Blog Archives

Contents – October 2013

Editorial – Welcome Aboard!

Making a Difference: IISc Students Volunteer for Flood Relief Activities in Uttarakhand

MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses

Random Rants

Sangam 2013: The Students’ Council Freshers’ Welcome

The Pralaya of Shiva

Fitness Woes

Students’ Council News (July-September)

The Elephant and the Blind Men: In Defence of the National Anthem

Moments with the Minister

My Experiments with Tooth

The pdf version of the October 2013 issue of Voices can be downloaded here


Ten reasons why one should have water crisis in hostels

1. You get to tune your body clock according to water availability timings – you can probably publish a Nature paper titled “Rewiring the circadian rhythm – a study on effects of water availability on the human wake-sleep cycle” .

2. You can kick bad habits like getting up at 6 AM, as you don’t get water till 9 in the morn.

3. The long walk from your room to the only bathroom in the hostel that has water, on the floor below yours, can prove to be the morning walk you always wanted to take, but were too lazy to actually go on.

4. You can experience emotions which you never thought you were capable of – like the murderous rage that hits you when you see the unkempt lawns in front of the main building being watered incessantly, when you don’t have water for basic needs.

5. Your mind gets sharpened and inhibitions lowered; and you come up with crazy ideas like taking a face wash and tooth brush to the main building, and freshening up in the morn, using the water which is available in plenty there.

6. You get to check out all the loos on campus – on other wings in your hostel, the ones in other hostels, the ones in your dept etc.

7. You can publish a book titled – “A comprehensive survey of bathrooms on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and classification of the same based on water availability and hygiene”

8. You get to play your role in the water conservation movement by not taking the daily bath.

9. You can opt to be a subject in trials for perfume and deodorant companies.

10. You appreciate the administration’s successful efforts in making you empathise with the under-privileged, who have to struggle for the water on a regular basis.

Chetana Baliga (MBU)
Sketching: Rupesh Nasre (CSA)

Editorial – A small step, a giant leap!

We scaled mountains of thoughts, waded through rivers of discussions, challenged stone walled opinions, broke ordinary expectations, veered in unknown directions and accomplished a new self each time. Voices has worked to reinvent itself in many ways- from being just a print media to going online; from being a newsletter that saw the light of day in a coupla months to a monthly to even being printed regularly during the Centenary conference. We take another new step now converting the online edition to a blog format anticipating more interaction from our readers.

Voices is also in the process of getting its’ new Editor-in-Chief! The new E-i-C will bring with him/her a new vision. We at Voices hope to continue bringing news to you with more rigors each time and take on newer challenges with more passion. So, as you have always embraced the changes we offered and provided us ample encouragement, we look forward to a greater shelf life and more patronage with these small steps that may well be the giant leaps for Voices!

Happy reading!

(The PDF for offline readers is here.)

Energy can neither be created nor be destroyed… but can be wasted!

In these days of rising carbon footprint, where in world economies are high on a debate on the energy predicament, it is essential for us as an individual and as an institution to contribute to the cause in our own little yet significant ways. However, these thoughts hardly hold any degree of importance in our day-to-day life. The greenery around us for sure is a bliss, and that is the probably the only reason we have to turn a blind eye to the energy wastage and the rising heat waves that we are confronted with. Despite the effort by a few individuals who are conscious about their energy consumption, as an organization we are definitely far from being energy efficient. While the city is facing acute power shortage, any amount of wastage is unjust.

Talking of energy conservation, the first step is probably volunteering to spread awareness. With so much effort already put in by the media and the environmentalists, is this the sole direction that we have? Let us look at the problem in a broader perspective. Many people don’t bother to switch off the lights or equipments or the computers in here..! It is strange that on joining IISc, one wonders why most appliances are left on always and then gradually we get into this vicious circle. ‘I don’t pay for it and hence I don’t care’; that is the attitude that most of us easily and unknowingly slip on to. With no means to know how much electricity one wastes, the problem boils down to the lack of accountability. Though the institute pays a bill, for the users electricity is essentially free. There is no penalty for wasting nor is there any incentive for conserving energy. This is probably the basic cause for the indifferent behavior that we have towards electricity wastage, unlike the much more responsible layman, who pays for every unit of electricity.

