Whether one feels insecure about the future, about themselves, or of anything in particular, feeling insecure, it could be said, is a part and parcel of life. So, a statement to the effect that the denizens of this campus are feeling insecure will probably not raise any eyebrows. But the fact that the insecurity we refer to here, is of the campus being unsafe, makes this a cause for concern.
When, as part of a survey, Voices asked its readers whether they felt the campus was secure, nearly 30% of the respondents said, “No”. The people who participated in the survey only represent a little over one-tenth of the campus population. But, this survey was not limited to just students. Participants of the survey included faculty and staff as well. That 30% of this random sample of the campus populace, spanning all cadres, feels that the campus is not a secure place to be in, is a cause for alarm. This figure is even more startling when one takes into account that the campus of the Indian Institute of Science is enclosed and the various gates on its periphery are policed by the security guards employed by the campus.
The security which is in place on our campus has shown itself to be inadequate to the task of keeping the campus secure. Security guards at the hostels and departments are seen sleeping blissfully, or even leaving their posts unattended, thus transferring the responsibility of security to the students/residents themselves. Often, the security guards at a few of the gates to the institute allow people to enter or exit the campus unchallenged. Even if they do try to verify the identity of the person, they can be, more often than not, easily harassed into allowing one inside. Many areas of the campus are inadequately lit. In the rare event that any miscreants are given chase, if they are well versed with the campus layout, they find themselves with many avenues of escape. There are frequent reports of women facing harassment within the campus, particularly on the roads. The fraction of people who have been caught in this regard seems to be despairingly low. In the light of all this, the results thrown up by the survey are, perhaps, not entirely unexpected. But they can serve as a wakeup call for all of us.
Ensuring that the campus is secure is not a one way street, however. The onus of providing security to the campus lies with the administration, and the responsibility of ensuring that the campus is secure lies with the security. But we, who reside or work in the campus, also have a role to play. Often, crimes go unreported, and so, the perpetrators get away scot-free. We, at Voices, would like to urge our readers to report immediately to the authorities, any untoward incident that has happened to you or that you have witnessed. But the road doesn’t end there. Satisfy yourself that suitable action has been taken by following up with whoever you have complained to. If you feel the actions taken in response to your complaint are not satisfactory, you can approach one of the faculty to help remedy the situation. This issue of Voices gives you a list of faculty you can approach for help if you find yourself in such a situation. Only a concerted and continual effort by everyone, faculty, staff and students, can help expose any fallacies in the existing security system, help remedy them and speedily change the perception that the campus is not safe.
We hope that this issue of Voices, which exclusively addresses the current security situation on campus, will prove to be a first step in the right direction, in making the campus a more secure place to work/reside in.
K. Vijayanth Reddy (ECE/CeNSE)
Editor’s Note: The survey and the interviews featured in this issue were conducted by the Voices team in the months of September – November, 2013.
Laughter is a guaranteed mood changer. A medicine with no adverse side effects; many claim it is the best medicine there is. A dose of laughter, in quantities moderate to liberal, helps relieve stress, dispel gloom, and bring about a general feeling of well-being. While tickling can induce laughter, what we are looking at here is laughter generated when exposed to humour. Children, it is known, laugh more readily when compared to adults. Perhaps, this is because they see humour everywhere and in everything. Even small things light their faces up with a smile or cause them to laugh out merrily. As we grow older, it seems as if our experiences temper this humour and replace it with a more serious outlook. Or maybe, the jokes need to be of greater complexity to make us laugh. The range of topics and the kind of jokes a person finds funny narrows down as well; to such an extent that, based on individual tastes, only certain kinds of humour tend to induce laughter. So, while slapstick humour or satire has some people cracking up, it is lost on others.
This inability to laugh readily on a wide variety of topics may be the reason why people find it hard to make others laugh easily. And coming up with humour that everyone finds funny is even harder. Writers, playwrights, directors, actors, anyone who targets a wide audience, irrespective of the medium they choose to express themselves in, confess to finding it easier to make people cry, when compared to succeeding in making them laugh.
