novel cover

novel cover


The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss” is an interesting work clearly showing the author’s flair for writing. She describes Indian and American stereotypes perfectly and with great detail too. She concerns the characters in her novel with troubling events that take place in the lush green nature-blessed Kalimpong along the Teesta River in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. As the plot progresses, Kalimpong transforms from being a beautiful nature-lover’s haven to a ghost town that is destroyed due to riots instigated by the extremist GNLF fighting for Gorkhaland. She contrasts the life in the Himalayan town of Kalimpong and bustling New York city, which may have had an influence on Desai.

Desai is a good storyteller who mesmerizes the reader with verses that show her clerisy and mastery of English but the plot is not compelling enough to keep the reader turn pages- and I expect this to be a characteristic of the Booker Prize winning works. There are some funny situations and others that are too hard to imagine- Desai turns the plot using its eccentric characters as weapons, into a moody concoction that doesn’t end on a happy note as you may want it to. It nevertheless shows the reality of curfew situations in India and trauma that citizens face due to unpleasant violence.

What’s most funny about the novel is the way in which the characters are stubborn about their feelings despite the level of education that they have been blessed to have at Oxford or Cambridge- this makes me wonder if people become narrow-minded after going to reputed International schools.

Nothing can be called atypical of behavior of people in the country that Desai writes about. Some of the situations that one can connect to are the US visa process, book-loving nature of the characters (which I am sure, Desai also is) and being a gourmet of good food. Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” has a scene in which a character is involved in a communist march. Desai’s novel also has a similar scene with the character Gyan- should we think of this as Roy’s influence on Desai or plagiarism of ideas or that Indian political situations in any state are so banal that authors are forced to think the same way when it comes to politics affecting the general public?

Read the book to learn about the beautiful Himalayan region of Darjeeling, its residents and life of illegal immigrants in New York City.

The God of Small Things- Review

An melancholy  novel that revolves around the lives of a few characters from a family in Kerala, specifically from a town Ayemenem- in the year 1969. Estha and Rahel, dizygotic twins in the novel form its crux and their feelings were significantly portrayed (reminded me of my childhood dreams and feelings). Their disintegrating family and its troubles inform them of impending danger that leave them distraught and shaken. Childhood trauma seems to pass on to what they do with the rest of their lives.

Roy has elaborated the feelings and completed each character’s nature with her skill and choice of words. It was a shock to see no hope and positivity in the book as most of it focussed on lives of Rahel and Estha, who had to cope up with a lot of pressure from their family from the start of the book. The twins learn that “Things Can Change in a Day”.

Set in God’s own country- Kerala, India, the book is definitely not for someone looking for a casual light-hearted reading- it shows the pangs of childhood conscience with deep emotions. On the other hand, if you are looking for some excellent description of nature in Kerala, you will be mesmerized by the picture Roy provides of its beauty and moving emotions attached to it.

Interesting characters: Ammu, Baby Kochamma, Chachko, Comrade C.M.K Pillai and Velutha
Friendly suggestion: Do not read it if you already have family troubles- it may depress you. Recommend it to open-minded, have-a-positive-outlook and serious-fiction-loving audience.


Chalo Amerika -1

Hi everyone.

It has been a while since I posted my experiences and that’s because of the visa process and departure to the United States. Now that I’m here at Purdue, let me share some experiences of my first visit.

I landed at Chicago airport on 22nd of August via the Air India flight from New Delhi. The flight itself was a great experience as I was a first-time traveller on an international flight. I was given a seat with large leg space so I had my own comfort while on the plane. The economy class seats tend to be congested so you actually do not get enough space to turn to a side and sleep. That was the only uncomfortable part of the flight. You get to watch as many movies as you can on the flight but I suggest everyone travelling for the first time to sleep as much as they can on the flight. Drink lots of water and juices on the flight because you get dehydrated. Just stretch your muscles by walking around in the plane. There’s not much one can do on a window seat on the plane, so the aisle is good to go. The food on the plane is not so good; it is advisable if you got some home made food to eat so that you do not feel homesick already 🙂

