Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Open Letter to Director of VJTI

Dear Sir with very long Surname,

I passed out from VJTI with a B. Tech degree in June 2009, so technically I am an alumnus, but emotionally still a student. I happened to visit my alma mater this month after an eighteen month gap and was shocked to see not one, but three completely unnecessary changes-

First of all, what was the need to start moral policing and enforce an illogical dress code prohibiting girls from wearing anything shorter than full pants? You may argue that you don't want students to come to the prestigious engineering institute wearing indecent clothes, but have you ever stepped out in the Quad and examined the general dressing trend among VJTI students? In my four years, most of it spent in the Quad and canteen, I have never seen any girl in VJTI campus wearing anything that can be considered even close to indecent. One popular argument of political parties enforcing dress code in Indian colleges is that they do not want students to get distracted. If that is the excuse you are going to give and if you really want to improve concentration of students, I suggest you invest your time, money and energy in employing good teachers and improving lab infrastructure. Professors who cannot speak two sentences in correct English and lab equipment fit to be preserved in museum are the reasons why students do not concentrate in class, not girls wearing three-fourths and knee length skirts.

Second totally unnecessary exercise started recently is making every student sign a register every time he/she wants to exit the campus with name and reason for leaving. What purpose does this criminal waste of paper, ink and time serve? Have you even once gone through the register and analyzed the reasons why students exit campus during college hours? If you do, you will find most of the students go out to get Xerox copies of assignments and class notes. Is the register meant to serve as a deterrent to this practice? If yes, have you wondered why this practice goes on in the first place? Instead of maintaining a pointless register, why isn't money and energy spent on training professors to teach the students in such an interesting manner that they actually feel like doing their assignments on their own instead of copying from Xerox notes? I am pursuing Masters from a US university and in the last eighteen months I have not copied or Xeroxed a single homework or assignment, something that students, including myself, do regularly in VJTI. Why? Is it because we love copying and are lazy to ? No. It is because most of the times the professor has been either too boring or unsure of his own concepts and as a result, has not taught his topics in a way that students would understand and be interested. So, the majority of the class resorts to copying assignments from a chosen few in the class who studied and understood the concepts on their own, without help from the institute or professors. VJTI, as you are aware, admits the brightest minds from across the state, and these students, if given equally bright professors and interesting study techniques, would not resort to copying and faking assignments.

Third change that I do not understand is the recent paranoia of security threat to the institute. When there are other pressing needs like purchasing new appartus for laboratories, why was a large sum of money spent on fortifying the campus, which already had a decent boundary wall with a new boundary wall higher than the International Border between India and Pakistan? Agreed we live in difficult times and security is a concern, but building that Great Wall of VJTI serves no practical purpose. I can even now point out a dozen other ways a potential terrorist can still enter the campus if he wants to. Another side effect of this paranoia is the recent diktat banning students from taking photorgraphs on campus! Today when most teenage psychology experts encourage students to take as many pictures as possible of their college days to serve as fond memories helping in hard times in later life, and I have experienced this is true, having gone through the collection of thousands of photos of my VJTI days every time I feel low, you are depriving the current students of this opportunity citing security risk. Again, in this age of Google Earth and hi-resolution satellite images, do you really think someone with a malicious intention against VJTI will rely on group photos taken by students to plan his attack? Highly unlikely. 

These are small things, but what saddens me is that the administration of my beloved institute is focussing its time, money and energy on skewed priorities. It would be great if this effort is rather channlized into the right direction to reinstate VJTI's position to the claimed title of "premier engineering institute in Maharashtra state."

A proud VJTI alumnus   

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Encounter of the Cop Kind

Genre: Random

This post is predominantly in Hindi because English translation would kill the effect.

Three days into the new year, its time for our first of the usual evening-timepass-at-railway-station sessions of the year. I head out, with a friend on vacation from Australia, to a small station just outside Mumbai. Half an hour into the talks, the Delhi bound Rajdhani Express blasts past at full speed, and having my camera, I just point it in its direction for a quick photo. Few minutes later, a police constable approaches.

