Friday, April 20, 2012

Compulsion.

Disclaimer: This post is about adolescents. Others, don't judge us.

The phase of being in your teens, in this 21st century, is not easy. I repeat, not easy. With being surrounded by a whole lot of things, and having to balance yourself with each one of them, you tend to screw yourself up. Well, almost...

In the whole ball-game, life begins to feel pretty messed up. A few things, if not all, go haywire, hit bottoms. Relationships seem to be dwindling quick. Friends fade out and new friends replace them. Acquaintances, the term, finally surfaces. And all through, you are just trying to figure out who you are and why do some of your close pals say 'You were different'.

Most of this, happens when you go to a new college, a new city, or both. Most of this, happens because we feel compelled to be like those we are around.

Seniors, classmates, roommates, batchmates. In that whole phase, we seem to forget who we actually were and tend to become someone we never have been. Without actually realizing what's happening with us.

This, is a wake up call.

The last few months, I've been studying engineering in Pune and have been talking to a whole lot of my friends every once in a while, situated in different parts of the country, studying various courses. Simply said, each one of us has done something we never thought we would. Some have new-found interests in music. Some develop a knack of watching movies and TV series, and can never get tired of watching them. Some smoke. Some drink. Some eat what they supposedly swore they never would. Some lose friends. Some let friends go. Some blend-in. Some just go with the flow. Some, hold their places and stay left out. Some, do all of this.

The phase we're in is something, no adult, no one who is above their mid-20s now, would understand. And that's simple. They haven't been where we are today.

The necessity to make friends, be friends with those who are around you, staying with you, studying with you, to be a part of the crowd instead of the one who's a topic of the college gossip, makes us forget all the principles we had listed for ourselves, before we turned 15.

Peer pressure, as many would want to term it, is much different. I know you'd beg to differ, but just trust me, it is different. No one pressurizes us to be that person. We choose to be that person who'd be one of the many, who'd be liked, who everyone would love, who we assume no one would gossip about (even guys gossip, #TrueStory), and over everything else, won't be lonely.

It's loneliness that's the crucial factor that plays its role here. The world keeps moving, it's this loneliness that prevails. The loneliness that makes us humane and also slowly tortures us, while we choose to stay away from feeling compelled. We try to hold our grounds but lose it after one point. Not giving in to the peer pressure, but, giving in to our own urge to not be the one who is different.

It's not about our behaviour. It's about our feelings. We sub-consciously tend to make that change of outlook happen. Into those of someone else's opinions, over those to whom we've listened to thus far. We all do that, and there's not even a bit of denial. And if you deny it, it's sub-conscious and something we don't even feel we do. But, we do.

Why?

To be a part of the 'it' crowd? Not really. Out of loneliness.

In a new environment, we don't make friends. We force ourselves to get adjusted to those around us, and call them friends. Because, in the end, we need to be comfortable around those we are gonna be with. Some, if we're lucky, turn out to be really good friends in the long run. Others, friendships of convenience, of need, and those to be. And we change for these. All except for the real friendships.

We'll click photographs, promise ourselves of supposedly creating memories. And 3 years after the graduation, we won't even know where these so-special people, with whom we've clicked a few hundreds of photographs are, for the simple reason that we got busy with our lives.

There. We would've maintained our relationships that were around for the period that actually mattered. We have a 1000 friends on Facebook and an over-flowing contact list on our cell phones, but just a few tens whom we call and actually chat with. And the reality being, we took these few for granted and hurt them while giving those other hundreds much more than just a part of our lives, and changing for them.

It's a compulsion of being friends and of maintaining relationships that we burden ourselves with. Not the compulsion of the so-called and dreaded bad habits.

This is a profound, yet simple reality. To not be who you are, who you have been and to not be influenced, yet to change and see yourself in a different light... It's funny, weird, and somehow sounds absurdly logical. Some food for thought, I believe.


Until the next post... Adios!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Dream School

In the last few weeks, I've posted 2 posts on Education & India (Part 1 & Part 2). There, I had said that I'd be posting a version of the draft I had created of the above titled post, a few years ago.

It was 28th or 29th April, 2009 when, in a seminar, in a group of 10, we were told to come up with a plan and layout of our dream school. We made a rough version of what is posted below. On coming back from the seminar, in the few days that followed, I realized the importance of that project and how much it meant to me. For the same, I completed what I had started as a competition, in the seminar and the outcome is as below.

