Tuesday, December 6, 2011

India vs. Bharat

Observations to come later ... occupied with grade preparation ... DND notice pasted all over ...

Times of India reports on 07.12.2011


Income inequality doubles in India in 20 yrs


New Delhi: Inequality in earnings has doubled in India over the last two decades, making it the worst performer on this count of all emerging economies. The top 10% of wage earners now make 12 times more than the bottom 10%, up from a ratio of six in the 1990s.
    Moreover, wages are not smoothly spread out even through the middle of the distribution. The top 10% of earners make almost five times more than the median 10%, but this median 10% makes just 0.4 times more than the bottom 10%.

    “The main driver has been an increase in wage inequality between regular wage earners ie contractual employees hired over a period of time,” says the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a new report on inequality in the developed world and emerging economies. “By contrast, inequality in the casual wage sector — workers employed on a day-today basis — has remained more stable,” the report says.
    South Africa is the only emerging economy with
worse earnings inequality, but it has halved this number since the last decade. “The combination of marked spatial divides, persistently high shares of informal sector jobs and disparities in access to education accounts for much of the widespread variation in earnings from work in the EEs,” the report says.
    Wage inequality has driven more general income inequality in the country.

India has got more unequal over the last two decades — India’s Gini coefficient, the official measure of income inequality, has gone from 0.32 to 0.38, with 0 being the ideal score. In the early 1990s, income inequality in India was close to that of developed countries; however its performance on inequality has diverged greatly since then, bringing it closer to China on inequality than the developed world.
    There is evidence of growing concentration of wealth among the elite. The consumption of the top 20% of households grew at almost 3% per year in the 2000s as compared to 2% in
the 1990s, while the growth in consumption of the bottom 20% of households remained unchanged at 1% per year.
    In comparison, the income of the bottom 20% of households in China grew at double the rate in the 2000s as compared to the 1990s, while the increase for the top 20% of households was much slower. In Brazil, household incomes have been growing faster among the poorest households than among the richest for the last two decades.
    Of all the emerging economies, India has by far the highest proportion of informal employment, by any national or international measure. “In India… informal employment includes a disproportionate number of women, homebased workers, street sellers and workers subcon
tracted by firms in the formal sector,” the OECD report says.
    India spends less than 5% of its GDP on social protection schemes as compared to Brazil’s more than 15%. Its tax revenue as a proportion of GDP is under 20% — the lowest of all emerging economies, and just half that of developed countries.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yours sincerely

Dear student,

Welcome to our research group. Hope, this association will be mutually beneficial. You will learn from the group. We shall also learn from you.

The beginning of a research career starts with placing right questions that comes from a probing mind. In the initial phase, you will mostly contribute to the group by asking questions, looking beyond obvious - mostly 'why's and 'why not's. There is no question that can be called 'silly'. An inquisitive mind filled with innocence looks at the world with bewilderment, like a child - amused, excited, - a child having untiring zeal, indomitable spirit to ask endless questions. In the pursuit of knowledge which is infinite, we all are like a child and should possess such a quality. You will learn from the group, skill set we have already acquired. But you have to make it your own by not taking them as blackbox and asking relevant questions.

I was waiting for this day for your induction to the team. There could have been a better start had you performed better in the test. It is not easy for somebody to come back to academics after so many years and getting only few weeks to prepare with a completely different type of project responsibility to attend to in parallel. You had been brave to appear for the test with such a short preparation. Have faith in yourself. Your P.I. (who talked to me earlier) is very much satisfied with your contribution to the project. Feel proud of what you achieved in such a short stay at IIT Kharagpur. You will definitely earn what you deserve.

As far as reaching life's milestones, my little experience is that life gives opportunity. Our job is to remain prepared and make the most of opportunities when it come. The preparation is in our hand. It is not always possible to create opportunities ourselves. We are entitled to feel bad if we do not exert ourselves enough in the preparatory phase and let go an opportunity. You have worked hard since you joined and your responsibility ends there. There is no reason to feel bad. Take the feedback from the test - written and interview in right spirit and work on it. It is important to maintain a positive attitude and prepare oneself for the next opportunity. It will come.

Be strong. Vivekananda says, "Strength is life, weakness is death." "Life is short. The vanities of the world are transient. They only live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive." The milestones achieved in life are not for self or are vanity stuffs to flaunt about. It is owning up of more responsibility, telling people that I am to deliver more (not from a point of ego, true education never does that), they should expect more responsibility to be shouldered by me, they should make me aware if I am failing in my duty vis-a-vis capacity I possess. Reaching milestones are important as that gives us more capacity to serve. Let us hope and pray that each of us can raise ourselves to achieve more not just for self but for the society at large which in a nation like us constitutes of millions of underprivileged.

Let us find sometime tomorrow and discuss how you may chart next part of the journey. Allow me to end this longish welcome message with one of my favourite Lord Buddha quote, "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."

We all know that "Lives of great men all remind us that we can make our lives sublime." I may suggest at least 5-10 minutes of study of lives of great men and women in everyday's routine. My own experience is that I have found Vivekananda quotes from "Call to the Nation" (Link) or his letters to young disciples like Alasinga (One Link), Nivedita (One link) very inspiring.

Welcome again and cheers!

Yours sincerely,

P.S. The older one grows, the more one starts giving sermons!!! And I am not getting younger day by day. Pls. get used to that as you join this group :-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali to all! Wish I could send individual mails or cards to all I know, that includes who remembered and sent greetings cards but left no email id / phone no./full address. Perhaps, a post on this blog is the only way to reach out to all and say, "Thanks".

Diwali in IIT Kharagpur is unmatched with its Illumination and Rangoli. I find that this post (Link) from a student captures it beautifully.

It was wonderful to meet faculty colleagues and students yesterday evening while moving from one pandal to another with family and exchange greetings on the way. I must say that the IIT campuses are unparalleled and IIT Kharagpur campus is perhaps the best on human quotient.


Three months back, there was a conversation with a mother (stationed abroad on an assignment) on google, me not knowing the tragedy that occurred recently. She was referring to the Arthur Ashe quote in the section 'A friend in need' of a previous post (Link) in the chat. Suddenly I realized that the 10 year old son was no more. The physicians tried their best but it was one of those rare diseases. Tears knew no bound when the mother said that she wished but could not be my student and wanted to bring the son to me someday. Wish I can rise to the expectation of parents / guardians / students and be worthy enough to be called a teacher. Let me share the talk (Link) that comes to my mind whenever such a discourse arises. The link may not open in some browsers.

Steve Jobs Quote

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

Digging Deep

What we see in the surface is not what one is but what one wants to show. "If hard work is what pays then the donkey would have been the king of a forest and not lion." I placed the quote before a class of 100 students. The class said that they do not agree with it. I told, "I am not asking if you agree or not. What do you think of the person who writes this in his public portrayal?" May appear that he is in control of himself, very strong and knows what he is doing. An expert in psychology may say. With 284 facebook friend, his other public note was, "hell is d new hanging adda, when nobody is wid me." Wonder any of his friend could see it and make out what he has in his mind. An IIT final year with no backlog, no apparent reason to develop such a distaste of life at this age! And IIT Kharagpur was again news for a student who bade adieu to life.  Requested all to share with us (teachers, elders) issues they face. May be the experience of the struggle each of us go through help one another. My experience can be found in a previous post (Link). What does great teachers like Vivekananda say? He asks the youth to be strong and exhorts (Link1, Link2, Link3) in his call to the nation "Go from village to village, do good to humanity and to the world at large. . …… ‘When death is certain, it is better to die for a good cause.’"

