Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heavy Metal

Just like many of my friends here, I have a great fondness for music. I grew up listening to old Bengali songs, Rabindra Sangeet, Najrul Geeti, the typical bollywood songs and the Indi-pop genre. It was only in my high-school days did I start liking Afro-American Jazz, Western Country Music, pop, Indian semi classical, Hip-hop and various other kinds. I have a strong affiliation with soft rhythmic music, be it the old Bengali songs or some beautiful guitar tunes, or the sound of a flute.

But somehow, I have grown a strong distaste for Heavy Metal music. With the best percussionists and excellent guitarists around, this genre of music never seems to impress me a wee bit. May be, I am sounding dogmatic, foolish and childish (and I really don’t know if I am!), but can anyone explain to me how terms like ‘metal-banging’ and ‘distortion’ and ‘thrashing’ are remotely associated with music? It may sound funny to few, that it becomes quite challenging for me to withstand one complete hard-rock song (they strain my ears and cause headache)! Perhaps the best advice for me is that, Rock is not meant for me, and it’s best avoided. But, seriously, if some of my readers take the pain to comment over this post and explain to me, its appeal, its association with ‘machismo’, it will be great. Perhaps your comments will help change my prejudiced  view in near future.  

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last day on TV, I saw a commercial where people were requested to spread certain awareness by writing blogs and by other means. It suddenly struck me that not a few, but a huge number of people who have access to the internet, have started taking blogs and bloggers seriously. It not only creates mass-awareness and can be both written and accessed for free (this was not the case when e-communication was much less developed), but well written blogs provide a varied range of information and knowledge, inspiration, some good debates, some heated up arguments, constructive criticisms (although rare), and some really good practice for all aspiring writers. What I like particularly like about blogs is that people all over the world can easily share their thoughts, beliefs or even justify, argue and criticize the writer directly and quickly. Now this is a huge advantage compared to magazines, journals or even newspapers and books.

In Bengal, few people are interested in other things than gold, fish and cricket! But I can quite well imagine that a time will soon come in India when the best written blogs will be restricted to paid members, and famous writers shall be writing here regularly in return of thick pay-cheques!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Talent in India

I am copy-pasting an article of Chetan Bhagat, his take on 'talent' and its waste in India...

Where's My Nobel Prize?

