Monday, November 06, 2006

To Hang Or Not To Hang

These are the days when the debate on capital punishments is intensifying again. For me, it is a strong remembrance of my blogging history, with my first post being on the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee. Since then, I have come a long way, both in terms of time elapsed as well as the lengths of my posts. Coming back to the point, in my first post, I didn't actually deal with the deeper questions regarding capital punishment, which I plan to briefly deal with in this post. Whether or not a person should be hanged till death is a question that necessitates division into two parts. The first part is concluding whether or not the crime has been committed by the accused, and the second whether the crime is heinous enough to warrant capital punishment. The scope of this post is solely the second question: When it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused has committed a felonious crime. I say "beyond a reasonable doubt" as one of the first tenets of rationality is never to be very sure; and I mention felonious crime as I feel that anything lesser would hardly ever qualify as one of the "rarest of the rare" cases when such punishment is prescribed.

The arguments against capital punishment are varied, detailed, and when seen in separation from the arguments in favor of capital punishment, very convincing. Avoiding the fallacy committed by the opposers, it would be preferable to briefly state their arguments. The arguments include the barbaric nature of the act, the questioning of government's responsibility towards the society, the right of a government over a person's life, that violence begets violence, and the very basic principle of criminal code: To try reforming rather than punishing.

Firstly, let us discuss whether or not the government has a right over a person's life. While this should be exercised with utmost caution, the fact remains that in order to protect the sovereignty of the country, this right is exercised at the borders of nearly every country. While those acts are against citizens of other countries, it is considered a country's right to kill those who perpetrate crime internally (like the terrorists). Just like the duty to protect sovereignty, it is the duty of every country to protect its society from criminals. Often. this is done by detaining/jailing them for a term that will either be sufficient for their reforming, or will allow specific social processes to continue without hindrance. An example of the first would be a pick-pocket, and that of the second would be a goon in preventive detention during elections. In rare cases, the court of law finds the offense committed to be so grave that it awards [sic] the maximum allowable punishment - Death penalty.

Many people find this act of court (on behalf of the nation) barbaric, though this is hardly the case. The capital punishments pronounced by the courts cannot be considered barbaric as the whole process is carried out in a free manner, with the accused getting his chance to plead and prove innocence. Also, the system assumes the person to be innocent until proven guilty, and even when the verdict is pronounced, the accused can appeal to successive higher courts to get justice. So while the argument that this is an extreme step remains valid, it is definitely not barbaric. Also, while it is highly debated whether such harsh punishments act as deterrent against further crimes, violence causes more violence if it selectively targets a group of people. That the government is punishing an arbitrary group of criminals will most certainly not lead to any increase in violence.

The next argument stems from the fact that the government's responsibility is to reform, rather than punish. Again, while for most of the crimes the sentence pronounced is to reform the criminal (whether such sentences are effective is beyond the scope of the post), only is extreme cases, when this is unlikely to get the result in a reasonable time frame, are such heavy punishments given. A question can always be asked how can the courts be sure that the person would reform or not, and here the problem begins as it not transforms to a subjective evaluation. While it is wrong to kill a person who can reform, it is also wrong to allow a criminal to roam freely in the society. Those favoring the middle-path would say that the criminal be kept in detention(jailed) until s/he reforms. But again, the government has to justify keeping a criminal alive on taxpayer's money. The previous sentence may have come as a blow to a lot of people for its super-objective evaluation of a person' life. But the government does not run on subjective emotions of the populace, and when incidents like IC-814 are a reality, it becomes even more difficult to justify the act. So when it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused has committed a felonious crime, the jury finds it unlikely that the criminal would reform, being indeed the rarest of the rare cases, there is nothing wrong in awarding capital punishment.

Note: While I agree to death penalty in principle, I also hold the view that if possible, it should be the right of the criminal to decide how s/he should be hanged.

Recommended watching: The life of David Gale

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Majboori Ka Naam Mahatma Gandhi

"Godlike movie! Must see."

"Watch it yaar. Its five times better than the previous one."

