A long dreary fight for responsibility

The interview with Nari has been surprisingly popular for a blogpost of its length. Thanks are due, I suppose, to people who shared the thing with their friends. I am done with the IITM thing for now, except to say that I’ve noticed that this has been a recurring theme in my writing, a fight I’ve picked more than once, only to lose every time.

Among my very first posts was a crib about why my parents had to sign a form that said I won’t rag juniors or drive a vehicle on campus. I made the point that parents weren’t in charge, or even in the know, of what their children are up to. In fact, if you read the post from July 2008 (!), the arguments we’re going through now are eerily similar.

I remember almost having a spat with a former Dean of Academics about why somebody had to get his father to sign a form for change of branch or conversion to dual degree. (Ravikanth was there, I remember.) He said something like “I don’t know what relationship you have with your father, but I am answerable to him if he asks me tomorrow why his son is no longer in Aerospace Engg.” I didn’t have the cheek then to ask him why it was any of the Institute’s business what relationship I had with my father, and there the matter was left.

I actually did pick the fight at JNCASR – my graduate institution. Why, I asked, did I have to get a parent to sign something that said they would be responsible for my conduct at the Centre, when several people who enter the Centre are themselves parents? It became enough of an issue here that I’m told a reasonably high-level meeting of people happened. And the only effect was that the JNC student guidelines were modified to say explicitly that students will not be allowed admission into the Centre without having their parents sign the form. It is quite silly to ask my parents to be responsible for my actions. Such a document isn’t even enforceable legally – if I kill somebody, will my father get put in jail?

It is an argument I attribute to Christopher Hitchens that this sort of thing is beyond silly. It is, plainly, immoral. It would be immoral of somebody to offer to take responsibility for my actions, and it would be immoral of me to accept. My responsibility is mine, and mine alone.

The worst part, surely, is that my professor doesn’t remember having to do any of this when she went to IIT or did her PhD.

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The Aliens have sprouted!

I took this picture a while ago. I thought the ‘craters’ looked suspicious and everything, but didn’t do anything about it […] this is what happens when you see a problem but do nothing about it. The only thing needed for aliens to start to sprout is for good people to do nothing!

I took this picture a while ago. I thought the ‘craters’ looked suspicious and everything, but didn’t do anything about it:

[aliens]

[/aliens]

You see, this is what happens when you see a problem but do nothing about it. The only thing needed for aliens to start to sprout is for good people to do nothing!

[sprouting]

[/sprouting]

It’s Saturday. There has to be something good.

I lamented once upon a post that I seemed to leave my camera behind really when I might have liked to take a picture. Well, that’s been remedied. Partially. Here, for instance, is quite a large cloud of birds. I’ve seen birds in bunches smaller than this do simulated acrobatics, too…

I lamented once upon a post that I seemed to leave my camera behind really when I might have liked to take a picture. Well, that’s been remedied. Partially. Here, for instance, is quite a large cloud of birds.

[birds]

[/birds]

I’ve seen birds in bunches smaller than this do simulated acrobatics, too. They fly around in circles gaining altitude and hurtle down all together in swoops that will make you think they’ve suddenly lost the ability to fly… until you see them resurface from behind the trees in a few seconds. I wish I knew how to get that on camera.

Here’s another one. You know what they say about clouds – that each one has a silver lining? I don’t think they meant that literally, but here’s what that might look like:

[silver]

[/silver

And lastly, and I am not sure that the resolution on this page is enough to see this properly, does it look to you like the branches of the coconut tree are on fire, the flames eating at the leaves from tip to stalk?

[fire]

[/fire]

JNCASR has the coolest spiders!

I shot these just now. I saw this spider that had spun itself a web between table and chair. It was brilliant. The picture is, too! There are more pictures on my Facebook. Go to the album called JNCASR – EMU.

I shot these just now. I saw this spider that had spun itself a web between table and chair. It was brilliant. The picture is, too! There are more pictures on my Facebook. Go to the album called JNCASR – EMU.

There’s a new webbing that the spider’s spinning as I was taking the picture. That’s the strand of zig-zag white you see to the bottom-right of the spider. Although, it’s probably more likely the spider fell asleep while it was spinning a web.

[Spider!]

[/spider!]

Do you want to look at the sky?

I sit on the terrace at EMU every evening. Below are some pictures I did manage to take. I particularly like the last one, with its yellow school bus against a very pretty sky.

