Saturday, July 26, 2008

Time Traveler!

Saturday, July 26, 2008 3
With 10 days left for my holidays to end, I decided to give my grand parents, who reside in Jammu, a surprise visit.


But before this, I had to spend five days in Delhi. Oh wait a second. Guess I made a geographical faux pas. I had to spend five days in NCR. The need for the correction is immense. From a traveler’s point of view, NCR provides quite an experience. Oh and do add the budget constraint as well as the inclement weather to the melting pot.

Having stayed in Hyderabad for most of my life, I have to say that traveling has never occupied a major portion of my day. The reason for this is because Hyderabad is quite a small city and commuting doesn't really take much time. Its only after spending time in Delhi and neighboring agglomeration that I have discovered what "taking time" really means. My uncle says as I sit there gaping 'Yeah that place is quite close by, just about 9-10 kilometers'

To begin with, Noida has too much crime and Gurgaon has too many rich people. Also, due to the latter, commuting in Gurgaon without your own vehicle is just impossible. Cabs are expensive (as would be the case in any city), cycle rickshaws show too much attitude and take an eternity to reach even the simplest of destinations. And the auto rickshaws’ have absolutely no space to sit. Why no space you ask? Because the public transport is so poorly developed that the working class simply unleashes itself upon any and every auto or shared cab it encounters, like hungry hyenas (sometimes, with shovels). Want a 360 degree turn from Gurgaon? Then come to Noida. Here you will encounter cycle rickshaws wallahs encompassing the entire territory, steering their vehicles with finesse. People are also appreciably less “cooler” if you get my drift. And the crime rates soar high with someone being killed every day (to add to that, Noida is quite close to Ghaziabad border). Thankfully I did not know this, so I had no problems while hopping down sector 34 at midnight.


But as always, life moves on in both these cities.


It becomes a real carnival when one has to travel from Noida to Gurgaon and one has angry friends waiting in Gurgaon. The journey is something I am proud of. My cousins in Noida told me that the journey takes around one and a half hours by a direct bus. Guess they forgot to mention a multiplication factor which equals 2 in this case. Guess they also forgot to mention that the bus would leave me in a jungle from where I’d have to take another bus which was as stubborn as a (pardon the cliché) mule.

It just wouldn’t budge.

Oh but it was a disco, with all that testosterone pumped grinding that I got to experience for those 2 hours in the bus. Too bad that I couldn’t enjoy it for I was too busy clutching onto my wallet with one hand and my cell phone with the other. A true test of resilience and patience. The journey has also sharpened my sensory perceptions. I can distinguish between different types of odour (for my sample space is enriched with a wide variety) more efficiently now.
And so as I waited in Gurgaon that evening after meeting my pals, for time to pass, so that I could take a bus from Iffko Chowk to Delhi’s interstate bus terminus to get my bus to Jammu, I get a call from my mother.

Rishabh, there’s an indefinite curfew in Jammu. You might have to just get
off the bus at Pathankot itself if they seal the border. I’d say reiterate you
trip for the next set of holidays

Sigh! Its 8 in the evening and I’m stranded in Gurgaon. And have 5 more days to spend here.


Photo source: http://chronicleofmylife.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/delhi-bus1.jpg

Friday, July 25, 2008

KCircle comes alive!

Friday, July 25, 2008 0
The last year has seen Kcircle, one of the oldest Quizzing clubs in India, expand. Today, the meeting place (YMCA, Secunderabad) seems rather tiny, all thanks to the massive participation that every quiz is receiving. The quizzes have too are of the highest quality, with the old and young, the thinkers and the ghotus, the hairy and the hairless, all racking their brains to hit the bullseye. But then that is the spirit of Kcircle. It about participation, its about ethics too, its about working things out when you aren't given much to work with.

But this should obviously not stop any of us to spread awareness of the club. One such way is through having an online presence.
Kcirle's website uptil now?
A miniscule space that resided,dormant on the big web. A page that hadn't been updated since I joined college (and its been quite long folks since that had happened). But, Kcircle now has a spanking new site, which ( I hope) will be updated regularly. It will help in informing many more from the City and hopefully prove successful in cancelling all their plans on Saturday evenings, so that they too can join us for couple of hours of nerve racking quizzing.
The URLs are http://www.kcircle.in/, http://www.kcircle.org/, and http://www.kcircle.net/.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vignesh Prakash

Thursday, July 24, 2008 2
Vignesh Prakash was a senior at school that I really admired, while at school. It's almost cliched how wacky and brilliant he was. Bringing laptops to school to finish his projects while most of us didn't know what Windows was. The most fond memory I had of his was on the day of their batch's farewell when he jogged up to me with his digicam and put his huge arm around me and asked me to smile for the camera alongside him. According to him, I was one of the very few juniors, "worth knowing".