An I-94 card is handed out few hours before landing. It has to be filled and any valuable items that you carry have to be declared on the form. You cannot carry fruits and vegetables to the US :-p . Finally the plane landed and I was in the USA!  The immigration process at the Chicago airport is very simple and finally I came out of the airport after checking out my baggage. The trolleys are big enough to carry the suitcases (I took three heavy ones) so you won’t have problems with luggage handling. Be sure to get a calling card that works well with your mobile phone so you can call back and let your family know about your safe landing. I was lucky to find a PhD student and an Indian Professor going to Purdue so I had company from the Chicago airport to Purdue Airport(Yes, there’s an airport here!)

Seniors I contacted on the IGRASP forum came to pick me up from Purdue Airport (Vartika Mishra and Gauri Kulkarni) and drop me at the off-campus housing which my friends from India already occupied. It was very sunny as it was 1.30 PM by the time I reached home. I saw my roomates for the first time in person! The apartment is big enough and I am typing this article from my room!

More about Purdue and USA in the next post.

A strategic difference between sane and insane- a Radio perspective

“Akashavani, aap sun rahe hein Subah Prasaran” those golden and lovely words formed the starting sentence of a morning broadcast of All India Radio and what is primarily being broadcast even today but only to a very few listeners. The divinity of the morning is brought in by the announcements that came in from the morning braodcast till ten years ago.  What we have now in this radio set on the cell phones is the raucous sound from the film music that is played to wake up the listeners.  There has been a paradigm shift in the way radio has earned its listeners and it is the trend that is causing the disturbance. The FM channels, that ‘manufacture’ the  noisy ‘wake up sessions’ have a lot to learn from the traditional Akashvani or Vividh Bharti. What forms an important part of transmission in the morning is presentation of ideas or music in a presentable and enjoyable manner. No trumpets to wake up listeners please!

Jockeys, the other name for announcers of yester years All India Radio have been busy using their mouths as instruments to drill holes into listeners’ ears. From the beginning of the day, there seems to be an endless jabber about some of the most insignificant issues to society and in general, everyone. But you may say, that’s not the purpose of the radio. I disagree and do so with reason. There is a responsibility that lies on the shoulders of every information disseminator towards the society. If there is just some directionless talk, then the purpose is a prodigal one. There is every need to have a meaningful and definitely enjoyable means of broadcasting on the FM medium. And this is what makes the Akashavani so special, that,10 years ago had a great listener database, that was and is, its pride. What FM channels aim for is cheap publicity that can be proved by the programmes that they continuously, on a daily basis,  broadcast. Akashvani programmes were meaningful, helpful and most importantly, inspiring to the women and children in particular and the public in general and were a companion to the listeners. There were all kinds of programmes involving science for the children to morality expressed by plays and audio-skits and jingles. They were scheduled for a time every week and were worth the wait.

The announcers of Akashavani had pleasant tones and their way of making announcements or replying to listeners’ letters was a beautiful experience. But today’s jockeys have the motto of causing pain to the ears by using high notes of their voice and make a mess of the issue they want to talk about. It, for all reasons, irritates the listeners and sometimes even causes pain to the feeling of several listeners. The trend that has been observed for the recent few years is a disturbing one and the listeners ought to check this trend by giving positive feedback on the way the Jockeys perform their ‘so-called’ duties.

Jockeys have their own way, and I strongly refer to a personal of speaking about issues that concern general public. Radio has been a source of information and has always called for informative and thought provoking discussions and debates- Courtesy: AIR New Delhi, but today’s FM channels have caused much trouble by bringing up issues that are totally meaningless and just for cheap fun all the time. Radio has to be a friend one must cherish to carry along with oneself. The moment the Jockeys start speaking, it is just like a train that runs past at 80 mph speed and nobody was able to get a glimpse of it.

