Year End Review - The Long One

Well, it’s that time of the year again, when retrospection is at an all time high, and people all around are reminiscing about the year that was, what they could have done and what they should have done. I am a big fan of retrospection, as is visible from my previous posts. Hence, I will do my review, but not of the whole year since I have done most of the first half here, but post 2nd semester.
The 3 months off after 2nd semester were the first time I experienced holidays in the true sense of the word. Ever since I remember, I have always had holiday homework or some sort of studying for the next year to do in the summer holidays. But it was also the longest stretch of boredom I have ever endured in my life. Time slowed down. On the academic front, my grades in the 2nd semester were bad. I screwed up big time. When almost everyone else had gone up from their first semester GPA, I had gone down by a huge margin. I traced the cause of this drop to the acquisition of the new laptop combined with a lot of extra-curricular activities in the form of Saarang, Lit Soc and football. This is not to say that I was disappointed with my 2nd semester. It was the best 4 months I have ever had, and much better than 1st semester. I learnt a lot on a lot of new fronts. However, I reminded myself to not go easy on my studies and be more careful in the next semester.
Towards the end of the vacation, I was really eager to get back to college (partly because I was living in a new city, where I didn’t particularly have friends). Oh, and yeah, I learnt driving in the holidays and got my license. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about this (unlike a lot of people I have met) and strangely enough, given a choice between a bike and a car, I prefer a car. This leaves my mother puzzled as she thought the experience of riding a bike with my hair flying in the wind should be thrilling for me. My hair is pretty rough, and the chances of me going at a speed to make it fly in the wind are pretty low, so it’s pretty improbable for me to fulfill that image. Coming back to the end of the holidays, it finally ended and I was back at the college. New semester, new room (right next to friends) and more importantly, no longer first years. I looked forward to …err…… ‘interacting’ with the juniors. In the meanwhile, after a huge debate (at my home, you don’t have arguments, you have debates) I convinced my parents to send my huge keyboard to me so that I can further pursue music. That happened, and I was thrilled and started widening my musical horizon, diverging from classical music. Apart from what I have already said in previous posts, the semester was largely uneventful. Shaastra saw me Vinayak and Advaith come 2nd in the Main Quiz, which was completely unexpected for me. All of us were convinced we wouldn’t even get through the prelims, but somehow we did, and we actually breezed through the semi-finals and the finals (we were 2nd in both by a comfortable margin. The team that won in our semi-final won the final too). A huge chunk of credit for this goes to Advaith, who was insane in the quiz and was responsible for more than half of the points we got. It was his show through and through.
After Shaastra, life was chugging along, till the last LitSoc event of the month came – WM Solo. Now, I had started preparing The Entertainer by Scott Joplin a long time ago, and realized that I can do it in time for this competition. So I started practicing more to put up a decent performance. I knew my chances to actually come 1st, 2nd or 3rd were actually really slim due to the presence of a lot of good instrumentalists, but I wanted to put up a fight. On the day of the event, my fingers froze up, I completely muddled up the opening to the song, and hence, the whole song. I was very disappointed. Glucon’s really awesome rendition of Within Attraction did a lot to bring me back up, but when I returned to my room, it struck me again that I had failed. The reason why this was so important for me was that I always used to think that I screw up something when I go up on stage. This has been true for every time I have gone up on stage, barring last year’s WM Group performance (for which we had practised for a month). I wanted to remove that burden from my head, but not only did it stay, it grew heavier. I still need to figure out a way around this stage fright of mine. I figure it is going to need a lot of practice, and I hope I am up for it.
After the semester, I went on a holiday to Munnar with my friends, where I had a blast. It was 3 days of fun. Also, since I was a Mallu, I was the one who did all the talking and planning, so I had fun doing that too. In the end, it was time and money spent in the best possible way. After Munnar, I went to my grandparents’ place and a lot of travelling ensued, the boring details of which I will not force you to endure.

So how has been my life this past one year? Pretty good, I say. To summarize it -


Redemption in grades in 3rd semester. I got what I wanted at the beginning of the semester.
Setting up my keyboard and playing it in my room the day I got it.
Munnar trip.


