Cricket Illustrated

This is in reference to the article “life is a game of cricket” I wrote a few days ago. Today we were discussing the answers to a certain examination and I was able to explain everything in cricketing terms… The paper consisted of 40 Multiple Choice Questions with +1 for every right answer and -1 for every wrong.

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On cultural events and simulated annealling

As part of my “Artificial Intelligence” course three years ago, I had learnt about this search technique called “simulated annealling”. I learnt this again as part of an advanced course in Operations Research. It is used to solve problems where solving rigorously is not feasible as it would take too much time.

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Accident

As I was speeding along ring road driving into campus a few minutes ago, I was witness to a horrible accident. A bike in front of me, travelling at 60+ (kmph), hit a pedestrian who was crossing the road. The gentleman was trying to cross the road at a point where normally vehicles seem to zip. And what makes it more amazing is that there was a traffic signal and zebra crossing barely 20 metres away.

Won’t we Indians ever learn? Do we continue risking our lives while a little care could have done the trick? Or do we have to enforce “zero tolerance zones” everywhere in order to teach ourselves traffic rules?

(my first short post! hurray!)

CS@IIT vs. IIM

Some stuff in this post may appear controversial and a little condescending towards some of my past/present classmates. I apologise for all egos I’ve hurt in the process and maintain that I am not taking a personal dig against anyone. I am just putting in some of my observations.

When I attended the summers process a few months back, half the interviews started with the question, “How do you compare IIT with IIM?” and I spoke volumes about culture, RGness, attitudes and the like. Given my 5 years of experience in these institutes of national importance, I thought I’ll put down some stuff which I didn’t mention in the interviews due to the pressure to be politically correct. I’ll leave the oft-mentioned things such as culture, hostel life, etc. and focus on the attitudes of the people towards acads.

I spent four years in IIT Madras. Having gotten a good JEE rank, I was fortunate to sit in the same class as some of the other top-100 JEE rankers in the country. Many of them had decided on a career in research in Computer Science at a time when I was learning my tables. Extremely focused, extremely RG, extremely muggoo I must say. Except for a few freaks, my class of 30 odd was a largely homogeneous bunch. And I was among the most vela guys around in my class, I believe.

IIMs, for a long time, have stressed that academics isn’t the only metric and they try to maintain a good balance of people from all walks of life in their classrooms. My class of 60 odd here has a few IITians, some engineers from ‘second rung’ colleges, some economics grads from some of the ‘pseud’ colleges, some commies (BComs for the uninitiated), a couple of CAs, a medical doctor (!!!) and a vast majority from engineering colleges whose names I hadn’t even heard of before I came to IIMB.

Way back in school, we had a nice bunch. People who have now ended up in all walks of life. The general level of academics wasn’t too low. Still, I, as the class representative, could easily manage to unionise the class in order to get things done or to get classes/assignments cancelled. I simply loved the arrangement.

After this, IITM was a rude shock. I seemed to be the only guy in town who had no clue of what to do in life (this is specific to my branch). People were so focused. Everyone used to listen patiently in class. They would come up with good pertinent questions when called for. People would select courses saying, “This will be a good resume point when we apply for the post of professor 15 years from now”. They welcomed any extra assignment load saying it would be a “wonderful learning experience”. They used to get extremely pally with profs right from day one – extremely important for that all important recommendation. And the “untransparent” system in which grades were given (most profs refused to show us our end-term papers) ensured that this licking would bear dividends much before that recommendation was asked for.

This class was extremely tough to unionise. Only on one occasion I managed to lead a dharna to the professor’s office and get a couple of assignment deadlines postponed. The only result of it was that by the time I was done with my assignment, my classmates had all gone two steps ahead – the end result being that I was penalized for my marks. Through a mix of careful selection of groups and judicious freeriding, I somehow managed to get my way through.