Cop: Yeh tum log yahaan kya kar rahe ho?
Me: Kuch nahi. Timepass. Mera yeh dost bahar se aaya hai toh usko ghumaane laaya hoon.
Cop: Tumne Rajdhani ka photo liya? Humne camera me dekha. Kyun liya?
(I wonder- WTH! When did they put CCTVs here!)
Me and Friend: Aise hi. Yaadein. 
Cop: Police station chalna padega. Sahab ko baat karna hai aapse.

And so we start the long walk with the cop to a tiny police chowki just outside the station platforms. The constable asks us to sit inside a small room and wait for the "sahab" to return. After ten minutes, I see a typical government style safari suit clad man walk in, he has yet not seen my Australian NRI friend. He is talking outside the room we are sitting in.

Safari Suit Man (SS): Kaun hai voh log?
Cop: Foreigner hai
SS (in an excited loud voice): FOREIGNER hai?!? Kya baat hai!

Safari Suit enters, looks at my 6 foot tall, well built friend and mellows down.

SS (in stern tone): Haan, toh tum logo ne Rajdhani ka photo liya. Kyun liya? 

Friend: Sahab, main NRI hoon. Australia se aaya hoon. Udhar ke log hamesha India ko gaali maarte hai, bolte hai India bahut ganda hai, undeveloped hai, toh maine socha India ki mast wali train ka photo leke unko dikhaunga India ka progress.

Hearing this, Safari Suit's eyes light up, big smile appears on his face.

SS: Kya?? Aisa bolte hai voh log? Vaise photo kidhar hai? Dikhao mujhe.

Me: Theek hai, sir, yeh hai voh photo. Main yeh ek photo delete kar deta hoon, aur bas matter khatam. 

SS: Nahi nahi, delete mat karo. Yeh photo jaake dikhao unko. Zaroor dikhao.

First shot, on the dot. Time to chane-ke-jhaad-pe-chadhao the Safari Suit saheb. So, we start-

Friend: Arre sahab, voh toh kuch nahi, udhar ka train system toh ekdum ganda hai. 20-30 minute me ek train aata hai aur kabhi bhi cancel ho jaata hai

SS: Voh log khud ko samajhte kya hai! Idhar dekho, 1000 train chalta hai ek din mein. Achcha ek cheez batao, udhar ke police kaise hai? Humne suna udhar bahut Indian log ko sab maar daalte hai

Friend: Arre sahab, udhar ka police apne comparison mein kuch nahi. Udhar koi bhi police ko sunaake jaata hai, idhar aap Mumbai police ko koi gaali diya toh aap sun loge kya?

SS (gets excited): Sawaal hi nahi! Idhar public mein hi usko maar padegi.

Now this is getting fun. I decide its time I join in too.

Me: Sahab, main America se abhi aaya hoon. Pata hai udhar ke log mereko poochte hai Mumbai me sirf jhopadpatti aur khet hote hai kya? Unko Slumdog Millionaire wala image hi dikhta hai.

SS: Slumdog Millionaire! Saala sab uska galti hai. China ka picture dekho, voh log kabhi China ka garibi nahi dikhate, sirf mast road aur airports batate hai. Hum log hi aisa ganda dikhate hai.

By now all other cops in the office have heard this conversation and join in one by one..

Cop2: Sir, aap yeh jo kar rahe ho barabar kar rahe ho. Un logo ko dikhana maangta India kya cheez hai!

Cop 3: Haan haan, udhar jaake apne vatan ko yaad rakha hai aapne, bahut achcha kiya.

The conversation continues for the next 30 minutes, with curious cops asking about everything from crime rates in Australia to relationship between Australia and New Zealand to the inevitable question I have encountered everywhere- "Achcha toh udhar America ya Australia me padhai ka scope kaisa hai? Mere bete ko bhejna hai mujhe!"

By now, we the "convicts" are completely in control of the situation and the entire police station is in awe of "foreign ki baatein". Taking this opportunity, we decide to cut it out. As we decide to leave, Safari Suit gives the farewell speech- "Sahab, aap aaram se ghumo, photos kheecho, meri taraf se sab permission hai. Koi tension nahi leneka"

One of the cop, looking at my Aussie friend all this time, finally breaks his silence- "Sir, kuch bhi bolo, aapka body mast hai.  Ekdum hero type!"
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