickedness of Wicked Witch of the West and I simply assumed that by the end of the book I would be more sympathetic towards her but that never happened. Again may be my aloofness was due to dream-turning-to-nightmare effect. It was simply a weird book to read…

Anyway, just for fun, I want to quote two hilarious dialogues from the book:

Nanny (an old lady): “…I’m supposed to be teary with joy, at my age. You’d think I could rest my feet for once but no. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”

“Always the godfather, never the god,” said Liir (Elphaba’s son).


Liir: “She’s sent the crows out to blind the guests coming for dinner!”

Nanny: “What?” (She is slightly deaf in old age).


Nanny: “Well, that’s one way to avoid having to dust, I suppose.”

And I learned two new words while reading the book: Shrive and Pogroms. The usage will be etched in my memory for a long time:

“We don’t shrive, we don’t shrive….Her moral system doesn’t allow forgiveness.

“Are you saying was he involved in any of those campaigns? Those---pogroms? First the Quadlings, then the Animals?”

August 16, 2009

Not seeking an apology?

That’s what Shahrukh Khan said. He is not seeking apology from U.S. for being detained at the airport!

May be I am completely off here (it feels so looking at the Indian newspapers’ and bollywood celebrities’ reaction) but I don’t get what makes Shahrukh Khan so special? Does he shahrukh-khan04represent Indian Government in some way that I don’t know? As far as I know, he is neither in Indian embassy or holds any government position. Then isn’t his only claim for special treatment and in absence of one, for an apology is that he is a celebrity in India and US government for some reason don’t recognize that?

Let’s face it. Holding a passport from South Asia usually implies that you are more likely to be randomly checked than a citizen of other parts of the world. And being a Muslim from that part of the world almost ensures that. And also let’s put on the table the fact that Homeland security doesn’t comprise of the smartest of people. Why else would they get suspicious about a passport having only one name. Yes, humbly yours have passed through special security often due to that reason. Honestly, had I been someone with a fake passport, wouldn’t you think I will have common sense to carry a passport as clean as possible? But I digress.

The point being that US airport security is notorious for pulling out Muslim travelers and that’s what they did in case of Shahrukh Khan. I agree it’s wrong on part of US to discriminate like that but what I don’t get is why this is such a big deal that almost all the newspaper have it on their front page? How can Shahrukh Khan seek an apology from US government for this? By what right? Celebrity or not, he is as common a citizen as rest of us.

What really irate me is the joke about Angelina Jolie:

After his Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani moment was practically ruined, SRK has calmed down, even joking about wanting to frisk actress Angelina Jolie if she ever came to India.

That’s quiet distasteful. Frisking a woman when she comes to India? If he does want to reiterate then give a hard time to Brad Pitt when he comes down to India but frisking Angelina Jolie?  I can’t get the image of him doing that out of my mind and believe me, it’s a disgusting image (though somehow it abruptly changes into Angelina dangling him upside down by his ankle. Must be all those Tomb Raider movies effect). All this given that he is as famous as either of them or have a fan following as big and as diverse as theirs.

P.S.: 1. I don’t like Shahrukh Khan as evident from the post. I don’t like Angelina Jolie  either but as she was an innocent bystander here so it’s okay.

2. I don’t think that any celebrity should be given any special treatment, whether it’s Angelina JolieShahrukh Khan or Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. However, in this news piece Shahrukh Khan compares himself with Angelina Jolie which, I think, isn’t a fair comparison. She is far well  known and far more admired than him. I mean just look at her.

3. I also don’t think that it’s fair to be searched and detained because of your religion or your native country but again the post isn’t about that either. It is about the special treatment expected by Shahrukh Khan for no reason other than that he is a celebrity. Go back to point 2.

August 14, 2009

In the name of culture

The arranged marriages are successful. Look at the divorce rates in India.”

I am not sure how many times have I heard this statement. It’s given as an argument whenever some westerner wonder aloud about the arranged marriages. The only thing we always forget to mention: divorce is not an option in India especially for women. So the marriages like these are also considered “successful” :

- Married for 35 years. Husband and wife never got along so they live separately. Husband visit wife twice a month and even then they fight. They have three kids.

- Married for 26 years. Husband have a mistress. Wife knows. They celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary by marrying again. The couple have two children.

- Married for 20 years. Husband was caught in house of a widow late night. The affair was exposed. Husband beat up the wife for being angry on him. They have two kids.

- Married for fifteen years. Husband owns a factory and the family is well-off. Husband beats up wife for dowry every now and then. Never gives her a penny to spend as she is supposed to get money from “her family”. They have three kids.

These all are real cases. I happen to know all these families. I feel I haven’t done justice to the sufferings of wives by giving these synopsis. I can go on about how depressed those faces were, how fake those smiles and how deliberate were the prying eyes of so-called well-wishers (don’t get me started on the way we rejoice in other people’s miseries). And these were a few of the extreme cases I know. If you ask me, most of those so-called happily married couples simply tolerate each other rather than being happy in their marriages. But then in India, marriage is not about being happy, is it? It’s about making society (namely neighbors and relatives) happy and having kids. Who cares whether you are happy or not?