My Dream School

In India, and for that matter all the world over, schools are also known as the ‘Temples of Knowledge’. But, in India, temples are built after consulting architects but not the schools. Thus, today, I decided to give my dream school a real pictorial representation with the necessary documentation.

My dream school is a two-storey building and technologically advanced. It has all the modern facilities that the world has never seen before. It is a school every student would want to be in. This school is a secondary school i.e. for students in 9th to 12th standards. Everything in the school is in the interior so that bad weather conditions do not affect learning. The school will not have air conditioners because we believe the students need to be taught to help in solving the problem of global warming from the schooling days itself to create awareness. The timing of the school will be from 9a.m. to 4 p.m. with a maximum of 5 lectures a day.

The ground floor has the classrooms for standards 9th and 10th along with the locker rooms of students belonging to these classes. The entrance to the main school building is also through the ground floor. There is also the Audio Visual room, dining hall, auditorium, science laboratory, and the basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts on the ground level.

The first floor has classrooms for standards 11th and 12th. There are also locker rooms for these students. The tennis court and arrangements for table tennis, chess, carom, and other indoor games are also made on this floor along with a separate room for gym. There is a swimming pool and a cyber room on this floor.

The second floor has a football field and a garden. There are also changing rooms for boys and girls who play football here.

Everything is described in the points hereon:

1) The whole school building is a Wi-Fi zone with 802.11n wireless network and an internet speed of 2 gb/sec providing information to the students whenever they require without any kind of delays. Each student will be given a username and the student can access the resources on the network if and only if the student logs in from his username after giving the confirmatory password.

2) Teaching in Classrooms: The teaching in the classrooms of this school will be through video conferencing and video telecast on the laptops/tablets of every child, thus making the environment more private so that each student can learn according to his abilities to cope up a subject. It also ensures that the same teacher can teach and record all the lessons for a particular standard and then be with the students to solve their doubts, if they have any, with no worry about her next class. If a student misses a particular class, he can approach the cyber room coordinator and have the last class broadcast to him again personally, during break hours or post-college hours so that he/she doesn’t feel the burden of studying a step above directly. Each lecture will be of the duration of an hour with a break of ten minutes between two lectures. The attendance in these classrooms will be taken by swiping fingers. There will be one fingerprint scanner on each side of the door to each room in the school and the students, teachers and other staff will have to swipe before they actually enter the class.

3) Girls & Boys Locker Rooms: The locker rooms for girls and boys are provided separately and that too on the basis of the standard they are studying in. The students can keep all their stationary and laptops in these lockers so that they don’t have to bring these from home daily. There are also restrooms in these locker rooms. There is also provision of showers in the locker rooms so that students can freshen up themselves before heading for the next class.

Ground Floor Layout
Ground Floor Layout - My Dream School
4) Dining Hall: The dining hall of the school will have various kinds of food available, but, no two cuisines will be available on the same day. It will cover a variety of parts of meal like salads, starters, beverages, soups, main course, desserts, etc. The students can have the food of their choice and preference. They won’t have to pay anything extra for the food. However, the service can be accessed only in the afternoon lunch time and not in any other break.

5) Basketball, Volleyball & Badminton Courts: Sports builds the body and that’s the reason there are various arrangements for sports in this school. In their sports periods, the students will have access to all the different sports arrangements in the school and they have to decide what they want to do in that period. This room on the ground level has arrangements for students aspiring to play basketball, volleyball and badminton. We also have a court of beach volleyball with beach sand on it. There are also coaches available, two for each sport; so that one can teach the game and at the same time the other can be the referee and take care that students don’t get indulged into foul play and play the game in all its spirit. Also, there will be other ground staff so that the courts and equipment is maintained properly.

6) Science Laboratory: All the laboratory apparatus will be made of borosil so that it doesn’t break easily and is heat resistant. The laboratory is spacious with enough apparatus to suffice 50 students at a time. Also, the teaching for the science practical’s will be done through video conferencing in the same way as other classes but an attendant will be available in the laboratory with sufficient knowledge of the experiments in case students need help.

7) Auditorium: The auditorium of the school is spacious with a seating arrangement of 1000 people and extends onto the first floor. There are two large LED television sets, on either side of the stage, which will display the events happening on the stage live. Also, the auditorium will have the best possible audio surround system and more than 15 speakers on each side. It will also have a hi-def video camera to record what is happening and broadcast it simultaneously.

8) Audio Visual Room: The Audio Visual Room of this school is the place where all the data of the auditorium will be received and processed. It also has a beautiful LED television and multiple computers with onboard video cards to process videos fast. The recordings for the various lectures will also be done in the studio in this room. The people sitting in the room for editing will be those who know how to use video software as well as have knowledge of at least one subject so that they can understand the lecture and edit it accordingly.