Student Welfare Group

Jumped on a Student Welfare Group, IIT Kharagpur under Dean, SA website (Link) which is recently launched. Had a conversation with one of the content developer who worked in NSS last year. He was one of the lead volunteer and thus we got acquainted. A very good effort from IIT Kharagpur students. I also liked the shoutbox of scholars avenue blog (Link).  Let all stake holders of IIT system come and work together to see that every flower blooms.

And there was light

It was wonderful to read in the newspaper that students of one High School did not buy new dress materials in this Durga Puja and urged their parents to donate the money for costly treatment of a needy classmate. The other day television news showed friends coming together to make a pandal which looks like 'Academy of Fine Arts' of Kolkata. There the paintings of one club member who is a rickshaw puller by profession and painter by passion are displayed. The rickshaw puller painter does not have money to exhibit his work in Academy of Fine Arts at Kolkata. The friends decided to create one for him in the locality.

Real vs. virtual friend  I often worry about the abundance of virtual friends in recent times. These days we prefer to converse on chat with my next door neighbour than taking a walk together. May be the virtual platform helps the shy to unshackle themselves in the beginning. But a real friend is the one which never goes off-line.  I remember the Chanakya Shloka we memorized in our Sanskrit class of Class VIII. "Utsabe byasane chaiba durbhikkhe rashtrabiplabe / Rajadware, Shashmane Cha Jasthishthati Sa Bandhaba." A weak translation would be : He is a friend who is with you in fun, in famine, in revolution, in front of the king, in crematorium. It is not just fun which gets shared but more challenging situations such as those. The English adage says : A friend in need is a friend indeed. Let us hope to get one, let us be one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Directors Speak

The Diamond Jubilee convocation function had a very interesting panel discussions on 22nd August, 2011 morning at Netaji Auditorium. We had former IIT Kharagpur Directors Padmashree Prof. K. L. Chopra and Prof. Amitabha Ghosh; current Directors of IIT Bhubaneshwar, IIT Ropar, IIT Indore and Prof. P. Chakraborty from IIT Kanpur. Prof. M. S. Swaminathan of TIME magazine fame, member of Planning Commission and National Advisory Council also graced the panel. What followed is a feast of thoughts, an introspection on 60 years of IIT system and the way ahead. I could not locate any report on this and hence presenting here what I could take as running notes.

Prof. Chopra initiates the discussion by saying that we are supposed to be think-tanks. We may have been so for UG studies. But emphasis is too much on UG studies. Integrated M.Tech., PhD should be preferred. To shift from teaching based to learning based i.e. outcome based, learning how to learn. He emphasized on breaking barriers among Departments, reducing no. of credits to be cleared by students. He gave example of MIT where 130 credits are enough (compared to IIT's 175) and 30% of this is constituted by core subjects and students enjoy a lot of flexibility in selecting subjects. He expects new IITs to show new way and does not like the idea of being mentored by older IITs (as it hinders new thinking). He wishes to see DST change how it functions.

Prof. Amitabha Ghosh was the next speaker. He stressed on importance of planning and preparing the country to be at centre stage of 3rd industrial revolution. He talked about revamping curriculum at least in a few IITs and opening the door of IITs to world students (at least MTech and PhD) on its way to become world institutes.

Prof. M. K. Surappa, Director, IIT Ropar spoke next. He explained the challenges in setting up of  a new institute. He emphasized on quality focus. All IITs together have 6000 publications a year with citation index 5-6. MIT publishes 4000 a year but citation index is 20. He worried about languishing university system and if IITs can help them, NITs to get good students for research. He talked about creation of new knowledge that will be put in application over next 20 years; in areas like waste management, water, energy, healthcare etc.

Prof. M. Chakraborty, Director, IIT Bhubaneshwar talked about issues faced by a head of a new IIT. He mentioned how his IIT is unique in offering interdisciplinary exposure to students, to strike  balance between domain knowledge and broad area. Every final year project must have supervisors from two different departments.

Director, Indore explained the present infrastructure situation at his IIT and challenges faced. He told that it is easier for newer IITs to adopt a change. In his IIT, a student has to undergo six month's industry / shopfloor experience.

Prof. Partha Chakraborty of IIT Kanpur said that IIT education should make one socially aware, become a good citizen, contribute to nation building - becoming broad based. Research environment should be there in the country. Many smaller universities feed Stanford. This should hold for IITs too.

Prof. Swaminathan spoke last in the first round. He said that the 60 years of IIT was not only the time to celebrate but also to introspect where we had gone wrong. He talked about reducing food spoilage, environmental impact of new technology, helping nationwide poverty alleviation programs like MGNAREGA with technology. He said that it is better to look for individuals and build institutions around that individual.

Then it was a kind of open house.

Prof. Chopra observed how MIT focused on infrastructure in first 75 years, industry in second 75 years and planning (health, global) in third 75 years but there are no such things for IITs. More than the money, the power of mind holds key. How could C. V. Raman, S. N. Bose, Meghnad Saha perform with junk equipments!

Prof. Ghosh narrated one anecdote where a young faculty wanted to leave IIT for a foreign university not for money or comfort, but for poor quality of research students he was getting. He said that even a mediocre US university get bright students from India, China. He wondered how US universities would perform if foreign students are not there. Prof. Chopra observed that the IIT students go out for money as well as lack of inspiration from IIT teacher. Prof. Ghosh said that the prestige in our country increases i one goes outside the country or publishes work in foreign journals.

Prof. M. Chakraborty brought the topic of collaboration among faculty members. He said that the competitors can be collaborators and it is worthwhile to work in a group. There were a lot of questions from the audience. The discussion came to an abrupt end when the hard time cut-off was reached. But it was great experience to listen to these experienced people and get educated.


Prof. K. L. Chopra's interview as published in IIT Kharagpur's student mouth piece 'Scholars Avenue' (Link) leaves more food for thought. Excerpts from the interview as appeared in the link is pasted below.

There are presently 3,500 private technical colleges and 350 private universities to do the job of producing over 93% of the engineering graduates in India. It is wiser then to concentrate on quality rather than increase the number and intake of IITs which will not significantly change the overall percentage of graduating engineering manpower for the country. The magnified numbers today have become a burden on the existing IITs. Just imagine herding 4 students in one room in the hostel.

As for educating a class full of two hundred students, even Feynman, the great physicist, the great actor, declared his efforts at Caltech a failure. “It is the inspiration from the teacher that makes you a scientist or an engineer,” and this, KL Chopra says, cannot happen unless there is an eye-to-eye contact and direct interaction between the teacher and the student. The IITs were supposed to be the think-tanks of the country, but he believes the kind of reforms being incorporated is converting them to regular universities.

The vision of education in IITs was to create knowledge, which is more important than dissemination. Also, the focus needs to be on translational research,” says KL Chopra. It isn’t that people in the IIT system aren’t competent, but there is nobody accounting for the deliverance of knowledge in a country whose economy is heavily dependent on science and technology. He believes this is a form of intellectual corruption: a condition where no questions are asked. “Fortunately the government did not know what was going on with the IT industry and thus it flourished very well.”

We learned that India is a signatory to the Washington Accord, a document with benchmarks for education quality. The IITs come under its purview and will have to be judged sometime, an evaluation KL Chopra says they will not necessarily pass. While IITans have hitherto enjoyed global mobility, foreign organizations now realize that given the bulk of students, a spectrum is bound to exist. While he believes a transition to a system involving thorough evaluation is going to be difficult for students as well as teachers, that is what the world today demands. It is not what is taught that is important, but whether and what students have learned, and whether they have learned to learn.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Listening To

This was 18th August, 2011 Foundation Day lecture at Netaji Auditorium by Mr. Sandipan Chakravortty, our alumnus and M.D. of a TATA enterprise. I tried with our alumni office who in turn made a contact with Mr. Chakravortty. But as it appeared this was an extempore and he did not carry any written material that can be mailed. Therefore, I present here what I could scribble in the invitation card that I carried to the auditorium.