When Voices chose humour as the theme for its first two theme based contests, we knew that those who chose to participate in them would have their work cut out for them; that they would have to walk the extra mile to come up with something good. Kudos to everyone who sent us their entries! The submissions we received varied in their treatment of humour. While most entries were funny, a few, surprisingly, were quite serious. Given the wide variety of articles we received, with each submission being good in its own way, the competition was a close one.
The editorial board took its time to reach a consensus on the winner. The discussions and deliberations we had, over which entry should be chosen, was perhaps, again, a result of the differing senses of humour among the multitudes. Each of us had our own, different reasons for why we liked an article, and why we didn’t. This delay in reaching a consensus is partly responsible for the conspicuous absence of a Voices issue since July. So while the jury was out for quite long on this one, the verdict is finally out.
Turn to page 6 to find out who succeeded in having the last laugh in this installment of our theme-based contest. The second installment of the contest received just two entries. Given the small number of submissions, we decided to declare both of them winners. Turn to page 7 to read them. If you wanted to submit entries to our previous installments of the contest but couldn’t, we are pleased to announce the third installment of the contest. Page 12 carries further details.
K. Vijayanth Reddy (ECE/CeNSE)
Readers of the comic Calvin and Hobbes will perhaps be familiar with the strip where Calvin is seen lugging around a huge block. When Hobbes asks him what it is, he claims it is an invention of his. A writer’s block. When placed on a desk, writing there becomes impossible. Mindful of the fact that there will be people who may not have read the strip I’m referring to, I take the precaution of not revealing the punch line. The strip can be found at http://cdn.svcs.c2.uclick.com/c2/de163e8c250c102d94d7001438c0f03b. Every time I come across that strip, I cannot help wishing the reverse were true. That just removing an actual, physical, tangible block from a desk would automatically let the words flow. Reading, mercifully, is free of all blocks, isn’t it? Nothing should be easier than just curling up with something to read and reading it from cover to cover, is it not? Perhaps, today, the answer is not yes.
An editorial by Prof. Balaram in the journal Current Science (2011, 101, 133) asks whether it is possible that the internet, Google in particular, is declining our cognitive abilities. The article cites a study which indicates that people secure in the knowledge that they have ready access to sources of information (such as, for example, on the internet) were less likely to remember information, preferring instead to store an index to that information, viz a possible source of that information. Today, one doesn’t even have to go far to access the internet. The prevalence of tabs and smartphones has brought the internet closer to us. We have information at our fingertips, literally. Has this changed us? Reduced our memory and attention spans? Thus making it harder than it was before to read long books or articles? We, who are getting more and more acclimatized to reading short messages, headlines and bullet points from the internet, when faced with a long article, are we taking to just skimming the surface and not reading in depth? And find our attention wandering when we try to read something which is even moderately long? Disturbing though it is, it may well be true.
We must not forget this ready access to information does give us a lot of advantages. To take a small example, before the advent of the internet and online publication of journals, the literature survey undertaken by students embarking on their research careers bore a resemblance to archeological surveys. Information had to be excavated or dug out. Trips to the library, often to those located in other institutions if the student’s parent institution did not boast of access to many journals. Searching through musty bound volumes of archived journals. Having to physically read through an article that seemed relevant to actually determine if it was indeed relevant. Looking for referenced articles meant another trip down the corridors of the library. Storing information for later use was done by jotting down, or photocopying sections of the article.
Readers of this newsletter who have done all this will surely agree that today, we students have it easy. Articles are available at the click of a button, eliminating the need to go anywhere. Articles are published online, sometimes ahead of their being published in print format. So there is no waiting time involved to access the latest findings. A simple Ctrl+F helps determine whether the article pertains to what we are looking for, reducing the time to zero down on relevant articles. Related references are now hyperlinked to the original article. And lastly, if an article looks promising, bookmarking it, saving it to the computer or printing it out can be done almost instantly. Life has indeed become very easy.
But maybe this ease-of-access is really our undoing. After all, as they say, it is easy come, easy go. When searching, retrieving and storing information becomes so easy, the information loses its value. How many times do we actually go back and read in full, an article that was earmarked by us for later reading? In fact, even when reading an article for the first time, we are more likely to skim through the article knowing that we can always get back to reading it later.
