ArpitGarg's Weblog

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Archive for March 2010

Study in US: A new Reality

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I was talking to few of my friends who are pursuing Phd from US or have applied this year. The number of calls has become less with surprising number of rejects coming in. The situation seems grim.

Let me explain a bit. Every year Indian students apply for MS (Masters)/Phd in foreign universities (prominently US). Seats are offered to select students, often with scholarships. In case of IIT students, mostly, entire tuition fees is remitted. They are also paid stipend based on TA (Teaching Assistant) and RA (Research Assistant) work they do.

Due to the recession in recent times, universities have to cope up with reduced federal and private funding. They are no longer able to support large number of scholarship students. Coupled with the new protectionist approach of US, immigrant students feel no longer welcome, the way they were some time back.

Students need to submit a SOP (Statement Of Purpose) letter along with their admission form. They explain their education, expertise, research preference and the need for scholarship. I have seen a number of SOP’s and the end paragraph is full of blatant begs. “Coming from a poor country…I don’t have means to sustain the education fees…I am from an underdeveloped part of the world”, and more such lines.

For those who might consider me a skeptic, I want to stress that its not like a one way street. Universities also get to choose brilliant students who do research work ample times more than the money invested in. There is another side to it too. A bit harsh though.

The funda of scholarships was based on uplifting the poor. India was always perceived as full of talent. “The students don’t have money but they are brilliant, let’s help them and our research will prosper in return.” During last 25 years or so we have seen some path breaking work done by Indians in the US.

Past 5-10 years or so have seen an unparalleled growth in India. A new kind of generation has arrived which takes a new sense of pride in its country. No ruing the administration but striving towards change. This generation is Globally aware. Studying in US or going to London for a holiday is no longer the ultimate dream. The quantum of this generation is less but the impact is huge. This generation has IPL, the multi billion dollar cricket league, it stands up against racism in Australia, it voices against Ganesha on Chappals.

Here comes the catch. We no longer consider ourselves inferior. We have bred an arrogance on the likes of US, UK and Aus. Still we continue with the same set of SOP’s. How long can this work?

Lets see from the point of view of US citizens. They see Mumbai. They see Indians standing up for themselves. It is difficult for their Govt to explain spending money on students from such  a rapidly growing economy. There is also a lesser moral satisfaction to this philanthropic deed. Would be logical if they moved to poorer countries of Africa. Indians are also waking up to this new reality. I have seen a lot of people now applying for MS/Phd procuring bank loans.

Growth is restrained by this logical tool. The more you grow, the lesser is the growth rate, coz the competition is higher at the top, where the charity stops.

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Religion, War and Inertia

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I have always been told that Hinduism is a tolerant religion. Over the centuries various religions branched out of Hinduism as per the changing times and beliefs. Never was it considered a blasphemy towards classic Hinduism. I have always heard, contrary to the perception of the West, Islam is a peaceful religion. That jihad is not a war but ones struggle to better the self and the society, fighting injustice and oppression. I have always been taught how liberal Christianity is. Just look at liberal society of the West. It follows from the religion. Christianity has always worked for the betterment of the world at large. The missions around the world are a clear example of that.

But when I stop believing and start perceiving then the trouble begins.

I have seen Babri demolition, ’92 riots that left a long lasting fear of police in me (anti-riot). I was just six at that time and the impression left was huge. Terrorism in the name of Islam has been going on in Kashmir from as long as I remember. The ISI and its insidious ways and the backing of considerable chunk of the Islamic world to that (directly or indirectly). I have seen 9/11 by who they called a religious fanatic. I have seen Leaders of the West declaring their war on Afghanistan and Iraq as a war by God. I have seen images from Abu Ghraib and the twisted humanity.

I believe religion is nothing more than a set of beliefs formulated by people to give meaning to the life. It’s one of the conclusions that humans reached to the pressing question of “Why we are here?” Religion was never formulated to spread violence. But considering the bloodshed across religions, one begs to differ. So is it the religion or the inherent nature of Homo sapiens at fault? Quite huge a quest for me to begin.

One common trait I find across the paradigm is, “The older the religion gets, more rigid the followers become”. One simple solution would be to change the religion altogether before it gets too old to harm us. We all would agree it’s not so simple. Why? The answer lies in the Newton’s second law of motion. Inertia, the resistance to change. Inertia is inside all of us. Not only do we not want to change but create hurdles in the path of people who do.

Recently what we saw in the case of Nasreen and Hussain was resistance by Muslims and Hindus alike. Majority of Hindus felt offended by nude images of deities and same goes for Muslims by radical writings. What brings them together is inertia. We don’t like to deviate from the set of thinking that have been hardcoded into us.