9) Tennis Court, Table Tennis, Carom and Chess: The facilities for lawn tennis and the other indoor games mentioned will be at par with the world’s best. The information regarding coaches and other staff is as in the previous sports room.

First Floor Layout - My Dream School
First Floor Layout - My Dream School
10) Swimming Pool: The swimming pool on the first level is a 10-lane swimming pool and also has depths of up to 11 feet. There will be four life guards in the premises of the pool at all times. They will also coach students and help them if they need any. There are also changing rooms for males and females separately in the room.

11) Gym: This is the room that can help students to maintain their body well and also is useful for warm-up for students who are representing the school in different sports in sporting events. The gym will be very well-equipped with paraphernalia suiting the teenagers.

12) Cyber Room: This is the hub of the whole school. The server of the whole school and all the data of the school will be stored in this room. The room will also serve as the transmission center of the Wi-Fi network of the school. All the student records will be stored in this room. The entrance to this room also requires the retinal scan of the school employees and any student is restricted in this premises.

Second Floor Layout - My Dream School
Second Floor Layout - My Dream School
13) Football and hockey field: There are arrangements for these games on the second level with a sun-roof on the top so that even during the rains, they can enjoy the games. The school hopes to nurture each student in at least one sport so that he excels in it. The coaches and ground staff are also available here.

14) Garden: The garden of the school would be maintained by the science club of the school. Along with regular plant species, there would be plants grown with the old Japanese art of bonsai.

Miscellaneous features:

15) Board: The school will be affiliated to the state board so that it ensures covering most of the necessary topics and clears all of them right from the basics.

16) Energy: The premises will be using energy provided through solar panels situated on the roof of the football field. The hot water required in the bathrooms in gym and locker rooms will be heated too through solar panels.

17) Water:  The water used in the building will be recycled and purified to reuse again. The drinking water in the coolers will be UV and RO purified.

18) Notice Boards: The notices of various events happening in the school will be conveyed to the students by the medium of notice boards. These will be put up outside each room conducting the event. For example, the sports camp notices will be put up outside the respective sport room. The auditions for the dramas, etc, will be put up outside the auditorium. The notices will be available together in one place i.e. the ‘Notices’ section of the login page which they must open to login to their school accounts.

19) Newspaper: The school will have a weekly newspaper service with the reports of events of the school, the seven most important news of the world, one interview with a renowned personality. It will be managed by the school students along with the help from one teacher completely devoted to the cause. Also, the editor to the newspaper will be one of the student members of the newspaper club.

19) Annual Magazine: The school will publish an annual magazine emphasizing on happenings of the entire year with reports, articles and drawings made by the students themselves.

20) Houses: The school will be divided in four houses on equal basis and the students will have competitions on various topics throughout the year. The house which is the overall winner of these competitions according to the points will be given a trophy on the annual day of the school. There will be different criterions like academics, sports, co-curricular subjects, and other competitions. The individual criterion winners will also be given trophies.

21) Student Council: There will be a representative to the student body known as the student council. It will have a lot of power and can change the way many things happen in the school to the need of the students, but, in consultation with the teachers and principals. The student council will have three levels of representatives. A) School Captains and School Vice-Captains and Sports Captains and Sports Vice-Captains, B) House Captains, C) Assistant House Captains. The duty of the house captains is to nurture talent within the house with the help of their assistants. The school captains will cater to the needs of the school and the sports captains to the problems of the school with respect to sports.

22) School Events: Annual Cultural Day will be one of the most of the important events in the school. Various felicitations will be done on that day. The school will have Annual Science Exhibition held every year. This will be the chance for aspiring scientists to showcase their talents.

23) Library: The college library will be an extensive e-book library supported by hard cover copies.

24) Principal’s room: Not very different from the principal’s rooms around the world already.

25) Staff room: For the teachers, basic amenities.

26) Office: For the accounts and the other clerical records.

P. S.: The last 4 points, were added during a recent revision and so do not find a place in the layouts, anywhere.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

KONY 2012. Time for Action.

Cross-posted from Not Just The Talks.
 
It's been almost a month (29 days, actually) since the day I saw the #KONY2012 video first. And since then, this movement has had my support, whole-heartedly.

And it's been more than 10 days since my photo was published in the 'Times Life!' supplement of the Times Of India, for my efforts regarding the same.
If you've seen the KONY 2012 video, by now you know that the D-day is 20th April, which is less than a fortnight from today. And thus, it's time to begin the preparations.