These were some of the half-a-dozen approving comments that I heard about the "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" movie that compelled the movie-wary person like me to finally watch it. After watching it, to say the least, I was not impressed. Mostly this happens when the expectations are built at a level that the movie can't deliver to. But in this case, there was an additional reason. The very theme of the movie is something I am not impressed with. It is quite likely that this may be one of the best way the theme of Gandhism may be presented (in the form of Gandhigiri)in a movie that can appeal to the masses. But a wrong start can only get you so far.

My first impressions about Gandhism were formed in some of my early school days when this concept was presented in a glorified way by the textbooks. Yes, it did sound rosy till I started my own experiments with truth. The first result I got from it was a startling fact that shook my belief in Gandhism right down to its foundations. It was a simple yet powerful truth: Truth is relative.

The very basic principle of Satyagraha in Gandhism was rejected by this result. Gandhism propounds that in a fight for truth, Satyagraha will fetch you your ends. But it never delves into the possibility that what is truth for you may not be for the other party and vice-versa. Without going into the correctness of our struggle for independence, if the Britishers also felt that they are rightfully occupying India and resorted to Satyagraha, it would have led to a dangerous, yet seemingly harmless deadlock. For those who can't comprehend any neutral situation where there can be two truths, a very common example is with regards to custody rights of children in case of mutual divorce. In most such cases, it is nearly impossible to rightfully point out whose truth is stronger, let alone absolute. Imagine how things would turn out if both husband and wife resorted to Satyagraha as a means of salvation to their ultimate truth.

The second result I got was that Satyagraha has very limited application: Satyagraha is applicable only when there is no other truth. This result is different from the first in a sense that the first dealt with truths of conflicting nature, while this one has to do with all the truths in the life of the person asking for the truth (the Satyagrahi). Satyagraha will only work if there is just one truth in the life of the Satyagrahi. We have all heard the phrase "Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi" but I wonder if anyone today has tried to appreciate the wisdom enshrined in these five words. The second result I got is, in fact, an appreciation of this wisdom. India's struggle for freedom was successful by the application of Satyagraha. This was possible because Indians were deprived of any meaningful existence by the Britishers and they had nothing to lose. Satyagraha would not have been applicable if the masses had careers to pursue and lives to make.

Imagine the situation in the life of a lover who pursues Satyagraha to get his beloved. He sits in front of her house till her father agrees to the match. The first day, he gets a lot of raised eyebrows and a couple of warnings. In comes the next day and the case of harassment and stalking is lodged with the police. In a few hours, they come over, warn the lover, and when he refuses to budge, force him out of the colony. The lover, strongly pursuing Satyagraha, returns as soon as possible to his ground zero to continue his struggle. The police, this time, take him into a preventive detention for a day and after a strong warning of stricter actions, leave him back to his house. As expected by the hardcore Satyagrahi, he returns to his post; and as expected by the police, he is arrested again and presented before a district magistrate. The magistrate notes the details of the case and leaves the lover with a last warning, violating which he would be required to keep out of the city's municipal limits. The story can be constructed further, but it is clear that the guy will end up losing his job, his (good) name in the locality and what not. It may so happen that the bride's father gives in to the to the lover's undying love for his daughter after five years, but the lover would have definitely lost everything in the meanwhile. This is the essence of the popular Hindi phrase that has not got its rightful glory.

It is a common and accepted practice that nations glorify their history, but if ours is really about truth, shouldn't we publish it with disclaimers?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Saxena Test

Has my computer turned into a human?

This question is troubling humanity for quite some time now. Many people have tried to answer it by giving our beloved computer tasks that only a human can be expected to complete, most of which have historically been intelligent tasks. One of the most famous such test is the Turing Test. According to Alan M. Turing, a computer can be considered intelligent (and consequently human) only if it passes the Turing Test. Here's the deal:

You are sitting on one side of a curtain. The proposed human being (PHB) is on the other side. You can interact with it through a neutral common language, say printed questions and answers. If it is not possible to determine if the PIB on the other side is a human or a computer, then a computer that is able to remain undetected by this test would be considered intelligent. The test is very simple, but till date no computer has been able to pass this test. Numerous attempts have been made to develop intelligent computers, based on humongous memory background. But since these have not been extensive, and thus, these machines have failed to pass the test. So is this test the holy grail, and should our search end here?