August 13, 2009

Cultural Differences - II

The other day, in a group we were discussing number of words English has for “idiot”. You know, moron, imbecile, dumb, dork, blockhead, simpleton, half-wit, dummy, dolt, dunce, fathead etc etc.

Then someone mentioned how Eskimos have around 31 words for snow. Then someone else mentioned a tribe somewhere who rely a lot on their smelling sense and hence have a rich lexicon for different types of odors as opposed to English language.

So every culture has words to describe the subtle differences in the grade of the object abundant in that culture.  And then we came back to how many words English language have for idiots! 

Cultural Differences - I

I was 9 or 10 years old when one evening a friend of mine told me that her mom asked her the previous day why she (my friend) insist on playing with that monster (namely me and exact term was “kali bhutani” which loosely translated means black ghost)? My friend told her mom that she (that’s me) is my best friend, that’s why. I was touched, not because I considered her as my best friend but because she stood up for me. But that’s beside the point.

All through my life, I have been reminded by someone or the other that I am dark and usually in a very impolite way. My mom tried every possible way for getting my skin   fairer: from dried orange peels to besan(gram flour) to milk. It did give me a good skin but not necessarily a fair one.

And then 5 years ago, I landed in US. And all of a sudden, my skin color became the point of envy among people around me. People would lie in sun and endure excruciating heat to get a tan that can get them a skin tone closer to mine. They laugh at the idea of fairness cream. Why would anyone want to get fairer, they ask. They instead have creams that give them a tan while  protecting them from sun-burn or dryness. 

Life is good in US, if you ask me (well, duh!). I am considered attractive because of my skin tone here and not in-spite of my skin tone. Why would I want to leave this country now?

August 12, 2009

Social Nightmare

I just saw Verizon’s latest commercial (sorry couldn’t find it on the internet yet) in which they show this family of four: Mom, dad and teenage son and daughter. Mom and dad are abusing the social network Facebook and Twitter. Mom writes ‘I love you’ on daughter’s Facebook wall while the dad keeps twittering each and every detail of his daily life on Twitter.  

That reminded me of the time when I was debating the idea of inviting my mom to Orkut. I think that was just an year back. Orkut (or any social network for that matter) gives a nice platform where you can easily share photos with entire family (if you have your entire family on Orkut), write small messages and in general know about what’s going on in their lives without calling them everyday. But on the other hand they get to know how and what your friends are saying to  you. And after much deliberation of such kind I finally   invited my mom to Orkut. Plus my mom does love socializing (as opposed to my dad) and a few of her friends were already on Orkut. And obviously I didn’t want my mom to lag behind her friends just because of my personal   considerations. And honestly I haven’t regretted it, except may be once: My mom gave me a testimonial on Orkut! It’s actually a sweet testimonial but how many people do you know who “proudly”  show their parent’s testimonial (it’s more like the commercial: mom writing on daughter’s wall)? Seriously. But since I care more about my mom’s feelings than the random acquaintances, I did publish the testimonial. 

The point being: I completely understand the awkwardness of situation described in the commercial. Social networks as Orkut, Facebook are still ok but I simply can’t imagine any of my folks on Twitter! That’s where I draw the line. I think that will cross the border of embarrassing. It’s definitely way beyond awkward. Imagine my mom twittering (And I don’t want to go to the replies she might get for these lines…) :

“Am worried about my daughter. She hasn’t called in weeks!”  

“Daughter has upset stomach.”

“Looking for suitable matches for my daughter.” 

You get the picture. It’s a horrible idea! I am so glad my mom’s internet knowledge depends on me. I can rest easy though my technology-loving mom might be able to figure out on her own too. I must be always on my guard.

August 10, 2009

Vaijayanti Mala

…well sort of.VM

Vaijayanti Mala is my Dad’s favorite actress so when I found this picture of her on the net, I had to sketch it. I understand, it’s far from perfect but nearly everyone instinctively refers hers as Madhubala. My mom explained the reasoning behind that. She says  that this particular sketch reminds her of movie Madhumati and she is obviously Vaijayanti Mala. And when you combine the two, the mind automatically comes up with Madhubala instead of Vaijayanti Mala.

So if you also thought she is Madhubala, I forgive you and remind you that I was trying to sketch Vaijayanti Mala. Hmph…

August 7, 2009

August 5, 2009

Marilyn Monroe


Someday, I will achieve perfection. Till then, you have to do with these. (also I need more patience working on the dark tones..)

BTW, today was Marilyn Monroe’s 47th death anniversary.

Names, Names!

Few days back a friend of mine updated his status on Facebook saying:

Love aaj kal: Yuck! (Love these days: Yuck!)