Mr. Chakravortty told the students, "As IITians, first brand yourself as human being. Being IITians, you are different from others. You are inspirational leader with a backbone of integrity." He talked about wide spread corruption and felt proud when he said that there are "no IITians in this space and IITians hold head high."

He continued on what Industry wants from an young engineer, a being who is physically and mentally healthy; has good domain knowledge; good communication ability, believes in team work, integrity, by nature ambitious, dynamic, innovative. He observed that we grow up as individuals in school. However, the IIT life teaches team work.

Next, he said, "You must have spiritual feelings." By this he meant listening to the call of conscience. He differentiated 'good' and 'great' by this yard stick. Good people are efficient. Great people are efficient and listen to the call of conscience.

He warned if 'lust of knowledge' is replaced by 'lust of money' among IIT students. He feels hurt when media highlights highest salary received by an IIT student from campus placement as a scoring point of one IIT over another. Finally, he said that TATA enterprises are highest tax payers and do not do accounting tricks to reduce tax burden. The guiding philosophy of J. R. D. Tata "is not to look at profits but how much tax that has been paid. Paying tax is a matter of pride."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Life is precious!

Disclaimer : This post is in response to an unfortunate incident that occured last week or reported to happen at IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras in recent times . This is to share some of my life’s experience which may be found useful by some. The aim here is not to find fault with an individual, institution or a practice but to complement the efforts being made by the stake holders of the society.

Section I

Last week I got a ‘Like’ from a student on an inspiring quote of Goutam Buddha that I pasted on Google Buzz. Following back I found that the student’s own posts in the buzz are inspiration abound. There I found this youtube video. What I liked most in this is the ability to face the life by not feeling bitter about it in such a situation. The glow in face indicates a sense of fulfillment which most of us, blessed not being challenged like that, lack. Salute to the spirit of life!

Happening on the Ground!

Few days back, one student entered my office in the evening, thoroughly shaken. Hours back one final year student of a different Dept. but from same hostel, has taken the extreme step. Apparently, he was struggling to put up a good academic performance and he largely confined himself to his room. The remedial part needs timely assistance from fellow students, family members, faculty members, admin. etc. The institute has a counseling cell and every hostel has a student group to assist it. Since the results are computerized, an algorithm could be put in place to generate an alarm and forewarn all concerned if some sort of pattern is found in the progress report. The guardians can remote log in through their ward’s log-in, password into institute’s ERP system and track the performance. They may visit the institute at least once a semester to talk to faculty members and discuss the progress.

Being Multidimensional

However, it is wiser to be less dependent on environment or remedial measures. It is better to acquire important life skills oneself from early stages of life. The guardians should appreciate this and not engage their wards in career oriented study only. The playgrounds are empty these days as the students are running from one tution teacher to other, trying to make every single minute of the day count. For youngsters, there is no time to study biographies or teachings of great people and drawing inspiration from them as they are ‘out of syllabus’.  Reading novels or classics are replaced by watching television which does not allow imagination to grow. It is not only sublime thoughts, as a whole we are thinking a lot less these days or have less time for ourselves to think what, how and why?

More Practices

Few days back I was insisting one of my relative to take at least one week break every year so that the family can spend quality time together in some travel destination. They cannot do that not to miss the private tution of their ward. I wonder if I can suggest participating in cultural functions in the school or locality – it could be a play or group dance, song or recitation. I would even suggest taking some time out on a weekly basis to do something for the underprivileged. It could be teaching Math. / English for one hour to the kid of the housemaid or spending some time in the nearby old age home or orphanage. The value of spending some time on a weekly basis (if not daily) in a good company or a study-circle is so much underrated! If I talk about few minutes of prayer and mental concentration on a daily basis, I am talking more about calming down of one’s nerves that can focus the energy better, than making one spiritually inclined.

What we Miss

The sportsman-spirit – the ability to accept victory or defeat gracefully, the ability to communicate with others or work in a team, the sense of responsibility to oneself or the family or the community are found wanting in the ‘me as centre’ way of life. We the elders are more responsible to allow such an attitude towards life as we never worried about what is healthy and what is unhealthy in trying to push a youngster towards some sort of competitive advantage in a career-only life.

Are we these?

We try to tell that if somebody does not get into IIT, he is a failure; if somebody does not have a 5 figure monthly income, he is unsuccessful; if somebody manages to skip Independence Day celebration at school and attends special class of the coaching centre at that time, he is clever; if somebody manages to hide tips received for study / exam. from fellow students, he is intelligent. We do not value patriotism, love, unselfishness, truthfulness, trustworthiness, honesty, …. in fact, we treat them as deterrent to make our ward ‘smart’ or ‘street ready’ …. the idea is to counter the ‘selfish world’ with greater amount of selfishness … in the process we run into a vicious cycle …. all the while we believe that I have equipped my ward enough to scrape through or outlive others. Alas! We are making hell out of this world what could have been a heaven.

 It is all about striving!

Nothing is automatic in life. We have to earn what we deserve. Else we have to leave our life to chances. Will a young individual prefer that or lead a life of one’s choice? Then please do not neglect development of different faculties of life. Develop yourself as a complete human being. Life is to be enjoyed. The less self-centred we are, the more we are able to enjoy ourselves. You don’t need to believe these words. Practise and experience yourself. The sign of life is ‘strength and happiness’. Mind the word ‘and’. It is not ‘or’. Both are required. Find a way that gives you both. May you all become inquisitive about life. It is precious!

 Section II

Since 1986 (the year when I got decent ranks in 10+2 Board Exam., Medical Entrance Exam., Engineering Entrance (IIT-JEE and WB-JEE) Exam.), several students and their guardians approached me for discussions on how to excel in career oriented study and not life as such. I appreciate if they thought I am too inexperienced to comment on excellence in life. But that I do not see them as two different things and one is a part of the whole did not cut much ice. My father (Link) allowed me to attend only three felicitation functions. I got an opportunity to speak on two occasions – one at my school and the other at a district level function. The state level function was the one hosted by Chief Minister and was formal in nature. In both places, I talked a lot about what helped me in my preparation - sports and games, drawing inspiration from Vivekananda quotes, the positive impact of discussions conducted in weekly study circle etc. Perhaps I talked too much on this to make the organizers feel rattled in both the places.

 Speaking from experience!

I am sure that everybody understands the importance of hard and systematic work. I request you to have sufficient time for self-study to assimilate what gets into head. Running from one tution to another which does not give space for oneself, perhaps is not the best idea. At 10+2 level, I took two tutions. Each teacher taught twice a week for about 2.5 hours and thus only four slots per week were blocked. This (i) reduced the financial burden of my father (ii) allowed more time or self-study and (iii) allowed me to hit playground every afternoon. Please refer to the segment titled 'Lady with a lamp' in this post to appreciate the longing for study.

 And now!

Yesterday (Saturday is Extra Academic Acitivity day here as per institute curriculum) a group of NSS (National Service Scheme) volunteers asked me to attend a meet for a brief period. These are the famous Super-30 pass outs. They are motivated by their mentor there to do something for the needy. NSS gives them a platform. They have gathered some 15 students from two state Govt. run schools. They have an intensive training plan to work with Class XI-XII students on Saturday and Sundays. When I reached there, I found that the school students cannot come on Saturdays and there is only common slot available on Sunday. Each has already three or more private tutors. I asked the school students, with another training program like this, when will you have time to study yourself?