Not quite. The rate of advancement in computer sciences is extremely rapid, and predictions that such a computer is just round the corner are rife. This brings us to the fundamental question: What task (or test) can be performed by a human being, and not a computer? Furthermore, if we can frame a test that also distinguishes a human by evaluating human traits other than intelligence, it would definitely be more desirable. Such a test should have the capability to differentiating how a human thinks, as against the database searching capability of a computer. Most of the questions asked till now have been based on soft computing theories. But with even soft-computing approach applied to computer's thinking, these methods have limited application. Based on the discussions above, it is clear that to frame the ultimate question, we should concentrate on topics where the computer can't be applied rather than where computer is traditionally "slower" than humans. One such task that I thought about is the ability to understand Jokes! I call it "The Saxena Test".

The idea is simple. To the PHB, present a plain text of English prose and ask whether it considers the prose a valid humorous prose (i.e. a joke), and preferably rate it on a scale 1~10 how much humorous does the PIB find it. The beauty of this question is that computers can't be taught what jokes are, it is something we have in our instincts. Although we differ on how much humorous we find certain jokes, there is an obvious pattern of rating among rating too humorous jokes, and less humorous ones. Also, it is possible to tell if there is any joke in the text or not.

Since the set of jokes in an infinite set, when a computer would be developed to try and solve this problem, it is clear that instead of building an exhaustive database of jokes, it would be taught recognizing the language patterns in the joke. But here also, since the exceptions are so many, a computer would definitely fail. As an example, consider this prose:

"Man 1: Hey, would you come to play golf with me?
Man 2: Yes, but only if you call me once.

It is clear (at least to me) that the sentence above is not a joke. But it is easy to recollect innumerable jokes that fit into this pattern.

On many occasions, the humor in the joke is dependent on extra information not present in the joke. For example, consider this example:

Two atoms were coming around a corner, where they collide against each other and fall down.
The first atom asks the other: Are you all right?
The second atom replies: I think I have lost an electron.
First atom: Are you sure?
Second atom: Yes, I am positive.

To those who don't understand atomic structure, this wouldn't appear like a joke. Let us take another example:

Descartes is sitting in a bar, having a drink. The bartender asks him if he would like another. "I think not," he says, and vanishes.

It is possible for us to use these cases to our advantage while testing the PHB. Thus after giving one of the standard task of understanding an English prose, a book on history of logic, the computer should start considering the prose above as a joke, and the joke-rating of the prose above should rise substantially.

The next task is quantification of whether the PHB is human or not. The joke-rating provided by the PHB should be normalized and compared with ratings given by actual human beings. If there is high positive correlation, say around 0.8~0.9, then the PHB can be considered as a human.

I thought about this test years back, and thought it was high time I publish it; before someone else does! Neat?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Wisdom of the Wiki-Commons

The bottomline first: It works.

"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing." - Jimmy Wales

For those who still don't get it what is being talked about, the subject of this post is Wikipedia and more specifically the English Wikipedia. The quote above is by the founder of Wikipedia, quoted in a Slashdot Interview.

What is Wikipedia?

In brief, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is the world's largest encyclopedia and is growing at an extremely fast rate. With more than 1 million articles in English Wikipedia, it can be used as a single point reference to know from biography of Atilla the Hun to ingenuity of the Monty Hall Problem. What's more a lot of articles also have audio versions also, so one can also sit back and listen to them without having to read anything.

How stuff works?

This is where a complication begins. One would expect an encyclopedia to be written by experts; people who are associated with the topic in concern in great detail. However, Wikipedia is edited and maintained mainly by people like us, who are at best "Jack of few trades". And there is no deterrent to anyone's editing. Though registration is optional (though required for starting new articles), anyone can edit any page he/she wants. A big button shouting "edit this page" sits at the top of every article and besides every section welcoming you to edit and improve the articles.