Now as Bollywood-ignorant as I am, I thought poor guy must have had a heart break. Thankfully I didn’t comment anything to that effect on his status. Two-three days later another friend, from a completely different circle, updated her Orkut status to:

Love aaj kal: Hyped. (Love these days: Hyped.)

Now I knew I was missing something as this was too big a coincidence. Well as it turns out, Love aaj kal is a Bollywood movie starring Saif Ali Khan. I think I need a RSS feed on Bollywood releases.

Anyway, today something very similar happened. I was trying to write an official cover letter for a specific form. And as usual, I googled for the sample cover letter (for that specific form) and found it at some other school’s site. The site also provided a checklist for submitting that particular form. One of the item on the checklist said:

Cover letter signed by Ms. English.

And I thought they want the cover letter to be grammatically sound but as you can imagine things were not as simple. It turns out Ms. English is the person in charge of the whole process in that school. Hence they need the signature from her!

Life is kinda funny, if you ask me !

August 3, 2009


It all started today morning, when I received an email from Google Adsense (you know the advertizing links you see on the blog). Apparently I have crossed $10 threshold and hence I need to enter my payment options and all that. I earned my first $10! After 2 years of blogging… Yes that’s how long I have been writing this blog. I checked. I know I have like 10 regular readers who read this blog, who accidentally click on those advertisements but who keep checking this url even if I haven’t updated it in weeks. A big ‘thank you’ to you all! You know who you are…

If it was possible I would have taken you guys out for coffee today and spent $20 out of that $10. Honestly. I never thought, I will ever cross this threshold! When I first set up my blog, I put up the advertisements because almost every blog I visited had them. And since I was new to blogging, I thought that was the trend. I didn’t check my Adsense account after that. But today is like a historic day for me.

I never celebrated this blog’s b’day as I thought it was silly but today I feel very nostalgic. It’s been slightly over than two years since I started this blog. I complained and I groaned, I procrastinated and I pulled all-nighters, I shared my projects and my home-works, I shared my dreams and my nightmares…

Oh well, in one word, I feel very nostalgic today. I just wanted to say thank you guys for listening to my non-stop rambling and complaints! You guys are the best!

P.S.: Just to lighten the mood, I quote the Google adsense mail (the mail that started all this drama):
“Keep in mind that you have 6 months to enter the verification code. If you have not entered your verification code within 4 months, we'll start displaying Public Service Ads (PSAs) on your web pages.”

August 1, 2009


…well sort of.

Aish3-3Aishwarya Rai

P.S.: Sketching bug has bitten me and you have to endure the results. Silver lining: I am posting daily.

Just imagine

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary is an interesting character. I just read a New York Times article on the guy and came across his plans to charge the passenger for using the airplane bathroom. Now that opens so many possibilities for my wicked, over-active imagination.

For those who are not familiar with Ryanair, it’s a budget airline that primarily operates in Europe. And when they say budget, they mean it. It costs $60-$70 to fly between most of it’s destinations. Obviously there are hassles attached to flying Ryanair as strict baggage specifications. Paying for food/drinks. etc. etc. The New York Times did a good job of describing a budget airline:

Miss your flight because you had to wait too long at a Ryanair help desk? Too bad! Your luggage is slightly overweight? Throw away the excess, or wear it on the flight! Try to tote your duty-free purchases onto the plane in a shopping bag, when you already have a carry-on bag? Prepare to fork over $40 at the gate.

And as Michael O’Leary puts it aptly:

“Our customer service is unlike every other airline, which has this image of, ‘We want to fall down at your feet and you can walk all over us and the customer is always right,’ and all that nonsense.”

So you get an idea about the budget airlines and specifically, Ryanair. Anyway, so the latest in the series of things they charge, are the Bathroom visits which opens a whole new world of possibilities where things can go wrong.

Now just imagine, for some unknown/stupid reason, you got a full bladder while on the flight and you don’t have any money on you. It’s cold in the cabin and you are crammed in your seat (the budget airline seat). And as it so often happens in the flight, the airplane passes through atmospheric turbulence and starts shaking...

Well you get the picture. This story opened door to so many possibilities. Someone else also had one such scenario for Michael O’Leary:

What if the plane were stricken by some nasty, effluent illness, like food poisoning?

A snorting noise wafted over from the chair where Mr. O’Leary was sitting. “We don’t serve enough food for everybody to get food poisoning,” he said.

P.S.: 1. The news about charging the bathroom visits is an old one but since I live in the United States of America, I don’t subscribe to the news from the rest of the world. I came to know about this today as the New York Times decided to do the Saturday Profile on Mr. O’Leary.

2. To quote Mr. O’Leary once more, this time on the topic of America:

“People will say” — here Mr. O’Leary adopted a whiny voice — “ ‘As the Founding Fathers wrote down in the American Constitution, we have the inalienable right to bear arms and send in our complaints by e-mail.’

“No, you bloody don’t! So go away.”

3. I think I admire his bluntness and his eccentricity. He is hilarious.