How do we then bring in accountability? Most of the power consumed in IISc is by the departments and centers. A plausible solution is to install energy meters in every lab/centre and make the users directly pay their own electricity bill. Now, this should not be a financial burden. Currently the institute is paying a bulk amount to BESCOM. Instead, that money can be distributed to the consumables accounts of individual labs/centers based on an equitable allocation scheme. If a lab conserves energy, they can use the money they save for other consumables. This will hence bring in the incentive-penalty scheme.

If we are able to implement this scheme, it will bring forth both awareness and responsibility among the institute community about their power consumption. Moreover, institute can have a budget allocation to regulate the power consumption. To begin with this task might be both tedious and time consuming. However, the outcome in the long run would be hugely beneficial. While our government has pledged to increase energy efficiency by 20% in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, minimizing wastage is absolutely critical in every organization.

Being a naive attempt to restructure the power consumption framework of the institute, this proposal will definitely bring in concerns. Below we have a few possible questions which would place us on a better platform.

• How will the institute’s budget be divided among the different units?
Every month the institute will allocate a certain amount of money for electricity as a budget. Each lab/centre will get a fraction of the budget in their consumable account. There could be many possible schemes by which this fraction can be determined. A simple scheme without much of loopholes is as follows.

The fraction will be proportional to ratio of the maximum possible power consumption of the lab to the maximum possible power consumption of the institute. This maximum possible power consumption can easily be calculated as the sum of the power ratings of all the electrical appliances. In other words a lab would get money proportional to the power ratings of the equipment it possesses. But billing will be done based on energy consumed, which is more difficult to predict in advance. So it may not be exactly equitable. We can expect that statistically these minor inequalities will get averaged out over time.

Another possible scheme is to first fix the meters, measure the usage for a few months and then fix up the ratio.

Whenever a lab procures new equipment, the fraction and the overall budget will be revised appropriately.

• How much electricity do we waste?
Honestly, we don’t know. In many instances, the line dividing usage and wastage is not well defined. For a third person, it is difficult to say usage from wastage, but the user can certainly distinguish wastage without ambiguity. Guestimates for electricity wastage at IISc vary from 10% to 25%. But given that the institute consumes more than two million units per month, the wastage is quite a lot in absolute terms.

• Electrical wiring of the institute is quite complex. How to measure who is using how much energy?
A complication can arise in introducing a billing system for electricity at IISc. That has to do with the wiring in this kind of institution unlike a residential complex. For instance, there could be a main supply line to each department and it could branch off into the different labs/centres. There could also be sub-units which have to be billed separately. There could be appliances common to multiple labs or the whole department.

One possible solution to this problem is to model the electrical wiring in the form of a tree structure. We can build a large tree structure for the entire institute based on the existing electrical wiring. There shall be an energy meter fixed at each node of the tree. Only the leaf nodes shall pay for the full meter reading. All the parent nodes will subtract the energy consumed by their children nodes and pay for the remaining. For instance, a lab will be a leaf node and will pay for the full meter reading; while the department will be a parent node and will pay for the remaining, like central facilities, office, corridors etc.
The above mentioned ideas might sound just theoretical to some of the readers. But if we are committed to become energy efficient, we will for sure cause a few more lighted days for the generations to come.

If you would like to be a part of this movement, join us!
The Green Gang, IISc
To know more about the initiative you can contact Mohansundaram (Physics) of Green Gang at (91)9880012252

Students’ Council news

1. The Students‟ Council arranged for a meeting between IISc students and the IISc alumni in GE at a breakfast meeting organized by IISc Alumni Cell on March 14, 2010.