Chetan Bhagat 24 October 2009, 12:00am IST

The recent news of a person of Indian origin winning the Nobel prize while based abroad sparked off a series of discussions at home. "Why don't we win Nobel prizes here?" became the question of the week. The standard points were raised: we don't have the facilities, too much government interference, the selection process is rigged, the prize committee is racist and, finally, who cares about the Nobel anyway (of course we do, that's why we discuss it).
Like all media stories, this one too will die soon. However, maybe it is time to look at the core issue: why India doesn't excel on the world stage on a fairly consistent basis. We don't win a significant number of Olympic medals, we don't create global brands, our IT industry is essentially a job transfer model but we haven't created even one Google, Facebook or Twitter. (Of course, there is plenty for Indians to be proud of otherwise, so please don't jump on me because of my observations.)
The real issue comes down to the treatment of talent in our country. So, what is talent? Talent refers to a special ability and aptitude that give people an edge in a particular field. In sport, science, films, business or the arts, people who dominate the world stage all have a gift that makes it easier for them to excel. Of course, along with talent there is preparation, hard work and a certain amount of luck required to achieve success. However, talent is usually a necessary ingredient. Talent is rare, and randomly distributed across the human population, irrespective of pedigree, connections or wealth. Some may call talent an unfair gift. However, it is talent that allows ordinary people to come up in life. Otherwise, rich people would stay rich and poor people poor. Thus, this unfair talent actually makes the world fairer.
However, we don't put talent on the highest pedestal in our country. Talent's stature is below that of someone with connections, hereditary entitlement, pedigree or even experience. If i were to tell you that an unknown boy from Agra will become the next superstar, versus a star's son becoming the next star, the latter story is much easier to digest. Even in an IIT, a truly gifted young faculty cannot jump ranks and scales set by the system. And the people designing the system never took talent into account. Even when talent is identified, we are unable to train it, and find it difficult to reward it.
It is difficult to say why we have this attitude, but there are many possible reasons. One, talent conflicts with the traditional Indian caste system. Two, Indian cultural values revere the older generation and its experience, and talent zooms past it. Finally, the 'tall poppies syndrome', an already existing term used in Australia and UK to "describe a societal phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are criticised or resented because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers". Ask yourself, have you seen some of this in India? Maybe because so many dreams have been crushed in India, someone else's success reminds us of our own pain. The US (only as a contrasting example, not recommending we become like them) has an opposite value system. Talent is respected, seen as something to be emulated. That is why they have teenage boy bands and college dropouts who open dotcoms as national icons. We don't.
There are grave negative repercussions for a community that doesn't respect talent. It leads to a society where connected people do better than people with ability. It leads to a lot of talent being unused, a tremendous waste of a national resource. It causes frustration in the entire new generation as they see people with less capability doing better than them. It also reinforces the old Indian values of fatalism and the helpless-common-man theory. And it means India's excellent people may not excel worldwide to the extent possible.
So what can be done? Well, we definitely can do something both at the macro organisational level and a micro individual level.
At the organisational level, we have to let go of corporate hierarchies and the lifelong promotion ladders of government, particularly in talent-dependent organisations like R&D, companies requiring high innovation or sport. We have to make incentives in line with what attracts talent, as there is a global battle for it. Exceptional talent demands exceptional reward. We have to take away the moral judgement associated with rewarding talent. Just as it is morally okay for a rich man's son to be rich, a person with talent also deserves to do really well.
Change needs to happen amongst us, at the individual level as well. We have to acknowledge that talent exists, and we need to respect it. Frankly, isn't it better a talented person gets rewarded than a minister's son? Talent shouldn't cause resentment, it should become an inspiration. I think the young generation is already on board with that. It needs the older generation's support to make this change in values. It may be difficult, but it is worth it.
Because if we do become a talent-driven country, we will become a more progressive nation, utilise the new generation's skills properly, become a fairer society and, along the way, win a few Nobel prizes too.
The writer is a best-selling novelist. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Immediate Interests

The incident that took place at Xavier’s, Durgapur yesterday, speaks of how Educational Institutions in Durgapur have degraded over time. Reading in a college where a gang-fight is pretty common, I have started hating the mob-mentality strongly. A mob can never fight for a good cause, or bring solutions. What happened with Devasy yesterday is indeed unfortunate, but he was awaiting such a mishap. He may be a good administrator(some say, I don’t know, or can’t remember anything good he has done innovatively for the school, except for banning plastic bags inside campus!), but has the worst behavior there could be. He lacks decency, and isn’t farsighted. People who know him will agree with me. That isn’t my headache…people who live by the sword, die by them; it happens again and again. As it was featured in Star Ananda news channel, the teachers were worried about the school’s reputation going down the drains owing to the guardians and students.

According to some teachers, parents come and request time and again to tutor their sons, and even though they have no intentions of teaching, they are left with no choices but to provide tuitions when guardians fall to their feet. Partly it is true.

Leave out the extraordinarily gifted boys and the failing population of the class. For rest of them (which comprises most of the class), who would really feel the urge to take tuitions if taught adequately and carefully in class? Once the craze of reading in tuition classes had affected me in 7th standard, and when I realized that the teacher at school taught better than the one I joined, I left the tuition classes half way!

I have known teachers of the same school, some who have never tutored privately, and have sternly driven out boys seeking tuition from them; and someone, who has never tutored boys of the sections he taught in school, and has always maintained the same effort in private classes as in school. All cannot be as virtuous as them, I agree, but they shouldn’t, at least, turn their backs when such situations arise for students, where they are just half guilty.

Fear without love and respect can only bring out hatred. What left me disturbed wasn’t the incident, but the reaction of the ‘senior’ students of the same school. Whatever happens, they would be worst affected. Alas, they don't hold the maturity to realize that.  Parents, teachers, students, each group is so much disturbed at the other, resulting in the demise of modern-education, thus!