While reading the editorial by Prof. Balaram, I couldn’t help wondering… Can the internet and other ‘modern’ forms of communication have also affected the way we write? Communicating through social networking sites and blogs, instant messaging and SMSes. Rapid forms of communication, all of them. Where grammar gives way to brevity, emoticons (smileys) are used in lieu of words to express emotions and feelings and spelling is thrown out of the window. ‘Fine’ becomes ‘f9’, ‘late’ becomes ‘l8’, and so on. An untrained recipient of messages filled with such cryptic abbreviations or someone who is a stickler for grammar is quite likely to pull out his/her hair in frustration or try to find a cryptologist to decode such cryptic messages. Can all of this have begun to affect the way we write? Making reaching for words and remembering how to spell or punctuate more difficult than before? Maybe. Maybe not.
I personally believe there is some effect. I for one, have had to resist the impulse of putting in an emoticon at many points in this piece, and search for appropriate words instead. Yes, at times, having to take Google’s help as well. Something which I do not recall having done earlier. Ever.
The authors of today too churn out works that seem to reflect this change. The language used is drab and conventional at best. With sketchy descriptions of scenes and characters. No longer do we find authors who devote pages to creating an atmosphere, who take pains to describe characters in such detail that one can almost see them. No one makes us laugh as much or uses English in as inventive a fashion as Wodehouse (okay, I admit perhaps that is too big a yardstick to measure against). No author leaves us in knots trying to figure out whodunit the way Agatha Christie did, making us suspect practically everyone; or take us on flights of fancy and on fantastic and futuristic journeys the way J. R. R. Tolkien or Jules Verne did. Instead, today, we have writers (especially in India) who take pride in writing books employing what I can only call ‘bad English’ and are callous enough to defend that by saying they (okay, I’ll be specific. I’m quoting one author here, so he) he is writing for the masses who cannot speak better. To me, such a justification is an even greater crime than just writing poorly, because it indicates writing bad deliberately, and displaying an apathy towards improving.
While I take the liberty to state all this, I feel compelled to add that I am very selective as a reader. I stick to a narrow band of authors and genres, and have read extensively in them. So my views on this matter may very well be opinionated and biased. I wouldn’t mind expanding my literary repertoire and if my views on authors old and new are in any way wrong, I look forward to being corrected. So do write to us (to firstname.lastname@example.org) telling us your views and opinions on books, authors, or anything under the sun, actually. Or you might prefer commenting on our site (www.iisc.ernet.in/voices).
While on the topic of books and authors, I know a sizable fraction of our readers, both on campus and off it, reads. And reads a lot. To them, I ask. What have you read lately? Have you read a book and can’t wait to talk about it? Review it so that others know whether to invest their time reading it? Well, if the answer is a yes, we, at Voices have some good news for you. We received a wonderful suggestion from one of our readers which we’re implementing from this month. A new monthly feature titled ‘On My Bookshelf’ which will feature book reviews that you send us (some, we might just write ourselves, if the temptation to raise our voice and let ourselves be heard becomes too compelling).
So keep reading. And keep writing (in)!
K. Vijayanth Reddy (ECE/CeNSE)
If you would be kind enough to look at the bottom of our cover page, you will see a disclaimer where we sort of wash our hands off the responsibility of defending any opinion expressed in an article in Voices by stating that the views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Voices. However, this does not apply to the editorial content. That means, if someone takes an editorial of ours seriously (however unlikely it may seem) and takes offense at it, we would be obligated to justify the view we expressed in it.
In an editorial in 1903, the New York Times expressed its opinion on Samuel Langley’s experiments with the flying machine.
“We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time, and the money involved, in further airship experiments. Life is short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly. For students and investigators of the Langley types there are more useful employments”.
One week later, the Wright brothers made their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk.
There is no way to know whether Samuel Langley read the editorial and whether it had any dampening effect on his morale and the pursuit of his goal.
17 years later, the Times made essentially the same mistake when in a 1920 editorial, it attacked Robert Goddard’s claim that a rocket would work in space.