2. The Students’ Council elections will be held on May 24, 2010 at the hall above A-mess between 0900 hours and 1700 hours. The elections are held for the post of Chairman, General Secretary, and Secretary-Women’s Affairs. All the IISc students (excluding Project Assistants, Research Associates and ERP students) are eligible to exercise their franchise. Voters are required to produce their IISc identity card at the polling booth.

Election counting will commence at 1700 hours on the same day of the elections and the results will be announced by 1800 hours. Prof. Anjali Karande (BioChem) is the presiding officer. Election soap box (Meet the candidate) will be held on May 18, 2010.

Source : Students’ Council

Water on the rocks!!!

The water scarcity problem in IISc is now well known, and I must say, has faced the consequence that is faced by most of the problems in our country – getting accepted! It is no sooner winter than there isn‟t any water in the hostels. Come summer and we will be bathing in the sand like the way a sparrow does. (For shitting, we can of course use the millions of unknown, unseen and un-habituated wild nooks spread across the huge campus, never mind!)

Fresh male admissions here are always put up in pigeon holes on a sharing basis, collectively called E-block. There, they are not entitled to have water for 24 hours, irrespective of whether it is summer, winter or monsoon. And when the sun is about to set behind those myriad species of trees in the lush green campus, students of E-block for fear of Daku Gabbar (read absence of water) either go to sleep, or decide to spend the rest of the night in their respective labs itself. One productive way of increasing the amount of research, I must say!

Hence, while the rest of India sees ragging by students (read bullies), the best educational institute in the country witnesses a special scenario, where such intolerant behavior to fresh admissions is by the authorities themselves!

And most of the times it is the drinking water that gets over first. Which brings me to my own story. Yes, of course I am not a philanthropist to pen down a story for public interest. It is what is happening around me that has troubled me, and helped me overcome my hard-wired laziness. There is no drinking water in my hostel Mrigasira since the last 6 days. And you might find it a little difficult to believe, but it is nonetheless true, that not a single plumber has paid a visit to the hostel yet!

For the first two days, I relied on my fellow wing-mate who had been kind enough to fetch me water from another hostel, realizing that I have a torn ligament in my left knee. The following day, I thought it would not be good on my part to ask for her favor every day. So I went to Ashwini. In Bengali there is a saying that says that only a boy with a poor vision has names like padma-lochan (The lotus-eyed one). Pardon me for being audacious, but all the five ladies‟ hostels here in the best educational institute in the country, are in an analogous fashion, named after Mahanakshatras (Great astronomical stars). Ashwini had given up the next day. No water there!

So I thought, now that I have gotten started, let me check with some other hostel. To Rohini, I went. Now here, let me digress a bit, and tell you more about Rohini. This is the only ladies‟ hostel that allows the entry of men! You must be thinking that the authorities perform a „maturity test‟ before allocating girls to this hostel! The criterion is not that, not your age either. It is  – “how long have you been staying in this institute‟. Of course, some of the Rohini inmates are lucky enough to have their rooms there in their freshie year also, for, the other more profound criteria are the whims and wishes of the person who has the duty (read right) to allocate rooms!

Rohini, with its bigger and better rooms, I am afraid, had no drinking water either! So I went to Krithika. (This is the same hostel from which my kind wing-mate had brought water for me the previous two days). So I thought at least Krithika won‟t disappoint me. But when I started filling water, I saw that the “processing‟ button is always on, and the green button for “purified water‟ never lights up! What?? This is so misleading! I had drunk this unpurified water the other night! Oh my God! (And hail my stomach, for not upsetting me!)

So next, I am left with only one option (unless I intended to go all the way to the lab giving my injured knee some exercise, of course) – Bharani. “Dear Mother Ganges, please supply me with drinking water today, I promise I will send my parents to Haridwar next year!” said I, a silent prayer. And yes! Bharani had water! Yeppie! I filled all my four bottles with happiness! Done for the day!

Next chapter. Come another day. And the same story! This time, the watchman told me there is no drinking water in any of the hostels! I decided not to venture out and go straight to the lab. And guess what? For lunch, we were not given bowls because they couldn‟t be washed due to lack of water!

