Something on Betterment of Syllabii at COEP + My Joblessness

The FEM course that I am teaching at COEP is now drawing to a close. The time is, therefore, conducive to take a review; a time to reflect upon what went wrong, how things could have been done better, etc. Naturally, this thinking mode also spills over into other things, and that is what I am going to note down here today.

I believe that COEP should take a major initiative into multidisciplinary areas of computational physics, computational mechanics, computational and engineering. In short, computational science and engineering (CSE).

I mean it in a much deeper sense than just saying that COEP should hire me with all due respect to my background and work, and allow me to pursue my research in CSE without any hassles. The issue is not about my career, primarily (though this aspect, too, is relevant). In fact, the issue is not even about introducing researches in the multidisciplinary area of CSE at the PG level…

What I am actually advocating here is a fairly major revamp in COEP syllabi, and that too, right at the UG level—a basic change right at the very course-structure level. Let me indicate in brief what I mean by that.

Every academic institution (of some note) has a certain unique set of historical, cultural, intellectual, environmental (including geographical) factors which together decide what course of action would be best for it to pursue. Here, given certain special factors specific to Pune in the recent times, I believe that COEP is extremely well-positioned to take a quantum leap into computational science and engineering. Consider some of these factors.

In the recent two to three decades, Pune has seen major developments occur in the field of computer science and software engineering. Two decades ago, Pune had become home to C-DAC, the designers and builders of India’s first parallel supercomputer. Today, Pune remains home to a top-10 supercomputer in the world (Tata Sons’ Eka).

Pune has had one of the two foremost laboratories of CSIR, namely, the National Chemical Laboratory. (The other lab comparable to NCL being the National Physical Laboratory at Ahmedabad.) Today, Pune has compounded the presence of NCL with the IISER—the institutes which are designed to go at par with IITs but with an emphasis on basic sciences. Pune also is home to some other finer talent in the field of physical sciences and engineering: IUCAA, NCRA, DoD labs, etc.

Finally, Pune also is home to many educational institutions. (I do have a great deal of reservations about their quality—but they do keep education going in some sense).

Speaking in overall terms, in India, Pune is exceptionally strong on the two components that CSE requires and depends on, namely: science (including engineering), and computation. For example, Pune has the greatest penetration of PCs for the past decade or so (which means, on a per-capita basis, Pune buys more PCs than any other city in India, large or small, including Bangalore, Bombay, and Hyderabad, and Mysore, Indore or Nasik.) Another point: MCCIA has identified Pune as the next major hub for animation and gaming industry. In any case, if I remember it right, Pune has already overtaken Bangalore in terms of software exports in USD terms. (If not, Pune would be second only to Bangalore, and a very close second at that… Pune does have companies like PTC and Geometric Software who don’t give me any jobs.)

What does it all translate into, for a UG/PG student, you ask? Let me give you a simple example.

Step inside some of the bookstores in Pune (most notably, the Technical Book Services), and you will always find a lot of movement in there—a movement of books, rather than of customers. … You see, what happens is all these labs, universities, institutes, and software companies together order a lot of books and journals. Many of these orders are handled by these small bookshops. Anytime one steps in a bookshop like TBS, you will always get a sense of how ideas possibly are moving in the city.

For example, I have seen the very latest American conference proceedings touching on topics like, say, simulation of fracture in random nanocomposites, or the use of the LB method in modeling fluid dynamical problems from tribology… Titles like these appear in these small shops literally within a few weeks or months of actual holding of these conferences in the USA… (And, I was naming just two topics among an array of them)… Now I am not sure if all these volumes actually get bought by the potential customers who order them for a review or not. But the shop owners do oblige their regular customers and get these proceedings and all from those bigger shops/agents from Mumbai and Delhi, for a quick review by the customer on a returnable basis, no questions asked and no strings attached. … Precisely one of the reasons why I hang around these bookshops a lot. (Some, like the TBS and I have grown older together—15 years is a long time in the human life-span!)

OK, so, people here in Pune are aware about the technological developments… My only concern is that it doesn’t translate into anything tangible for the UG student at COEP.