So how does it work when there is no reason it should work? What stops people from vandalizing their hearts out, and corporations from using it as an advertisement board? Or in short, why should one use it at all when all one can expect is nothing more than few sentences of garbled text?

The reason is the philosophy behind Wikipedia and the founding principles of it. Wikipedia is based on three basic philosophies that are complimentary and non-negotiable. They are Verifiability, Neutral Point of View and No Original Research.

Verifiability means that only those things can be written in Wikipedia to which a source can be attributed as reference or can be observed by anyone without substantial effort. This directs people who contribute in Wikipedia to quote reputed sources of their articles and hence achieves good amount of reliability.

Neutral Point of View means that articles are to be written without any bias. This means howsoever you feel strongly about an article, you have to present it in neutral perspective without adding any personal opinions and flavors to the facts.

No Original Research means that you cannot write things in it that have not been previously reported by a reputed source. Hence Wikipedia is a source-based research and should not create primary sources.

It can be easily seen that with the strong content guiding policy like this, there is a platform created for things to prosper, given the right nurturing is given. It should be noted that Wikipedia strongly disallows copyrighted content (text, image or any form of creative work) to be written in it and licenses all works under GNU Free Documentation License.

Why the name Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is formed by joining the words "Wiki" and "Encyclopedia". All of you must be knowing what encyclopedia means, so only "Wiki" needs to be explained. "Wiki" is Hawaiian adjective meaning "quick". The philosophy behind adoption of this word is that a wiki-based system is easy to edit. One of the basic features of a Wiki is that it stores all revisions of the work, so that if anything bad happens (like vandalism or even a genuine mistake), things can be corrected. This can also be used to view how things were in the past, if relevant to the context, and mostly by editors to do things that will be discussed in details later. Wikipedia is based on a Wiki software called Media Wiki.

Administrative Structure
Although most of the editing part can be done by anyone, there are special things like deletion of article or blocking of compulsive vandals that can only be done by Wikipedia Administrators (known as sysops). They are elected on the basis of consensus among the Wikipedia community about the worthiness of the user in concern. Sock-puppetry (creating multiple accounts to support one's views) is strictly handled by Wikipedia and violators are usually banned.

The Wikipedia Mark-up
Wikpedia uses a markup similar to HTML though customized for a collaborative work with inter-related pages. In case one needs to link to a page in Wikipedia from a Wikipedia article, all that needs to be done is that to add double square brackets to the article name. For example, [[Indian Institutes of Technology]] will create a link to the article on Indian Institutes of Technology. There are similar easy ways of adding images and other useful features like bullets and tables. Although a lot of HTML codes work, their use is generally discouraged in favor of Wiki's own markup to provide consistency is article formats. Guides for Layout are available to make sure that there is little confusion as to how things are to be presented.

Fighting Vandalism
One of the serious problems that Wikipedia faces is vandalism of articles. However, the way Wikipedia is designed, vandalism is largely ineffective. Is is usually seen that most vandalism last less than 5 minutes! What's more, I can even quote this from my experience when I have seen vandalism getting reverted within a couple of minutes. This article can give you a good perspective of the issue being discussed.

The way vandalism is handled in Wikipedia is really commendable. First of all, since all previous revisions of the article in concern exist, once detected, its only a matter of couple of seconds that the article can be restored to its original state. Also, in order to check vandalism, there is a group of self-appointed people (I am one too), some 1000 in number, who check the recent changes taking place in Wikipedia from the Recent Changes Page. Coupled with a set of tools unknown to vandals and a lot of experience, they are able to weed out vandalism very effectively. In many instances, when I have reached a vandalized page within a couple of minutes, I see that someone has already come and corrected it. Amazingly, very little "garbage" goes through this filter. What does go through is still not spared. Most of the editors in Wikipedia (especially registered users) keep the pages edited by them in their watchlist. So, for example, if a person from Indore tries to advertise his business on Indore's Wikipedia page (which most likely a Recent Changes Patroller from Utah might not be able to qualify as vanity information), I get alerts of the changes. There are over 1000 articles in my watchlist even in the short span of less than 2 months in Wikipedia. With such multi-layered filtering, the vandalism/nonsense that does gets through is less than one PPM; something that can be considered very good.