I remembered my good old IIT Bombay days! Yes we had space problems, but at least the authorities were kind enough to provide us flats instead! In an individual hostel, we had coolers and water purifiers in every wing and on every floor! There was no separate treatment for fresh admissions. And every individual hostel had its own mess, its own students‟ council, its own mess manager, hall manager, two helpers, and an associate warden and a warden who would be professors! Where the watchman would check the luggage of all the workers in order to ensure there is no stealing of food or any other items that are meant for and paid for by the students.

Can’t accept this! Can’t accept! I must at least lodge a complaint! For the last three days I had only been asking the watchman whether a complaint has been lodged and felt happy when he said yes! But no. Let me check it myself today!

I called the water supply department.
“Hello, there is no drinking water in Mrigasira since Friday. Can you do something about it?”
“Which hostel madam?”
“There is no drinking water! Could you send a plumber?”
“Which hostel madam?”
“Mrigasira, I said!” “What?” (And then I remembered the unique way of addressing hostels here!)
“M-block, M-block” I almost shouted.
“Ok madam, I will send someone!” – thapak! End of the call….
Call at the hostel office…. Ring! Ring! Ring! And Ring! No one bothered to lift the call! Smart people!

What is the problem? I asked the watchman again. And he told me that it is a supply problem! Now, the water supply problem in Bangalore looks very mysterious to me. My brother had stayed here for 2 years in BTM layout, and had never ever complained about water! My friend from the IT industry stays in Whitefield, and he seems to be unaware of it. My friend, who is one of the research staff at NIMHANS, Koramangala, had never faced such a problem. The distribution of the water supply seems a little strange. We have heard from our professors that the institute pays the BWSSB a lot for water supply. Awards galore at their website:

Let’s do some studying, and forget about this, thought I. Came to lab. My fellow lab-mate, a victim of the E-block, met me on the way, and a traveler in the same boat, he realized immediately by seeing all the bottles in my hand. It was 4 o‟clock in the afternoon.
“No water, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah, don’t ask!”
“But now it must have come…even in E block there was no water, but now it has come!”
“No water as in, not even for bath?”
“Then what? We waited till now, and took bath, and now coming to lab”.

What should be my state of mind now? Should I feel lucky that at least I could take bath in the morning, or should I feel sorry for my friend, and at least another hundred like him, who had to wait till 4 o‟clock for getting water for bathing!

Time for studying now….regularity, eating, sleeping, drinking water (kudos to the rich department for fitting aqua guard at all the labs)….end of the day.

Next morning, I woke up with a fear that I might find the taps running dry! But thank God, they weren’t. But no drinking water, as usual! I had to take all my bottles and start out on a venture. Wait. Can I not find two minutes to actually lodge a complaint with the hostel office itself?

History tells us, that we Indians are very peace-loving (read lazy enough to always accept things the way they are). But can I not change myself at least for a day? “Promise you would be polite, promise you won‟t fight!” I said to myself!

“May I come in?” I asked in the hostel office. There were four rooms, and I made a random choice.
“See Sir, there is no drinking water in Mrigasira since Friday, and it has been 6 days now. No action has been taken, and I have come with all my bottles. You please tell me where to fill them?”
“You see, we have our own jurisdictions. The hostel office chairman is going to come at 2.30 to look into the issue!”

What??? Jurisdictions? How long does it take for someone to at least enquire what‟s wrong? Am I going to remain thirsty till 2.30?? I could almost feel blood rushing to my brain! “Patient, patient” I told myself.

“Would you tell me how long does it take to take a step?” I asked.
“There is no point in arguing with me, madam. You can come and talk to the chairman at 2.30!”
“But I am not in this institute to complain to the chairman! I have to attend classes at 2.30!”
“There is no point talking to me madam. We are looking into the matter. The chairman will sit at 2.30 today for solving the water issues. We have our own jurisdictions!”
“But it has already been 6 days!”
“We have done the best we could do!”