That, plus the fact that I have always had a lot to say about the way they teach mathematics and other related topics at COEP… I also used to have a lot to say about the stupid if not vengeful way in which they used to examine the hapless UG engineering student in earlier times—some three decades ago. A lot of that has now changed for the better. But still, the teaching of mathematics, even the syllabus, haven’t changed… Also, the UG program composition as such…

Now, whenever someone mention such things, people give some very typical reactions. Some of these reactions are listed below, in no particular order:
(i) Yes, I agree that we should introduce some more career-oriented courses at COEP… We should make the syllabus more practically relevant
(ii) We should cover the very latest instruction sets of the latest chips
(iii) We should introduce biotechnology
(iv) Etc.

Let me tell you my take on these:

(i) “We should change our coursework at COEP to make it more career-oriented.”

An outright stupid idea.

Yes, you read it right. An outright stupid idea.

Engineering education is meant to be theoretical. If, as a student, you cannot digest it, give it up and join a road-side garage to turn yourself into an auto mechanic.

If, as a potential employer you happen to carry the same ideas, then check out what I have to say about the sort of employer you are, below…

Indeed, here, Rahul Bajaj himself (the father of Rajiv and Sanjiv Bajaj) or, if not himself, at least responsible people (managers and all) from his company (and also managers from Bajaj Tempo/Force Motors, and TELCO/Tata Motors) used to say, when I was an undergraduate student at COEP, that they wanted to see engineering disciplines like, say, “Maintenance Engineering” at the UG level … Yes, this is serious—not a joke. Grown up and highly paid managers used to say such things to us at COEP in those times. Indeed, it should not be any surprise; Bania companies actually are known to say things like that…

I mean to say, disciplines like Mechanical / Electrical were not enough, they wanted the Sandwich training program. Then, it was not enough, they wanted super-specialization like Production Engg, right at the undergraduate degree level. Then, it, too, was not enough and so they began wanting to have Maintenance Engineering too, to be made into an engineering discipline… The only way to counter such suggestions was to ask: How’s the idea of introducing a BE in “Boiler Design for Thermax,” and another BE in “CNC Machining with Fanuc” for the smaller components-suppliers to TELCO, and yet another BE in “Maintenance in Plant No. 6 of Bajaj Auto Factory at Waluj…”? All these degrees, of course, to be awarded by the University of Pune?… (BTW, my use of the term “Bania” is more generic than being just carrying a caste-ist kind of interpretation. I don’t care for castes. All that I want to counter is some false tears being shed in certain quarters such as those by Swami in a recent ToI column. So, Bania is to be taken in a generic sense, in exactly the same way that Brahmin/Pandit is.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the practical businessmen and engineers running those automobile or engineering or components-manufacturing industries don’t face some really acute problems when it comes to staffing engineers or making use of whatever engineers they do find… The employers do have a lot of problems in finding good engineers. But what I want to point out is that all these problems, essentially, are of their own making.

These Bania idiots have no idea (not even a vague sense of an idea) as to how to employ a talented engineer with them, or how to make his theoretical skills productive in the environment that they themselves have created within the factories/offices which they own. Why, they have no idea that such a thing is even practically possible. (Despite their Harvard MBAs, and regardless of whether they are Parsis or Hindu Marwaris by Religion or caste, they all remain Indian Bania idiots at heart. The inability to perform integration is the chief attribute of whatever substitute they use for a working epistemology.)