 Beyond MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions)

The intensive and exhaustive beat-the-MCQ-based-exam-pattern training of some coaching centres may allow some of you to crack the entrance exam. A good memory is a big plus point. But the life beyond is no more MCQ based. The solutions will not come from what you have memorized alone or the tricks that you have learnt that exploits the weaknesses of MCQ type evaluation. Life beyond will always test your fundamentals. You have to decide if you should enjoy the success of cracking a tough entrance exam., make merry for months or a year OR assess what you missed in your preparation and make up for that. The choice is yours!

 You have a right!

Life is beautiful and exciting. Please feel curious about it. Never ever think about pushing yourself to an extreme. Read the biographies of great people. Develop interest in sports and games, community welfare initiatives. Give more time to next door and physical (not virtual) friends. Be in touch with family members. Talk or write blogs. Express yourself. Whenever you feel any need, ask for assistance. It is your right. The world belongs to you. You too belong to this world. Always give each other another chance.

Silent Hours

(I wanted to talk on a more serious issue related to a recent happening. A new post follows.)

 Extended Week

We hear about extended weekend. Last 14-15 days were like an extended week where I had to work without a break. I don’t remember having been exhausted so much in recent times. On two occasions, I had simultaneously three meetings to attend. The dignitaries from outside the institute, the chairman, the rest of the committee members were kind enough to accommodate my hopping around once I finished placing my observations in the meeting. Whether it is a discussion on Diamond Jubilee Celebration or setting up of a national test and research facility or registration of new students all considered my appearance and disappearance very sympathetically. Grateful to all!

 Welcome to new students!

This week also saw infusion of two fresh bloods in our research team. After 3.5 years we got any institute scholar and this time two joined simultaneously. One is to work in speech and the other one biomedical signals, the twin pillar of our group. In between, students joined various sponsored projects and kept contributing to research. One QIP scholar, and three MS students also enrolled formally this semester though they were with us for a few months now. Anyways, it always is a pleasure to welcome new members in a family. My best wishes to all the new members.

 Environment and We

The extended week brought a completely new experience. Our team of three faculty members and three technicians moved around Kolkata for two days and collected some field data. This was on the request of Dr. Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar, Minister-in-Charge, Environment, Govt. of West Bengal. It was very inspiring to see the minister joining us in one field data collection. Then he took us to his office. He has far reaching research theme in his mind to correlate environment and civilization by a statistical model and thereby predict disaster. I was thinking if it would help in tweaking some of the primary variables and prevent a disaster or if the worst happens, remaining prepared for it. My IIT colleagues told MIC that it would excite me as I work on modelling. I listened while taking a print out of a recent WHO (World Health Organization) report.

 Missed Students

I worked in industry before. There I worked on shop-floors for more than two years. But this field data collection from Kolkata para -s was an experience of different kind. Interacted with a lot of common people. We were surprised to see the awareness level. In one small Govt. school, we never realized till we were on the verge of leaving the school, that we had been interacting with an Academy Award winning writer. So humble he is and so concerned about the well-being of his students! Be it a young girl studying law or panicky elders, all had a great respect of IIT and I always wished if we could include some of our IIT students too in our team.

 The Grand Meeting

The breakfast meeting at Oberoi Grand, Kolkata was scheduled for one hour duration. The Senior Pro from US has just arrived. Their Indian Officials were also there. I have worked with the Indian team on several projects since 2003. I worked with the US team briefly for about 2 years. Except this 2011 summer vacation, I was always engaged with them. We had a lot of things to talk and we did not realize how THREE hours passed. They invited us to take a new US project which is free from encumbrance, addressed as ‘partner’ and I happily agreed. It is a very big challenge though, a good two year long project but I am confident and as always I seek good wishes of all and blessings of elders.

 Lady with the Lamp

I was totally drained yesterday (Saturday) evening after finishing all the tasks in hand. I decided to retire for some time and randomly picked up a novel of Shekhar Mukhopadhyaya from a 2010 festival collection. I must say that it could not have been a better choice at that time and went to sleep only after finishing the same. The story started with corporate war and corporate ethics (or lack of it). Enters a very strong, compassionate character as company secretary and there on the story drifts with her. She does her part to inspire others and brings an human element in the approach of those who matter. Finally, she decides to abandon the corporate job and proceed for research and a Ph.D. at the pinnacle of her corporate career. But why? What is wrong there? The near and dear ones ask. Comes the calm but resolute voice, “I miss my silent hours with books.”

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Prof. G. S. Sanyal Passes Away

If you try to find biography of a person in any search engine and come across hundreds of other biographies that bears his name, you are looking for a person who has grown beyond himself. Such a person can never pass away and that proves how inaccurate the title of this post is. The DNA is carried by thousands of people and it is only the mortal frame that bade adieu.

It was 7th July, 2011 afternoon. The NSS Advisory Committee Meeting was just concluded. I was leaving Board Room after some last minute discussion with Program Adviser of NSS Regional HQ. "Prof. Sanyal is no more", said the Director. We rushed to Prof. Sanyal's quarter. It was at about 5 P.M. Gradually, faculty members, staffs - the IIT community started pouring in. We started informing outstation faculty members. They started calling back to know when the last rites would be performed and how they can be at Kharagpur at that time.

The last time I heard Prof. Sanyal speaking and speaking emphatically was 14th June, 2011. It was Research Scholars' Day at GS Sanyal School of Telecommunication. I have added pic of that here (Top two). He discussed fundamentals of communication for about 10 minutes at a stretch. You can see the rapt attention and reverence in the audience that includes Deputy Director, Dean of Post Graduate Studies, Chairman of the School, Faculty Members. It wasn't only for young research scholars, it was an educative experience of all present. I wish, I had recorded it.

He was Director when I joined as a B.Tech. student here in 1986. I had few interactions with him in recent times where he talked about his one dream project. He wanted to capture electromagnetic radiation coming out of human body and use it for diagnostic purpose. I said that it would be great to participate and take care of the signal processing and pattern recognition part of the proposed diagnostic tool. I understand that he regularly sat across the table with faculty members from electromagnetic / microwave background to gather a signal of decent signal-to-noise ratio. He interacted with one of them on this the previous Friday i.e. the 1st July, 2011.

I have added one pic (the 3rd one) of Prof. GS Sanyal from ICCCD-2010 (he is the 2nd person in front row). This was taken on 10th Dec., 2010 while Ex-President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was addressing the audience. The last pic was taken yesterday when his mortal frame visited the Dept. for the last time.

Request readers to visit these links (Link1, Link2, Link3, Link4) to know more about the man and the legacy he has left behind. (Pls. click at various links at bottom of the webpage of Link2)

Rainbow Week

The Rainbow Week referred here lost its most vibrant colour that reverberates across the length and breadth of the IIT Kharagpur community. There is a follow-up and a new post on that. That is an Experience with big 'E' and is not mixed with several experiences of small 'e's as mentioned next.

Big Relief      

I felt like appearing in end-sem. exam. once again. Last year we started afresh. Advisory Committee Meeting was held in August, 2010 after a long, long time. We had a job at hand. To awaken us from a deep slumber. Only a few of us had some experience to work at field level. We stuck to the task. Tried our best. Not that 100 percent of the people came forward or gave 100 percent of them. But definitely some gave more than 100 percent. About 900 Students, 14 faculty members worked hard through out the year.

This was NSS, IIT Kharagpur Advisory Committee Meeting held on 7th July, 2011. Besides Director, Dean there was S.D.O., Kharagpur, Program Adviser from Regional Head Quarter, Kolkata, representatives of Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYC) and several NGOs. I was tensed. Had I worked enough to present properly the wide spectrum of activities undertaken and not to fail the team as a whole? The other responsibility was to raise the issues faced by the volunteers when they go to villages, to discuss solution to problems that requires help from Administration.

