Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Tribute To Competitive Exams

We, frends, were talking, or shall I say reminiscing, our high school days a few days back. Why do we do this as frequently as we do? Because it's absolutely funny. Or so we think. And one of the, now inexplicable, things we did in High school was taking competitive exams. O how competitive we were! If only competitive is defined as taking competitive exams whenever and wherever it's held.

Whether we had it in us to succeed in some of those exams was never an issue. Not because we were geniuses. But because we never cared about it. Maths olympiad preliminary round we took despite cognizance of the fact that Maths, and Maths of the type that's seen in olympiads, was not our forte. And we, i.e, me, him and him took the exam alongwith many others. And took it with an air of confidence that would have put to shame even the eventual national level winners. That we were far from being successful does not require mention.

Then there were talent search exams. Not just the popular NTSE. There were numerous searches of similar hue to find out talents that are hidden, or are lost, somewhere amidst the chaotic great Indian school system. The probability of finding one or all three of us writing these exams intended to search talent, whenever it was held in Bangalore, was 100%. (If we weren't there then it would have only meant that only the organisers and their kids were taking the exam.) Despite that, none of these searches found us. Oh yes, one of them, NTSE, did find Arjun. He, if my memory is correct, won a state level scholarship too. He, again, if my memory is correct, refused to take that scholarship as a mark of protest against the sheer injustice meted out to us in a majority of these talent search exams.

Well, if you thought only Maths and science interested us then that just shows how grossly you have misunderstood us. We, again the previously mentioned trio of me, Arjun and Arvind, took Ramayana and Mahabharatha exams as well. If you thought we took it just because the exam fee was low and we had money at our disposal to afford it, you are again wrong. We took it with all seriousness. We read the prescribed books 'Kishore Ramayana' and a similar one on Mahabharatha for the respective exams. I read both but wrote only one of the exams. Infact, much of the 'critical acclaim' that the Mahabharatha series on this blog received, can be attributed to a thorough understanding of the great epic which inturn was possible only because I studied for the aforementioned exam. Arvind wrote both the exams. It was widely reported in unknown media circles that he passed the examination in 'flying colours'. He, though, flatly denies such allegations.

During the same time, we came to know that ISKCON was conducting exams to ascertain the level of Krishna consciousness in high school students. I, though being a religious person, never had(and neither have now) much faith in ISKCON. But competitive spirit was the overriding factor which made me write the exam. So did the other two. ISKCON had published a book on the life on Krishna, targeted for high school children I believe. This was the prescribed textbook. It had the phrase 'transcendental nature of the supreme Lord' all over it. The exam had a multiple choice question paper. Questions had options which were as far away in context as society and chemicals. Here's a sample:
Krishna consciousness helps you
a. Get more marks in social studies
b. Donate money to ISKCON
c. Play ice hockey
d. Helps you have a healthy heterosexual life
We had quite a good laugh writing it. And thus was added another exam to an already lengthy list of exams we took.

Anyone who studied in Vijaya High School with Samskrutha as the first language would have invariably taken the exams 'Prathama', 'Dwitiya', 'Truthiya'. Atleast the first one. And some like me would have taken all the three and subsequent ones too. This being the case how could we be left behind. Our high school, which gave absurd importance to exams like these, had special coaching classes targeted to train students to achieve excellence in these exams. We attended those classes too. Wrote the exam. And added one more participation certificate to our academic profile. Nothing more.

One more exam for which our school conducted coaching classes was Vedic Maths. By now, I need not tell that the participants of this exams included me. Arvind too. Arvind shamelessly scored a 100. He got a plastic medal for that. He was awarded that medal in front of the school assembly. The embarrassment on his face was way too obvious. I cleverly avoided this embarrassment by getting 99 and thereby getting only, what was in abundance by then, the participation certificate. The reason for getting that one mark less was I answered wrongly the question which asked us to name the exam's organising organisation. This apparently was on the question paper itself. But it did not come to my notice.

This competitive streak and overestimation of our abilities also meant we took the IIT entrance exam a couple of years later. What happened there should be obvious to you by now dear reader. That's it for this post then.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Lesser known truths

While a lot has been said about Gujarat, Modi, Godhra, riots and suchlike in the light of the recent sting operation, but all of them tell the same story or the same side of the story. The secular media doesn't want people to know the other side. But the other perspective too needs to be given the space it deserves. But unfortunately the Indian media doesn't care for such niceties.

Here are a few links that tells the other part of the story, the lesser known truths, the truths that were distorted by 'secular considerations', truths that can render a person, revealing them, 'communal' in the eyes of 'liberals'.

Here , Swapan Dasgupta argues that Gujarat has outgrown the riot. He says,

"The riots -- horrible as they were - are fast becoming history. The people of Gujarat, both Hindus and Muslims, have moved on. No one, and certainly not the Congress, wanted the forthcoming elections to be dominated by sectarian tensions. There are other pressing concerns. By resurrecting the riots, without at the same time being able to nail Modi personally, the sting has raised the communal temperature needlessly and fuelled minority victimhood.
Chandan Mitra, here, questions the political motive behind the sting operation. He also points out the "unreliability of oral 'evidence' proferred by alleged activists who are prone to build myths around themselves and love to brag."
"I have narrated this personal experience to point out the unreliability of oral "evidence" proferred by alleged activists who are prone to build myths around themselves and love to brag. This is a tendency common in India, particularly in small towns and villages. This is not to suggest that the entire body of "confessions" gathered by the sting operation is false or exaggerated. It is possible that some of the people captured on hidden camera actually perpetrated those gruesome acts. My limited point, however, stands: Unverified information can be highly misleading and will certainly not stand scrutiny in a court of law. So, the exultant reaction on the part of the multi-million Gujarat Riot industry may be premature and misplaced."
Offstumped, investigates the not-so-obvious motives for the sting. Read on.

"Well the links to ISI real or imaginary have criss-crossed Tejpal’s paths more than once. When one looks at the impact of the latest stink outside of Gujarat one cannot but help view them in light of the recent terrorist attacks and the radicalization of Muslim youth. Offstumped had only recently pointed out that the radicalization of the disenchanted mind is of greater concern. The riots we can detect and control but the radicalization we have no measure of Offstumped had then said."
While these were mainly about the sting operation, it's impact and it's motivation, here, Arvind Lavakare points how the media does not even bother to mention the fact that mearly 30% of those killed in those riots were Hindus. He also asks as to why 40,000 Hindus were rushed to relief camps.
"Since no ‘secularist’ or ‘liberal’ or ‘objective’ person ever challenged the above sets of figures, some questions arise: Who killed 200-odd Hindus so early in those riots? Was it the police or the Hindus themselves? And what made those 40,000 Hindus rush to relief camps? Was it fear of Hindu mob violence, rape, arson and murder?"
Modi says he will seek re-election solely on the development work he has done. Here's a look at some of those development works.
"Earnst and Young, an international consultancy firm, has surveyed the total development that took place during six years of Modi Government. It commented that "Gujarat is a shinning example in India's economic development and self-reliance". This report lists 72 path-breaking initiatives undertaken by the Gujarat Government. Each one of them reflects innovative endeavour of the Government. It has to its credit the double-digit growth rate, placing the State at top in the country."
So what does the man himself, Narendra Modi, have to say about his achievements and controversies surrounding him? For that, here's a link to the interview he gave to Indian Express. Do read it to hear from the man himself.