The fact is, if you are going to make herd management the primary duty of a well-educated BE engineer, making it appear as if you are doing favor (Hindi: “Upkaar”) to him by giving him a job, it’s very obvious that he is soon enough going to cram English words for a few months so as to get a good GRE score, and then leave you as soon as he gets the I-20 form in hand. If not, similarly try to beat the system by joining a coaching class for the CAT examination… What you are going to be left with, then, are going to be mostly second-rate folks. The engineers themselves might be great personally, at least in the initial years. But the interface that you impose on them permits only so much of their productivity to come out. Over a period of time, they then loose that too, and become thoroughly second-rate themselves… By and large…. In such an environment, both the employer/manager and the employee come to develop a faulty working epistemology for approaching anything in life—their professional work included. Understanding how theory is, or can be, integrated with practice, is a theme that would be far too much for such a mentality to even think of handling. But since you have none better to employ anyway, you continue employing them, the height of creativity in cost-cutting being, what else, to employ a thinner sheet metal for automobiles… (LOL!). As a decade or so elapses, you then make that guy your Manager. Once this idiot (he has become one by now) gets the management power, the only folks he is going to feel comfortable managing are obviously going to be only the second-rate sort of folks… The thing continues. Then, something happens… Our man—the employed “engineer”—crosses three decades of his working in the same company. He has been sent on short trips abroad, has acquired public-speaking skills (including the skill to tie a tie and perhaps a tie with the tie.org organization too), and on strength of these “qualities,” he gets invited to share his “thoughts” on how to shape engineering education in the next century (the first decade of which, BTW, has already passed by.) Now, problems—real problems—do not disappear simply because someone unworthy of managing them has been promoted in his job. Naturally, our guy does carry a vague sense or an awareness that something needs to be done w.r.t. engineering education… This, he thinks, is because the syllabus is bad—it is not practical enough. And so, he advises, in a sufficiently grave and sufficiently civic tones: “Make education practically relevant…” Et cetera… (I am sure you have heard out these idiots often enough, though I am not sure you had the clarity of thought to judge them as idiots—or the inclination to judge anything any time in life at all.)

(ii) As to the next two suggestions (“engineering education is absolutely bogus and worthless if the very latest instruction sets of Intel (or AMD or RISC) processors are not included right in the next semester” or “we should include biotechnology”), you can see that these represent nothing but somewhat more informed kind of mistakes using the same, faulty, working epistemology. (As to the biotechnology-related suggestion, it often results not only from a faulty working epistemology, but also an outright lack of understanding of either biology or technology. It just happens that the speaker has heard that biotech is now in vogue in the USA (after computer science the metaphorical bus for which he missed), and so he wants to talk something about it here, that’s all… What is displayed in such cases, oftentimes, is nothing more than the favorite working mode of Indian Pundits; I call it the Parrot Epistemology. (It’s very favorite with Indians—all it involves is memorization of sounds and their hi-fidelity reproduction, emotional undertones faithfully included.)

May be I will write about them some other time… For the time being, I have to finish this post…

So, coming back to the main theme, what I want to emphasize is that for higher-quality education, we actually need not more of but less of an emphasis on practicality—especially at COEP.

In other words, I am arguing for making the COEP UG education more theoretical—but also more interesting and more solidly grounded in reality…

One way to do this is by including an emphasis on computational physics in the engineering curricula.

I will expand upon this theme (and certain other related matters) some time later on, but for the time being, let me note a few things about them quickly. (I am sure many in the USA and in India will be quick to both understand what I am saying and following it up, but without giving me any due credit—e.g. linking to my blog or dropping an email to me explicitly.)

(1) Concerning Mathematics

What I say is: Thrash away all those “Engineering Mathematics” courses. Yes. Throw them away. Completely. Two reasons:

Firstly, the contents of these courses haven’t changed in any essential way from the times three decades ago when Wartikar brothers’ very poorly written text used to be the gold standard in Pune. (And, nowhere else!) That book is indeed fairly good, but only on that count for which an author can hardly take any credit—namely, the set of (unsolved) problems contained in it. But the main text itself is pathetic or worse on all the other important counts: (a) explanations providing appropriate context and highlighting conceptual understanding, (b) maintaining a good hierarchy in the ordering of topics, (c) the tie to physics and engineering, and (d) the production values of a book. It’s a real pity that this third-class book continues to inform the design of the syllabus in mathematics courses at University of Pune and at COEP.