That the work of NSS, IIT Khragpur was highly appreciated is an under statement. Program Adviser told that other NSS units looks at what we are doing and try to emulate. Ministry Officials in Delhi refer our work. He wanted the slides I presented on our year long work to show to others.

And it was a big relief! I knew that the preparation had been good, hard work pays but an exam. is an exam. That evening I slept from 8:30 PM. In between, woke up to have dinner and post the message to all NSS volunteers and Program Officers.

We got valuable suggestion from all members including student representatives who are part of the Advisory Committee. Observation of one student representative can be found here. The Dean we report to for NSS lovingly said this morning in vegetable market, “Give some time to family too. Else you will be in trouble.” The support of my family had always been and will be my strength.

Work of our Lab. getting noticed

I visited a Bangalore based big research lab. the previous week on invitation. Stayed in their Guest House. The hospitality was great. We were discussing collaboration on one research problem. Their scientists had paid a visit at our IIT Kharagpur lab. on that earlier. After I completed my presentation, the group requested us to collaborate on three research problems with much larger budget towards a much longer term relationship. I am happy to say I could finish writing 3 proposals this week and send it to them on 6th July. Let’s see how it unfolds.

Received two interesting proposals from two working professionals having M.Tech. degree. They want to work for Ph.D. in our lab. even without any funding. They have saved something from their salary and keen to pursue this. For one, noted academician and previous V.C. of BPUT recommended our lab. She came all the way from Bhubaneshwar and I told her how to prepare for the Ph.D. admission test scheduled in Dec. I discussed alternatives like doing it while in job from Bhubaneshwar itself where our ex PhD students are working as faculty member. The other candidate is from Kharagpur itself. I requested him to meet me when he visits KGP next time.

This morning the Head of law school told me happily that funding for the big project has arrived. It is a law school initiative on IP generation and protection. I accompanied him to Delhi and successfully defended the project there. The IP generated in our lab., the various interactions we have with industry, FICCI will come as case study. Erstwhile a practicing lawyer, the Head is very friendly and we have to work out the implementation schedule that includes recruitment of staff next working day.

Curiosity Kills a Cat

Earlier I wrote on cell phone health hazard in this blog (link). Recently World Health Organization (WHO) officially accepted and warned. The CNN report (can be found here) quotes, "What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.” It is a bg ‘No-No’ for children whose skull is thin. Though I do not work in the area of microwave or microwave radiation, I was approached by the team Govt. of West Bengal constituted on this. I recommended and an expert from our Dept. will be doing the study.

I did not find much of a logic for me to be there but they insisted. I have a curiosity to know how Govt. works for public good. What are the different blocks in that block diagram and what kind of latency, throughput exist. Can we find an innovative way to accelerate the process? This is one area where public is exposed to hazard for abundant use of technology. To me, it should be a mix of regulation and public awareness (NSS can conduct a campaign!). I must say that I am no expert in any of this. I was told that I am there because our one interest is in Biomedical area and we carry an air of positivity with us!!! Anyways, I am approaching it as a student. One more responsibility but I would always welcome the ones that can bring relief to silent millions.

When Bulge is Beautiful

A lot of well-wishers often show their concern for my health and that includes my Ph.D. supervisor who is now fully settled in US. Senior teachers who have seen me here in my B.Tech. and Ph.D days are more complaining about the weight I have gained. I try to reason myself this way. A dancer, if leaves dancing, gains weight. No surprise that a footballer who never missed hitting football ground, whether there is sun or rain, would gain weight. However, I am well aware that I am not doing enough. Let me see how to address this.

But every coin has two sides. The bulge can be useful too. I am not talking about what Vivekananda termed as ‘famine insurance fund’. I fell from the horse in a rough terrain at Pahalgam in our recent Kashmir visit. Nothing happened. Today, I met a small accident with my 2-wheeler while negotiating a low lying branch of a tree in front of the Dept. A lot of my colleagues were there. That nothing happened has got something to do with the cushion my bones are enjoying. Both the occasions had enough in it to remain bed-ridden for weeks at the least!

Not to Overlook

One of my colleagues asked me to be careful because it is happening too frequently. In fact, last Friday while bringing my mother from Railway station it was the seat-strap of the mother that saved her. The advanced age and rheumatic pain do not allow mother to take a long walk. We have a foldable wheel-chair for that purpose. She was returning from my sister’s place and I picked her up in the KGP railway station. At one place, the front wheel got stuck in small hole on the road and the momentum of the wheel-chair almost made it over-turn. Thankfully, mother was strapped to the chair and regained her balance well.

I noticed something interesting while waiting in the railway platform. The railway porters were playing Ludo when there was no train. Earlier I saw them playing cards or simply gossip. In the attached picture the Ludo board can be seen on the tree as the train had just arrived.

This morning I assured all my colleagues that everything is fine with me after that small accident. There was a small assembly for which all met. When everybody dispersed I moved towards my 2-wheeler to head towards home. I found that one of my colleagues waited and waited, apparently busy with cell phone messaging, but moved only when I successfully started and maneuvered the vehicle. I guess that he did not want to show-of but wanted to make himself available had I needed any assistance. Touched and feel proud to have such colleagues.

if – then - else

[I was thinking if this is to be put in the post. If I do not, people here who know about it and follow my blog may wonder how such an important development got missed. Perhaps the Prof. has something to hide. Further, there are important messages for all in the episode. Respecting privacy of an individual I am avoiding names and even any prefix or suffix. Those who can identify are the persons who have received all the copies of the mail or have already heard about it and there is no news value for them. Others cannot identify and for them only the experience I want to share is important. Also this may put rest to speculation, if any, in student circle and encourage better communication between faculty and student.]

There was a mail from a project student last Sunday who I met even 2 days before (Friday) in the lab. He spent little over 1 year 10 months here. In the mail, he spelt out some very important dates with hard cut-off like departure from the country for an integrated Ph.D program abroad, a major family function involving him in between and all of them with hardly 8-10 working days from the date of his mail and his departure. Had he discussed these dates with me well ahead (at least the departure date) something, as close as possible as he wanted further in the mail, could have been tried. At least his registration seminar could have been arranged without any difficulty. I was only waiting for one of his senior who too is in the queue to get ready and to have them in a single day. As such the faculty members were gathered thrice during vacation in recent times for three presentations from our lab. students. I told him the same. Even then he did not share the date or disclose that there is such an urgency.

In his T-th dated mail, I was awe-struck to see him spelling out all the dates by himself what I and PG Committee should do on T+n th dates, without considering my availability, availability of Dept. PG committee during vacation and conformity to institute rules. He asks me to arrange Reg. Seminar on T+2th date (mind that T is Sunday), Synopsis Seminar on T+10th date and says that his thesis writing would be over by that time (he never discussed any work beyond the one that would go in Reg. Seminar and I wonder how his thesis got ready!), departure from country on T+14th date and a very important family event on T+6th date. There was never any mention of how he would hand over the charge of his part of the project to other staffs. He says that he needs only one working day to finish his part of the job and it is not easy for others to do what he has developed in last 1.5 years of the project. He will do all those things related to charge handover only if I act as per his instruction.

Each time I tried to explain what should be his priority for a lawful separation and how his fellow project student will feel the extra burden to complete the project, he returned it with more personal insults to me. Then I requested people from the lab. close to him to talk to him and make him understand. It did not work. I had no other option but to inform institute authority. They wanted me to act immediately (Monday evening) and not wait till next day. Still, I tried to reach out to him through his friends. It failed again. Now, the entire matter is with the institute and I have acted, am acting as asked by the institute authority. His latest reply expanded the scope, bringing allegation against faculty members of other Dept.s, Deans and he has copied that to funding agency.  