Newton discovered inertia but he felt short of finding a cure to it. We have to find a cure. Till then we will see a lot more wars in the name of religion. An apple needs to fall on someone’s head soon!.

Strokes of a Political Genius

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Indian politics has always excited me. From time to time we come across political news that makes headlines. Some of them are really special. They involve a showstopper and work of shrewd political genius. How the masters of the game are able to come out of it with flying colors makes the crux of a great politician. The top three that I observed during recent years are as below:

1.    Mulayam Singh and Nuclear Deal
During UPA-I Congress was struggling to get the nuclear deal passed. PM had stated that theirs was not a one-point-understanding with the allies (presumably the Left). When Left decided to part ways, it seemed all but over as far as the deal was concerned. Just then Congress received support from unexpected quarters. Mulayam Singh who had always lambasted Congress and BJP for Babri demolition and undermining Muslim interests came to the rescue. There was a bottleneck though. BSP projected the deal as anti-Muslim and there was a threat of SP losing Muslim votes which were its bread and butter in UP.

It looked a Catch-22 situation for Mulayam Singh. He stated that his party would be taking an independent advice from the experts as per the viability and usability of the deal. They could confirm anything only after the said advice. It didn’t seem enough. If he supported the deal, BSP was bound to make it difficult for SP to hold the Muslim votes. A lost battle.

Mulayam then showed why is he the gladiator of Indian politics. Next day, papers were filled with details of the meeting between APJ Kalam and Mulayam Singh. Kalam like any other scientist and expert was expected to support the deal and he did. It was a master move by Mulayam. He brought in a Muslim expert to counter the threat to Muslim vote. Support of Kalam countered any threat by BSP. Clean Sweep.

2.    Sharad Pawar, Congress and Price Rise
The issue unfolded over the last few weeks. Spiraling prices of food items left Congress with little space to breath. Government of the Aam aadmi was seen as a pickpocket. Congress diverted the blame to Pawar. He was after all the agriculture minister. There were noises from Congress calling him a direct beneficiary of spiraling sugar prices. The Sugar King! Pawar never likes to be cornered. There was a need to shut the Congress up, which he also perceived as a threat to the solidarity of NCP. There have been overtones from State Congress from time to time to assimilate NCP and Congress. There was an urgent need for a master stroke. But what?

The genius of Pawar came into play. He took advantage of being involved with cricket and being the ICC President in waiting. Shiv Saina, which had almost given up on opposing entry to Aussie cricketers in Mumbai, was used as a pawn. Pawar took BCCI chief and met Thackeray at his residence. Gave a presentation and asked him to allow Aussies in Mumbai.

What it did was to give credence to Shiv Sena, undermining the authority of State Congress. The coalition party chief himself questioned the authority of the CM. Congress backed off immediately giving Pawar latency to tackle opposition over the price rise.

3.    Rahul Gandhi and The Mumbai Local
Rahul Gandhi proclaimed from Delhi that Mumbai was for all Indians. It created ruckus across the party lines in Maharashtra. A kid from Delhi trying to dictate to Mumbai. How dare he? Shiv Sena protested hard against Rahul Gandhi and tried to project him as an enemy of Marathi Manoos, successfully enough. Rahul was viewed as a Delhi lad who lacked courage to take on Sena in Mumbai.

Rahul arrived in Mumbai. Changed his travel plans at the last moment, boarded the local and mingled with the commuters. He travelled to Dadar into the Sena’s bastion and at one go, Sena stood defeated. His Mumbai local trip took everyone by surprise. He showed courage. Dared to go the extra mile. He was admired by Marathi Manoos. “My father was born in Mumbai, my mother in Italy, my great grandfather in Allahabad, and I live in Delhi. Where should I say I belong to?” He floored even the skeptics. The Sena Bastion stood demolished.

Dear Rose

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Leaving thy, with a sigh!
Back will I, don’t cry,
Task this, must I pursue,
Let me go, O! wonderful you.
I ask you this, not for me wait,
To start a new life don’t hesitate,
My heartly blessings are with you,
My dear Rose whatever you do.

Dumbstruck was she to this,
Hinting something was amiss,
Replied she with deepset grief,
Don’t worry, I would be brief.
Leave you! I would not budge,
There is task you must indulge,
Understand this me enough.
But how could you say my dear love,
That I should find a new partner,
This was a dagger that you just utter,
I would be waiting till the end of time,
Uptill I be far past my prime,
You would find me when you come,
Just your Rose and not else some,
So go away just don’t worry,
If I were rude, can I just say…Sorry.

