Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Los Angeles 2015

rpbd2015 I will be in Los Angeles this weekend. There’s a “Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas” (regional non-resident Indian day) in LA. Details here.

I have never been to one. I am going to this one to basically check out what the tamasha is all about. Many years ago I had attended the mother of all tamashas — a PanIIT meeting.

“What’s PanIIT?” you say. It’s a meeting of a group of completely self-absorbed engineers from IITs with very inflated egos who congratulate themselves on how astonishingly amazing they are and how they are the almighty’s gift to humanity, if not the entire creation. Go read my report on the 2006 PanIIT meeting that was held in Mumbai. Also see my thoughts on the 2008 PanIIT where I talk about the funding of new IITs.

The IITs are not really what they are cracked up to be

It is time once again to lay that old chestnut to rest. The specious claim that the IITs are better than some of the best universities in the world is beyond slack-jawed silliness. I am reminded of that by this tweet by my friend @KiranKS

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On IITs, PanIIT, and the Funding of 50 New IITs

PanIIT 2008

It’s coming up to that time of the year again when a very large group of completely self-absorbed people with very inflated egos gather to congratulate themselves on how astonishingly amazing they are and how they are the almighty’s gift to humanity, if not the entire creation.

The PanIIT 2008 site declares: “IIT Alumni 2008 Global Conference is being held at IIT Madras, from 19th to 21st December. With 3000 alumni participants from around the globe, a galaxy of eminent speakers, and selected sponsors who are leaders in their industry, the 2008 Global Conference will be the most impressive ever. The focus this year is to inspire IITians to innovate and transform India.” [Emphasis added.]

The Bright and the Beautiful

Really very impressive. Especially the globe and galaxy bits, and the eminent speakers. Shilpa Shetty and Hema Malini are eminent speakers. Not impressed, are you? Well, then consider this. Not only will Prof Amartya Sen be there, but the “Nobel Laureate has rescheduled his busy schedule to make time for us”.

Now are you impressed? Do you have any idea what it means when a NL flies in to attend even though it means major disruption of his other engagements? What on earth could be more important than the annual PanIIT circus?

Now that I am done with expressing my disgust with the organization and its c-j antics, it is time to move on to more substantial and important matters. It has to do with gratitude, credit constraints, education, fairness, development, and India.
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Plastic Deformation of the Brain

Humans are the ultimate general purpose machines. What we are potentially capable of is virtually unlimited. Who we become and what we become capable of doing depends on the environment we grow up in and the programming that we are subjected to. To some degree at least, our educational system programs us. In some cases, the programming causes plastic deformation of our brains: the firmware is permanently and unalterably implanted.
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IIT-Inspire, Invovle, and Transform — 2

[Continued from Part 1 of this series.]

Made Up Stuff

Naturally, I was not part of the organizing committee and so I can’t know how they chose the keynote speakers of Dec 23rd at the Pan IIT 2006 meet. Therefore, I give in to wild conjecture. Consider this a sort of “reverse process engineering.”

“We need to choose a keynote speaker.”

“Yes, but to attract a wide range of audience, we must have more than one. Let’s set the parameters first. How about someone who appeals to technologists, as we are all techies. At the other end of the scale we have to have someone who widely regarded as a spiritual leader. Most of all, we must have famous personalities.”

“I guess that is a great strategy. We must have complete and comprehensive coverage of the entire spectrum. We need the commies as well as the capitalists amongst us satisfied. So, we must get a money bag to be a keynote speaker. Married speakers as well as bachelors.” Continue reading

IIT–Inspire, Involve and Transform

Hoopla at the Bandra Kurla

The PanIIT 2006 conference was a marvel to behold. I was among the over 5,000 (so the organizers claimed) who attended the event at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai, Dec 23rd to the 25th. I had had my misgivings about being part of the hoopla but my curiosity trumped discretion eventually. I don’t regret being there, mind you, as it was a supreme learning experience. Besides, I got to meet some interesting people, and see some people who I had heard and read about a lot but never seen them in the flesh.
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The Institute for Indian Technology in Bombay

Over the last weekend I spent a little time at the IIT Bombay, the alma mater of many a successful and celebrated Indian, resident as well as non-resident. IIT — the Indian Institutes of Technology. Sometimes called the Institutes of Indian Technology.

I had gone there to sit on a panel which was deliberating such weighty matters as policy for encouraging open source in education. I had little to add to it but still I was given a nice desk weather station (has a hygrometer and thermometer in addition to the clock). Neat little gizmo, made in China, of course. Continue reading