Secondly, calling them “Mathematics” courses itself gives very wrong ideas to professors in this country—a country which is already so heavy on mysticism, paternalistic attitudes, deductions, etc. The effect of intrinsicism and mysticism could be easily found in any subject, but they leave an especially inescapable imprint on the teaching of mathematics. The reason is, mathematics by its nature is so abstract and “mental.” (The referents of mathematical concepts themselves reside only in the mind—not in the physical reality. When two mangoes exist in the world, what actually exists in the concrete reality is only those separate mangoes. The concept of “two” itself doesn’t exist in reality independent of the consciousness of man who has reached that stage of learning/thinking.) Since mathematics is so mental, it is so easy for the teacher to get carried away into deductive complexity upon complexity without caring anything for either the subject, or its physical correspondents, or its application, or the student learning it all. And that tendency only grows in a mystic country like India. A mathematics professor most directly insulting a student’s mind would be easy to find anywhere in the world; but they are a regular feature in India. (“What, you can’t even derive this? It’s so simple! Start with nonlinear equation and go down to linearity. Yeah, right. Start with NS and derive the Euler equation—not in a revision, but the very first time you run into it! You should be able to do it if you are smart!! Look at Narlikar. He is so smart… He became a Wrangler at Cambridge! And now, look at you… You don’t only study hard enough…” Etc. Etc. Etc. … See, how easy it is for people to get wrong ideas as soon as you mention they are going to teach “mathematics”!)

It is for this reason that I advocate that those Engineering Mathematics courses should be completely abolished. In their place, what I suggest, is to (a) begin calling them mathematical physics (which would work as a temporary band-aid) (b) completely alter the order and sequences of all the topics, (c) reduce the complexity of examination question but go ahead and introduce some more advanced topics, esp. their conceptual treatment, (d) extend the lengths of all these “mathematics” courses.

Don’t get shocked at the last suggestion! Don’t say that we have no place left for an additional course or two in maths. There is. Because, I am also advocating to also do away with all the numerical analysis courses. And also, many others (e.g. the “Applied Science” courses that do no good to anyone.)

Instead, we need to have a sequence of four to five courses on “Mathematical and Computational Physics,” all to be completed by all engineers (including the IT and CS engineers) within the first two years.

Today, at University of Pune and COEP, the situation is so bad that the IT and CS majors have absolutely no idea about, say, 3D boundary value problems, what the term stress means, what Fourier’s law of heat conduction is, and why, even about EM fields, really speaking. (They cannot even properly do visualization of a 3D wave-field… all that they can sketch is a static wave in 1D. And, theywill invariably fail to tell in which direction it would move—to the left or to the right.)

It’s for this reason that all engineers, regardless of their branch, must be taught a common curriculum which is strong on physics and basic engineering sciences, in the first two years.

These courses should emphasize the teaching of mathematics from a conceptual and physics-based viewpoint; they should keep the engineering or technological applications in sight but only as distant ends; and they should make use of computational physics as an indispensably important tool for both pedagogy as well as professional preparation.

For example, currently, COEP has no separate course on differential equations (DEs). Instead, some of the topics on DEs are distributed piecemeal, and are covered without depth. (For instance, COEP/UoP students are not taught the diffusion equation in 3D, only in 1D; most of them cannot tell when they will use Fourier’s method vs. Laplace’s even though thousands of them could easily solve the examination type of questions on either method.) Instead, there should be one complete dedicated course on ODEs and another on PDEs (possibly with vector Analysis), and more: both these courses should have not mathematics as their central focus but mathematical physics. Further, these courses should integrate the computational physics part within them. For instance, not only should the UG student be taught about the well- and ill-posed problems, but he should also be shown, with the help of some simple C++ code snippets based on the simple finite difference method, what kind of unphysicality creeps in if an ODE/PDE problem is made ill-posed. The students should be made to appreciate that they need to learn differential equations to be able to tackle the IV-BV class of problems—not in order to deductively manipulate Euler’s identity so as to satisfy an orthodox MSc in pure mathematics who would smirk disdainfully at the student’s lack of technical proficiency in rapidly performing meaningless manipulations involving it.

Needless to add, the situation at IITs is not very different. However, they are slightly better in that they do refer to Kreyszig or other books while designing their syllabii—not Wartikar—and so, the syllabus at least tends to be somewhat better—even if the students themselves or the professors themselves are not very different anyway. (Indeed, at IITs, the tendency to be rationalistic is even more pronounced.)

(2) Concerning Physics

Contrary to what the Indian Bania industrialists (or the small-scale “industrialists”) come and tell you, reduce the share of technology-specific courses, and instead, increase the share of physics (or basic engineering scienes-related) education in engineering and technology UG curricula.

