sixth semester: keep calm and carry on

After the long wait (I mean, after 2 weeks of holidays), sixth semester began today. The first hour of the first day of every semester is dedicated to course registrations, HoD’s address and coarse discussions amongst herds of sheep about GPAs (“she doesn’t even know how to use a micropipette in lab, how did she end up with a 8.36?” and the like). An interesting bunch of teachers would be facing us this time, trying to decode their area of science to us. The methods of dealing with the subjects and tests is refined every semester. We find newer ways to memorize or remember something and get ‘smarter’ by taking up tests.

A new change to the system was announced today – laboratory final exams to be cancelled this time. I don’t support this new change at all. I think lab exams are important. Labs are the only place where we get hands-on experience and where we’re forced to think for ourselves (during exams) while conducting an experiment. Theory exams on the other hand, are more read-from-textbook-and-vomit-on-answer-sheet kind. To be honest, I have understood a few experiments and their concepts  only while preparing for, and performing the experiment in lab during the finals.

There is nothing much to say, except that I’m looking forward to the next three months which will be filled with many unexpected events/occurrences and many more comic sans powered powerpoint presentations (lets hope not!).

Protest at PESIT – an account

Today, I witnessed something that was shocking, surprising, ruthless, emotional – all at once in college. A second year EC student committed suicide in his hostel room by hanging himself and without leaving behind a note. I got the news at around 9am while looking out of the classroom window where a huge crowd had gathered outside the boys hostel which is right next to our building. The classes still continued, with many rumors floating around. We had lab internals at 10am which was disrupted when a teacher walked in to announce that the day was called off due to the sad demise of this student. We were asked to leave the campus immediately. As I waked towards the main gate with my friend and the rest of the college crowd, we realized that the gates were locked and saw a big group of students shouting / protesting against the institute management (especially against the hostel warden). We didn’t know the real story yet and watched a bigger crowd gather near the main building and gates. Press and media had already arrived at the scene – students didn’t allow them inside the campus so they climbed the magnum gate and took videos. Cops came soon in jeeps and vans. Students continued to shout slogans against the hostel warden and the principal. I couldn’t fathom what the actual cause of the protest was – as some people shouted against the college rules while some were against the hostel warden. There were many mixed up issues about the whole situation. By this time, the crowed moved towards the main building along with the director as he struggled to walk through the crowd with the police without being pushed or pulled. Some unruly students then threw stones at the glass building and broke principal’s office. They were immediately made to stop acting this way by other students who went and calmed them down.

We moved towards the cricket field (due to larger area that could occupy everyone) to discuss the issue with the management. Agitated students gathered at the field to listen to what the director had to say. In between shouting and all the chaos – I gathered that an unofficial student union was being formed to discuss the issue with them – as 500 people can’t do it all together. A couple of students who had spoken aloud before – formed a group and would represent the student body. To calm us all down, the DCP took in charge and spoke up loudly. We obliged to her and sat on the field. First – the cops and media were asked to leave as it was now more of a student vs management issue. We told our problems to the reps. Some of which were:

  • 5 marks for attendance to be removed.
  • We should have 3 internals (best of 3) instead of the currently existing compulsory 2 internals. Follow the VTU system.
  • The minimum marks for semester end exam writing eligibility criteria makes no sense in the GPA system. It was asked to be removed.
  • Councilors and doctors to be in the college premises on most days. We have no medical center as well.
  • Support extra curricular activities. Not treat students as prisoners.

While these were some academic demands, there were many demands for the victim’s family as well – college should compensate for travel of his parents, cremation. Warden’s apology for his mishandling of the situation and letting in media barge to film the student – while he was still hanging from the ceiling. Apology for the late arrival of the ambulance which arrived 3 hours late. The principal also clarified that he had not given any statement to the media yet, and everything that was telecasted was based on assumptions.

The director listened to every point and agreed on most changes. (Some illogical demands came up too – which I have not mentioned and don’t think are necessary). I think the principal and the director handled the situation well, and took a stride to support the students. By this time, both the management and students were on terms. The student union announced a candlelight march in the memory of the victim. It was extremely intriguing to see such a huge crowd turn up for it in the evening (more than the number of people who were protesting). We lit candles – the teachers and the principal guided us through the campus starting from the boys hostel. It is the largest crowd I’ve seen in my campus – more than during the cultural fest times. It was something that I’d never though I’d witness in (my) college. It was an emotional and a proud moment.

My take – since the boy left no note, the blame game has started. Yes, the pressure is unbearable sometimes. Too many tests, reports, assignment submission along with project work takes a toll on us. But is suicide the last option? Certainly not. Many have survived this system (and even tougher ones) and passed through it successfully – with happy and depressing memories. Some rules can be removed or tweaked, but this kind of situation should never be taken advantage of. Some students protested today without sticking on to the actual cause and drifted towards irrelevant and illogical demands. Yes, this is probably  a good opportunity to make the management listen to us and bring reforms, but not at the cost of unruly behavior and breaking college property. But in the end, I think the students showed some great character by listening to the authorities and calming down. When this happened, the whole atmosphere changed and provided an opportunity to carry out talks and stop the chaos. One thing that sickened me was watching the video of the boy hanging being shown on television channels and media coming up with random cooked up reasons to justify it. Read more about how the media reported the issue here.

