Jan 23, 2011

An IIT alumnus talk and the bet that I lost

A special lecture on "India's second war of Independence: Making Infrastructure happen" by Srivatsa Krishna, an IAS officer organized by IIT Madras alumni association recently, was held in our institute auditorium. I was not attending any lectures of recent owing to my work pressure and other issues, and so I decided to opt out of this one too. But my friend insisted that I should attend it for he believed the talk would be an inspiring one.

In order to make ourselves available for the talk, we decided to advance our Friday Research Scholar Group (RSG) meeting at 2 pm. A talk on "Turbulence: What is it?" was given by my friend Prasanna in this week's RSG meet, first in our seminar hall, and then in our research scholar's room, to allow the class to be conducted in the hall. After the forum discussion on various aspects of turbulence, my friend and myself had a cup of tea at campus cafe, and headed straight to the auditorium. The time then was around 4 pm. We do not remember at that time if the talk was  arranged at 4 pm or 4.30 pm. But seeing only handful people inside, we found at once that it can't be 4 pm. Well, but here is the catch. 4.30 pm IST stands for IIT Standard Time, which is equal to Indian Standard Time + minimum of half an hour, I told to my friend. So we are wasting our time by coming so early, for if the meeting is suppose to start at 4.30 pm, they are going to start only by 5 pm!

I don't know what made my friend to contradict me, for he usually agrees with what I say based on my past experience. In this case, he was pretty confident that the meeting will start on time for the speaker is an IAS officer. I am sure my friend was pretty impressed with the speaker's qualifications, nevertheless, he is an Indian government officer, and an IIT alumni. How could he possibly come before 4.30 pm, and start the talk on the dot? Asking this question, I challenged my friend for a Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) bet that the talk will not start before 4.45 pm. However, even before I finished my bet, we found a man in his late thirtieths walking on the aisle towards the stage, with his Mac and was copying his presentation on to the system. The time then was 4.15 pm!

Moment before, I was so confident that I am going to win the CCD bet. That the speaker arrived fifteen minutes earlier and was ready to deliver his lecture on dot was a surprise to me! The 90 plus slides lecture started at 4.30 pm and ended promptly at 5.30 pm which surprised me, and most of the audiences. During his lecture, Srivatsa covered the current scenario of Indian infrastructure policies and ground happenings, and compared our position with the Infrastructure development in other countries.

The talk was pretty impressive, however, I felt that there was nothing intellectual in it. Much of the facts he presented were already known to us, either through media or through some other source and so I was disappointed not to get enlightened after the talk. The tea organized by the alumni association was very refreshing after an hour long lecture, which was followed by a panel discussion on future IAS aspirants which I promptly didn't attend. Now what is pending is to pay the bill my friend is going to produce next time we go to CCD.

Jan 10, 2011

The Mylapore Festival 2011

In the year 2001, the Mylapore times, a neighbourhood paper, organized a kolam contest. The outcome of the contest over the years was a huge hit that it has grown to be celebrated as Mylapore festival, a four day event.

Mylapore Festival 2011

Not surprising, the festival is packed with events that enabled the Mylapore community to show their creative skills to the entire world. The highlight of the festival is as usual the Kolam contest, which was held on two evenings on the North Mada Street, adjuscent to the Kapaleeshwara temple.

Kolam contest

The "costliest" kolam, commented a passerby

The entire North Mada stretch was painted with rice floor, each one showing the creative talent of Mylapore housewives and their daughters. Yeah, I did not see even a single male contestant! While the adults are busy displaying their creative talents, the merry-go-round was the centre of attraction for many kids who came to witness the happening at Mylapore. I had seen the merry-go-round only on one occasion before, the car festival in a temple located at my native village when I was a kid.

The merry-go-round

What caught me out of the blue during the walk on Mylapore streets is the Kolattam, in a courtyard in front of the temple entrance. The performance was awesome, and so was the beats, which makes me to think that its been performed by the professionals!

Kolattam (the Dandiya of South India)

The food street, where you get traditional food items which are normally prepared only in few homes, is a welcome hit from the visitors. I could feel the electrified sensation in Mylapore where everyone has some talent or other to display. A walk in these streets made me to contemplate on the outcome if such festivals is organized at every localities across India! "United, we stand" we have heard someone saying. Today, I saw it in action.

Jan 6, 2011

Lecture series, a walk in the woods and my friend's birthday

IIT Madras had arranged for two back-to-back lecture sessions: first one was on yesterday with Nobel award winners in Chemistry, Prof. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on Structural basis of decoding of mRNA by the ribosome, Prof. Thomas A Steitz on From the structure and function of the ribosome to the new antibiotics; the other one was organized today with the former President of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The first day lectures were on hardcore biochemistry field of which I have absolutely no idea. So, while the whole of IITians were assembled at the biggest auditorium in our institute, I decided to take a walk in the woods with my camera and have some fun time.

the woods in the institute at sunset

The woods in the institute is a natural beauty and is the cynosure for all Chennai travelers, for no other city in this world has a forest like environment at its heart! The walk was worthwhile for all my friends who attended the Nobel prize winner's talk told me later that they understood not even a word! Well, its not their mistake. Either the organizers must have arranged for the talk in a small auditorium with interested audience, or the speaker should have made his talk general to appeal to the non-chemistry audience as well.

The icon of IIT Madras with its glow

Since I had already listened to our former President's talk while he was President, and I have read most of his books and lectures and so can guess what he was going to talk, I decided not to attend today's talk too. Instead, I decided to go for a walk again, but this time on the road and not in the woods. I took some pictures of the icon of IIT Madras, the Gajendra Circle, which was glowing with artificial lightings and the fountain was on. However, I felt the icon was not in its real glow, which I am sure it can be seen during the oncoming Saarang days.

My friend blowing the candle and was about to cut the cake, with labmates around

Its my friend's birthday today! Well, it has become a norm than otherwise to organize a cake cutting ceremony in our research room for every of our friend's birthday. However, this time we decided to surprise him by organizing it at midnight, and it did surprise him! We had him cut the chocolate fantasy cake bought from CCD located in our campus and celebrated his birthday in a different way which all of us will remember in days to come.