Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Freedom to Offend

We are all familiar with the 'Right to Freedom of Expression'. This Right has such unanimous support that even the most retrogressive conservatives would not dare to decry it.
Yet, it is not universally acknowledged that this Right is meaningless without the Freedom to Offend.

The dichotomy between these two rights typically comes to the fore, in the culturally hidebound societies of Asia, where the exercise of the Freedom of Expression often entails an offence on religious sensibilities and the prevailing social mores.
This was very evident in the recent Danish Cartoon Controversy and also in the Khushboo episode. In both the cases, the opposition stemmed not from a governmental authority, but from a certain section of society. i.e the fact that the 'Right to Expression' is enshrined in the Constitution did not deter the offended parties from launching a vicious verbal assault.

This provides us with a pertinent insight. i.e that We are often deterred from giving expression to our convictions NOT by the law of the land, but by the 'general drift of society'. Hence, the 'Right to Expression' cannot be secured and is irrelevant even in a country like India, because of the implicit checks imposed on it by the Society.

Unlike a totalitarian State, where one fears the constitutional authority, the 'free thinkers' are stymied by the 'tyrannical majority' in democracies like India. Hence, this notion of 'Democracy' serving as a facilitator in securing 'Individual Freedom' is a hogwash. Securing Freedom in the truest sense is impossible in an illiberal democracy wherein the Primacy of the Majority prevails over the Rights of the Individual.



Monday, February 27, 2006

Paradox of Value

Ever wondered WHY a dumb piece of Gold costs you more than 'The Complete Works of Shakespeare' ?
Wikipedia provides an interesting explanation.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Jinhe Naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hai!

NEW DELHI, 19 February 2006 —
A minister in India’s Uttar Pradesh state government
has offered a reward of $11.5 million to anyone who
would kill any of the cartoonists who drew the images
of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Muhammad Yaqoob Qureshi, minister of state for Haj and
Minorities Welfare in the Uttar Pradesh government, told
a rally in Meerut, 65 km east of New Delhi, after Friday
prayers that he would give “the avenger” 510 million rupees
and his weight in gold.

Not unexpected...
After all, what else can one expect from the 'Haj and Minority Welfare'
minister. Must be jobless most of the time.
Jokes apart, truly a dark day in the History of Independent India.
A minister of a democratically elected government in the world's
largest Democracy calls for MURDER!!


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'Absolutely' Ridiculous

One of the tendencies among Indians is to gratuitously use adjectives/adverbs, to express a strong emotion. 'Absolutely' is IMHO the most abused of such words.

"It's absolutely amazing" is a sentence that one hears almost daily....Interestingly, the phrase 'relatively amazing' finds very few takers....Strange that Indians find most of the incredible happenings around them to be 'absolutely incredible'...Now, C'mon...not all incredible events can rank very highly on an 'absolute' scale of incredibility. Surely, there are many events that are 'relatively' incredible , i.e their incredibility pales in contrast to events that are 'absolutely' incredible!!!
Take for instance, the event of Venkatesh Prasad scoring a century at Perth which is 'relatively incredible' as its incredibility ceases to amaze us when juxtaposed with the event of Shiv Sainiks distributing Valentine Cards.

So, I urge the readers of this Blog to use the adjective - 'absolutely' sparingly as we live in a 'relative' world wherein very few things can actually be talked about in an 'absolute' sense.



Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My IIMK Interview Experience

The selection procedure for full-time Management Programmes in India is weird.
Performance in an Aptitude Test is used as a criterion to shortlist two in hundred students. And then the selected guys (most of whom are 22 year old kids) are grouped into batches of ten where they are made to discuss Bertrand Russell's musings. Followed by an interview wherein one is often grilled on Bhakti/Sufi saints, English Royal family and stats related to the Indian IT industry...

Here goes my tryst with the famed GD/PI process of one of these so-called institutes of excellence.

GD : A passage from Bertrand Russell's 'Analysis of the Mind'.
It dealt with empirical/experiential learning and seemed to support the view that 'learning' has a neural basis.
Started the GD by making some arbit comment abt empirical learning.
Chipped in 3-4 times in the course of the GD. Tried to differentiate between book learning and experiential learning. At the end, we reached a consensus that 'experience' per se might be neural, but the learning that one derives from it requires the application of reasoning.

