Reflections And Ramblings

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Zen and the Art of Rambling

The title of the post is an oxymoron. Zen as seen its Koans is pithy and seldom stretched in its descriptions. Sample these for starters (more available here) . Don't ask me if I understand these Koans.

What is the Buddha?

Some answers:

  • "Three pounds of flax." — Attributed to Dòngshān Shǒuchū (洞山守初) in case 18 of The Gateless Gate
  • "Dried dung." — Attributed to Yúnmén Wényǎn in case 21 of The Gateless Gate
The book I am talking of here, my latest read, 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' is quite divorced from brevity. The author has rather cleverly issued the disclaimer. :)
However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information related to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles either.
It took me a while to go through the book from cover to cover. To read a comprehensive review that captures most of what has to be said of the book, visit this.

For those bits of insightful remarks scattered throughout the book, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in metaphysical explorations.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ithaka- A poem by Constantine Cafavy

I liked this poem 'coz it seems to echo an idea that I have come to realize. At journey's end it is the journey itself that defines you more than the end.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the journey may be long,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the journey may be long.
May there be many a summer morning
when with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn, and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

Friday, February 08, 2008

You have got Spam!

And we are back on the air after a long gap

Some of the most entertaining pieces I read on my inbox were the widely scorned threads on our very own institute email service, Smail. I had grown tired of opening mails which promised to bankroll me for life if I collaborated with some Nigerian whose relative was dead. There was also a time when there were plans afoot to screw Apple with distributing free IPods for all those who were generous enough to pass on the favor to their contact list. I grew sick of Tinglebox, Orchute, Farcebook, Shelfairy*(names changes to protect privacy ;)) and the ilk. Err…I also get mails whose content might be objectionable here. However, spam filtering has improved over the years. By and large what meets my eye on Google inbox nowadays is not so much fun. They generally contain mails meant for me alone with a few exceptions. Enter Smail to the rescue.

A Brief History of Smail:

Not such a long time ago, Smail, like many other services provided by the institute, was hardly used by the student community. The institute was naturally unhappy about this situation. It meant students absent for a special class had the excuse of telling the faculty that they never got the message sent on the group. They decided to dole out Smail ID’s to all incoming students, who were naturally excited about having an ‘’ on their email ID’s. Just count the number of people with ‘iitm’ in their Google or Yahoo! email ID’s and the reader will acknowledge the latent brand value of an IITM email ID.

Around the same time, a portal was started with a lot of fanfare. The registration for the portal had to be done with an Smail ID. Now like most things that begin with a big bang, the student usage of the portal fizzled out. The very place we eat in, ‘Himalaya’, was the subject of a raging discussion on the same portal. It is another matter that the student opinions expressed there were probably not on the administration’s mind when they went through with the idea. There was also a ‘Lost and Found’ Section on the same portal. Paradoxically, the average Joe is very unlikely to visit the page. The only luck that the ‘loser’ can have is when someone stumbles on the lost article; I would not hazard a guess on the chances of that event. Some smart guys thought this out rather well and decided to mail the whole student group instead about their bundles of misfortune.

Black Holes, Missing Objects and other Issues:

There was a sudden spurt in the number of people losing their belongings. It was as though a black hole swallowed up several lost cell phones and cellophane tapes, umbrellas and undies, purses and pencils and so forth. Oddly enough, most of the items that were lost seemed to have sentimental value to the aggrieved individuals. Some of the offers made in the mails defied economics. I reproduce a specimen below in all its schmaltzy originality. I really admire the courage the individual exhibited in overcoming his ‘serious’ guilt.

[Btech] [Students] wallet loss @ CSU stall--------sorry for spaming(seriously)

i lost my purse today @ ground floor csu stall@himalya around 12:45pm okk i m requesting to the guys and (considering minute probablity) gals to return the purse and i promise the treat of the complete amount in that purse and again i m serious

Another quotable snippet from a different mail, “Please look around for the lost wallet and if found contact me at: XYZ”. Tempers were already running high in a few good men of the institute. Someone with a deliciously inviting surname, ‘Gofech’ *(name changed to protect privacy) chose this opportune moment to let the whole institute know of his lost notebook. What followed was an epic mudslinging match which would have made for a good Prime Time show on Star TV. One from the audience decided that he had lost something of incalculable value, his sanity, and mailed the group asking for help. However, to this day the institute black hole is active and one learns of at least one missing item every day.

