Heading off to the Desert in the Skies

“Desert in the Skies” - that's how a program on Discovery described Ladakh. And that's where I'm headed this evening. Needless to say, I will sever all relationships with my online persona (save for tweets through SMS). So, for the next 2 weeks I'll be in the following mode

Blog? What's that?”
Comment moderation? Sound like something out of a sci-fi movie”

But do keep your opinions flowing in. They'll be published when I return 2 weeks from now (unless you are a spam bot, in which case I'll incinerate your comment in special yak-skin wool that I'll get back for this sole purpose).

Until this month-end then.

No Bikes Please, We're VTU

So, the VTU is at it again. This time, it wants to ban bikes from all the colleges under it's purview. Needless to say, this move has drawn lot of opposition and criticism from students.

The newspapers are full of reactions from students, but I liked this one, by a student named Shruthi, the best. I did not find it online, typing it as-is from July 8 issue of Bangalore Mirror.

If I travel by BMTC, I have to change four buses to get to college. The college buses charge exorbitant fees. On my bike, I get my emissions checked regularly, hardly go above 40 kph and follow all traffic rules. I have a few suggestions for VC to concentrate on

* Ban lecturers from uselessly dictating notes in class instead of teaching.
* Get a few more servers so that the VTU website doesn't get jammed when results are announced.
* Update the curriculum.
* Most VTU engineers are hardly employable in core industries: address this issue by introducing finishing schools.

I think this comment puts the entire episode in perspective.

My opinion? Well, every Vice Chancellor in VTU in recent past has had this carnal urge to do something to show the students who's boss. Dress codes, pathetic processes for re-evaluation, and what not. Most of these decisions are designed just to wield their power over the hapless students.

However, let us just pretend for a moment that the current VC, Mr. Maheshappa's intentions were good. Let's pretend that safety, environment, reducing congestion were at the top of his mind when proposing this move. That still doesn't take away the fact that his proposal is as impractical as impractical can be. College buses charge in the range of Rs. 10 thousand per year for their services. BMTC yearly buss passes for students are much cheaper. But in many cases there is the dual disadvantage with BTMC – poor connectivity and poorer speed.

Wait, there's more to this tug of war between the VC and his students. The students challenged the VC that they would take the bus if the VC joined them. To prove his point, the VC took the bus to the VTU office yesterday. However, he has been quoted as saying that he would switch to his car on the days when he has “important meetings”.

And with that one statement that smacks of hypocrisy, he has made everything clear. His meetings are “important”? Exams, classes for the students are not? What can one say of the university where the VC engages in such blatant double standards?

All this goes to demonstrate one point though – this is what happens when those calling the shots are so out of touch with ground realities. Politicians, heads of educational institutions, senior management in the corporate world. If only the ones who take decisions were ones who had practical, grass roots level experience!

Dowry and Corruption

This conversation took place between me and my friend when we were on an overnight bus journey from Bangalore to Shimoga.

Friend: Hey, this bus conductor is my landlord.
Me: Excuse me??
Friend: The room that I have rented in Shimoga?
Me: What about it?
Friend: Well, this guy is the owner. In fact, he owns the entire building. He stays in the ground floor, and he has let out one other house and three other rooms on rent.
Me (impressed): Wow, he must be corrupt beyond my wildest imagination. How else can a bus conductor make so much money as to build so many houses!!
Friend: Hmm …. I wouldn't fault him though.
Me (sarcastically): You wouldn't. Could you be so kind as to explain?
Friend: He has four daughters. The eldest is married and two others are now of marriageable age. He belongs to a caste where the dowry demanded is in the region of five lakh rupees. How else could he afford to get his daughters married? He is even going to sell most of his property to raise the money required for his second daughter's marriage.

It took me some time to digest that. I fell silent for I did not know whether to ask a question or state my opinion on the matter.

The “fruits of corruption” in the upper strata go into posh bungalows, up-market cars, exotic vacations and the like. However, it looks like much of the “turnover” from corruption at the grass-roots level eventually finds itself in basic livelihood and dowry.

I wonder if the corruption canvas in our country would have had completely different hues had it not been for that element of dowry.

Break Free, Un-shackle, Disrobe

Isn't breaking free of something the most liberating feeling? It's almost like you can fly. For a student, the last day of exams. Exiting the city and hitting the open road when you're driving. Crying. Confiding in someone.

The same goes for beliefs. We are groomed with certain beliefs (which is a misnomer because we often don't actually believe those things). And we are often so mired in them that we fail to be tolerant or inclusive of others' beliefs. Every such instance is an opportunity lost – the opportunity to experience that much more of the world around us. Thankfully, as we mature or gain more exposure, we find ourselves letting go of some closely held belief.

As a kid, I used to think that people who smoke or drink are “bad”. Only when I set foot in a hostel in my mid-teens did I realise how completely baseless that notion was. I made several close friends who used to smoke or drink occasionally. I learnt that it is not the person that is bad – it is the act; and that too when qualified with the adverb “excessively”. I relieved myself of one notion; and in the process made a good friend.

Another mind-set is that of vegetarians towards others – invariably hostile. Only when a child gets old enough to ask the following question does he appreciate the different-ness of food habits: “If everyone turns vegetarian, what will everyone eat? Are there enough crops on earth to sustain 6 billion people?”.

Next example that comes to my mind is culture. Being proud of, or holding on to, one's own culture is fine, but shutting out all others results in a person seriously restricting oneself. When you travel to some far-away land and experience the culture there, becoming part of it, you realise what you had been missing all this while by clinging on to the false superiority of your own.

The final instance is that of shame. Right from childhood we are taught to be ashamed of our  own bodies (there is even a childhood rhyme that starts with “shame shame ..” something). This particular belief is so strongly imbibed in us that, even as we grow more comfortable with our bodies, we stoutly refuse to even admit it. If and when we do break the shackles, we liberate ourselves from yet another stifling belief. Rashmi Bansal's post “The Naked Truth” is an interesting (though what some may perceive as radical) point of view on this matter.

Wouldn't it be great if we could disrobe ourself of one such asphyxiating belief at a time? That'd definitely expand our horizons, and add color to our world.

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. All the views and opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, organization, relatives, friends, acquaintances or any other person/entity.