“That Professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools”
In 1969, days before Apollo 11 landed on the moon, it published this correction,
“Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century, and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere”
It added “The Times regrets the error”.
Voices can in no way hold a candle wick to the Times. Neither can we be sure whether we will see the light of the printing press 17 years from now, let alone repeat our mistakes 17 years from now. The point I wanted to make is, expressing an opinion is easy. Defending it is difficult.
That brings me to the question I wanted to ask – Are humorists ever asked to defend their opinions? (Mamta Banerjee and analogous regimes excluded). Does a dash of humour make reality more palatable and views more acceptable?
Am I mistaken in stating that a humorist is given more leeway before he/she is expected to justify his/her opinions? If the view is absurd, it is treated as a joke. If it is closer to reality, it becomes satire.
Anecdote source: Futility Closet (http://www.futilitycloset.com)
Arjun Shetty (ECE/MRC)
As suggested by some of our readers, Voices would like to start a contest where we invite contributions on a particular theme and trust our judgement in choosing the best of them. The chosen one would then be published in our next issue with a special mention. The theme for this month’s contest is humour and we invite readers to contribute articles related to the theme. The deadline for the same is 31st May, 2012. We request you to send in your contributions and we hope that Mamta Banerjee and analogous regimes are not watching.
One of the reasons for intense debate in the Voices meetings of yore has been the dual nature exhibited by Voices. One, that of a newsrag, carrying reports, opinions and perhaps analysis of various events on campus. Two, that of a magazine, carrying creative write ups, poems, cartoons and such articles of general literary interest.
There are members (past and present) in our team who hold both opinions and willing to defend that view till impeachment (if not death).
Those in favour of a newsrag kind of issue claim that it is our job to report and increase awareness about the happenings on campus. If we want to read a literary piece, we might as well go to some blog. Why put it in print?
Those in favour of a creative issue say that we being a monthly (if that) newsletter, chances are high that the institute community is already aware of the event through other means of communication (posters, broadcast mails) by the time we report it. So why report news after it has become stale? Non news articles have a longer shelf life. There are people who would rather spend time with a Voices issue that offers some amusement as compared to a Voices issue filled with a bunch of past event reports.
However, all these debates within the team and fist banging on the tea board tables are to no avail if the Voices reader does not get what he wants to read. The importance of reader feedback cannot be undermined. Voices would like invite you, the reader to give us your feedback on what you expect to read when you pick up a freshly minted copy of Voices from the stack in the corner of the mess. You are most welcome to email us at email@example.com or you can even tell it to any of our team members in person.
Coming back to the news vs creative debate, one thing I have learnt at Voices is that a news report is more difficult to prepare as compared to a literary piece. The creative license that an author is entitled to in his prose and poetry is no longer afforded to a reporter in his write up.
I would like to end with a snippet I stumbled across in the internet, related to verifying a fact before reporting it in media (print or otherwise).
When Mark Twain took his first job as a newspaper reporter, his editor told him never to report anything as fact unless he could verify it by personal knowledge. That night Twain covered a social gala. He filed the following story: “A woman giving the name of Mrs. James Jones, who is reported to be one of the society leaders of the city, is said to have given what purported to be a party yesterday to a number of alleged ladies. The hostess claims to be the wife of a reputed attorney.”
Arjun Shetty (ECE/MRC)
With the frequent hikes in petrol prices, “going green” has never been cheaper (and undoubtedly, it is getting cheaper all the time).
On Teachers’ Day, the Environmental awareness committee of the Students’ Council flagged off the concept of cycle/walk day where, on the 5th of every month, the institute community is invited to voluntarily avoid the use of motor vehicles and either cycle or walk on campus. Pankaj Jain, from the Students’ Council tells me that the primary intention is to increase awareness and motivate people to cycle or walk at least once a month.
Vehicular traffic on campus is increasing causing increasing distress to pedestrians. The long term aim of this initiative is to motivate people to avoid the use of motorized vehicles where unnecessary and encourage the use of cycles. Adding to the charm is the fact that IISc is a cyclists’ paradise.