Years later he buzzed me on Gtalk outta the blue and asked me what I was up to. Upon hearing that I was going to BITS, he told me "Dude, cummon man," and gave me a long list of reasons as to why an American higher education is better than anything India has to offer.

And since then, every now and then, perhaps once in a couple of months, he'd buzz me, just ask me how I was doing and what was happening in life. I can't explain it, but it felt good, when a person, whom you barely knew in school, yet admired, was taking somewhat keen interest in your life.

Last month I found out that he had passed away. I couldn't find any links on the internet nor any sort of information about him. Finally I found a Facebook group dedicated to him by his friends in the US(He was studying at University of Texas and had secured admission at CALTech for his post grad).

I found out that he had committed suicide. For a couple of days, it was all I could think about. There was a very strange hollowness inside me for those few days, where I kept thinking what would drive someone like Vignesh to end his life. From the little that I knew of him, he was exceptionally brilliant and loved the life in the US. Yet his friends tell me that something wasn't right. Whatever it be, I hope he has found his peace. It shouldn't have been this way though.

I mean it, when I say this: I'll miss him.

This is Vignesh's Facebook Profile
This is a memorial page on Facebook

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Proto and beyond

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 1
Currently, I am like a delocalised electron, shifting from one end of NCR to another.

Last couple of days have been really hectic. Firstly with Proto.in, it was fun. I think a lot of the people there mistook me for a VC, courtesy my attire. The second day was comparatively more relaxed.

Loved the innovation brainjam session that Amit Somani of Google had suggested (based on his own experience at Google). I could see only half of the startups showcased. Missed out on Lootstreet, where my college pal Navin is interning. Apparently it went well. Kudos to them. Lifeblob was another interesting startup that caught my eye. They are an e journal, and records your life history in the form of a timeline. Though initially a little skeptical about it, I later had a slight change of mind. I was thinking that this is something which might be bought by Facebook. But then according to me, this is exactly what Lifeblob should avoid. Facebook, notes also allow tagging, but with all those other applications and clutter around, it becomes crazy, following what everyone is upto.

Proto is also where I met Kiruba Shankar. It was simply amazing hanging out with him.

And there was a quiz. Most of the questions from the prelims were easy, had seen them somewhere or the other, but it was a fun quiz. Proto is also where I met Sumant Srivathsan from the BQC (I introduced myself saying, "I heard you were a student...") and we partnered for the biz quiz which we ultimately won. Samanth Subramanian was the host.

Liveblogging was there, but no wifi, so well, guys were busy connecting their data cables and tweeting from their phones. The results are yet to be announced.

Some really good talks on Day 1. Also for all the blogging, do check out proto4 tags on technorati. I myself blogged about it on Mutiny and WATBlog.

The weather here has been cruel. Not inclement, just cruel.

Then there was the ESPN Quiz. Will talk about that later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Startup Saturday at Hyderabad

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 3
This Saturday, my original plan was to visit Warangal and the neighboring areas. Why you ask? Apparently the Government is trying really hard to convert it into a tourist attraction. Some ministers have gone to the extent of calling it “One of the most beautiful places in the world”. Alright, so I guess he hasn’t travelled much, but I wanted to check the place out nonetheless.

I didn’t.

Instead I decided to go for Startup Saturday which was scheduled to be held at IIIT Campus in Gachibowli. This was the second such meet, with the organising party (who are the same people who organize Barcamp Hyderabad) gauging whether the concept works out in Hyderabad or not.

The meet began on time and within a few minute had enough people to ensure that my neck received enough exercise for the day. With nearly 35 people, including students, professors, Vice Presidents, academics, part time academics, Entrepreneurs, Unsuccessful entrepreneurs (a rather unfair term, for we all learn from our experiencesJ).