This mail sent by OutRaj*(name changed to protect privacy), whose English would have sent the Queen scurrying for cover, takes the cake for its sheer entertainment value:








One of the replies was brilliant:


Look. I tried too hard to resist spamming. But what the hell, if everyone else is doing it, let me just be a bad boy and simply do it.

Let's read a small part of Mr. Outraj's email, which if I may quote

It was indeed very thoughtful of Mr. Outraj to have asked just one question, when he could have easily typed away a hundred, adding more pain to the already pained Smail users. More so, I was expecting the 'person who has theft it' (PWHTI) to answer the extremely thought-provoking question that Mr. Outraj posed.

Many days have passed, but the PWHTI never replied. I guess he stopped using Smail long away, thanks to all the spam mails that keep doing the rounds.

Coming back to the basic question, since it is highly unlikely that the PWHTI is going to reply, I would take this opportunity to answer Mr. Outraj on his behalf, not because I have any sympathy towards the cruel thief, but as a token of sincere respect to the originality of the question itself.

Here goes the answer, and hope it answers you Mr. Outraj: God gave him two hands to open the door (I wonder the guy who didn't lock it, also had two hands to lock it, but that's the beginning of another thoughtful question, so shall be left right away), and to pick up the laptop. The two legs, if I assume, were given to the PWTHI so that he could run away with the newly acquired possession. There ends the mystery!

Lesson learnt: God gives everyone two hands and two legs. They can be used to 'theft' a laptop and run away (sad ACT). But they can also be used to lock your door, before you leave for your department (smart ACT).

Ah, spamming really gives me a kick, man!

Saneram*(name changed to protect privacy)

The Universe in a Gobi Manchurian:

RR Caterers had previously improvised on their biryani prepared in Godavari and done what no chef would think of doing. A frog was found in their dish and the outrage over the issue spread through simple word of mouth. Spamming over Smail had not become fashionable yet. RR were not going to be denied their piece of action on Smail. All that they had to do was add a chicken piece in a dish of Gobi Manchurian and take a seat in the audience. The issues generated by the spamming range from a proposal for a separate vegetarian mess to religious freedom and its ridicule to compensation. Mercifully, the anguished individuals stopped short of a debate on vegetarianism or non-vegetarianism itself. To someone expecting some important mail, seeing 15 emails titled ‘Chicken Piece in Gobi Manchurian’ would either be amusing (which is what I felt) or maddening (for the more impatient type).

On The Shoulders of Giants- The Great Shame of Saarang:

Saarang came and went. People had begun to miss the excitement on Smail. Someone decided that blogging about his opinions on Saarang was probably not the best way of annoying everybody in the institute. He dashed off a mail to the Director, Dean and the whole student group. The mail began, “Dear Sirs…”. Well, I am not aware of when the whole institute came to be knighted. Having flattered the reader, there begins a verbal assault on Saarang that would have probably made a hard core fundamentalist Mullah teary eyed with joy. Naturally, this tirade did not go down too well with everybody. Replies flew thick and fast touching issues like what Indians have to offer to the world. All along the participants missed one point, IIT Madras has probably become the first university in the world to have its email being merged with a discussion board.

A Briefer Peek into the Future:

Spamming on Smail is here to stay. It has been made the fundamental right of every Smail user. It lends voice to the vocally challenged, underrepresented and insensitive students on the campus and ensures equity. It is a pity that I have had only about a year’s worth of entertainment on Smail. I am passing out of the institute soon and I hope the administration allows outgoing students to retain their email ID’s.

Whatever be the complaint of Smail users, I am convinced of two things:

  1. The power of free speech is one of the most ill-abused privileges in the history of democracy and spamming on Smail is a very minor extension.
  2. The job of the moderator on Smail will be one of the most sought after positions on campus after the current occupant retires. All one has to do is accept everything that comes your way and watch them beat each other up.

Here's raising a toast to spamming and Smail.

The post is a tribute to Stephen Hawking whose spirit will continue to inspire us whatever walk of life we choose.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Atlas Has To Shrug

I have always been proud to associate myself with IITM. It is the place that has given me so much. I came here because it promised opportunities to those who worked to deserve them. Hence, it is with a tinge of sadness that I pen this post.

The situation that IITM is pigeonholing itself into reminds me of the bleak scenario that Ayn Rand so luridly paints in her magnum opus, ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Every direction I look I see rules fettering the activities of students and faculty alike. I mention the faculty taking note of how many of them noncommittally they say their hands are tied on the issue of student attendance. However, being a student working his way through his seventh semester in the institute, I confine my attention to what the students see. The reader will excuse the mood of the post. Being subject to innumerable rules can feel like being in a penitentiary and one never feels blithe in such milieu.