Written by arpitgarg

March 9, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Literary, Love

Tagged with , , , , , , , ,

Here comes the Train

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I like tuning in to hear Railways’ budget speech. Lalu’s witty rhymes were always a treat. One never felt bored. Even the opposition members had a laugh. Mamata Di presented the budget this year. There were a number of good announcements including low price bottled water, women RPF and the proposed new lines.

Don’t worry I have no intentions to dissect the railways budget. You can watch the balding man with broad specs on the news for that.I have always rued the fact that Indian Train never got its due. Consider its contribution to Hindi Cinema. Had Bollywood been the same without the Indian Train? I have always visualized Train as a movie star. Train has played innumerable roles over the years. Do we remember any? No! We would remember the silly dog from Teri Meherbaniyan instead. What blasphemy!
Movies came and went but nobody noticed the Train. There were silly whistles for Madhubala to Maduri to Aishwarya. But when it came to Train, Nothing. It was looted, plundered, ran upon but never did any film critic found its performance worth mentioning.

It was time someone stood up and brought an end to this madness. Here I present before you top 10 memorable roles played by Train in Indian movies of the modern era. Its redemption time!

10. The Train
One of the few lead roles over a prolonged career. Train transformed itself from the dusty old Passenger to the modern Metro. And all we remember is Aamirs transformation in Ghajini. The movie proved to be a dud and all the blame fell on Train. A leading movie critic said and I quote, “Not catering to Indian sensibilities. We like the dirty and dusty old train. Train now makes movies for the NRI’s only.”

9. Veer and Bros.
Since eternity, actors have loved running atop the Train. I don’t know why. Maybe they take some carnal pleasure in keeping Train under their feet. From Amitabh to Salman to Imran, all have tried their legs at that. How Train manages to leave an impression even in such inconsequential roles is a different matter altogether. Bollywood has gone as far as to oppose the electrification of Train. It wants to keep it the old coal run. All the wires above would prove to be a hindrance (to run atop, Of course!).

I chose Salman’s Veer for the sheer love he has for the Train. He even dedicated his muscled body to the Train. In an interview he said, “I Train in the morning. I Train in the afternoon, I Train in the night, I Train all the time. How else do you think I got these muscles?”

8. Ek Chaales Ki Last Local
Train played the role of an invisible being. It was there, at the same time it was not. We felt the presence all along but never saw it. Observe how in the image below you see the tracks but no Train. It’s there, believe me. It’s just invisible. Being a method actor, it is said that Train decided to become invisible for the whole 2:40 mins and still does so every night.

7. Sholay
Remember the scene where Daaku chased the Train on horses and Jai Veeru helped Thakur. Train played a highly praised cameo. As memorable role as that of Sambha. A single scene but we remember it till date. Don’t we? I mean Train not Sambha.

6. Jab we met
The modern day love story. Just when we thought that Train has reached the end of its career, it managed to rise form the ashes. Scintillating performance. The timing when it decides to leave the station thereby aiding Shahid and Kareen to meet. Perfect. How it was able to fool the intelligent actress twice is worth mentioning here. Way to go Train. You made yet another love story possible

5. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
One of my favorite characters. In the image below we see Sharukh getting emotional to part with the Train. And we thougt it was because of Kajol. He wanted the Train to stay. Train increased the speed just enough to let the dupatta fly away. Perfect execution. Such an emotional performance by the Train. Lovely.

4. Jai ho
Indian train decided to go global. It was offered a role in Hollywood movie Slumdog Millionaire and it grabbed it with both hands. The dance sequence was excellent. The Train arrived at the Oscars with a whistle.

3. Dil Se
Who can forget the amazing balance of the Train in the song Chaiyya Chaiyya. Train outperformed itself yet again. The way it carried the weight of the characters and the story on its back, still was able to keep its track was showing of a great performer. In fact Shahrukh secretly credits his success to the Train.

2. The Burning Train
Train was in the lead here and came out with flying colors. Junta clapped each time the train whisteled. It was a difficult role. Train was badly burnt and bruised by the time the shooting was over. But it never swayed its way. It kept running at the constant speed. Come what may! It was Arjun, in pursuit of the Eye. Majestic!

1. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
This one comes right at the top. In fact for me it’s all over from 1 to 10. I fell in love with Train for life long. Observe the different getups of Train. Disguised as Euro Rail, it made Shahrukh-Kajol meet. Remember the scene where Train decides to lock them up in a compartment with a couple of shakes thrown in. The improvisation was excellent.

At the end observe the Indian getup. How well it looked on the Train. Running fast and slow at the same time. Fast in long range shots and slow in close range shots. Exquisite. It slowed itself down at the appropriate moment to let Kajol in. I can watch the scene again and again. In fact I would give the award for the best trio to “Shah-Kajol-Train”.?

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