A room for greater physics can be made by downsizing (or altogether dropping) technological courses. After all, going by my own practical experience (and that of hundreds if not thousands of working engineers), picking up technology is so damn easy if you are sound on fundamentals (and impossible if you are not). And, further, one way or the other, you are going to take some time to pick up technology anyway because you would be working one or two decades later… How is it possible for an e-School to prepare you for the next generation technology when none has any idea about it? So, much time is, really speaking, only wasted in “teaching” technology at e-Schools. Instead, such topics could easily be relegated for self-reading plus technical reports or seminar (say for 1 credit hour).

Let me give you one specific example in reference to the mechanical engineering curriculum even though the same essential argument can be easily extended to any other branch of engineering as well.

There is no need to have three separate courses, one on Fluid Mechanics, another on Fluid Machinery, and one more on Energy Conversion, and one more on Power Plant Engineering, all with partial overlap of contents on each. (And, we are leaving aside Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer etc. courses too.)

Instead, make it just a two-course sequence. This will become possible if students are already familiar with concepts like differential nonlinearity and differential coupling, via their earlier courses in computational and mathematical physics. (That is, the revised maths course and sequence I spelt out above.) Today, the situation is: mention these two terms and the students would look at you blankly. (They continue to do so until after their BE/BTech graduation.) Forget nonlinearity, they don’t even know that beautiful theorem by Helmholtz which says that you can always split up any arbitrary vector field into a sum of one irrotational field and another one, a solenoidal field. Now, if you go and ask any engineering mathematics professor, he will laugh and say, “no, that topic is far too advanced for an undergraduate; it requires far too much advanced mathematics.” He would say so, in the process completely ignoring (or even evading) the fact that Helmholtz himself was trained only as a medical doctor (i.e. not even as an engineer let alone as a mathematical physicist or a mathematician proper). Now, I fail to understand why is it that a 19th century medical doctor can, with self study, originally invent that theorem, but a 21st century graduate engineer cannot handle it in his curriculum? Why does this impression persist—namely, that Helmholtz’ theorem is too advanced to be presented to UG in engineering at UoP/COEP/many IITs?

The impression persists not because the topic itself is advanced, but because the teacher himself sees nothing but a further bout of meaningless symbolic manipulation which must precede before the theorem can be taught. He foresees that bout of deductive complexity whenever he happens to think of that topic. The teacher himself doesn’t consider the inductive reasoning behind Helmholtz’ theorem, he doesn’t bother visualizing fields or tracing the geometrical and physical lines of thinking about it, he doesn’t consider the simplicity of the essential argument behind that theorem. All that he foresees are those threateningly complex mathematics, because that is what his teachers had made out of that topic by overemphasizing deduction, by indulging in a dance of ideas progressing from one idea to the next each of which was necessarily kept divorced from reality. Naturally, being a well-meaning teacher, he cannot imagine unleashing that kind of atrocity upon his students while they are still in their UG years. (They need to mature, become thick enough, and then, the atrocity could certainly be unleashed against them. That’s what he means. … Everyone likes them young!)

Anyway, to return to this sub-point concerning reduction in the time spent on fluid mechanics, if basic physics (like conservation of angular momentum) and basic engineering sciences (like kinematics of deformation, including a discussion of vorticity right while introducing or discussing strains) has been taught well, then, the subsequent “mathematics” courses can also be sufficiently physical as to include a discussion of the differential nonlinearities. In which case, the strain involved in the teaching of fluid mechanics would get reduced, and so, only a two-course sequence would be enough to cover the overlapping topics from turbomachinery, hydromachinery and whatnot. Further, FM itself could also be made more interesting using CFD software for visualization (i.e. even if the students don’t take a separate course on CFD proper), and by making use of some small, simple codes illustrating and highlighting various features/aspects of nonlinearity.

So, you can see the deeper sense in which I mean to say that computers and computational physics should be made use of, in engineering education…

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It’s high time that COEP took advantage of the resonating kind of institutions nearby, and certainly, the availability of well-trained people in the field of computational sciences (or at least the ready availability of such people who could, with some extra effort, be turned into well-trained people spanning computer science to science to engineering) and use both these to enhance the quality of its engineering programs.