Wikipedia has a lot of sister projects like Wiktionary, Wikinews, and Wikiquote. These complement Wikipedia's work as the resource for everything by being a repository of news, quotes, etc. Interlinking between sister projects is also easily done through the Wiki mark-up.

Behind the scenes
If you click on the "discussion" link at the top of any page, you will find what really lies beneath the calm and serene surface of Wikipedia. You will see a lot of discussions between the editors on what is possibly wrong with the article and how can it be improved. The way these discussions are carried out are also very structured and personal attacks are looked down upon. People are given feedback on their edits and suggestion from others (not directly related to the article) is also sought.

All users have their own profile pages and talk pages (for communication). This enables them to communicate with others more efficiently. Many user prefer to use "Userboxes" to tell things about themselves (like mine can be seen in my profile page's end and also directly here).

The good editors are rewarded by their peers for work, usually by giving a variety of Barnstars. Wikipedian are also known for their sense of humour and they lighten the mood when things start heating up in controversial topic debates. For example in an RfC (Request for Comments) over Kelly Martin's high-handed attitude in deleting userboxes that she felt are crap [sic] and should be deleted, also popularly known as the great userbox purge, a lot of people posted humourous stuff like an annoying pastel box.

A lot of things related to Wikipedia are prefixed by adding "wiki" before them. For example, any break from Wikipedia is known as a wikibreak, the stress caused by it is wikistress and the mood while editing Wikipedia is wikimood.

Brilliant Prose
Some 1000 articles of English Wikipedia's are categorized as brilliant prose (Featured Articles). This is a extensive and rigorous process of review to establish that the article in concern conforms to high standards. In order to make an article into a Featured Article, it has to conform to a lot of strict guidelines on content and presentation. First there is a Peer Review where authors invite comments and suggestions from their fellow editors on how to improve the article. Once done, it can proceed for the Featured Article Review. Here experts suggest how the article can be fine-tuned to make it a brilliant prose. Once having achieved the FA status, the article also appears on the front page of Wikipedia.

Comparison with other Encyclopedia
Wikipedia, over time, has been compared to a lot of encyclopedia and the main things stressed are the quality of content and reliability. The points where Wikipedia failed to ensure reliability have been quoted often in the media. But I still use it as a primary source of reference because of my experience with it. When I read something about what was reported wrong in Wikipedia, I feel similar to reading about people who win in gambling. Millions of people buy tickets, but only those who win are featured in newspapers, etc. With a lot of opportunities for having an error, Wikipedia scores quite good as compared to other encyclopedias also. In a study, it was found that while Encyclopedia Britannica had on an average 3 errors per article, Wikipedia had 4; a feat considering it is just 5 years old. Other criticisms include unequal weightage of subjects, which I have to accept is true. As Wikipedia is evolving, whenever someone comes to an article he knows something about, he edits it. But almost never does he know everything about it. So the article waits for the next "expert" to come over and edit relevant sections. I feel its premature to compare articles randomly. If a comparison is to be made, it should be made between equals. Like a featured article in Wikipedia and in another encyclopedia. Although Wikipedia has the restriction of using free content only (it doesn't buy content like text, images, etc), I am quite sure wikipedia will be equal, if not better than the other encyclopedias. The reason behind my belief is that even the best of encyclopedias have a non-neutral point of view, or tend to find a diplomatic way out of the problem by either mis-representing facts or completely ignoring them. While in Wikipedia, care is taken that even minority view is expressed. Wikipedia does not work on voting, but on constructive discussions. If there is an evidence to include a content, it finds its way into the article.

The Real Bottomline
Even with so many potential dangers, Wikipedia scores quite well in both reliability and exhaustiveness because of the sheer large number of people editing it (more than 1 million registered users and innumerably more anonymous ones). Jimmy Wales once said that "Wikipedia is like a sausage: you might like the taste of it, but you don't necessarily want to see how it's made". It will apply to most of you but since I am a chef, I have to oversee it being made it to perfection.