The JNC campus is in a part of Bangalore that isn’t really Bangalore. We’re 12 km from Malleswaram. The Engineering unit at JNC is in one corner of the campus, which means that the footfall to the building consists almost entirely of students from the unit itself. Unlike some places (read: IITM), JNC also doesn’t ban entry to its rooftops.

I sit on the terrace at EMU every evening. I usually listen to some audiobook or the other, or simply read something. I usually also take my camera although, it turns out, NOT when I saw the most incredible images I could’ve shot (I saw a flying-V of birds about a hundred birds strong, for instance. Nope, no camera). Below are some pictures I did manage to take. I particularly like the last one, with its yellow school bus against a very pretty sky.

[image]

[/image 1]

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Atheism Day at JNCASR

Yesterday was Diwali, and I discovered that a surprisingly large section of the JNC population seems to revel in standing in front of some idol or the other while somebody lights a fire to something or the other and chants in pig-Latin. A bunch of us at the engineering unit think this is all just plain silly. It was even suggested to me that some atheist version of this idol-worship be given its own day; some time in January was suggested. I was told I would be appointed the priest.

I am all for an atheism day. I think it’s a perfectly good idea. I am actually all for atheism years, decades and centuries.  I am, after all, the guy who made attempts, however impotent, to start some sort of Atheism Society at IITM.

I don’t, however, intend to stand in front of a poster of Richard Dawkins and chant something in, for lack of anything better, English. Or to garland some idol with slippers, a la a former CM of Tamil Nadu. This is not because I have a problem ‘disrespecting’ idols or pissing people off, but because it would be pointless – idols don’t care, and there are far simpler ways of mocking, ridiculing, annoying or irritating people. I don’t need props to do it.

Here’s a sample of what I thought should go in the ‘invitation’ for this Atheism day. This will get modified, and hopefully get better, as time goes along. For once, I mean and hope for this to come across as deliberate and thoughtful, and not as arrogant or vindictive:

An Invitation

Profess your atheism. Celebrate Atheism Day. February 11, 2011.

The 42nd day of 2011 seems to us to be as good a day as any other to profess, possibly in unison, our non-belief. Tell a friend why you don’t believe in an overlord pulling strings from the clouds. Do at least one good thing, this day. Something as simple as a kind word to a colleague you never got along with. Or perhaps you think some person or organisation is doing honourable work that should be supported. Perhaps we could list a few people or organisations who deserve all the help we can give them in their efforts to make somebody’s life better.

The remainder of the plan, happily, is to go about our days entirely as usual. We could meet for dinner in the mess hall, served – as usual – between 7:15 and 9:00 pm.

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Hat tips, credits: Anubhab Roy, Navaneeth.

No omelet for you. A letter to the JNCASR student committee.

JNCASR has a utility store, which sells toiletries and sundry eatables. Apparently, you can’t get omelet there. Because people who are vegetarian have complained/ might complain about it. Or something. Anubhab Roy wrote to the student committee asking if something couldn’t be done about this. His arguments fell on deaf ears. Obviously, then, I had to say something. Here’s what I wrote to the student committee:

Hello,

Anubhab Roy sent me a copy of his missive asking why the utility centre cannot serve omelets. He made the point that an institution cannot go around banning things some section of its residents don’t like. I am told his plaint is going to go unheard.

I disagree with Anubhab Roy. And I’m glad the administration at JNCASR has taken the pragmatic path of respecting people’s rights to stick to their principles in the face of overwhelming common sense.

I am a Pastafarian, and the central tenet of my faith is that flour should only be used to make noodly shapes. Shaping flour in any other way is unclean, disrespectful, and sacrilegious. I have had to bear with chappatis and bread at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in the mess and indeed in the utility store all my life.

It isn’t just that they want to serve chappatis and bread; they also insist on using the same utensils for chappatis as for noodles. They also insist on displaying the toaster in full view of the food-queue.

Now that I have seen the pragmatism of the student committee and the rest of the administration at JNC, however, I can finally hope that these wrongs will be righted.

I would, left to myself, do away with chappatis altogether, but I get that I live in a community. I just want my faith to not be compromised. I appeal to you to respect my right to my faith – the faith of hundreds of thousands of people across the world.

I hope, therefore, that you will ensure that the utensils used for chappatis are not used for noodles, and that the toaster is moved to behind the washing machines.

I thank you and hope that you will kindly oblige.

Yours,
Ravichandran S