Discussions were lively, ranging from iPhone debates to Nirma’s success to importance of filtering in Google reader. Start up Saturday also takes an initiative of inviting entrepreneurs to give presentation and talks. This week it was Suheim Sheikh, the founder of SDG (which is now acquired by 3i Infotech), an Anti Money Laundering software developing company. Suheim’s presentation was witty as well as inspiring. He was also modest enough to tell us that one thing that he felt they didn't do was dream bigger. With nearly 70% of India’s market under them, they should have thought bigger, maybe try to capture the global market.

This is where he brought up an interesting point. Coincidentally, this is the same point that my boss at my internship also highlighted.

Indians are generally very apprehensive to admit that they are the best at something. Because since we’ve grown up, all the theories that we’ve been taught are works of foreign scientists. (Pythagoras apparently came to India and took the theorem back to his native land).

Mr Sheikh was saying that not for a moment did they think that their software was the best there was at that time. Had they given globalising more thought, maybe they’d have been eve more successful.

I was wondering. Apart from lack of the conviction that we can be the first or the best in something, could lack of marketing skills be another reason? Just a thought.


Startup Saturday in Hyderabad:

2nd/4th Saturday of every month at IIIT Campus, Hyderabad. IIIT, Main building. Turn towards the first right in the main building and head off to the third room. 10 AM

Humari Maange Poori Karo

I came back home a minute ago.

I was caught in a traffic jam. So I decided to get off the auto rickshaw and walk the extra distance home. After walking a little distance I saw a few hundred police men and nearly 200 pedestrians look up. Immediately a show called Candid Camera came to my mind, where such phenomenon would be common. Surely this was taking the joke too far, since the traffic jam affected an area up to a 3 kilometre radius. Looking more closely, my jaw dropped.



A man had climbed the billboard. The message was clear.



There was some brouhaha around me and upon asking one of the bystanders there who had been witnessing the commotion I got to know that the gentleman on top, Mr Madan Mohan Reddy, was a resident of interior Andhra and had lost nearly 2 acres of his land. He had tried to contact the Chief Minister many times to seek his assistance regarding the matter, but to no avail. And that this isn’t the first time he’s doing something like this. Already having climbed several billboards this month, this guy is out there to make a point. This particular billboard, as shown in the picture is right outside the Chief Ministers residence at Begumpet, Hyderabad (guess that explains the hundred policemen). Apparently this was a classic case of land grabbing. He realised that the only way to get the CM’s attention is to do something radical. He is sitting (and occasionally standing) there right now, even as I write this article.

My point is; this was what he was forced to do to make himself heard. Upon hearing this, my maid had a glimmer of hope in her eyes. She too had lost land worth 2 lakh rupees and jokingly said that maybe she too should occupy one of these billboards and create a scene. Hopefully, this should give him enough media attention for the CM to take a notice.

Also, quite often what does happen is that these people get beaten up rather badly by the police later. That’s what happened on earlier instances which had a man climb up the flood lights of the Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad.

Another point: more than half the traffic blockage had nothing to do with the man. It was the police who occupied half the road.

Update: I was just flipping through the news channels and saw that some ministers have negotiated with him and asked him to come down.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Worn those Microsofts today?

Saturday, July 12, 2008 1
I was out shoe shopping a couple of days back. Whilst at the store my eyes fell upon the brightly hued slippers which adorned the hooks

And while they were cheeky enough to use the name, which obviously implied that these footwear were the softest thing to ever touch your feet, the reference to THE ONE was unmistakable, almost as though piggy backing on its brand image. I could only think of one thing. How long before a Microsoft employee sees it and reports it to the lawyers?


The Microsoft lawyers, though, haven’t hogged the media limelight as much as the Nazgul (popularised by Slashdot), but they too are kept busy throughout the year. My favourite incident being that involving a 17 year old Canadian boy way back in 2004. I am sure many of you will remember Mike Rowe, the young boy who thought it would be funny to start a website called Mikerowesoft.com. But well, the MS lawyers showed him that they have absolutely no sense of humour and asked him to take if offline. After which things got a little ugly and MS surely lost a lot of supporters due to that row(e).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On 7k Runs

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 2
This Sunday morning, I was violently woken up by Mumma dearest.

"Lets go for breakfast."