(Note: The author is a Wiki-holic and averages around 35 edits a day.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

New India-Version 2020

Just a few days back, I get a mail from a Yahoogroup that identifies itself as a word that translates to "Developing India" and asks for me to join. It plans to make India developed in the coming 20 years and the groups mails are filled with action words.

This is something that almost all Indians who have web presence can identify with. We all are bombarded with mails urging us to join the crusade to make India a developed country within a fixed time-frame and asks to to contribute by joining their discussions. Just like in the past I have graduated from forwarding all forwards to judiciously deciding the relevant information mails, I believe for the last one year, I have also graduated from such groups.

Well, forwarding junk and spam mails is definitely wrong, so it is understandable that one should mature enough not to forward all the "Send this to 100 people and your secret heart-throb will propose to you tomorrow" mails. But achieving India's progress...isn't it good to participate in such discussions...and contribute to India's progress.

Not quite...and here's why I think that your patriotism is misplaced. These groups belong to one of the following categories:

The All Gas Variety: This is one of the most common type of group that you will find promoting India's progress. They will have a standard welcome mail that describes their vision and ask you to join them if you conform to their vision. But unfortunately, they will only serve as message boards where people will post latest political information by cutting and pasting them from well-known websites. Most of these groups' usual mail then slowly drifts from these issues to the new "mahamantra" of some obscure god/philosopher and how it can change your life. Occasionally, someone will try to revive the group by starting a debate, but as soon as the debate dies, they will go back to their usual self.

The Soapbox Variety: This is less common than the above mention one. These groups will also have a well defined charter and vision, but they will also have something more. They will have public speakers of the Uma Bharati's class. That is, whenever any new story about India comes up, they will start posting pages after pages of their dissection of what happened and what ought to happen. As such groups usually have more than one firebrand orators, debates start over who's ideas should be accepted. Seeing these debates, you will usually remember the husband wife joke that goes like this:

Husband says: "In my family, I take the major decisions while my wife takes the minor decisions. She decides which school my children will go to, what they will eat, how will we spend the budget, etc. while I take the major decisions like should India suspend trade ties with Pakistan, should US invade Iraq, etc." It must have been clear by now that they try to act like the husbands.

The Misplaced Patriotism Variety: This is the sort of variety that most of them try to reach. While some do, the logic that whem one wins a rat-race, one is still a rat holds. But why do I say that they have "Misplaced Patriotism"? The reason will be clear once we understand what these groups actually do. One of the most common features of these groups is the aggressive feature with regards to issues concerning India. Be it injustice meted out to someone, or some political parties political moves. First they will criticize them and reach a consensus on criticism, and then they will hold demonstrations in the capital cities for this cause. They also take on the system by organizing signature campaigns in their support and advertising them aggressively. Many a times, they do succeed in getting the attention of courts/media, etc. which result in a relook into the case in consideration. Upbeat by their victory, they become even more aggressive in their future campaigns. The story looks alright and seems like this has always been you idea of a dream group that will steer India ahead. Isn't it? Most of you will say yes, but I disagree.

There are two analogies that I want to draw here. The first analogy is that of a million drops filling an ocean. These groups are like one drop that will fill the ocean one day. But which is not clear if it would be anytime soon. Just try and visualize that if a faucet drips water continuously, theoretically one day it will fill the ocean, but practically it will not. The second analogy is of bicycling on a muddy road. If you have got the experience, you will remember that for going ahead by them same distance, you will have to exert a lot of force to do it.

The India today is like this muddy road. By working hard to go ahead, though will make a progress, but that extra distance that you go ahead will not be worth the effort you have put in. So instead of bicycling, you ought to clear the mud first. President Abraham Lincoln once said: "If I were given 6 hours time to cut the tree, I will spend the first 4 hours sharpening the axe." This is the most important lesson that these groups forget. They have been trying to cut the tree with a blunt knife, they have been tackling the symptoms and not the disease. Do these people think that just because one person got punished for his bad deeds, others will get scared. The answer to this is overwhelmingly loud NO. These groups will continue to work on fever while there is no stopping of the virus.