Fights with people that I shouldn’t have had.
WM Solo.
Liverpool’s performance in the league.

Resolutions for next year -

Try not to be egoistic.
Don’t lose the grip on studies.
Play a lot more music.
Improve my quizzing skills by exploiting Wikipedia and revive my lost reading habit.
Watch still more movies.
Watch more football, and try to improve my skill on the field.
Read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy again.

So I hope you had a Merry X’mas and that you have an awesome New Year and success in sticking to your resolutions, atleast till the first month gets over.

Year End - the Short One

Its been the holidays and I have been travelling like never before. I am making a post on the year that was, but till then, here is a questionnaire I came across on Facebook.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you had never done before?
Went on a holiday with friends. Got bored in the summer holidays. Discovered macro mode in a camera, and went crazy.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolution and will you make one for next year?
I forgot what my resolution was. Next year.. well lets see.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

3. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What places did you visit?
Madras, Delhi, Trivandrum, Ernakulam, Bombay, Rajkot, Baroda,Munnar,Kodaikanal (stopped over at Madurai and Coimbatore)

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
More stamina, common sense, lack of arrogance, ball control on my left foot......

7. What date from 2009 will be etched in your memory?
Oct 3. Came 2nd in Shaastra Main Quiz.

8. Your biggest achievement of the year?
Has to be SMQ and my 3rd sem gpa.

9. What was you biggest failure?
WM Solo LitSoc 2009-10.

10. Did you suffer from illness or injury?
Slight cold here and there and minor bruises.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Since I bought my laptop last year, has to be my phone - Nokia 5130.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Advaith - for an awesome SMQ
TI - awesome in WM and LM group 2009.
Glucon - Within Attraction.
Lolli- Hourglass.

13. Whose behaviour appalled/depressed you?
Bob - to be really frank and honest.
mine - ditto.
Raj Thackeray.

14. Where did most of your money go?

15. What did you get really excited about?
Getting my keyboard to my room from my home.
Munnar trip.

16. What song will remind you of 2009?
Lazarus - Porcupine Tree.

17. Compared to last year, are you happier or sadder?
definitely happier.

18. Thinner or fatter?

19. What do you wish you'd done more of?
mug (2nd sem)
played the keyboard
played football
watched football

20. What do you wish you'd done less of?
be arrogant
pain other people
be egoistic

21. How will you spend Christmas?
Already done it at home, eating pizza.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Pain of Salvation, Elisha Cuthbert and ..............

22. How many one night stands?

24. Favourite TV programme?
That 70s Show.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
Bal Thackeray.

26. What good books did you read?
Google Story, Freakonomics, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Pain of Salvation, Saras hostel band.

28. What did you want and get?
A good sem in terms of academics, an awesome winter vacation.

29. What did you want and did not get?
musical enlightenment.

30. What was your favourite film?
Pursuit of Happyness.

31. What did you do on your birthday?
Got kicked on the butt, gave an App Mech exam, attended Workshop and Physics Lab, got kicked on the butt again.

32. What thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I'll pass this one.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept for 2009?
in a bandana, shouting "totally hardcore!"

34. What kept you sane?
kept me? that train has long passed my friend.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Thackeray vs Tendulkar

36. Who did you miss?
a girlfriend

37. Who was the worst new person you met?
I try to look at the good side of everyone.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
lots of them.

39. Valuable life lessons you learnt in 2009?
if a drams has more than 20 people and u have less than a week, u r in for big trouble.

40. Quote a song lyric that best describes your year.
i never really pay attention to lyrics, but if i can describe it in a song, has to be Feeling Way Too Damn Good.

Almost a month

Let me define knowledge as knowing the meaning of something.

"I know the meaning of knowledge"

Random thoughts do strike one's mind when one is emptying his/her bowels, especially when it’s after an exam and with no exam in the horizon, which means that you can dwell on thoughts which are not academic (although this is academic for me as I have a philosophy course which covers a bit of epistemology, I never considered it a serious course anyway). The recurrence in the above statement is pretty amusing, but after a while it gets boring and you get on with life (and get outside the bathroom).