To the immediate interests of all the Netizens who use Chrome as their browser:

A certain malware called ‘Cyber Security’ is getting downloaded automatically from the Net. It presents itself as an antivirus, and is irremovable. It has already affected a few of my friends and me, and I had to format my machine. It decodes your dial up password and username and starts downloading other malwares from the Net. For that reason, do NOT download any unknown software, and for the time being, use secure sites for downloading. If, in case it infects your machine, and you are using a dial-up connection, firstly, format your root drive, and then ask your Internet Service Operator to change your password as soon as possible.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some Experiments with my Camera

In front of the college building, just 2 days ago.

The Indian National Museum, once the palace of Queen Victoria...

Amsterdam in Kolkata...

Not following the Rule of Thirds...

My brother currently reading in 8th standard!

In the month of July, this year, it was shot near Amarabati, at dusk.

Mehendi.. This photo was shot with a cell phone camera.

Sana, my cute neighbour.

Orange rose under the orange sun

Marathon to Mython

Who says cell phone cams are useless?

Flower in the bush

Gray subject

My college friend, Anna.

Bally bridge from the ferry

Replica of the bones of a mammoth, at the Indian National Museum.



Photography has interested me since I was a child. With old family photos in hand, I would always wonder how they could be bettered, and till today, I grope for a camera whenever I come across a beautiful subject, even a beautiful insect. I find myself interested in the books and journals on the subject. I am not a professional photographer, nor do I want to advertise my photos here. I want to share them with readers and friends. Most of the photos have been shot with an Olympus Digi-cam, not a d-SLR or other high range gears. I had been off for a while, owing to protracted illness, and the weakness following it... Will be back with a new post very soon. Comment if you like the pics, and point out if you didn't like them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sudoku and Cigarettes

Sudoku has always been quite a fascinating game for me, since the first time I tried solving one. According to the Wikipedia, Sudoku was popularized in 1986 by the Japanese puzzle company Nikoli, under the name Sudoku, meaning single number. I made my first attempt to solve one when I was in the 10th standard. The first few days, I tried and tried, but when I was midway, through each puzzle, I was lost, lost in the patterns of the digits, in the symmetry of the game. After a few days, so strong its influence was on me, that I eagerly waited for The Telegraph every morning, although I knew well that I had hardly ever solved one completely!

A month later, the long awaited day came when I had solved a Sudoku. For the next few days, it became my favourite column in the newspaper, more favourite than even the Jumbles placed beside the Dennis the Menace one-liners. But why am I mentioning Sudoku here? Isn’t it one of the most popular puzzles ever created? Really, it may not be an achievement worth consideration, but the sense of fulfillment, when you solve one, is awesome. Whenever I sit with one, time seems to fly by fast. It’s because I love the game, and I love it for two particular reasons: one, it requires helluva lot of concentration, and second, the never-give-up attitude has been cultivated within me owing to this puzzle! The Mathematical logic behind the creation of the puzzle is more puzzling. Follow this link if you are interested in the Maths.

And Cigarettes, that same old topic! I shall save my words here (and write a different post some other day, only on fags), though I must mention that I have often felt how hugely they influence me! Whenever I am smoking in solitude, it compels me to think, and think hard over any topic that has been disturbing me, or interesting me and magically find solutions, thus. On the other hand, whenever I am smoking with friends, I feel most of the time, what a waste it can be! Funny, but its true. I am not addicted, but I have started loving nicotine all the same… Does cigarette inspire creativity within you? I would love to read comments from all the smokers who are reading this post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Puppies For Sale


I came across this very-short-story on the internet, and I am sharing it with all here. Comments, even in the form of anecdotes are welcome!

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.
Mister," he said, "I want to buy one of your puppies."
Well," said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, "these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money."
The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. "I've got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?"
Sure," said the farmer.
And with that he let out a whistle,"Here,Dolly!" he called.
But from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight.
As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared; this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up....
I want that one," the little boy said, pointing to the runt.
The farmer knelt down at the boy's side and said, "Son, you don't want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would."
With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, "You see sir, I don't run too well myself, and he will need Someone who understands."

The world is full of people who need someone who understands.