Having taken up the issue of attendance let me take it to a conclusion. Sitting through a class where one does not seem to gain any new ideas can be like watching paint dry or worse. The casus belli for the senate, which issues the fiats, seems to be the matter of respecting the teacher. I can assuredly tell them that if there is involuntary attendance in the class, there is also the simmering discontent that can by no stretch be construed as respect unless you do not look beyond the occupation of benches. Let us assume the problem in question is students not learning or dawdling their hours away in their rooms. It is no secret as to how much is absorbed by a student who forcibly attends a class that he or she detests.

Consider the alternative of having no rules but classes that are more interactive. That would mean that jumbo classes have to be done away with. There are classes with over six score students where at times no public address system is used or more likely does not work as expected. When this happens, it is unfair to criticize the back-benchers for an occasional loss of interest. Let us consider the leviathan class strengths in ID110/ID120/BT101/HS305. It makes little sense to broadcast the lecture live in the adjacent rooms. For all practical purposes, it is the same as students in Somalia gathering together to watch a video of IITM professors giving classes in Chennai; only that most of us do possess computers to watch it at our convenience. I am sure that at least in this supposedly elitist institute, most students are responsible enough to attend classes which they find profitable. As for the black sheep that are glued to gaming, why should they determine the actions of the rest of the institute?

That brings us to the gags on network usage, some of which are plain paranoia and the rest ludicrous. Who would ever turn off the network every few minutes just so that the game freaks are foiled? I am in the middle of a perfectly innocuous chat online and I see the client disconnecting and reconnecting enough times to disrupt the flow in the conversation. Let us examine something worse. I am working on a deadline for a submission that closes around 4 AM IST. The network shuts down at 1 AM promptly again to make sure some mindless folk go to sleep. Whoever said the administration cannot be a good nanny? However, someone obviously did not understand that the whole world does not follow Indian Standard Time.

The above concerns seem peccadilloes in front of what I am about to castigate. I had spent my last seven months in two different universities abroad, four months on exchange and three months on a summer internship. Both have been great experiences and needless to say that I have benefited immensely from them. The internship in particular was beyond my expectations and convinced me that I wanted to do research. Still looking back fondly at the experience, a message from the Academic Section strikes me like a clip from a horror movie. From my interaction with one of the key decision makers, I do know for one that he professes concepts like sacrifice while believing that life is a zero sum game. But this takes the cake.


Academic Section

F.Acad/07-08/B2/2007 Dated: 10.08.2007


Sub: Summer Training Course – Reg

It is informed that students will be permited to undergo Industrial Training (in summer) only in organizations/institutions within India at the end of Sixth Semester.

It is may kindly be noted that no student will be permitted to go abroad for Industrial Training (in summer) from Summer 2008 onwards.

/ By Order /

The mail effectively bans internships from being done abroad. Though it does not affect me directly, everything about the notice seemed repulsive to me, not including the spelling error in ‘permited’. License, quota and permits were after all what stifled India’s growth till someone had the courage to break the paradigm and open up the economy. World over, people are embracing globalization and riding on the benefits it is seen to offer. Even China, one of the last havens in the world for communist control, is seen actively courting a capitalist cloak.

What does the present move seek to achieve? Honestly, at this moment, I do claim to read the minds of the powers-that-be. Do they intend to ‘make the budding minds work within India for three months and improve the country’? Why not go the full distance and ban students from applying for higher studies abroad? Internship is a period of time where one explores a field and understands one’s interests. There have been a couple of cases last year that are very illuminating. Both internships were done abroad. An internship at an investment banking company convinced the student it was not what he wanted to get himself into. Another found his research internship not so inspiring and took up a consultancy job instead.

It may be possible that none of these reasons actually led to the decision on banning internships abroad. A few offending black sheep spam obscure universities in exotic destinations abroad, fly over and enjoy an all-expenses paid vacation. Should they determine whether the whole herd is to be castrated? But then again, it has become a typical tendency to severe the arm if there is a fly perching on it.

This tendency to solve problems with the imposition of rules is not restricted to the hallowed campus of IIT’s alone. Why else does the country have scads of amendments to the constitution? Several companies that my batch-mates worked for had unimaginably draconian restrictions of internet usage. It goes without saying that the restrictions had the look of well-seasoned Swiss cheese with all their loopholes.