Anyway, coming back to the real world, life has been really generous with me these days, with almost everything going right, risks paying off, and most of all, inner satisfaction which arises from eating a grand meal off someone else's pocket. Also, I have been able to utilize time more fully, thanks to constant retrospection. Last semester I had vowed to watch more movies, because sometimes I really felt out of a conversation, and being made a complete dumbass of in the Lit Soc Main Quiz due to a question on Pulp Fiction didn't help either. This semester I finally got down to working towards reducing that deficit by watching at least one movie in 2 days from the list that I had prepared. I keep updating the list at intervals.

Lit Soc started off pretty well for our hostel, with we garnering decent amount of points in Fine Arts (although there was some weird business in some event where the judge apparently didn’t evaluate some themes at all, we aren’t complaining – it’s of absolutely no use). Queen of Sheeba was awesome this year, with our hostel coming first. Queen of Sheeba is this event where you are given a list of assorted items (some are really tough to find). Some of the items from this year’s list were-

Photo of guy with a unibrow, ship in a bottle, scabbard, cracked cell phone, light up shoes, diary from 1996, broken pair of Bose headphones

Now obviously the people who prepare this list, even unknowingly, will give an undue advantage to their hostel. Last year another hostel had 2 coordinators, and they won. This year we had a coord, we won. So whatever defense we try to put up against the allegations of cheating heaped upon us, other hostels won’t back down from their moral ‘high ground’, so I didn’t bother putting up one against my friends. However, the coord in our hostel told me how they had prepared the list, and trying to be as just as possible, I felt it was pretty fair for all hostels, and the advantage of the coord’s hostel is nullified to an extent. For very obvious reasons, I wouldn't want to disclose it here, or anywhere.

Choreo Nite (the inter hostel group dance event) was a shock, because the judge said he couldn’t give our hostel a position in the top 4 because its last sequence was copied from a dance video on the net. That to me seemed unfair, but I really don’t have the sufficient knowledge to comment on that. When a hostel band covers some actual band’s songs, it is not penalized for it. It might be different for dance, but it was really unfortunate because the team had put in a lot of effort and the plagiarism accusation notwithstanding, they were pretty amazing and definitely deserved a place in the top 3, even according to the judge. But still, from a guy who has quite a few left feet, the top 4 performances were pretty good.

Mono-acting was an event in which we didn’t have any high hopes on, and needless to say, we didn’t get anything from it. But it was a fun event to watch, with the last performance going through the ceiling and far far above, in terms of entertainment. If by some weird luck you ever get the chance to hear the musings of an eccentric hardcore Communist Mallu who has a huge grudge against someone and doesn’t need alcohol to lose inhibitions, please don’t miss it.

Next on the agenda is sports. Liverpool’s woeful form continues, which seriously makes you wonder why Liverpool have traditionally always had poor bench strength. Maybe that is the reason they haven’t been able to win the Premier League which requires good performances every weekend, unlike European League which comes only once a month on an average. Also, Lucas is definitely not a good replacement for Xabi Alonso, and until Aquilani starts playing, Liverpool are going to remain in their current state. According to me, Chelsea has the best squad in the league, and from being 4th on my list of favourite clubs in the EPL, it now is 2nd, demoting Arsenal to 3rd. Manchester United will remain 20th on my list, although Ryan Giggs is the awesomest left footed football player I have ever seen, and my dream is to run down the flanks with the ease of Giggs, and put a perfect cross into the box. As usual, I haven’t been following cricket, mainly because of the TV being in a common room, where going frequently doesn’t appease to my lazy side.

I won’t bore whatever readership I have left with further mundane details of my life. Consider it to be more of an update post, than one on something solid. I have been trying for a long time to write a post on the objectivity of morality, even more after this –

Me: Sir, I think morality is subjective, like almost everything else in the world.

Prof: I promise to take this up some time later, and making you say with your own mouth that morality is objective.


Post Script. Any comments on the fairness of Queen of Sheeba are not welcome from people with whom I have chatted directly. It is a very pointless argument going nowhere, and we would rather not start it than start it and leave it unfinished. Comments on anything else are welcome.

St. Augustine's Problem of Evil

I know it's been a long time, but won't go into the details. Lethargy and inertia are the main culprits. This is an essay I submitted as an assignment for my humanities course - Introduction to European Philosophy. I must say that trying to understand other people's philosophies, keeping in mind the timeline, is rather engrossing.