PI :
Panel 2
Two panelists
Mine was the second interview.
P1 : Dark, short guy
P2 : Well built, clean shaven guy.
M : Myself

P2 : Related to the cricketer Srikkanth?
M : nah... (we share the same surname)
P1 : What does Shrikanth mean?
M : It is one of the names of Lord Vishnu....'Shri' denotes wealth...'Shrikanth' is the possessor of wealth.
P2: Are you rich?
M : nope...
P2 : What do you do?
M : am a softie....elaborated on what my company is into...
P2 : Why didn't you join infy?
M: blah
P2: did the 'pay' influence your decision?
M: yes
P2 : How is your product different from Cisco's
M: elaborated on the difference between a services gateway and a router.
P2 : How is your gateway different from the Gateway of India? (as weird as it gets)
M: (fumbled a bit at this point)...spoke abt the symbolic significance of the monument. The fact that it was built in 1921 to commemorate the arrival of Prince of Wales.
P2: Who is the current prince of wales.
M : told
P2 : why is he not the king?
M : c'mon
P2 : Is queen elizabeth a widow?
M : no...mentioned the Duke of Edinburgh
P2: Why is he not titled 'King'?
M : because he has married into the family.

P1 broke in at this point.

P1 : Why was Diana called the Princess of Wales? She too is an outsider, right?
M: Well, dunno.... i guess she wouldn't have been called the 'Queen' if Charles had acceded the throne when she was alive...Queen Consort maybe. Not sure abt this.
P1 : ok.
P2 : name the countries in UK
M : told...england, scot, n.ireland, wales.

P1: What's the size of the Indian IT industry in terms of revenues?
M : dunno
P1 : take a guess
M : 30,000 cr ???
P1 :hmm
P1: how many people are employed by this industry?
M: around a million.(if you include BPO/ITES)
P1 : sure?
M: yes
P1 : nah.. it's closer to 7 lacs...

P2 : you've said that you're a very lazy person...(looking at the form)
(I had used the word 'laidback')
M: not exactly...working on it....i lack the killer instinct to travel the extra mile at times.
P1 : but that's a weakness that all Indians have...
M: but it's a weakness nonetheless.

P1: what are u doing to overcome it?
M: setting goals and deadlines...
P1 :what's the target for this week.
M: finish the book I'm reading.
P1: which one?
M: History of India Vol1..Romila Thapar...
P1: Is she a leftist...
M: mmm yes..but writes objectively.
P1: Tell me abt the Bhakti movement....the period..
M: 13-14th century
P1: name a few saints.
P1: ah...is kabir a bhakti poet....isn't he a sufi...
M: i'm pretty sure..
P1: name a few sufis
M: moinuddin chisti....can't recollect anybody else.
P1: name a few south indian bhakti figures...
M: Ramanuja.
P1: What!! what's his period.
M: 11th c
P1: then how can he be a bhakti figure?
M: well, he was one of the pioneers...he stressed on Bhakti as a path to salvation....
P1: well that's what even sankara said....would that make him a pioneer?
M: no...went on to highlight the differences b/w advaita and vaishnavism...
P2: do u believe in all this....
M: (actually i don't)....didn't ans this properly.

P1: subjects in final sem
M: told
P1: final yr proj
M: told
P1: Which Microprocessors have you learnt?
M: 8086/85
P1: name an advanced MP released recently
M: Itanium
P1: how is Itanium different from 8086?
M: talked about 8086 being a 16bit mp and itanium 64bit...said both are CISC...he didn't get it thankfully....(actually itanium is RISC)
P1: 16bit??8086? (seems incredulous)
M: yes...8085 is 8bit
P1: what does all this mean?
M: talked abt data and address bus lengths...virtual address space.

It went ok till here...then things turned awry.

P1: shall i ask u questions from Math?
M: i'm not in touch...but i'll try....(biggest bloomer)
P1 : explain integration in layman's terms...
M: unsatisfactory answer
P1: applications of derivatives...
M: (arrgh....donno why i said this)....i think it finds application in stock market derivatives, but not sure.
P1 & P2 : laughed aloud.
Any other application?
well, the prev qn had devastated me...kept mum...body language suffered.

P1: name 3 economists who went on to become fin-ministers...
M: manmohan singh....well john mathai--maybe....not sure
plenty of economists have become rbi governers though...
P1:stick to the point....i asked fin-min
M: can name only these two
P2: so u a quizzer, eh?
M: yes, not big time.
P2: name derek o'brein's company..
M: dunno.
P2: who produces kbc?
M: siddarth basu's 'synergy' firm.
P2: name a big-money quiz show hosted by derek of late.
M: the one that pits corporates against bschoolers?
P2: that's not big money.
M: dunno
P2: bbye

P2 was particularly unimpressed throughout the interview
Frankly, I don't care a damn.



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