The institutions abroad that I have seen closely work on honor, trust and soft coercion. If the IITs were largely built on the model adopted by the successful Western Universities, what dictates that it turn antediluvian in its mindset? The tendency worldwide is adopt the policy of ‘Laizzes-faire’-let things be. Of course, it cannot be taken too far. Some checks and balances are necessary to keep things from drifting into chaos. But far too many of them just serve to stifle productivity and achievement. We can never know how far and how high we are capable of flying until we leave the ground. It is time we loosened the chains that bind us.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Elixir of Immortality

He spotted the land at last. It was there gleaming in the midst of the vast expanse of the sparkling blue ocean water. Fortune seemed to have finally relented and decided to place it right there for him. He had traveled many miles in anticipation of this one moment leaving behind his worried family, staking his reputation on this mission. Purportedly saner men had derided him and called his enterprise a lunacy. Now he had a chance to prove them wrong…

It did not take long for them to disembark on the island. His crew was thoroughgoing professional and left for the island as though they were heading out for battle. Little did they know what awaited them. Elsewhere someone was closely watching their movements.

They were in a clearing. Lofty trees and luxuriant vegetation greeted them on all sides. The explorer looked up at the azure sky with a seagull streaking past and smiled. He guessed he got more satisfaction that day than in all his life before it. It was as though he found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that his life and efforts represented. Everything in his life seemed to have found new meaning now. He had lived his life by his ideals and came to where he had always dreamed of being.

Suddenly someone in the touring party dropped dead without so much as uttering a scream. The attack was swift. It was bloody. The native cannibals could possess no mercy. The explorer’s crew retaliated with all their might. It only made sure the natives knew that they had subdued a formidably equipped foe that day. Having well-nigh decimated the crew, the natives wisely retreated before the reinforcements came rushing in.

The crew was left counting its losses. They cried out for their leader. Ferdinand Magellan was his name. He was lying there on the blood-drenched ground with a smile on his face, a smoking gun in his hands and a fatal arrow sticking out of his chest.

This semi-fictional account of Magellan’s death was written in response to a question posed to me on who I would want to be-a pioneer or a settler. I did not have to think twice about my answer.

However, to lead such a life and die by it if necessary requires a lot of gumption. Plenty of people start their life with a lot of idealism. But somewhere down the line, they get stuck in the quicksand of mediocrity and monotony. Indeed, it is much more tempting a peaceful life where you earn your bread doing a routine if not mundane job, raise a family, stack up your savings, buy a house…the whole nine yards.

I fervently hope that I do not succumb to it. Right now there is youth coursing in my veins. Someday, maybe when I am old and crumbling, and when I have to look back on the life I have led, I pray that there is the swell of pride that washes away all possible pain. I long for the ‘immortality’ that Greeks sought. I wish I could say, ‘Remember us’, the way Leonidas said it when he changed the course of history with his last stand.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

2007-A Singaporean Odyssey

To the inquisitive reader interested in the curious incident of a human in the time of exchange: It has intrigued me greatly that despite the rather sporadic entries in the comment box not indicating so, my blog, which I haven't updated for ages, has been receiving a good number of hits everyday from known places. (Courtesy: A Statcounter ;). Big brother's watching!). This was written quite some time back. But to update a dormant blog, it requires the effort it takes to get up from bed at six in the morning on a perfect Saturday. Glad I made it!

I look out of the expansive window in front of me while reclining on a cozy rest sipping iced tea. Airplanes stationed directly opposite wait for passengers who make their way through the gates looking like ants homing on a sugar crystal. My flight on very own ‘Indian’ has been delayed. It could not have turned out any other way for if it was Singapore airlines, this piece would lost a bit of its meaning and if had not been delayed this post would not have been penned probably.

It’s the last hour of my exchange visit to Singapore. It’s the time to look back on what has been a really interesting experience. It is also the time when I though I was frazzled beyond recovery after an entire night of packing.

As if caressed by the sybaritic ambience of the Changi airport, the weariness slowly departs from my body leaving my mind free to wander in the lanes and by-lanes of the past. Four months ago, I landed at this airport with plenty of naivety that I would have vehemently denied then. It was an uncertain package that awaited me in the form an exchange program which was introduced for the first time in my college. Maybe that’s the feeling Guinea pigs go though.