Providing information in a melodious tone was the motto of Akashvani and FM Jockeys should learn the same. Do not try to lose listeners by making them lose the attention and giving them a tiny attention span. Learn the basics of announcing on radio and do not try to be overbearing on the listeners. Listeners would react if entertainment is provided in a balanced and presentable way. There’s a lot to learn from the Announcers of Akashvani- those working and retired.

Electron Microscopy and its uses in Nanoscience

Nanoscience, in crude terms, is the analysis of a nanomaterial in the nanometer range and its applications for making stronger materials. It involves the use of very precise instruments for the observation of nanostructures. These useful instruments or rather equipments are called Electron Microscopes. They can be Scanning Electron Microscopes, Tunneling Electron Microscopes, Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscopes etc. Each of them are used for specific purposes and they can be used together for doing nanostructure characterisation and subsequently, analysis.

In using these equipments, one not only requires the understanding of the working of the equipment, but also the skill to operate them. India has many such equipments in prestigious Government and Institutional facilities but there is a great dearth of skilled manpower to handle them. This was what I could deduce from the speech given by the Ex-President of the Electron Microscope Society of India or the EMSI, Dr. R P Tandon. In order to make students more technology-aware, the EMSI had decided to start zonal chapters of its society in New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata. It would be a boon for students interested in getting hands-on experience in handling these equipments. The society plans to increase its memership and also conductworkshops that would produce more students skilled in operating the equipments for characterisation purposes of nanomaterials.

The International conference on Electron Nanoscopy EM50, organised as a part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the EMSI in association with the DMRL, Hyderabad was a right step for India to make a mark in the IFSM(International Federation for Societies on Microscopy). Inter-continental research in the field of combining microscopies would be a great effort to bridge the divide between nations actuvely involved in nano characterisation. The conference was a great attempt to make India an even bigger participant in the International Microscopy scenario and the President of the IFSM Prof. C Barry Carter has suggested that India follow the steps of China to make a greater contribution in the field of Microscopy. China, which has started as a active member in the IFSM, has now become one of the world leaders in the field of Electron Microscopy.

If there is one thing that we can learn from our large neighbour, it is the active interest and breakthrough research it conducts in the field of Science and Technology using Electron Microscopy. I hope India becomes a leader too and Nanoscience attracts many more individuals than it does now.

Politics of Anti-corruption!

India has been a tolerant nation for long and it now wants to shed this image especially in wake of situations being tackled by certain individuals like Anna Hazare and more recently, Baba Ramdev. Anti-corruption campaigns have been on the rise in the nation’s capital and in several states. It is clear from these that citizens are motivated by these individuals and want to take the issues that have more relevance to their lives into their own hands. Baba Ramdev, the ‘sage soldier’ Yoga Guru’s planned hunger strike in New Delhi has drawn the centre’s attention and it has made a plan of action- a great one too- to appease him and not let him go ahead with it! With top officials and cognoscenti at the government’s disposal, it should work on being realistic and solve the problem of corruption instead of appeasing people going on hunger strikes. Wastage of resources for saving its ill-gotten reputation has been the priority of the government for a while now. The set of demands, presented by Swami Ramdev may be tough to achieve immediately but what the government can do to mitigate the problems that can arise if these are not met is to be truthful to the public and let them know the assets illegally stashed away in the safes in Swiss banks. Truth is a powerful weapon and the quicker the government realizes this, the better. Instead of playing petty politics on a single individual who is raising voice against the government, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh who is considered non-corrupt and who has the decision making power of the country in his hands, should react reasonably and solve this crisis by putting forward the face of truth.

The  hut with swiss money

To mollify a single Baba Ramdev is foolish on the part of the government as it would not solve any purpose and as many Baba’s are in the queue for hunger strikes against the corrupt schemes of the Indian polity. An ideal solution that can help achieve transparency is to involve the public by launching a Centralised Forum to address the complaints and queries like we watch in the ‘ever-inspiring’ Bollywood movies. It is high time that the government realizes the mistake it is committing by going to individuals who are in no mood to accept defeat on the issues that have now become a raging fire in the public. Providing accurate information to the public about the assets that have take shelter in Swiss banks and the ways in which public money is being spent are very important tasks that the government has to tackle immediately. Citizens of this nation have the right to know how their tax is being utilized and it does not take time for the government to put this information on a website which the public can visit and monitor the status regularly. This has to come from the Central decision making team of the government and transparency would be achieved.