[If any of his well-wisher (preferably elderly people who he respects) is reading this part of the post may consider suggesting him to hand over the charge and send a simple apology mail to institute authority before he leaves the country (pls. try only if such a suggestion does not make him feel worse). I understand that he is angry primarily with me. Let him take as much time as required to manage that anger and hope someday, this ‘angry-young-man’ of mid-twenty, can see what he cannot see now.]

Why this happened?

I was wondering how it could happen. Our lab. is known for its discipline, sincerity, dedication. Some do better than others based on their background and approach to a solution but devotion to research or lab. are never doubted (except for one single case that happened 3 years back but that got sorted out when the student reworked the formulation). Our students are respected even by faculty members who speak highly of their work. The sponsoring Head of a funding agency wants to telephone our students directly seeking their involvement in a new project or take them to meet very high officials in Delhi who would explain them how important the project is for the nation etc.

I got a clue from one senior student of the lab. who is now faculty member of an engineering college. He says, “Just by spending time in labs or by doing daily passengering we can't understand the spirit of IIT; we need to spend the holidays there and explore all the facilities it provides.” Then I got to know that this young man lied to me all the way from 3 months of his joining. It was not only weekends but he always stayed outside campus (about 60 KM distance).  He used to express his displeasure and avoid the issue if I inquired at any point of time. There may be something more than this but that is outside the scope of this blog. The aim here is to tell the youth the life's different challenges, the rainbow experience we go through. It might leave some clue how to equip oneself to face the life fair and square. Besides academic qualification one needs to learn life-skills that does not necessarily come from any career oriented book. One needs to find time to expose oneself and get educated.

Trust Deficit

One senior Prof. used to tell me time and again, “Be careful in recruitment. It takes only one person to spoil a lab.” Now as soon as the project fund arrives, the clock starts ticking. You have deliverables defined for every quarter. Often, the project staff leaves in between if another opportunity is available. Therefore, we often recruit whoever is knocking. We usually give reco. to our students joining different place. Probably, we should now ask reco. and talk to referees before recruiting anyone.

We are now conducting a restructuring in the lab. keeping in mind the senior pro’s advice. We have got another space in a different building. Making use of that. Asking people to get on with life and deliver the best. No point brooding over the past. As Vivekananda says, “Spit out your action, good or bad and be azad (free).” One should not be disturbed by criticism. If the criticism is correct, one should accept it and take corrective action. If the criticism is wrong, why bother and give it undue importance?

The other thing that I remember (to put the past behind us) is from the life of Swami Brahmananda (Raja Maharaj) of Ramakrishna order. Once there was a turmoil in a centre. Everybody was fighting with every other person. Raja Maharaj came to solve the problem. As soon as he arrived, all gathered and started complaining against one another. To this, Raja Maharaj said that he would listen to all of them but after 7 days. He spent these 7 days in that centre. Everybody woke up early and joined him in the meditation in the prayer hall, underwent discourses, so on and so forth – followed a daily routine which ideally should be followed in a Ramakrishna Mission centre. After 7 days, he called all of them and asked to specify problems. And behold! None had any problem, any complain.

Let us follow in our daily routine the ideal life of a researcher, dedicated to the creation of knowledge. The rest will be automatically taken care of.

A Friend in Need

It was the right mail and at right time. I met Pin… only in the web space. She is sister of my ex-student and infrequent ‘philosophical’ discussion  is the common chord amongst us. Pin… forwarded this anecdote yesterday.

Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed: "Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease"?

To this Arthur Ashe replied: "The world over -- 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, when I was holding a cup I never asked GOD 'Why me?'. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD 'Why me?' "

Shubho Rathayatra and other Shubh News

The Rathayatra festival started last Sunday. That evening attended ‘Puja’ at a friend’s residence. This evening we had an opportunity to visit the fair ground and had Sri Jagannath Darshan. Enjoyed the fair very much. Snaps taken by my 9 year old daughter is attached for the readers! It may give some relief to them in this otherwise heavy post. There are some 'Shubh' news too. One of my ex-PhD student is getting married at last :-) We often went after him and he kept assuring. He was very happy and excited to inform and rang home in the evening to talk to family members. He insists that we make ourselves available for all the three days, from marriage to reception. Let's see how it is possible. Our best wishes to him. With this happy note let me say, goodbye and good night!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Education @ IIT Kharagpur

"I know what IIT Kharagpur is. ..."

Last week I had unexpected visitors in my office. The mother and son came all the way from Pune, Maharashtra. The son got a very good rank in IIT-JEE and should not find it difficult to get Electronics & Communication Engineering at IIT Kharagpur. The boy won many a laurels before this and his look, appearance make one remember "Shradhhaban labhate Gnanam" (wisdom dawns the person who is respectful).

The mother said, "I have heard about you from many and would like to have some time from you regarding my son's admission into IIT." I could not conceal my bewilderment that they have crossed the entire breadth of the country and asked, "Why IIT Kharagpur? Don't you read so much of negative press reports about IIT Kharagpur?" To this, the mother said, "I know what IIT Kharagpur is. I used to be a teacher in an engineering college. Besides that several friends of my son study here." I tried to answer all that they asked with standard disclaimer "as perceived by me." In addition stressed on the point that stepping into an IIT is not the end of it. It is a big step no doubt for a young student but neverthless only a step. One has to look higher and much beyond and make the best use of the facilities the country can afford.

"Please give me some valuable guidance for admission in IIT ..."

This was another student emailing from Solan, Himachal Pradesh who cleared IIT JEE this year. I suggested him to follow a webpage and added few lines from my side.

"If you are among toppers at 1st year, then you get an option to move to a branch of ur choice in 2nd year at IIT Kharagpur. If you are topper in your branch (whatever it is) you can expect a very good job irrespective of branch.

"If you have a passion for a specific branch, go for it. Else you may think of an IIT of ur choice. Give ur best there. If u feel like, go for dept. change at 2nd year or stick to one u got.

"Our experience is that the students who crack IIT-JEE do not know what to do next and tend to relax. If u keep working the way u have done so far, you don't need to worry at all."

Experience of a different kind!

Spending a night at railway platform like Tatanagar, Delhi or airport like Bangkok, Tokyo, Frankfurt was not that difficult, specially when you know that it is only a night. For last 8 days, I am experiencing what can be correlated to living on footpath (correlation > 0.8 :-))- cramped, dust, pebbles all around. But I have a fan and a mosquito net and a working TV to give company. It is quite an educative experience and to understand what is our minimum requirement. Our quarter is going through a massive renovation. My only worry if the work will be completed in time i.e. before the arrival of family members next Sunday (school reopens next Monday after vacation). Else, there is no problem.

The other day I was talking to the supervisor about the health hazard of such civil works, the amount of dust a worker inhales. Can we adopt a technology which is dust free and less hazardous? May be placing of factory made pre-fabricated blocks, one after another can help. I saw one individual building a house on his own through such blocks with the help of a fork-lift and a small crane. This was Trento, Italy and several years back. May be we want labour intensive technology here to get more people employed. But can it not be less hazardous?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


It's cyclic!

There is a sadness in air. There is nothing wrong with any of the conventional parameters. All are doing fine and moving in the right directions. But I am having a job at hand. This is to make calls on various works / issues. The judgemental role never suits me. I try my best to avoid it. It is the toughest job to please all and meet or beat expectation of each, many of which are irrational to the core or highly emotional in nature. The role played, I remain prepared for the 'I-am-not-happy' faces. Probably people find me too puritans / conservative / idealistic / perfectionist (I have often heard these terms and the speaker was not actually praising :-)) in dealing with issues. I respect the right of everybody to feel the way one likes. I do not feel too much surprised to see little bit of selfishness in the demands made. In fact, most of us belong to that category and thus it does not disturb. It saddens if that selfishness becomes out of proportion and denies existence or right of others.