Posters, bracelets, sign-boards, t-shirts... It's all rolling and travelling through the world!

We may not be in USA and our actions might not count as much as theirs will, but whatever we do, in our little ways does count.

We can't see injustice befallen on the people of Uganda. We can't see them going through pain while we live our lavish lives in a much more peaceful country. We feel for them. We feel their pain. We feel their agony. And we understand their anguish.

Today, I request you, to do what you can, everything you can, to support us at NJTT to make a difference and stand up for humanity. On humanitarian grounds, stand by us. Do what the world expects you to do, the right thing.
It's now or never.

If your choice is now, go ahead and pre-order a t-shirt, with us, boasting the KONY 2012 graphics and taglines, and wear it on the 20th April, to show your support.
We've designed a t-shirt, especially for NJTT supporters of KONY 2012 and we'd be glad to get it to you at the rates it gets to us to get it printed. A comprehensive post, regarding the same, will be posted by someone from the NJTT team, tomorrow, specifying the price, delivery and other details. If you are not sure, don't post it till then. But, if you are sure you want that t-shirt, help us get the count and we'll make sure you get your t-shirt well in time.

If you still want to do more, then get yourself a copy of the posters from here, unzip the folder, read the 'Guide' file, and get those posters printed. (You can also get these posters from our Facebook page.)

Paste them wherever you can, how many ever you can on the 20th. Reach out to the maximum number possible for you to, what you think would be a great number, achieve it.

I'll be doing both of these and will expect all of you to, too. It's the world we live in, the world we love, we're talking about. Let's make it a better place to live in, for ourselves, for the generations to come.
Paint your town/city red! Make Kony famous!
Stop at nothing. KONY 2012.

Update (09.04.2012): We are making the t-shirts happen. At 350/piece (inclusive of shipping). Order them here.
For more details, check this post on our FB page.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Education & India: Part 2 of 2

Cross-posted from Not Just The Talks.

Like I’ve said earlier (by that, I mean in Part 1), my life revolves around the state of education in India today, being a student. And I lead from where I left, in the first post, in this one.

1) Colleges: The basic requisite for a successful post-education life-in-the-real-world, as I’ve heard so far, begins from colleges. Schools are those parts of our lives, when we’re shaped and also protected during the process. But, in colleges, we have our first interaction with the real world. So, it wouldn’t be immature-ish of me to say, that ‘That’s where it all begins...’.

There’s not much to say, except that what I’m (by that I mean everyone in their respective colleges) taught is purely theoretical bullshit. Something that has been in the textbooks since ages. And, even if it has been ‘revised’ lately, I’m assured, when I open the first page, that all I’ll study, will be something that isn’t even present in real day life.

For example:
a) I know that Intel 8051 microprocessor is an entire semester worth of subject for a specific brach(es) of engineering. Something, many of us who had vocational subjects in Junior College (11th and 12th), have learnt for a whole year. Besides, it has been out of the whole tech-world for ages now, since it was the first microprocessor ever built. The ones in use now, are much more advanced.

b) I’m truly tired of performing titrations of acids, bases, and everything that can be neutralized. I’ve been, since 4 years. And yet, my chemistry syllabus, since 9th, has a considerable amount of the same very thing.

I’m a student of science and thus incapable of being able to prospect what other branches are like, but well, I know for one, that they’re not apt to the industrial standards of what a professional should know. They lack practical knowledge. They lack the need for understanding and emphasize on the answers to be rote-learnt and puked into the answer booklets. 8 pages of random scribbling, even if it’s the story-line of a Bollywood movie, might get you more marks than someone who actually knows the concepts well enough and explains the same, more precisely in 4. And the most of all, having the inclination towards daily technology that I have, I hate that we don’t have technology dwelling into our educational lives.

Tech is all over our professional lives. A CEO without a tablet, a BlackBerry, an iPhone, would be like a CEO without a suit. A mall without free wi-fi access, would receive brickbats from the goers. We have courier guys who ask us to sign on a touch-screen with a stylus, before receiving our deliveries.

But, we don’t have simple amenities like free wi-fi access, projectors, etc. in colleges. We don’t have the permission to take notes on our laptops, tablets or smartphones, or getting them mailed to us, instead of having to pen down every single thing.

Just two questions. Seriously? And how long more?

All of the fore-mentioned, may not be necessary upto school level of teaching, but, beyond that, I redeem it to be the need of a student.