Throwing money on buying computers accomplishes nothing. Not if things of the above kind aren’t taken up for implementation.

And, introducing biology courses in engineering programs can be, if you ask me, a very poor idea, indeed. I mean, it’s OK as an elective. But not at the FE level. And not as a means for enhancing the core engineering program itself, in general. (Think: What good would it do to introduce a course on the kinematics of machinery in a dentist’s undergraduate program, simply because he happens to use a rather complicated contraption for a drill? Or, what good would it do to introduce the mechanics of materials in an undergraduate surgeon’s program—on the grounds that he is going to cut tissues and so must know the mechanics involved in the cutting action? Doesn’t it look like an outright laughable idea right on the face of it? If yes, why does the reverse feel so appealing? Are our engineering students so dumb that they can’t look up a bones model and figure out the precise way in which the hip joint does or doesn’t develop contact? Is that the case? Or is it the case that our educators carry a remnant or a vestige of a sense of intellectual inferiority which a lot of Indian engineers feel whenever they run into doctors? (You see, in India, medical admissions would be a shade more competitive in the statistical sense—there would be fewer seats. But if you ask me, the medical admissions would also be a shade less competitive because cracking biology would of course involve more of parrot-like cramming than the sort of on-the-fly application of a few fundamental principles which physics and mathematics involves. So, doctors could be expected, by and large, to be dumber but harder-crammers…. But then, again, people (engineers) aren’t always so sure about even valid observations so long as they aren’t widely accepted in society… It’s no accident that with the IT industry and American money, engineers started earning more, and so, (dumb and beautiful) girls’ parents started running after engineers more than the doctors, and so, engineers started having confidence. But that’s a recent story, and applicable only to IT and CS folks—the same ones who can’t tell the units of stress or one honest application of the concept of gradient.)

If your objective is to enhance the engineering education, you have to increase the emphasis on basic physics, basic engineering sciences, and computational science and engineering—not on biology…

Do the first, and you will see the efforts bearing world-class fruits in a matter of time as short as a decade or less…

(Actually, there are many reasons why I don’t give a damn to the adjective “world-class.” A sidey incremental development translating into nothing of major or lasting value (or of any practical use) can also be world-class… After all, world-class is necessarily a comparative description, not absolute: it tells you about the relation of one man against others—not of the relation of a man with reality. That’s the difference.)

More on all these topics, I mean, expanding on use of computational physics in engineering, the third paradigm and its relevance, and all later on…

For the time being, I guess I have already used this keyboard a lot in one go… Time to take a break (for a few days or so)…

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I also consider it my moral obligation to keep reminding you that I am currently jobless, and that all my posts and former emails (and job applications) in this context are relevant…

…Do consider it a shamelessness on the part of all the powers that be (here and in the USA) that I am jobless when many relatively worthless folks (including those graduating BTechs from Kanwal Rekhi and Vinod Khosla and Suhas Patil’s IITs, and the BCS or BE in ITs) have been rich or super-rich.

A dean like Anand Bhalerao also is one of them. (For those who don’t know: He was willing to offer me a job as a full professor of mechanical engineering, but only on the condition that I would not talk about my (what he felt and said were “superior”) achievements to my students or my younger colleagues from the faculty so as not to disturb the “atmosphere” that he had painstakingly set up at his university… I refused, saying that I could not hang my achievements at the gates of his university so as to be able to enter as a suitably meek man once inside that campus. Achievements—real achievements—aren’t hats, I had pointed out.) A Vishwajit Kadam interviewing me and welcoming me in his institution verbally but not actually issuing the appointment letter (so that the issue of paying me salary simply does not arise later on) also falls in exactly the same category… And so do my friends who asked me to get meek at least once because I anyway had no other job in hand—-this, at a time that Anand Bhalerao himself had not noticed this weakness of my situation… With friends like these, who needs enemies? (And, in case you read this, Vishwajit: In retrospect, it is me who is sorry. I am indeed sorry that I could as low as saying, just for getting a job for myself, that I was looking forward to “encouragement” of my work from you… For that one moment, I had lost my bearing only because I wanted to conform as well as I could—I was asked, by my “friends,” to behave as “neatly” as possible. I couldn’t have managed it, and so, I ended up saying what I did—that I appreciated that “encouragement” from you, an encouragement worth 40,000 Rs per month… Sorry, indeed, I am. I should have kept my (actually) better sense compared to my “friends” (as well as my pride) and should have told you on the face that you were doing a good thing in hiring me.)