Shared sorrow, half the sorrow!

It is said, shared joy is double the joy and shared sorrow is half the sorrow. I infrequently, may be once a month, talk to an elderly relative over phone. This family is going through some difficult times over last two years. It came all on a sudden and apparently from nowhere. It is very difficult for one to establish a cause-effect relationship. They are a kind of losing faith in themselves and the virtuousness of the world, that it is all about being good and doing good. If honesty, truthfulness, service, dutifulness count, which they have adhered to all the time, then why such a fate is met out to them? While I talk to them, I try to say a few things which I read or heard from wise people; not sure at all how much I have digested that myself. All that I try to say, it is important to hang on and have faith.

Healer, heal thyself!

Last night as a bed time reading I was going through the selected works of Swami Vivekananda. Interestingly, one page in the section called "Inspired Talks" opened. This was a note taken by a disciple on 25th June, 1995. And behold! isn't it 'the issue' I am facing right now? I reproduce at bottom a selection from that notes. The whole of it can be found here(Link).


I may say that now I am better placed to talk to myself and the elderly relative. For that I looked for the Bengali translation of this note, to read out directly from Vivekananda to the relative. Checked the central library database. It is there. In the evening, I got an opportunity to visit the library and found one very old edition published in 1965. This article was there in Vol. IV of Bengali Complete Works under the title "Debbani". The most interesting part of course comes next. The book in the rack already had a page marker. It pointed to exactly the same place where this specific write-up was there. It appears that the previous reader also found the article very useful. The person in the issuing counter said that he occasionally visits Belur Math and brings Vivekananda literature from there for his family.

Vivekananda Speaks:

After every happiness comes misery; they may be far apart or near. The more advanced the soul, the more quickly does one follow the other. What we want is neither happiness nor misery. Both make us forget our true nature; both are chains — one iron, one gold; behind both is the Atman, who knows neither happiness nor misery. These are states and states must ever change; but the nature of the Soul is bliss, peace, unchanging. We have not to get it, we have it; only wash away the dross and see it.

Stand upon the Self, then only can we truly love the world. Take a very, very high stand; knowing out universal nature, we must look with perfect calmness upon all the panorama of the world. It is but baby's play, and we know that, so cannot be disturbed by it. If the mind is pleased with praise, it will be displeased with blame. All pleasures of the senses or even of the mind are evanescent but within ourselves is the one true unrelated pleasure, dependent upon nothing. It is perfectly free, it is bliss. The more our bliss is within, the more spiritual we are. The pleasure of the Self is what the world calls religion.

There is no possibility of ever having pleasure without pain, good without evil; for living itself is just the lost equilibrium. What we want is freedom, not life, nor pleasure, nor good. Creation is infinite, without beginning and without end — the ever-moving ripple in an infinite lake. There are yet unreached depths and others where the equilibrium has been regained; but the ripple is always progressing, the struggle to regain the balance is eternal. Life and death are only different names for the same fact, the two sides of the one coin. Both are Maya, the inexplicable state of striving at one time to live, and a moment later to die. Beyond this is the true nature, the Atman. While we recognize a God, it is really only the Self which we have separated ourselves from and worship as outside of us; but it is our true Self all the time — the one and only God.

The world for me, not I for the world. Good and evil are our slaves, not we theirs. It is the nature of the brute to remain where he is (not to progress); it is the nature of man to seek good and avoid evil; it is the nature of God to seek neither, but just to be eternally blissful. Let us be God! Make the heart like an ocean, go beyond all the trifles of the world, be mad with joy even at evil; see the world as a picture and then enjoy its beauty, knowing that nothing affects you. Children finding glass beads in a mud puddle, that is the good of the world. Look at it with calm complacency; see good and evil as the same — both are merely "God's play"; enjoy all.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

CEO : Aaram Se

This is a quick follow up of the previous post (Link) after reading Mukesh Ambani (MA) interview in Economic Times(ET) (Link). I cannot but resist myself from quoting three answers of this interview that dwells on the human resources, being responsible in investment considering shareholder's interest and philanthropic activity at personal level. I have emphasized certain parts of the answers that struck me a lot and want readers to take special note of.

After completing previous post I was thinking, were it all philosophical / theoretical? We may accept that there is truth for the sake of argument but feel skeptic if they can be practised! After reading this interview I feel more convinced about its applicability to corporate houses. This reminds and reinforces what we hear from Viveknanda, "That society is the greatest where the highest truths become practical."

I have included 'Aaram Se' from 2nd ans. of MA interview in the post title as I find it very interesting. Bhagabad Gita says that the mark of a wise man / Yogi is intense activity in intense rest or calmness and intense rest or calmness in intense activity. Let me quote this part from here (Link)

"He who sees in the midst of intense activity, intense calm, and in the midst of intensest peace is intensely active [is wise indeed]. (GITA IV, 18.) ... This is the question: With every sense and every organ active, have you that tremendous peace [so that] nothing can disturb you? Standing on Market Street, waiting for the car with all the rush ... going on around you, are you in meditation — calm and peaceful? In the cave, are you intensely active there with all quiet about you? If you are, you are a Yogi, otherwise not.

---- I think that enough ground has been prepared to hear what MA said. Let's read it Aaram Se :-) ----

ET : Are you looking at grooming talent in-house ? Or getting new fresh talent?

MA : We are doing a combination of everything. Fundamentally, we think it requires re-engineering or regenerating the whole human resources architecture. It's very difficult to do. When you think about performance, it's not only people architecture or talent but people performing in a growth-nurturing ecology. You really have to regenerate the environment. It's like colleges. I have been on the advisory board of Stanford and a few other colleges where we change the environment every 10 years. At this stage, we are going through a project where we will have a process whereby we will take everything we have learnt and really mentor and train our 30-34-year-old guys to be better than us. It's a regeneration of the 4-5 pillars we stand on...and not only our existing talent but also welcoming fresh talent. We want our people to be internally happy, because happiness and success should go together. I want everybody at RIL to achieve their true potential . We want to create a new culture in which you will be reasonably transparent to yourself, your peers and your team. That, in my mind, will lead to true innovation . This is the most important and exciting project of my life: How do you really transform and reengineer 40,000-50 ,000 people, most of them professionals, most of them ambitious, most of them very successful, and then tell them to mentor and train 30-34-year-olds and make them better than us. This, according to me, is the sign of a truly New Age business organisation. 

ET : Many speculate you will make a big-ticket acquisition and in your last AGM, you had said that you will plant the tricolour in many parts of the world. Any progress on that front?

MA : We look at these things on an ongoing basis. There will be a lot of volatility and uncertainty in this world. But, I'm a wildlife fan. I love the leopard. The leopard sits on top of a tree. It doesn't take any great risks. Whenever it sees that it can make a kill, it's in no hurry whatsoever to make a kill. It makes the kill so rapidly, you don't even know. And I've actually sat with leopards for hours in lots of forests. It just happens in a flash. And, again, the leopard goes back and sits there aaram se. So, as I tell all our guys, let's not get too much carried away. It's important to keep the balance sheet capability to do this stuff but we shouldn't be in a hurry. We should be watching , we shouldn't be ignoring anything. But unless we feel absolutely safe that we are not going to hurt ourselves, and we are going to go down there, kill 100% and bring it back, we won't do anything funny. We are in no hurry. And we'll never do it for ego's sake. Our watchword is: does it generate value for our shareholders on a sustainable and long-term basis? 

What do you think of the giving pledge?