Courses (or modules as they called them) were undecided. I was away from an environment that I had grown used to, learnt to thrive in and where I mingled with people I was comfortable with. Heck, I wasn’t sure of being here until three days from the date of departure. I must thank a friend who calls himself the Robocop for providing me his ‘brute-force’ robot-like formula to get the wheels moving.

Things unfolded in a rather curious fashion. I got courses that looking back gave me well-nigh the best of what a student from IITM with my kind of interests could get-a freedom that the institute could do with in good measure, but then maybe not, for as exchange students we had unbridled choice. It must also be said that going out every weekend in the first month was a nice bonus.

But there was this callowness of someone who was seeing first world life for the first time. Add to this the confusion in the mind of a vegetarian living in a meat-lover’s paradise. A modicum of conservatism completed the picture. It was fascinating observing people (a few friends in particular) and looking at the way my mind reacted. A canvas of human emotions was being painted over in front of my eyes; of promises made not to spill the beans…But the detached perspective that I enjoy now was not there when my mind went into a tailspin of its own.

Slowly but steadily, after a good deal of travel, interaction and fun, I got a much better understanding of what I really am, what gets me motivated and what drives me. With increasing workload of a nature pretty different from what I had seen at IITM, the challenge was not to retreat into a shell. Contact with new-found friends really helped in the manner of light drizzle over parched land.

In the midst of all this, an eventful and thrilling visit to Mao’s country was like a brilliant meteor that lit up the semester and helped me look at a lot of things in a different light. That’s for a post of its own though. (Is this the last time I write that line and not write one? I am not sure!)

Before I realized it, I finished my exams after putting in a performance that more or less gives me a good deal of satisfaction irrespective of what the results turn out to be. I was left facing the last 24 hours of my exchange. It was not easy for me to get down to packing. There was no real time to say a proper goodbye to all the people that I had come to know well. Another experience away from India was looming in the distance. Another sojourn that promised to be as fun-filled and eventful as the one that had just gone past.

The call for boarding my flight is issued. I am woken up from my reverie. It’s time to move on. A song from Alan Parson’s project comes to my mind with its lilting grace:

As far as my eyes can see
There are shadows approaching me
And to those I left behind
I wanted you to know
You've always shared my deepest thoughts
You follow where I go

And oh... when I'm old and wise
Bitter words mean little to me
Autumn winds will blow right through me
And someday in the mist of time
When they asked me if I knew you
I'd smile and say you were a friend of mine
And the sadness would be lifted from my eyes
Oh when I'm old and wise

As far as my eyes can see
There are shadows surrounding me
And to those I leave behind
I want you all to know
You've always shared my darkest hours
I'll miss you when I go

And oh... when I'm old and wise
Heavy words that tossed and blew me
Like autumn winds that will blow right through me
And someday in the mist of time
When they ask you if you knew me
Remember that you were a friend of mine
As the final curtain falls before my eyes
Oh when I'm old and wise

As far as my eyes can see

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Discordant Songs in Singapore

I have been getting a lot of queries on what I am doing with the offer of going to NUS on student exchange. The whole process has been long-drawn and my mind has been changing its stance with the direction of the wind. I feel I owe an explanation.

For all the visitors to this page, who might have come here expecting something inspiring, sorry fellas. If you think this stuff is going to bore you, it would be a good idea to stop reading the post at this point.

September 3’rd Week:

“I don’t know if I’ll go to NUS, but why not give it a shot”.

I get a mail from the department telling me that a chance to go to NUS on exchange for one semester, in my case the sixth semester, is up for grabs. Though NUS does not exactly sound like the seventh heaven for academics, I apply anyway. Buying time for such decisions is a habit I have picked up of late, as you would have realized at the beginning of the post.

September 4’Th Week:

“Yuck, the whole process is so messy, I don’t know if it’ll come through at all”.

There is word spread that a list of courses has to be prepared, but when we get to the faculty advisor we are told that it is still some way off. This is only one of the many instances where the lack of a central co-coordinating person/body at IITM was sorely felt. Going pillar to post to get some tiny bit of information was not uncommon.

October 1’st Week:

“I am finally done with it, or am I? Something didn’t seem all right…”

The hard-copy of the application form is submitted. My passport application is doing its rounds in three different states and I cannot not attach its copy. It was at this point that I make my only error in the whole application procedure. Blame it on Shaastra, my carelessness or whatever you will; I forget to attach a copy of my grade card with the application.

October 2’nd and 3’rd weeks:

Wrong e-mail id? Never mind I can manage! ...Hey, maybe not...HELP!!!