The problem of evil has been a longstanding problem in the history of philosophy. To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains undesirable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable for anyone to believe in the existence of God”. In simple terms, if God exists, why is there so much evil in the world. This essay is to understand St. Augustine’s approach and interpretation of the problem of evil, but for that, we first need to understand what the problem is.
To understand this self contradiction, we first need to define the term God. God has been interpreted in many ways since time immemorial by different schools of thought, and broadly we can divide them into two categories. One is a straightforward interpretation, adopted by most of the religions, that God is an omnipotent, omniscient being, whose existence is to satiate the basic human beliefs that good wins over evil, truth over lies. The other definition of God is a metaphysical one, where God is the prime cause for everything in this world, the driving force, and the ultimate reality to which we cannot apply our concepts and perceptions of the world. Now the problem of evil arises in the first definition of God, and very simply it can be stated as follows – If God exists as an omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect being-
1. He knows of the existence of evil because he is omniscient.
2. He is powerful enough to remove all evil.
3. He would want to remove all evil, because he is morally perfect.
4. Hence, evil should not exist, because God would have removed it.
However, that is not the case, thus bringing a huge question mark in front of the existence of God or rather, proving that God doesn’t exist! Thus the problem of evil puzzles many.
St. Augustine’s views revolved around the basic fact that without good, there is no evil – without darkness, there is no light. One analogy he used for this is as follows-
What happens to vices when they are not in the human body? Evil is not something that is fully real but something that is dependent on something more real, for there can’t be any disease (evil) without a body (good).
Initially, when Augustine was associated with the Manicheans, he perceived evil as a tangible material substance, with its foul and shapeless mass. However, as he increasingly distanced himself from the Manicheans over the years and embraced Christianity, he formed a view that God, who is supremely good, created all things, and though they are not supremely good, they are good when taken individually. But taken together, they are really good, because they encompass the universe which is a creation of God. In other words, evil doesn’t exist in the physical world. This transition is explained in detail.
According to the Manicheans, good and evil existed in this world individually, and it was the fight between good and the evil, and the balance between them which resulted in any action, or physical consequences. Everything that happened in this world was for maintaining the balance between good and evil. This was the first point where Augustine disagreed with the Manicheans. He said that the very fact that there is a struggle between the good and the evil shows that God isn’t omnipotent, something he very vigorously believed in. That evil could, in some way, spoil the clean white clothes of God was absolutely unacceptable to him. Also, since God created everything, he would not have created any evil, because he was supremely good.
The next point where he disagreed with the Manicheans was when they said that it was not your material substance that was doing the evil. Rather, it was more like your material substance was suffering from evil. So you had no control over your sins, as everything was part of the cosmic balance. Augustine was a strong advocate of free will, saying that humans were responsible for all their actions. The major difference in this theory and the Manichean’s theory is that while Manicheans point to God as the source of evil, Augustine points to himself as the reason for all his sins, as a result of his free will. This was a radical departure from the Manicheans, and eventually he left the unorthodox Manichean sect for the more orthodox Christianity, under the Bishop of Milan. Augustine says, "when I willed or did not will something, I was utterly certain that none other than myself was willing or not willing" -- that is, that any evil that came about as a result of his actions was his fault alone, as he was the one who made the decisions that preceded and resulted in the wrongdoing. However, this raises the even more difficult question that why is it that we have the power to reject good and adopt evil. Why has God given us such a power, when he would have wanted good all over the place in the universe? It is here that we get to know Augustine’s actual views on evil, and how he perceived it. He first asserts that anything that can be evil is good, because only good things will be liable to corruption. If something is not good, there will be nothing to corrupt. If evil were a substance, then it would have had to been good, and since evil as a substance cannot have any good associated with it (as Manicheans said), it cannot exist as something tangible.
In conclusion, St. Augustine says that his earlier theory of evil was built on flimsy grounds, and it pointed fingers at God’s omnipotence and omniscience, something that he believed in. Hence evil, instead of being something tangible, should be something more corporeal, and rather than being the complete opposite of good, it is just a lesser good. Also, God is supreme, and all the evil in the universe arises from us, due to the power accorded in us by God in the form of free will.
In my humble opinion, I concur with Augustine’s theory in saying that Manicheans’ theory of evil was wrong. Also, all evil in the world arises out of free will. But according to me, this is unavoidable because good cannot exist in this world without evil. At one point of time, one will face a choice between a good and a lesser good, and the moment that happens, the lesser good will be termed as evil. It is impossible that good is uniformly spread over the world – such an extreme utopia doesn’t exist. However, I agree with the Manicheans when they say that every action is a result of the struggle between good and evil, with a minor difference. It is not that good is fighting against evil, it’s just an individual who has to choose between good and evil, and the struggle in the thought process behind that decision.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