There are different points of view. My own view is that it's important that one should create sustainability and compassion. My view is that giving must be anonymous. Even if I did whatever I did, I wouldn't brag about it. I would do it for my own satisfaction . It is important you do it straight off your heart you don't talk about it.

Monday, May 2, 2011


"Life is short. The vanities of the world are transient. They only live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive." - Swami Vivekananda


This morning I was reading the post-departure scenario of Mohandas Pai after his resignation from Infosys. I vividly remember the way he defended Infosys numbers year after year in front of live camera. He departed because he was not elevated to the post of CEO which he thought he deserved more than others. He complained about discrimination and lack of transparency and retracted that later. To this Narayana Murthy, Infosys Chairman and Chief Mentor said, “We must be very kind to him (Pai) because at times we all lose our rational thinking and make an emotional statement. After all, we have to be very kind and forgiving,” He added, “If there are two people who are as capable as each other, how will you choose one of them? Both are equal in all respects. So, you have to choose the experienced one, and that’s what we have done,” (Link)

Wipro, Reliance, ICICI Bank

While Pai's CEO ambition was not fulfilled, we found summary exit of joint CEO of Wipro three months ago. And we heard this from Girish Paranjape, one of the joint CEO. "For the last 24 years every day, I have been busy thinking about what to do for Wipro tomorrow. Now I will have to start thinking about what to do for myself.” (Link) The bitter succession struggle of Dhirubhai Ambani empire is well known. Even the mother failed to make mends between warring brothers. Finally, there appears to be a work level understanding but the scar is still visible. The ICICI Bank succession  was less bloody. The deft handling of K V Kamath, the outgoing CEO had a containing effect. It is great to see Chhanda Kochhar emerging as a great leader at ICICI Bank in her unassuming, 'yours-in-service' style while the contender Shikha Sharma leading Axis Bank to new heights.

Lessons from a prince

Everybody needs a space. Everybody wants to excel. Everybody wants to reach the top. In the famous Satyajt Ray movie (today is the birthday of this legendary film maker) 'Nayak (the Hero)', the lead character says, "I want to go to the top, to the top, to the top."

While the above is true, there are few more fundamental truth that eludes us. Rather we want to pretend as if they do not exist. I am talking about what occurred to the young prince when he saw three different scenes in three different trips. On the first trip, he met an old man, on the second a sick man, and on the third he met a group of people carrying a corpse to the cremation ground. He realized that age will catch up with us (capacity will decrease and we have to make room for others), diseases are inevitable (the best hospital, treatment not withstanding - the instruments are to fail someway or the other) and finally, we have to leave everything behind, all that we loved, cared and built. The anecdotes including a fourth scene are nicely described here (Link1, Link2, Link3, Link4).


Is there a reconciliation anywhere? Does one renounce everything and become a monk then? Is that prescribed for all? Will not one try to go to 'top'? Of course, one will. But what is the motive behind? Is it self-gratification or to flaunt vanity? The truth is that they are transient. Or is it because I get a greater opportunity to serve others? If one looks at the constitution, one will find that the job of a CEO is to protect shareholder's value and serve shareholder's interest. The 'trusteeship' is embedded, implied in all top positions. Is it all philosophical?

TATA Group : TCS, Tata Motors, Tata Steel

TATA group shows a more matured response in CEO succession plan. Be it change of guard at TCS with Ramadorai making way for younger generation or Muthuraman from Tata Steel, Ravi Kant from Tata Motors - commoners like us did not feel any tremor. Perhaps the group could instill a value system that does not believe in going at top and remaining there 'at any cost' or Ratan Tata factor is there. It is to be seen how Ratan Tata is succeeded at Tata Sons. However, they are making enough noise to sensitize people, two steps forward - one step backward etc. to get a new leader accepted by the community.

Test of time

The test of time is the real test. The founding members of any organization (Corporate, NGOs) who create usually have a lot of fire, zeal, passion in them. It is not necessary to get people who share the vision and one needs to groom them. These days 'DNA' (Link) is the buzzword for corporate houses which is directed towards this and also the perpetuity. Not so easy though when it comes to taking big decisions. There is fight within oneself while one passes the baton and relinquishes the power and with it all the limelight. Often one tries to float with the thought - newcomers does not have as much experience, will make 'mistake' and I must hang on. What happens if no space is given? Vivekananda says that if you do not allow one to become a lion he may land up being a fox.

3 'H' and HCL Technologies

If we consider 3 'H' - Heart (emotion, feelings), Head (rational thinking), Hand (Hard work) as parameters, are they in same proportion in founding members who 'create' and the next generation who take it forward? Left to itself, Heart component may be more in the former and Head in the later while both can be very Hard working. What is required is a balanced development of all the 3 'H's amongst all and leaders are expected to lead by examples. Besides this, whatever DNA we talk about are phrases which are useful at a particular point of time and not DNA as such. DNA is something to be inherited and replicated.

These phrases however, can be very useful and may help an organization to tide over a situation. About 4 years back I was going through Annual Report of HCL Technologies. It had just started turning round its businesses which had been going through a bad patch. They used 'Focus, Lead, Dominate' a three worded phrase to remind themselves of the task ahead. I am happy to say that I could easily connect to it myself because of the ground situation prevailing then :-) 


When you talk about corporate houses, equity, shareholding etc. there is a standard disclaimer. I do not think that this post has anything to do with financial investment or investment decision of any individual. Rather it is more of a philosophical note directed towards youth to make them aware of facets of life, help them take informed decision and develop character qualities which in turn may help them, their organization, nation going forward.

Still to be on the safer side let me declare the following. The corporate houses mentioned above as a part of case study are jewels of India. Information used is taken from media - television, web and print. In early nineties I worked in Tata Steel for about 4.5 years in a junior position and have no relation since then. I do have small equity investment in most of the companies named above and would like all of them to be successful, stand the test of time and enhance the worth of my little share holding :-)

Warren Buffet

Let us get back to the context. Some students in Google Buzz shared some interesting aspects of Warren Buffet's life few days back. Buffet is the Chairman & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is one of the most consistent among the wealthiest in the world and has donated more than USD 30 bn to charity. He still lives in a 3 bed room house he bought 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. It does not have any wall or fence. He drives his own car and does not have any driver or security. He never travels by private jet though he owns world's largest private jet company.

Buffet asks top executives of 63 companies under his command to follow two rules.
Rule 1 : Do not lose any of your share holder's money.
Rule 2 : Do not forget Rule 1.


What does Buffet advise to young people? The five points I like to reproduce are as follows.

1. Money does not create man but it is the man who created money.
2. Live your life as simple as you are.
3. Do not do what others say, just listen them, do what you feel good.
4. Don't go on brand names, just wear those in which you feel comfortable.
5. Don't waste your money on unnecessary things, just spend on them who really in need rather.

Graceful degradation

Everything that has a beginning, has an end. This is one axiom of life that has stood the test of time. One may need to have a graceful exit plan. The exit plan is nicely written down by saints of this land. This starts as soon as a baby is born and not left pre-retirement ages. It goes like this, "Jab Tum Paida Hue To Jag Hansa Tum Roye / Aisi Karni Kar Chalo, Tum Hanse Jag Roye." (You cried when you were born and the world smiled. Lead a life such that when you leave, the world cries and you smile.) For institutions, a graceful degradation means giving enough warning signals in advance to help the boarders take another ship and not get drowned mid-sea. Requires a lot of courage but it comes when one finds himself in many. I have seen tears in the eyes of colleagues for individuals leaving an institution. Love, selflessness are very much practical and one has to practise it to get a taste of it, it is much tastier than everything else in life (Link) !!!

"Unselfishness is more paying, only people have not the patience to practise it." - Vivekananda