Amongst all this, we are just lost in between deciding what is right and what is wrong.

Facebook: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Let’s face it: Facebook is a drug. Once you’re hooked, it’s hard to leave. But recently, it’s become a huge mess with N customizations and features. I’d give up Facebook gladly if I could. Really. When a friend recently announced that he’d completely deleted his account, I was the only one who envied him with all my heart. Oh, what a free life he would lead! No more updates, e-mails, stupid tags and obligatory friendships! The only reason why I am still sticking on is for the 2 pages that I run. One, the PESIT Photography Club page (I don’t really “run” it anymore as the other members have taken over it – for which I am very glad and thankful for, but I’m curious to see what’s happening, etc) and the other of course- the START magazine page. It is important to have a regular audience for any initiative to be recognized. It would be very difficult to spread word about every new issue and updates without it.

Facebook (or any other social networking website for that matter) can be used wisely if you know how to take advantage of it and not get sucked into it’s mesmerizing stalky behavior. The best thing I did was to disable my wall and tagged photos. I also disabled anyone from tagging me in images and posts. This reduced the number of spam e-mails and kept my personal life intact to an extent. Now, I get to share whatever I want with only a certain set of people. It has also been much of a pain with plagiarism and other issues. I’ve had some person use my photo as her profile pic (O__o) and she simply refused to take it down. Reporting the profile/photo didn’t help either.

In today’s times, I feel it is important to get your work recognized among your peers and seniors. How else would anyone select you to take photographs for their cultural event? Or, how else would anyone get to know that you won the first place in debate and invite you to their marketing team? How else would anyone offer to collaborate with you in their future project? It is also one of the easiest (and free) medium to communicate with people – all at once. I could easily get in touch with folks working on a project similar to mine and interact with them through messages. It is necessary to know where to draw the line though, and to realize that it is what you make of it instead of what you give to it. So yeah. I could go on and on but you get the point.

P.S. – I participated in a debate regarding Facebook last semester in college- most of the points here are taken from it. This was written randomly after I saw the f8 conference. It would be interesting to see how the world evolves with Facebook. And people’s reactions are always priceless! I’d like to be the silent watcher of the future events. 

B’lore Photo Walk at Avenue Road

After one year and one month, the members of B’lore Photo Walk got together for a photoshoot at Avenue Road. I had seen a lot of photographs everywhere and heard a lot of stories about it’s relationship with shutterbugs in the city (as a matter of fact, I could recognize the various shops and locations on the street today just by recalling the photographs!). Even though I had seen some initial parts of the road before to buy books, I had never gone further inside to explore/shoot. Every time I see pictures of Avenue Road, there has got to be people’s portraits, colorful doors & windows, MAD rush, vehicles, more people, wires hanging all over the place, name boards, all kinds of stores dealing with stationery to sarees to jewelry and what not. In short, “absolute chaos”. However, today, we all mat at the old famous ‘coffee-wallah’ at the Mysore Bank circle at ~ 7:30 and started from there. Being a sunday and a little too early, all the shops were closed and the street was less of a hustle. This gave us an opportunity to explore the place in a completely different environment. Newspaper stands were being busy as old men discussed news with chai cups in their hands. In other places, young boys arranged books on the footpath. What is interesting is how these boys know every book they own with precision and can tell which academic course requires which book by which author (including different editions!) without even having received basic education themselves.

We walked into the crossroads along side (which were VERY small and had like a hundred protrusions from everywhere). How do families live here?! The garbage filled gutters would become a menace during rainfalls. Children walked barefoot to school on these streets. Cows, dogs and mice must have made a mutual agreement to live in harmony- just like everyone else. Experiencing a place like this in a city as big as Bangalore is like having a reality check. However advanced this city may be, there lives some parts of it as old as the 80′s. Some parts which may sell and deal with today’s items, but whose lifestyle and ‘feel’ remain the same for years. It’s a good thing in a way. It’s like a connection between retro and new. People may move in/out and the shops may get reinvented, but the street leads the exact same life for years.

Today’s walk wasn’t about clicking intensive cliched photographs of streets and people. It was about meeting the people with whom I started this journey around 2 years back. It was nostalgic to walk with the same bunch of folks with whom I began learning about my city and it’s different faces. It was also about meeting new interesting people! Even though we ended up shooting a lot (duh!), we got an opportunity to talk about our experiences and findings. I can just sit for hours together and listen to how this dude walked for eight hours in the rain atop a hill to get back to his home in Dargeeling or how this another guy got caught up at the Delhi railway station not knowing where to go, and ended up in a cab to Jaipur! In the end, if there is a plate of Idlis and Vada to go with the stories, even better!