When the Sun and Rains fight for space in Manipal skies!

It is a blessing when this happens as most usually rains win over Sun in the battle. The first spell of the south-west monsoon during the end of a semester(and the end of the last semester for me ) is always pure bliss. Though the meteorology department has predicted the SW monsoon to hit the coast by 31st May, Manipal seems to have some aura that attracts monsoon early. It has been very welcoming to the monsoons and they just can’t wait to lay their hands on Manipal:)! The few spells of shower during the nights brought down the humid, hot weather of summer down by a lot of degrees. Thank you monsoon for making my last days at Manipal memorable! While all my juniors are struggling with end of semester examinations, we 4th years are bizzy giving our final project vivas and report submissions. The campus looks lively only when juniors come out of their nests for giving exams. It has been a very thrilling experience- studying at Manipal. I feel I made a very good decision by doing my project here at MIT Manipal.

Cloudee ski
Cloudee ski

Coming back, the rains have given a sigh of relief from the horrid torrid climate. They have always been a Manipalite’s escape to Paradise. The semester beginning with a spell of rain has captured many hearts and has even struck some chords and induced love! Manipal has turned from a heat sink to a blooming fantasy. It is my last few days in Manipal and I wish it rains like never before. Manipal has always been about the rains. We have enjoyed the rains to the fullest but they are always welcome. The pleasant and awesome climate welcomes yet another batch of students for the new academic year. Good Bye Manipal and Welcome aboard Newbie Manipalites! Have a true experience that is “Inspired by Life”!

Successful campaigning for a 2nd consecutive week!

We, at Voluntary service organisation, Manipal University plan to keep the city of Manipal very clean and I, as a coordinator for the campaign will mak sure that I do all that I can to make this happen. Our Clean Manipal Campaign Phase 1 week 2 today was a success, thanks to all volunteers of VSO who made this possible. We kept shouting slogans saying ‘Keep End Point clean’ and ‘I won’t be here every Sunday but the dustbuns will be’ and such to make the public aware of keeping the environment clean at End Point.

Siddharth Sethi at End Point during Clean Up Manipal operation
A volunteer eagerly waiting to educate visitors at End Point about the environment

We concentrated on educating people by speaking to them and telling them why they should keep End Point clean. It is the only natural ‘resource’ that Manipal has been left with and it won’t be long before the place would become like any other place in the center of the city with huge buildings being erected all around the place. Work is already going on near the district collector’s office and a large area of green land has been cleared for the purpose of the so called buildings. The beauty of end point is no longer going to be intact. Nobody realises how much they’re going to miss the old end point that was so peaceful and full of greenery. We are trying to contact officials high up in the Manipal University to help us at least keep the place clean.

Gloves and garbage bags provided to volunteers for the campaign by MSFM
Gloves and Garbage bags

The government has already burnt large amounts of ‘plant’ed area and is planning to get some office buildings erected and the route to end point has completely become dusty and there are large earth movers and other land clearing equipment that are such a big pain for the eyes. It is really sad that government does not appreciate the end point’s beauty as much as a fellow citizen does or a foreigner who visits it does. but there is simply nothing we can do about it. We, at VSO are doing as much as we can to keep the place clean and we hope more students help us in the process and make it their responsibility to keep their birth country clean, be it Manipal or Hyderabad.

A clear message from the Notice board on the sidewalk- mostly unnoticed
A clear message from the Notice board on the sidewalk- mostly unnoticed
The green notice board asking visitors to keep 'our environment' clean
Not noticed anymore, the board stand witness to tourists' littering and official building constructions that leave it sobbing and tired of getting to be noticed by people. It lies on the sidewalk from China Valley to End Point and outside the DC's office.