Saturday, August 29, 2009

Being a teaching assistant

Things have changed so much in the fifth year. Today is the last day of the first mid semester exams. We just have 1 course to do (besides thesis) in this semester. And that also has just 1 mid sem exam which is scheduled in mid September. So there were no exams for me this time. And hence there is no post mid sem fun. But this doesn't imply that I was left free this time. Since, I am a teaching assistant of a course, I'd to do invigilation during the exam. And I also had to check the exam copies of the students.

It was a nice experience to be on the other side of the examination process for a change. But when you have to check 170 odd copies, then it becomes a pain. The question which I had to check involved writing a pseudo code for an algorithm and doing its complexity analysis. So I'd to read the pseudo codes. And the more incorrect the solution is, more difficult it becomes to check. Because then you have to make sure that there is no way this solution could actually work. And you also have to point out why the solution is not working. And you also have to go through the complexity analysis of a faulty code. Now I know why teachers like good students. Its because their papers are easiest to check.

But its a good learning experience to check copies. You start realizing what kind of answers should be provided. You realize what should be written and how should it be written. I was also reminising while checking the papers. I think that I might have given some real tough time to my examiners.

To anyone reading this post, there is a request that please be considerate to your examiners. Improve your writing, write clearly leaving spaces and if you don't know the answer atleast don't write things which are given in the question. It does more harm than good. Believe me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rules of attraction

You may say that love is the domain of the heart and not the brain. But then you would just be saying it. Finally its the human brain that comes into action. And it acts in myseterious ways. Getting attracted to a person is something which I believe is outside our control. And the reasons for the attraction still remain unknown to me. Sometimes, its the beauty. Sometimes, its the brain. Sometimes, its the face. Sometimes, its the voice. Sometimes, its the presence. Sometimes, its the absence.

And some other times, its unknown. You know you like someone but you don't know why. And after a while that someone becomes indispensable. That someone becomes your habit. You don't realize it when that person is around. But you feel the void when they are not. The time stops and so does the brain. And you are stick with that same feeling until you see that person again.

If only there exist any rules of attraction. Because then we would have also had rules for repulsion. And then we would have not been at the mercy of our heart or rather our brain. Follow the rules and you are out of the whole thing. But as it turns out, attraction knows no rules. It happens and you know it only after you have been inflicted by it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another train journey

Who is afraid to get dirty ?
The one who is clean.

I happened to witness an incident in the train on my recent trip to Udaipur. There were 3 other passengers in our compartment, an old husband wife couple and a sister of the husband. The husband (a man in 70s) had booked the ticket for the journey. But while booking the ticket, he wrote the age of his sister as 35 whereas actually she was in her late 40s. The ticket checker came and surprisingly enough he noticed that. He asked that family to pay the price of the ticket as well penalty because they have violated the rules and were guilty of transfer of tickets. The family rightfully (this is my personal stand) refused to do so as the same person was travelling on whose name the ticket has been booked.

But the family did this the wrong way. They claimed that the women was actually 35. The ticket collecter asked them to give this statement in written. But to this, they refused. From here on things turn nasty and as happens, the others in the train (including me) were involved in the brawl. I got involved because I thought it was unjust and that the family should not have been penalized for an innocent mistake of an old man. It is India after all. Given the size of the families that we used to have in the past, its not uncommon for a man to forget the age of his younger sister.

But the ticket checker didn't think of it that way. To him it was a case of transfer of ticket (they call it ToT). He called some other TC and RPF constable on the train. And that enraged me further. Had it been some other bold and shrewd person, he would have given the necessary detail in writing. Had it been some hot shot, had it been someone powerful, the TC would not have got into the trouble of doing all this. But unfortunately it was an old couple who was afraid of the legal proceedings.

And this happens in this country all the time. Its as if the laws are not meant for the mighty and powerful. They are meant for those whom they can intimidate. They are not meant for a large enterprise which has defaulted on its loan. Rather they are meant for that farmer who couldn't repay his. They are not meant for the big shops that encroach the roads. Rather they are made for those small road side hawkers.

Conformity to the law is no more a virtue of an honest citizen. It is the rather the weakness of those who are not 'brave' enough to flout it. On one hand we have people indicted for severe crimes out in open. And on the other we have several innocents behind the bar. Weakness is the only crime. And the strength is the only religion.

But fortunately things turned out well eventually after few level headed people got involved. It was later pointed out to me by some other passenger who was a frequent traveller of that train on that route that the TC was a dead honest person and a martinet. But I still feel that he should have used his discretion rather than going by the rules. After all that is the difference between a a man and a machine.