"Wathaf...what? Its 6.30 mumma, come on. Just go back to sleep"

10 minutes later the whole family was in the car. The reason? Mom has a verrry busy schedule traveling to opposite ends of the globe in the next couple of weeks. So, the much cliched "quality family time" issue was brought up.

Breakfast it was.

While taking a U turn near our house, and going up the fly over, we saw hundreds of girls wearing tight white tees.

Ah yes, the 7k run. A premier women's college in Hyderabad had organized a 7 kilometer run as a fundraiser for their silver jubilee celebration. And well, obviously they were playing to their strenghts. I did remember seeing girls from the colleges at all malls wooing guys to attend the event. Anorexic guys who didn't look like they needed a run hounded the stall as if waiting for the girls to perform a trick.

The sight on the D Day was amusing. I realised the shirts were not tight at all. It wasnt the shirt. Bloated beauties...huffing and puffing as they took those giant leaps, inspiring the thousand behind them to follow.

The only problem?

Each one of them were given water packets. They realised since this wasn't an environmental drive, its ok to litter the flyover.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Rocket Science and beyond

Monday, July 07, 2008 3
Every now and then I listen to “It doesn’t require a degree in rocket science to figure out that….” Or “I may not be a rocket scientist but I know that…”

Rocket Science on Wikipedia leads us to a tiny article, 80% of which is:

Due to the complexity and depth of this area of engineering (requiring mastery in subjects including mechanics (fluid mechanics, structural mechanics, orbital mechanics, flight dynamics), mathematics, control engineering, materials science, aeroelasticity, avionics, reliability engineering, noise control and flight test), it is also informally used as a term to describe an endeavor requiring great intelligence or technical ability. More often, the term is used to describe an endeavor that is simple and straightforward by stating that the aforementioned endeavor "is not rocket science".
This is amusing.

I think that as such the courses one does in aerospace engineering (aka Rocket Science for the layman) do require a high amount of intellect, but then so does training at Langley or John Hopkins. I think it’s the whole feel of having thousands of buttons around you and being responsible for manning something which is so colossal and worth so many billions of dollars (with minimum scope for error) that enables Rocket Science to be revered as the final frontier in terms of intellect. As specialisation increases, we perceive the task to become monumental because we start to dissociate from the field . It just happens that compared to other engineering branches, probably aerospace has a very high percentage of people going into specialisation (for I don't think NASA really wants a jack o all trades).

Speaking of specialisation, medicine also requires it, but then I guess, there are just too many doctors around.

I remember asking my mother, one of the best retina consultants in India today, about what she thought was the toughest job on the planet. True, I did expect a standardized answer. I placed my money on Rocket Science. I will never forget what happened next. She looked at me, and gently whispered

"Parenting"
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Updated

Sunday, July 06, 2008 3
This week has been quite exciting. Both my Dad and me got to appear on All India Radio. Dad, yesterday and myself on Wednesday. It was quite an experience sitting inside that sound proof room with the RJ on the other side. The show was for 2 hours and was aired on FM Rainbow(101.9)

2 hours! Prime time 8-10 PM

As Shruti put it:

"Even Rani Mukherji doesn't get that much airtime!"

I used the airtime to express my opinions on a variety of topics ranging from the IIT-JEE (and other exams) coaching facilities and how it really feels to be there, to my early years to what malice I am up to these days. I also spoke about my life at BITS Pilani and how I totally and absolutely love it there. Later, I mentioned the various flexibilities that BITS offers, something which I still feel would attract a lot of students to BITS, if only they were aware of it. Then came the clubs and the departments and how they form an integral part of the BITS.

I also spoke at length about CEL and how it fosters the spirit of entrepreneurship and how Conquest, its annual international B-Plan competition is growing day by day, even as we speak.

All in all, I'd say it was probably needed. More and more people need to know about BITS and how its more than an engineering college.

The best part being, I got to select the songs which would be aired during my stay in the studio. Another point being that, since it was LIVE, my first task was to prevent myself from uttering something for which the Central Government might sue me later, for there are no beeps on live radio :P

They did have a wide variety of songs, I asked for Coming back to Life, Smoke on the Water, Fear of the Dark, Kashmir apart from from Hindi numbers like Doorie and Kabhi Kabhi Aditi(this was more of a compulsion, dedicated this one to some close pals)
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