The ‘best’? Did I hear correctly? The ‘best’? Is this what he said? I couldn‟t control my natural emotion, which ultimately came out of my mouth with a lot of hurt, and shame! “If this is the best that the best educational institution in the country can do, it feels sorry to be here!” And I started running away. And while running, I could see that, like many street fights in our country, we had an audience!

We have been lucky. Most of us have not seen the worst. Most of us here in this institute are good students who have been cared for by their parents, praised by their teachers, brought up in all cozy comforts and who have set examples for their younger followers. We are here for our research.

But above all this, with my badly hurt heart now, I realize one truth that surpasses and rises above all petty mundane things that we indulge ourselves in everyday. That making a difference is not easy! That adding more meaning to life is not easy! That facing a problem is not easy! That NOT putting blame on others is not easy! We, who are very common mortals, on either side of the table, are not very different from each other. And together are we. Together we rise. Together we solve a problem.

Yes I am writing this for myself and my own interest. Because I am THE PUBLIC.

– Arpita Mondal (CIVIL)

IISc news

Indian scientist on IPCC review panel
Dr. Goverdhan Mehta, former director and faculty at organic chemistry, has been selected to be part of the 12-member committee to review the procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A noteworthy drive
The Notebook Drive, undertaken by a group of students in IISc, to make a difference to government school students, found a mention of their work in Bangalore Mirror last month. The primary aim of the group is to collect funds and channelise them to government schools in the form of stationery and infrastructure and they reached about 2,553 students in 2009.

IISc to study the Western Ghats
Karnataka Biodiversity Board has commissioned Dr. TV Ramachandra of the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) set to conduct a two-year study on the carrying capacity (the number of biological species a given environment can sustain) of the Western Ghats. The study will work as an ecological audit, which will eventually help in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the Western Ghats.

IISc will show astronauts art of space walking
Dr. SN Omkar and his team have developed a platform for vyomanauts (Indian astronauts), who will be selected by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for space missions, to practise space walking and learn to deal with space motion sickness. The wobble board, developed by IISc as part of a project given by ISRO to study space travel, assesses the capability of human beings to stay steady in a low-gravity environment. IISc is next only to the US space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in conducting studies on space walking.

Mr Tata opens new aerospace engineering complex at IISc
TATA Group chairman Mr Ratan Tata on Friday inaugurated the new complex of the department of aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Science. The new complex is located near the institute’s airstrip and resembles a futuristic super sonic aircraft. Mr Tata interacted with the students and visited the Micro Air Vehicle and Unmanned Air Vehicle Laboratory apart from inspecting the models developed by the department.

IISc shows the way to tackle crisis
While the Government cuts down trees to widen roads and cries over the depleting ground water table, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has shown that developing a mini forest with native species in its campus can actually reverse the depletion. The mini forest on just two acres of land adjoining the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) has raised the water table to a depth of just 10 feet, a big jump from 200 feet deep.

IISc finds a way to customise medicine dose
A team of four researchers at the institute, headed by Dr. Radhakanth Padhy, has come up with a way to determine the exact dose of medicine needed by a patient.

My evolution

It happens all the time, it happened all the while;
There was a strange song humming within me, I was embedded in a deep fantasy;
The colours, the music and the dancing beat; the flowers, the birds and the honey bees;
It had happened all the time; they have always made me smile…

But there’s something not happening now, all colours and flowers seem to fade now;
The soothing sun seems to become scorching now, the chirping of birds have become like clattering now;
I tried to search my laughter in all the flowers; I tried to search my happiness in all the leaves;
The bees and the birds would fly away; the breeze and the wind could no longer make me sway…

I looked through the windows and wondered why everything was seen in shades of dark and gray;
I looked at the mirrors and confusedly turned away my gaze in haste;
My face used to be as bloomed as the pansy, my eyes used to be as lightened as the galaxy;
My cheeks used to be as red as those of a blushing wife; my laughter used to be like ringing of hundred wind chimes…