While the ball has been set rolling, there are plans to increase the momentum and sustain it till the event becomes an integral part of the institute. This was evident in the increased publicity that the event was given in its second month.
Pankaj hints at what is perhaps the one question the slightly skeptic are expected to raise “What difference does it make to the environment if we avoid the use of our motor vehicle for one day in a month?” He clarifies that it is not so much about reducing pollution as about increasing the ease with which a pedestrian or cyclist can commute on campus, due to the reduction in motor vehicles on that day of the month.
An often raised point whenever a small group of enterprising people attempt to make some difference to the environment is, “Will it have any significant impact on the big picture?” I will not quote the clichéd “drops make up the ocean” maxim. Instead, I write what I consider to be an illustrative albeit deleterious example of the difference one man can make.
In 1930, the American physicist and Nobel Prize-winner Robert Millikan said that there was no risk that humanity could do real harm to anything so gigantic as the Earth. In the same year, the American chemical engineer Thomas Midgley invented chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the chemicals responsible for thinning the stratospheric ozone layer.
Earlier, in 1921, Midgley, while working at Dayton Research Laboratories, a subsidiary of General Motors, discovered that the addition of Tetraethyl Lead (TEL) to gasoline prevented internal combustion engines from “knocking”. The company named the substance “Ethyl” to avoid all mention of lead in reports and advertising.
CFCs led to depletion of the ozone layer and large scale combustion of leaded gasoline led to release of large quantities of poisonous lead into the atmosphere.
J R McNeill an environmental historian has remarked that Midgley “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.”
Arjun Shetty (ECE/MRC)
Pardon us readers if you begin to get the feeling that we have sort of gone slightly overboard with coming out with freshers’s special issues. Readers will not be blamed for thinking that Voices is trying to make up for the fact that it did not come out with a freshers’ special in 2010 by coming out with two in 2011.
Frankly, at the time of writing this editorial, I am not even sure whether we would be able to come out with the print issue in time to be able to distribute it during the orientation planned for 17th August. Make no mistake, the enthusiasm has been high in every member of the team to come out with the issue on time. But, the fact remains, that all it takes for that spark to fizzle out into smoke, is a gentle yet generous shower of academic workload. Whether we students admit it or not, in a premier institute like IISc, academics always takes first priority and needless to say, to the outsider, it will come across as geeky behaviour.
In this issue, we bring you a host of write ups on the various clubs under the Gymkhana. Take your pick and decide how you would like to spend the precious little free time that the rigours of academic life at IISc might afford you.
Of course the doors of Voices are always open to those interested in contributing in any form. We welcome contributions from readers in the form of news reports, anecdotes, creatives articles, cartoons, even your feedback on how you think we can make Voices more interesting. In case you feel that being an outside contributer does not satiate your creative urges, if you have time to spare and if you would like to actually feel and be a part of the cog works that go into Voices, you are most welcome to join our team. Do send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and voice your opinion.
There are myriad ways you can spend your leisure time here and rest assured, the limiting factor will be the amount of time you can squeeze out of your schedule and not a lack of options.
As a parting word, we can say with almost certainty that there will be at least some time during your stay at the institute where you will feel that everything except academics has taken a back seat. Well, at least the geek tag is not undeserved!
Arjun Shetty (ECE/MRC)
Should there be a decorum for the editorial of a campus newsletter? Isn’t it unworthy of the newsletter to have an uncivilised word like s*** in its title? It reminds me of an interesting debate in the British Parliament where a lady MP got away with the word as “it is appropriate to use that word as a noun, but not as an adjective”. Hence, I think I am perfectly justified when I use the s*** word to raise my grievances about the rivulets of sewage that are found flowing in the campus, especially near the eating places, making it the smell of IISc.
The man hole near the back gate of CPDM constantly overflows into Tea Board. The man hole close to the coffee counter in Prakruthi and the one opposite Nesara also overflow occasionally. The hygiene in C-Mess used to be worse until sometime back. Thankfully, the problem in the mess has been resolved. Some of the other troublesome places are the ones near Juice Centre and near N Block, on road to Gymkhana. The one next to Krithika, on way to Mrigashira, is so infamous that it now acts as a traffic island.