After this, IIMB was again a rude shock (I am writing this based on my last 8 months’ experience). People here seem to be least interested in most courses. People here too have a fair idea of what they want to do in life but the number of such people is few. Despite having fixed seating, everyone rushes to the last row in class. Sit there, sleep sometimes, eat, chat, etc. Most profs here don’t seem to mind then – only they screw us in the grades at the end of the course. In IIT, the one time I slept in class my prof gave me a zero on five for Class Participation (CP) and my grade fell from A to C because of that. And the generally high decorum meant that the average grade was pretty high. Here, people consistently piss off profs due to low attendance, sleeping in class, no CP at all and the like and in the end get screwed by the profs in the grades – and then cry to academic council to do something about it.

Another downside to the system of selection here is that in some courses there are few “studs”. In IITM, whatever be the course (including those I topped by a huge margin), whenever I had a doubt, there would be definitely half a dozen people in my own batch who were able to solve them. That doesn’t happen here in a few courses and I feel kind of _________ (can’t get the word for it now).

I am not generally cribbing about IIMB and my classmates. In fact, the system here does have numerous positives. For one, the class IS unionisable – which means it is easier to get assignments cancelled/postponed. Then, the level of RG here is much lesser. And it is easier for me to do pretty well in some courses which involve some degree of analytical thinking (a lot of people (not all, mind you) from non-IIT backgrounds have a little trouble in this). The list goes on.

The only thing that comes to my mind right now is that neither system is perfect. They seem to be like two opposite ends of the pendulum. If you consider them to be two stools, I fall right between them. Why is it that I don’t “perfectly fit in” to either system? Has either IIT or IIM been a mistake on my part? Does there exist at all a premier institution which is balanced in this regard? Or is it that such a place simply doesn’t exist, for then the world would be perfect?

Whatever it is, I am extremely happy that I have the “IIT-IIM” tag on me which I hope will help me in a big way in getting ahead in all walks of life.

Where is the youth gone??

Unmaad is going to get over in a couple of hours. Moksha and Parikrama have already gotten the crowds swinging. The closing party will start in a couple of hours. And what am I doing right now? Sitting alone in my room with floyd playing in the background and writing this stupid piece of shit. The two complementary passes I got lie before me in my desk drawer. I’ll probably keep them for keep sake.

I still remember those days during Saarang at IIT Madras. Those days when I was still a geela undergraduate (seems so long ago now). The ultimate aim for all of us during Saarang would be to patao a girl. We would all bathe daily, shave daily, wear our best clothes, save up money and what not – just for those fifteen seconds of fame when we would be seen talking to that girl from some outside college. The ultimate sense of achievement would be to partner an outsider girl to one of the various dance workshops. I must confess that I “achieved” nowhere near this and the max I did was to have a loooooong chat with a girl whom I’d known for several years!

The ends justify the means. Irrespective of what people’s motivation is, it is a fact that we had a great deal of enthu for saarang. Saarang meant leaving the room at 8:55 sharp and not returning until late in the night. It meant that we never had grub in the mess but made do at the various food stalls with the free coupons we got for being a coordinator or a volunteer. If we had nothing to do, we would just “put beat” in the arena. There was of course the bigger goal of trying to put line to one of the pretty outsider girls.

During the last couple of days, I had every single meal in the mess. I stayed in my room for large parts of the day – especially on friday when I was setting my quiz. The only reason I ventured out was for three quizzes – two I attended and one I organized. And briefly for a party yesterday night. Else my only company has been the comp and Bridge Baron.

It is indeed funny but the very things I used to find interesting and motivating a year ago seem so pointless and trivial nowadays. Having ‘been there, done that’, there’s hardly the urge to do anything hifunda. The thin crowds too don’t help. And I have, of late, realized that too much footage is too bad and hence have been trying to maintain a generally low profile, which I must admit is a little hard to do. Earlier, I would like to be in the thick of things. Now, I’m content with taking something that I believe I can do well and simply doing it well. My work doesn’t extend beyond what I have agreed to do.

I attended a concert by Indian Ocean and STrings yesterday. At a similar concert last year, I had simply danced the night away. Yesterday, I stood quietly among friends looking around and commenting on the Besura voice of Faisal Kapadia. At many points of time during the show, all I wanted was a corner – a corner where I could sit down, sip coffee, make small talk with a few good friends and enjoy the Gamakams in the Indian Ocean compositions.