Another thing that makes me pity myself for studying in India, is the quality of teachers we have.

2) Graduate & Post-Graduate institutions: The lack of infrastructure, for the all-round development, in such institutions, beyond what I mentioned above, is something that I hate the most. And most of the infra provided, is out-dated, aged. The same applies to events occurring within the college premises. (A request to anyone from any college’s faculty or management reading this, a student’s graduation years are those which he/she memoirs the most, make sure you give them something to remember. Be it festivals, shows, competitions, workshops, what not! Make sure they have a memory of a lifetime, everytime.)

They say, someone who can’t be anything else, becomes a teacher. That, seems like the truth. At least in the colleges I’ve been in, and the one I’m in right now. A guy (I’m poor at Indian mythology, I don’t remember the name, sorry) learns the art of archery when Dronacharya was teaching Arjun, by just observing. That’s the kind of teachers I want to learn from. Those whose lectures I would want to attend. Those whose lectures I wouldn’t want to go to sleep in, sitting on the last bench. Those, in whose lectures, I wouldn’t want to keep texting because I’m bored. Enough said.

Every college has a policy (at least those that I know of) to restrict teachers from taking external coaching, anywhere. And well, we all know what the truth is. Most college lectures, all through the country, are not conducted. Teachers get their salaries. And they earn further-more because of the minting machines that coaching classes are. In purview of better grades, parents making students machines which run on a typical home-college-classes-home schedule. I don’t even know what to say, anymore!

Professors’ involvement in research, and industrial funding for the same, is something I root for. It’s necessary for learning what textbooks don’t teach us, in every institution. That also adds a second income for the faculty involved, the college and adds to the students’ knowledge.

3) Reservation: I was hoping I wouldn’t have to talk about it. But, a post about education, without pulling the strings of this sensitive topic that reservation and quota systems in education systems are, is incomplete.
I’ve a dual-side opinion on quota system. I think that quota should be there. But, I also think that this reservation of education seats, should be fair, to those who aren’t in the reserved categories.

Discrimination on the basis of caste, and giving unfair advantage (read: reserved seats with lower cut-offs) seems unseemingly wrong to me. Most of them, don’t even need it. Reading in newspapers the cut-offs for SCs, STs, OBCs being less than half of those for the general category, just punches a hole through my heart.

That’s how unfair we are, that for political votebanks and the divide-and-rule tactics, we give up everything we’ve ever learnt.

All our life, we’ve been taught to treat everyone as equals. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, among others, gave up their lives fighting for equality. ‘Right to Equality’ is one of the fundamental rights conferred upon us the by the respected Constitution of India. And even then, when it comes to admissions, we just forget all this and fight about equality.

We’re in the 65th year of independent India, and I think it’s high time that we eventually got rid of this indiscriminate advantage given to those who are supposedly of lower castes. May be they didn’t have the facilities like we, of the general category, do. But, things sure should’ve and would’ve changed now. Reduce this reservation by 3-5% every year, or every 2 year, and reduce it till it reaches a 5% mark. Let them face the competition too!

Instead, in my opinion, reservation for those from financially weaker classes, should be actually implemented. The same way, the reservation for women’s seats, seems acceptable to me, considering the number of women who actually attend schools and colleges in India.

Solutions, I propose:

1) Syllabi : The syllabi of every stream of education, needs some incredible amount of shaking and revision by a whole panel of industrial experts, including top-level exeutives CEOs, CTOs, CFOs. Sorting and preparing a list of what should be, from what is. And the guidelines from what these experts conclude, be sent to the Universities over the country, and then let them formulate their own syllabi.

2) Teaching Staff : A mammoth-sized re-arrangement in terms of the rules and who-ends-up-a-teacher is necessary.

3) Extra Credits - There are students who are great at sports, writing, art & craft, playing music, etc. Why are they not given a fair hand over those others who are only good at vomiting out what they’ve read in the textbooks? To be a human being, and to graduate from college, are 2 different aspects, and every institution in India, by the virtue and very nature of it, is responsible for both of them. Undeniably. Thus, the inclusion of this, is something I feel necessary.

Education should be the arsenal of a country. The smart minds it produces, should lead and be led. I’ve said enough, in 2 posts. But, now it’s time for action. And that’s only possible, if each one of you reading this, reaches out to your ‘contacts’ and convinces one person of the need for these reforms and the solutions proposed. Of course, only if you think they are fair.

Until the next post...

P. S.: I may appear biased, forgive me. Use your fair judgement for that part of the post.

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