Anyway, to return to the theme of this point, this neat-looking young nothing called Vishwajit Kadam also is one of them (the aforementioned BTech IITians through to Sakal editors) if he can promise me a job but not release the appointment letter.

And, while on this line, let me also note that it was repugnant to read, just two weeks later, that some Pune educationist’s son had been caught throwing lakhs of rupees in cash at a dance-bar girl near Mumbai over the course of a single night. (I also want to note here that I doubt that it could have been Vishwajit in that dance bar there… I mean, there are many big educationists in Pune, and they have sons whose ideas of life aren’t exactly in line with education in any sense of that word… But then, how do you know that it just couldn’t have been this guy or that guy if you also know that you had been promised an appointment letter but it never landed in your hands? How do you know that such characters can be worthy of your trust?)

Anyway, far more important than the issue of dance bars, here, are the issues of education and of my unemployment… After all, anyone could easily vouch for the fact that Ms. Vidya Yerwadekar simply won’t ever go out to New Mumbai and throw lakhs of her own money on those dance-bar girls, over the course of a single night. Anybody could vouch that Vidya herself, certainly, won’t do that. Yet, how does knowing this fact about Vidya help one if the application one made to her institution, namely, Symbiosis (which spends crores in advertising itself—often also buying editorial influence in ToI), cannot bother to even acknowledge by email the job application?

And, I want to go further: Why can’t Vidya invite me for an interview for her new engineering college, I ask pointedly… After all, I also blog at Harvard-based iMechanica; have a master’s from an IIT (and at 40+ age after competitive examinations, was offered admissions to both IIT and IISc); I do research at COEP; and, Vidya herself is not all that distant in space or age to me—she probably was just a batch or two junior to me but in BJ when I was an undergrad in COEP…

I could go on, but anyway, Swami (of Swaminomics of ToI fame), it is to you that I want to remind: Hindi: “hamaam me sab nange”—whether they are (dear to your heart) Bania “businessmen”, or those “professional” “educationists” from Pune, or those Delhi bureaucrats taking pleasure in running educational institutions, or those educationists vying to become bureaucrats, or, of course, the Americans. “hamaam me sab hai nange.”

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An aside: The last few columns in Sunday ToI by M.J.Akbar have been excellent. Better than Swami’s or anyone else’s (in that newspaper)… I don’t know if Akbar has actually fallen out with the Gandhi-Nehru parivar or what… (I don’t follow up too closely on journos but vaguely remember having read in my younger days in 1980s—say in magazines like Outlook, Frontline, India Today or the like—that charges were being leveled against Akbar in those times that he would defend Rajiv Gandhi regardless of season or reason… (I guess the journo in question was Akbar only, but I am not certain.) Has there been a real change in Akbar or what? … I think that even if he has remained as acute as before, packing as many dramatic punches and twists in his writing as before, still, today, I have this vague sense that Akbar might actually have mellowed a little bit now… I mean, his writing has acquired a bit of gravitas of a certain kind that is not very easy for a journo to pick up once he has begun writing… A welcome change it is… All in all, these days, it is his columns which make for the best read (I mean within ToI)… (I can only hope that the quantum measurement effect doesn’t affect his writing style in the immediate future. (Incidentally, it is this fact which heightens my irritation at my being jobless—obviously, the powers that be do read me, take notice of what I write, and yet, continue to make sure that I go jobless. BXXXXXXs…))

[Updated and expanded on 6th and 7th April, 2009. Yes, I have expanded my entry and added even more asides in it… Do you have any problem with that, journos? IB folks? Americans? Others?]

[BTW, WordPress’ AutoSave is a great feature… In Pune the electricity goes off without warning and some 1000+ of my words were accessible thanks only to this AutoSave feature!]

[Correction on April 10, 2009: The dean’s name is Anand Bhalerao, not Rajesh Bhalerao as posted earlier]

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