Wednesday, August 15, 2007

60 years of Independence

Congratulations Sub continent ! Here are a few interesting essays on this eve:

What makes India's Democracy Special :

Unlikely heroes: Judiciary and the Election Commission of India:

Canadian Outlook on 60th anniversary:

Britain's Lament on losing the action to US:

How Pakistanis see India:,,2148170,00.html

Why is India doing so much better than Pakistan?

William Dalrymple "State of the Union" styled essay on Pakistan:,,2148164,00.html

NPR's review of a new book called "Indian Summer" on the dramatic unfolding (including Nehru-Edwina affair) of 1947:

How Nusrat's music unified two cultures:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chak De - worth your time and money

Unlike Politics, sports give you a license to be irrational and support your team to the core. It's perfectly acceptable if you hate the opposing team and bully them with platitudes. As a supporter, you can be blind to the opposing team's strengths and weaknesses and cheer your team for all its fallibility. In a tradition (by that i mean, Bollywood) where its acceptable to paint the Goras of Lagaan as darkest devils possible or even all Pakistanis under terrorist masks, Chak De picks on an introspective note. It correctly identifies many of the problems associated with Indian team playing psychic. It starts with problems related to identity, multi-culturality and multi-linguality, continues with star-performer-takes-all mentality to basics of team playing before even starting to play any hockey. It then takes on more complicated issues of gender, equality and self-respect and does a fairly good job at dissecting them. The tone however remains observational/by-stander instead of getting preachy.

Shahrukh Khan, for the most part, remains the coach and not the Badshaah of sugar spilled Bollywood. Thankfully, little back stories for all characters, even Shahrukh Khan. No lady-love dying, taking death bed promises from him, no Ki-Ki-Kiran business (you know, how those line of stories can spiral). Cinematography is top notch with some professional sports cameramen expertise. Music is fairly good. Some of the dialogues are very well written with pages of unspoken footnotes. Casting is not bad, but could have been better. Overall, the movie respects your time and money.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Pilani, Goa or Hyderabad?

Birla Institute of Technology and Science, one of India's premier technical universities is adding new campuses. They have three campuses in India now: Pilani, Goa and Hyderabad.

Here's a question: If you had to put your money on one of these campuses, which one would it be? I would definitely go with Hyderabad. The city has a vast establishment of premier central government research establishments like Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) etc etc. It is surprising there is no IIT (yet) in Hyderabad to leverage the enormous research potential of the city.

BITS should the seize the moment to collaborate and build effective research programs in such disciplines which have been fairly unconventional for India's academic establishment.

Which campus should students go for? To answer this question it helps to understand Pilani's geography. Pilani is well isolated from urban civilization with nearest cities Delhi and Jaipur at a distance of 200kms, making it an Archipelago. Generations of Pilani-BITSians pass on their wisdom of entertaining themselves to the younger ones making Pilani a unique cultural experience. But this has come at a cost. An arduous and bumpy road trip is not very appealing to collaborators, researchers, recruiters etc etc. Hyderabad's location advantage scores heavily over Pilani's geographical isolation. Hyderabad campus can turn out to be very competitive with Pilani campus over the years. What about Goa ? Well, a party school with a beach in 10 blocks? India's hard-working and aspiring students may pass on that.