I am wondering what has befallen me. It is known that people change, but do they change so quickly like I have in the past year? Maybe not, as I spent my first month here in IIMB in a kinda culture shock and took time to adjust. Does environment have such a big impact on one’s personality? Having adjusted to a new environment, how will one react if pur back in the old environment? Have I lost my youth in my efforts to get over my “geelapan”? These are some quesions I may answer in subsequent posts.

I know the ending of this essay is bad but im feeling too sleepy so I’ll generally end it without caring for too much else.

Philosophy – Life is a game of cricket

Musings: These are random thoughts that crossed my head after a party. this being written at 0330 hrs, i’m not sure if the quality of writing matches up to my usual level. However, you can take it that all that i’ve written is “straight from the heart”.

Being a true blue middle-class (as of now) Indian guy, I am assumed to be able to carry out intelligent conversation in three areas – politics, movies and most importantly, cricket. In this respect it was damn insightful to find out the similarities between anything you do and this wonderful game.

The normal maxim followed in a test match is – give the first hour to the bowlers and take the other five. In normal circumstances, unless you are a Sehwag or a Jayasuriya or an Afridi, it is impossible to score at a brisk rate from ball one – unless of course if the bowler is pathetic. There is nothing sweeter for a batsman to feel the full face of the bat meeting the ball. He doesn’t feel confident unless and until he has met atleast one ball with the full face of his bat, irrespective of the runs he’s scored.

I haven’t played too much cricket with a leather ball (again like a good Indian, I play tennis ball cricket and watch REAL cricket). However on the few occasions I’ve played, I’ve realized the importance of the ball hitting the face of the bat sweetly. Till that time there’s a certain twang in your hands whenever ball meets bat. But connect once and all the irritation is gone and you can start belting the next ball onwards.

In life too, I believe, it’s extremely important to ‘settle down’ before embarking on any kind of mission. Take the case of starting a conversation with someone, a situation I’ve oft faced in the recent past. After the initial introductions (the toss; assume you win it and elect to bat), comes the time when the other person has to bowl to you. Not knowing your strengths/weaknesses, she’ll simply want to play safe and the first few balls will be wide outside off stump. You generally put a good ‘well left’ on each of them. However, she’s not Glenn McGrath and soon there’ll be a loose ball which you can latch on and meet with the face of the bat.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve hit the ball past the boundary or just put a good ole’ ‘forward defensive stroke’. All that matters is that you’ve managed to connect. It is only a matter of time before you can connect a few more and then there’s no stopping you. By now, she’ll have also realized your strengths and weaknesses and bowl accordingly. Except for the rare occasion when she’ll try to stump you at all the wrong places, it is likely that she’ll play along. That’ll be the beginning of a (maybe long) innings.

For people who didn’t get the metaphor, when you meet someone, you have some teething problems in starting a conversation. You start by fielding some innocuous stuff such as talk about the weather (or better else about politics, movies and cricket) and soon enough there’ll be an opportunity where you’ll suddenly feel that you’ve ‘settled down’ into the conversation. After that there’s no stopping you. Things simply happen and that is the beginning of a long comfortable conversation.

Using this as a base, I think I can classify the people around me as different bowlers in contemporary cricket. Some are Jason Gillespiess. Each time you start with them, you feel Dizzy (pun intended) and need to go through the entire process of “settling down into the conversation”. Then there are others like Henry Olonga whom you can start belting right from part one. Most people, of course lie in the middle.

When people talk of “personality development” and “becoming pseud” it is about increasing the number of Olongas and decreasing the number of Gillespies in your life. It is all about becoming a better batsman so that you can “settle down” extremely quickly irrespective of the bowler who’s bowling. The ‘studdest’ (Forgive the language – i’ve just come back from a trip to good ole’ IITM) person is one for whom every bowler is an Olonga and can start thulping anyone from ball one.

Moral of the story: When someone asks you to improve your personality, they’re only asking about improving on batting skills.

PS: Speaking of parties and cricket, given the way a few people dance I believe it would be prudent to go to the next party like an opening batsman – fully equipped with pads and other accessories – my dynasty almost came to an end thanks to a classmate today.