It is not that people are insensitive. Sometime back, it was interesting to observe some professors from MRDG once clear the overflowing man hole behind Bio-Chem and in front of MRDG.
Suggesting a solution to this menace is beyond the scope of this editorial. But Voices does hope that the administration takes note of the situation and comes up with a lasting solution.
Photo credits: Jim Reeves David (Mech Engg) and Rupesh Nasre (CSA)
The idea for a food special came up when I was in the Students’ Council 2009-2010 reunion party. Alexander Fell (SERC), who headed the Volunteers Committee came up with this brilliant idea. The Voices assigned team would visit restaurants all over the city, volunteering to publicise the place and in that pretext explore new dishes and new places. The plan did not work out. But the idea triggered Madhurima, our former editor, (along with Suvasini (Alumnus, MCBL) and Ananthalakshmi (MCBL)) and the work for the food special began.
Personally, I have regrets over two themes not being covered in this isuue. First is that of wine and alcoholic beverages. Surprisingly, no one wanted to write on the subject. Second is that of Kerala food. Let me make a weak attempt to overcome that regret. If you are a non vegetarian, Biryani Paradise is the place you should visit to enjoy one of the best Kozhikode Biryani (or North Kerala) dishes served in the city. A first left on the road between MS Ramaiah bus stop and Mathikkere would lead to Biryani Paradise.
On March 25, I got an email from Subrata Chakrabarti (Mech Engg), who wrote:
“It just occurred to me that this edition of Voices must carry a word or paragraph of appreciation for the mess staff and workers for their punctuality, hard work and emphasis on quality of the food being served during the two days (March 21 and March 22) when electricity supply was disrupted and IISc was blacked out.
I think these hapless souls engaged in a thankless job deserve this. They have earned this.”
Voices echoes Subrata’s thoughts and would like to congratulate all the three messes for the wonderful job they do, day in and day out.
It was a dream that I shared with Prathamesh to host Palagummi Sainath in the campus. I also invited him for a possible talk, which he can deliver in the campus. But it did not materialise (I mailed his old e-mail id). So it was exciting to know that Concern along with two other organisations managed to get him to the campus. Amartya Sen calls him “one of the world’s greatest experts on famine and hunger”. A cult figure for emerging journalists, he declined Padma Shri in 2009 stating that the state should not be judging journalists. You knew you were listening to someone genuine when the person did not begin with the rhetorical “It is an honour to be in the ‘prestigious’ Indian Institute of Science …”.
Mr. Sainath, as a student in the ‘prestigious’ Jawaharlal Nehru University, was a student activist who had led many protests in the JNU campus (the Vice – Chancellor was Mr. K.R. Narayanan, who later went on to be the first citizen of the country). During the very serious discussion, there were a few lighter moments in the form of anecdotes. A Marathi journalists had once questioned Mr. Sainath, asking if alcoholism the real cause of farmer suicide. He had replied, if that was the case, then there would be no journalists alive. A slight pause was followed by, so is the case with most of the academicians.
Voltaire, the famous philosopher, remarked “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. Shiv Shankar Menon, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, remarked (during the IISc Golden Jubilee lecture) that the emerging technologies rests in a few corporate hands and this is not comforting. Mr. Sainath (in the discussion after the documentary screening) was arguing how the income inequality was widening and the losers in the budget are the social service sector and Agriculture. Mr. V.K. Varadarajan, former editor, Business Line, during the Panel discussion on the Union Budget (organised by Management Studies) expressed that social sector will benefit from the budget. He was possibly referring to corporate farmers and farmers cultivating cash crops.
Mr. Sainath argued that IT is not a great creator of jobs in the country. While, Mr. Vivek Kulkarni, former IT secretary, Govt of Karnataka, argued (in the panel discussion) that enough incentives are not given to IT sector in the budget. If for every 100 crores generated by the Iron and Steer industry, two percent goes as salaries, the figure is 60% in the case of IT sector.
To quote Adam Smith, the father of Modern Economics and Capitalism, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”. The floor is open for deep thought and discussion.