In the middle of my busiest semester yet, I figure out the mails from NUS are being sent to a sancharnet id that I had given to the institute two and a half years back, that might seem eons now. One of my friends plays the good Samaritan and forwarded me the two or so mails when I told him of my predicament.

I really should have sent them the correct e-mail id immediately. But, maybe I thought with all the mail being sent to the whole group, I could get away with it. By the time, the correct e-mail id that I sent percolated to the different tentacles of the NUS octopus, a fair amount of damage had been done. I had missed a few important mails. It still boggles me how they could turn a blind eye to the email id on the application and instead use some defunct one retrieving it from the depths of the institute archives.

I manage to talk to a few professors about the exchange and got a mixed response from them. With a few big things coming my way and looking like they would need my continued attention here, I am increasingly skeptical about the whole exercise. Nevertheless I make up my mind to continue with the formalities and take the decision when all the information I need is at hand.

November 1’st and 2’nd weeks:

“Oh, damn! Why the f@#$# did I forget the grade card?”

I always thought Indian babudom set the record for the longest and heaviest red tape. I hadn’t seen the world yet. Turned out the Singaporean bureaucracy would give our system a run for its money. Referring to the missing grade card copy, they ask me to send the transcript. The academic section sends an attested copy by fax and in turn, I inform them by e-mail of this make-shift arrangement. It takes them two solid weeks to tell me that a photo-copy of the grade card that everyone else had sent was absolutely necessary. How a photocopy has more validity than an attested fax beat me and the academic section.

November 3’rd week:

“Hey, the offer’s tempting. But what about the loose ends?”

The flimsiest of the ‘hard copies of my transcript’, a photocopy of my grade card, is sent to NUS through the academic section duly attested.

Meanwhile, I figure out that most of the applicants from IITM are actually accepting the offer. Bit by bit, it seems to be a nice deal after all. For the first time, I give it a really serious thought. Issues of credit transfer and grade equivalence are cleared; however a few other concerns have to be ironed out.

November 4’Th week:

“Bugger off! I have end-sems!!”

Understandably nothing much is done.

December 1’st week:

“Gosh, I’m screwed! Never mind, these little things will fall in place…”

Everyone except me and another chap gets the offer letter. The other chap, Puneet, assuages my ruffled temper telling me that he would make calls to Singapore for free(one of the perks of being the branch councilor) and make enquiries.

I am occupied with bringing out the TFE and continuing with the development my IDP design. I knew from the start it would be the busiest month in my stay at IITM and nothing has made it look otherwise so far.

December 2’nd week:

“Semi-bliss and a pin-prick, ouch!”

I have a wonderful time at Digha in the winter academy. Last minute preparation has become the rule for me of late, it was no different here. I will save this experience for a separate post.

On the 13’th I get a mail that I am unable to check till the evening of 15’th owing to the lack of connectivity there. When I see it, it tells me that I have to send in my courses by 15’th. As could be expected, there was no way I could make up a sane list of courses in so short a time away from the resources that would have helped me.

December 3’rd week:

“That’s the last straw. Singaporean red tape is invincible!!”

I have all but decided to go when this appalling piece of co-ordination from NUS stops my application in its tracks. The person handling the department courses apparently went on leave from the afternoon of 15’th and would not be back till the 26’th. Talk of timing your leave to perfection. Filled with disgust and loathing, I send my course list to them anyway.

December 4’Th week:

“The situation is out of my hands-I wait and watch with the maximum passivity possible from a man whose butt is on fire”

I am told that the offer letter could be sent by e-mail as a soft copy for contingency to make up for the delay from the department (refer to the leave episode). That went a long way in removing the heebie-jeebies.

This was the calm before the gale. The death blow came when they assigned my accommodation to an off-campus location. The reason apparently was both due to the ‘pending status’ (my foot!) of my application and the shortage of rooms. There is no way I could accept this raw deal. Why me? I must have asked that questions so many times that I hate the sound of it now.

Latest status:

I have sent them a mail telling them that in the absence of on-campus accommodation I would be forced to reject the offer. With the air-ticket blocked I still have the option of going there in the event that this ultimatum does something remarkable.

Writing this has been a cathartic experience. Mentally and materially, I am prepared for either possibility now. I am glad I have not burnt the bridges and IITM would not kick me out. After all, it has most of my good friends in a setting that I have grown to love with all its flaws.

PS- I'm done with the whole affair. It's good ol' IITM for the next sem.