I searched for my laughter; I searched for my lost days;
I walked down the road and looked around in vain;
I went to a shop to eat a chocolate, thinking it might rekindle me like it used to happen in my olden days;
I ate a piece, and nothing happened, it made me laugh but not like the ones of my golden days…

I walked out of the shop slowly and sadly and saw a small child happily playing with bricks; I thought ‘play my child now, coz one day you may also see the gloomy glumly days’;
I went to her and gave my chocolate to let her enjoy her fantasy;
And in return I got my biggest gift that helped me realize my path to those glorious olden days…

A simple hug, a simple kiss from a child can teach you lots;
A simple block of playing brick can make you rise but also make you fall;
We need to rise, but we always fail and fall in our attempts to know what we need;
We need to realize that dreams should change for us to learn and think free…

Our happiness evolves just like us from childhood to aging years;
We need to evolve our thinking power to know what we see;
I realized myself since the time I met the child and I knew what I should become;
And since then all the flowers and trees, the birds and honeybees came back to me and sung…

While a smile to one could give me joy, I thought of a million;
While love to one could make me exult, I thought of a billion;
While benevolence to one could give me pride, I thought of a trillion;

My bosom seemed to be overflowing with joy as I thought of my newly evolved dream!

– Sanchari Banerjee (MBU)

The World Café Social Experiment – Workshop on Public Participation about Infrastructure Aspects at IISc

Indian Institute of Science is not only an academic campus but it is also a residential campus. It is inhabited by diverse target groups like people who work in administration, people who work in academics, people who live on the campus and people who come to work but are not employees of the institute. This social experiment was conceived to discuss some of the major infrastructure aspects of the Indian Institute of Science from all these diverse perspectives. This was initiated to understand all the views that exist within the campus and to find an equitable solution that will be acceptable to a large cross section of this population. The current mechanism for solving diverse infrastructure issues within the campus holds a single person responsible for solving these to the satisfaction of all the people within the campus. However communities that are well managed and efficient are those where there is a high degree of participation from a large cross-section of the diverse population that represents the community. This was the basic reason to conduct the World Café Social Experiment at CiSTUP, IISc. The topics for discussion were chosen based on their relevance to the infrastructure aspects within the Indian Institute of Science campus. The topics chosen were:
1. Waste Management
2. Traffic and Transport Management
3. Water Management
4. Any other relevant issues.

The participants were chosen to represent the views of the various population groups within the IISc campus. The people identified included residents of the campus, people who work in the administrative departments, people who work in academic areas and the students. The social experiment worked towards identifying common and specific problems and innovative solutions for these problems. The idea was to bring everybody involved to a common table to talk about the IISc campus.

– Swathi K. J. (CiSTUP)

Gymkhana Corner

The past months witnessed the occurrence of the following events.

Interdepartmental Cricket Cup

Teams representing CEDT, MRC, Mathematics and SSCU made it to the semi-finals based on net run-rate. The final was played on 28th March. In a nail-biting finish, MRC clinched victory by 2 runs against CEDT to take the coveted trophy. Sandeep Pathak (MRC) was adjudicated as the “Man of the Final”. Shafquat (MRC) bagged the “Best Batsman” and the “Player of the Tournament” awards while Sunny Rahul (CEDT) won the “Best Bowler” award.

6th IISc Premier League Hockey (IPLH)

This tournament will be organized from 1st May to 8th May and will involve 4 teams

  • Blitzkrieg
  • Inga Podunga
  • Serial Thrillers
  • Chariots of Fire

Tennis Coaching Camp

The tennis camp is of ONE MONTH duration and commenced on May 1st. Camp is held at the tennis court, IIsc

Basketball Coaching Camp

This camp is for a duration of 2 months and is being held in the months of april and may. Venue is the basketball court.

Gymkhana Elections

Gymkhana Elections will be held this month. Final list of contestants will be announded on 11th may. Elections will be held on 20th May and the results will be declared on the same day.