What needs to be done is creating a consensus among people on what should be the direction they want India to proceed, and then educate the masses to work for that mission. This is not that easy as this sounds. Those of you who have been following my blog would remember that long time back I had written an article on my vision of developed India. I had named it part one because I thought that I will write more. In fact I did wrote more, but just before publishing, I found that all my writings have been targeting the effect and not the cause. Unlike the first one that clearly stated its aim to get the desired effect, the aim of my subsequent posts was doomed to be lost in the bureaucracy of modern India, even if being taken up. All my work clearly lacked a well defined and achievable goal, with stress on the word achievable. This is why I held up writing those posts, all of which I scrapped today as worthless.

So what needs to be done? Is there any way?

We all keep cursing the work of government offices and envision a developed India where there are a lot of competing private sector companies giving us best quality services. I will give you the shock of your life. In India, it is not possible for a elected government servant to favor capitalism. Why? Because our constitution envisions India as a 'socialist' state. A food for thought for all of you:

In order to change the way things happen in India, we have to counter laziness and abuse of office. The best way to fight is to privatize as much as we can (note that I am not saying completely). So why not start with our constitution? Don't you think that we should first privatize our constitution....first remove the clause that envisions India as a socialist state? Don't you think that this will sharpen our knives a at least allowing us to think Progress.

Think Developed India.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Bag Habit

Today, as I was coming back from the Kshitij Arena, I happened to overtake a bunch of students. Fortunately for me, we all were on foot and hence I was able to hear what they were talking about for a little while. Mind you I wasn't eavesdropping.

The group had a Kgp guy and was accompanied by a couple of girls who looked like his friends from other colleges. They were discussing the scale and resplendence of Kshitij. Then I heard one of the girl comment :

"जब हमारे यहाँ कोइ गेस्ट आता है तो सारी लड़कियाँ साड़ी पहनती हैं। यहाँ कि लडकियाँ तो क्लास वाली जीन्स में ही बैग टाँग के चली जाती हैं।"

(Translation:"When some guest comes to our Institute, we all girls dress formally in sarees. Not like these Kgp ones who just go in the jeans they wore for the class and carrying a bag on their back.")

Did I mention that even I have noticed this umpteen times. Be it usual walk around the campus, or even things like guest reception, every time you will see all the organizing committee members (from Volu to VP) carrying a bag on their back.

I first noticed it in this year's Spring Fest, and I have reasons to believe that this is a new culture. It was when I saw one of the SF Core Committee members go up the dias to felicitate a guest. It goes without saying that he was wearing a bag on his back. I was surprised to see such rude behavior. Wasn't it known to him that he will have to go up the stage to welcome the guest? And even if he didn't, how much time it would have taken to take the bag off his shoulders? Then I saw repetition of this in almost every event I saw. I write almost here because there were a few in which I wasn't noticing any such thing. In all others, it was a sure sight. Just when I was about to dismiss it as an SF culture came Kshitij to bring me back the memories of Spring Fest.

These bags weren't also some special ones gifted to the members. I have seen them in a few varieties and without any Logo. Looking at the people around, it almost looks like a uniform for the event organizers. The only reasonable explanation for this looks like these people feel that wearing bags all the time makes them look like busy people. But almost all of the bags I saw were almost empty (at least looked that way from the outside). I wanted to ask someone regarding the origin of this 'tradition' but unfortunately it hasn't been possible as either the person I saw (and knew) was inaccessible or the person concerned was a stranger to me.

When I meet them, I want to ask them how this culture is doing them any good. Personally, if I were a Chief Guest to a function, and a student comes over the stage to greet me with a bag laden on his back, I would feel it very unprofessional and unwelcoming gesture, if not insulted by this casualness of the attitude. Sure wearing a bag makes a person look more busy, but it looks a lot unprofessional as well.