p.s. My latest addiction is the DOS Game Zatacka, or Achtung Die Kurve

Reservation for Women Bill – How it is not double standards

The Bill for reservation of seats in the Parliament for women has been there in the Parliament for an enormous amount of time, but nothing solid has been achieved upon it as it has been thrown around, delayed, thrown some more, and delayed a lot more. It has elicited a lot of public opinion, many NDTV Big Fights would have been held on this, and similar to this, many blog-posts would have been written. It basically says that one-third of the seats in the Parliament should be reserved for women, because of the current woeful representation(59). Some politicians like Sharad Yadav have made it clear that ingesting poison would be better than passing this bill.

The idea for writing on this came from a post my friend made here. Now if you read his opinion, the point which he makes is that the same liberals, who oppose reservation on the basis of caste, have no qualms reserving 33 % of the Parliament for women. Now, from this statement, my first conclusion is that since I agree to this, I am defined a liberal. And as a justification for my argument, I would say that I am not opposed to reservation on the basis of caste as such. During the Arjun Singh fiasco, when he introduced reservations for OBCs in educational institutions, I was not aghast at reservations being introduced in “premier” institutions like IITs and IIMs. I was rather against the fact that reservations are still needed, when they were supposed to be phased out after implementation in two 5-year plans, i.e. if this was 1950, I would not be against reservation on the basis of caste. Even now, reservation on the basis of financial status, albeit a little lesser than 50 % is fine with me, it is almost equivalent to giving scholarships to people who need it so that they can study. But reservation on the basis of caste now, I am against it simply because it has lost its status as a means for supposedly lower-caste people to join the mainstream and has become a shortcut for ‘affluent’ ‘lower-caste’ people to good education and jobs. I mean, the Gujjars were creating a riot 2 years back because they wanted to be declared as a ‘backward’ caste! Is that signs of a successful reservation system? I don’t think so.
Now coming to the reservation for women in the Parliament, I support it because of the same reason that I would have supported caste-based reservation in 1950 or financial status based reservation now – the representation of women in the Parliament is low, and it needs to increase. Now people may say that since this is a democracy, everyone has an equal right to being a representative of the people, and there should be no reservation in the Parliament. I disagree. I say, that would have been true, if ours was a perfect democracy, and women were treated here like they are anywhere else in the world. Since that is definitely not the case, hence rules for a perfect democracy cannot and should not be applied to India. Instead, we should bend the rules a little bit, so that India moves towards that dream democracy that it is not, but is trying to be. My idea is, reservation for women should be introduced, but with a clause. It should be phased out after 5 elections. Hopefully, in the course of these 5 elections, women will start getting adequate representation in the Parliament, things will start working out better for women in the country, and then, we should remove the quota in phases to find that the no. of women doesn’t substantially change, even though the quota is gone. This was the basic idea behind caste-based reservation way back in the 50s, and hence I support both of them.
There are some people who are saying that caste-based quota should be introduced within the women’s reservation in the Parliament. But as there is no caste-based reservation for the men in the Parliament, why is there such a need for women. Also, caste and vote bank politics ensures that welfare of ‘lower caste’ is adequately represented in the House. Ergo, I am against that too.
Bottom line is, I believe that supporting reservation for women in the Parliament while opposing caste-based quota in educational institutions and jobs is not hypocrisy. The Women’s Reservation Bill is long overdue in the Parliament, and I believe it should be passed.