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9.9 School of Convergence

By on Jul 23, 2009 in Stop The Press | 0 comments

The 9.9 group (pronounced as ‘9 dot 9’) – the one behind tech magazines such as Digit and Skoar – has launched a new media school called the 9.9 School of Convergence (9.9 SoC). 9.9 SoC is organizing an event titled Fourth Estate on Career Options in Media. Ranbir Majumdar (editor of cricketnext.com), Karan Makhija (actor, best known for Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na) and Dr Pramath Raj Sinha (founding Dean of Indian School of business, current CEO of 9.9 Mediaworx, Dean of 9.9 School of Convergence) will be present on the occassion. This conference is going to be held at Chelmsford Club, Raisina Road, New Delhi on 25th July 2009 from 10am to 1pm. The aim of the conference is to provide an idea about the scope of media & entertainment jobs – specifically, new verticals being created by the growth of online media. 9.9 group is one of the leading media houses in this particular vertical and this media college hopes to impart to its students knowledge of how to go about working in this domain. Limited seats are available for the conference, so you need to register beforehand by sending an email to events@schoolofconvergence.com. There is also a registration fee of Rs 300 (brunch will be served, included in this registration fee) but if you’re really interested in doing a course in the field of mass communication / media then it would probably be worth it (even if you aren’t thinking right now about joining 9.9 SoC) as a lengthy question and answer session is scheduled – in which you can get your doubts cleared. Both students and parents would find this interaction useful. Key members on 9.9’s leadership team are veterans from media and education industry, so they know a thing or two about what they’re...

Double standards on reservations

By on Jul 12, 2009 in Food For Thought, Stop The Press | 9 comments

Originally posted at Youthpad. An editorial by Vir Sanghvi in today’s Hindustan Times caught my attention today. Ties in nicely with the theme of discussions happening earlier on Indians being to sensitive and demanding apologies for everything. The premise of the editorial is that Indian ‘liberals’ indulge in double standards when it comes to many things Sangvhi points out that while liberals might object to MF Hussain paintings being banned, they adopt a completely different tune when it comes to issues like the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Suddenly it’s no longer kosher to go against standard religious norms just because the religion being dealt with is Islam. (I’ve already stated earlier that I believe “Either everything is open to be made fun of, or nothing is.”) More than that, he points out how almost every ‘liberal’ is against reservations on the basis of caste for SC / ST / OBC, but when it comes to the Women’s Reservation Bill everyone forgets about the whole ‘merit over social factor’ argument and supports the Bill. (In case you didn’t know, the Women’s Reservation Bill proposes that one-third of seats in the Parliament be set aside exclusively for women.) Here’s what Vir Sanghvi says: Let’s take the case of reservation. By now, it should be clear that most liberals oppose an extension of reservation. It’s not that we are against lower castes, we say, it is that we are for the principle of merit. Once you start reserving seats in Parliament or in engineering colleges, for so-called disadvantaged minorities, you destroy the basis of any system based on elections or merit. … Except, of course, that all these reasoned views are tossed out of the window when it comes to women’s reservation. Then, the very same arguments that we dismiss when they are used on behalf of Muslims, Yadavs and the like, are recycled on behalf of women. … It gets worse. When the likes of Sharad Yadav and Uma Bharti say they will oppose the Women’s Reservation Bill, unless it creates a separate category of reservations for lower castes, this is dismissed as shameful casteism. This is really something we must give thought to. He does mention that the double standard is probably not borne out of casteism but because people haven’t thought through properly on what principles they stand for. I admit, neither have I. Till this point I had no opinion on the Women’s Reservation Bill – no stand either for or against. Mostly because it’s something which crops up in every Parliament session over the past decade, makes no headway and dies on the front page side column news as a small footnote. I do realize that what Sanghvi is saying is very true. Editorials in his own newspaper have opposed caste reservations while supporting women’s reservations. I am against special concessions for women in workplaces or laws open to misuse (and discriminatory towards men) such as Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The editorial convinced me that the Women’s Reservation Bill is something all of us should be worred about – and oppose. There should be absolutely no room for doubt that merit, merit and only merit should be the criteria whether it be for colleges seats or Parliament seats. While liberals might have double standards on this (and other issues), it also shows that our parliamentarians have double standards (surprise!). Practically it’s just vote-bank politics at play since ‘caste’ relations are much stronger in the hinterland than any mileage they can gain out of reserving seats for women. Our parliamentarians were right in opposing it, for the wrong reasons though. Issues such as caste reservations and women rights are terribly controversial issues. You’ll get away with lesser stings if you stirred a hornet’s nest instead. Liberals do need to collectively get the story straight though on what principles they actually...

Our national pastime – ‘demanding an apology’

By on Jul 9, 2009 in Food For Thought, Stop The Press | 27 comments

Originally posted at Youthpad. A story carried today in Hindustan Times’s HT City caught my attention today. A controversy has cropped up – or been made to crop up by the media – by over an image of Goddess Lakshmi being used by fast food chain Burger King in Spain. Guess what? Burger King has already apologized to ‘the community’ for the incident and agreed to pull the ‘offending’ ad. This isn’t the first time that Burger King has run into trouble over controversial ads. Let’s set that aside for a while; personally, that earlier ‘controversy’ was a non-controversy – a joke which should be taken as such. The very first sentence of the news report on this new story says: …having Goddess Lakshmi endorse a meat burger is pushing it too far. And why precisely should that be so? No logical reason is given for this of course. Soon there are Hindu organizations rabidly demanding for apologies. The closest that anyone comes to a semblance of an excuse for this something along the lines of “They wouldn’t dare to do this with Jesus Christ.” For heaven’s sake, ‘Jesus Christ’ is an expletive for them most of the time. What more do you want? Let’s take a few more examples. Here’s a list of Jesus Christ merchandise on Cafepress.com (which got into trouble over some merchandise featuring Hindu gods / goddesses) including a thong which says ‘Keep Jesus in your pants’. Here’s the ‘encyclopedic’ entry on Jesus at Uncyclopedia, a parody encyclopedia which satirizes subjects. You can also watch this clip from a South Park episode Cartoon Wars II to see “what they’ll never do to Jesus Christ”. The examples quoted above didn’t take me too long to find – all of two minutes on Yahoo! Search. The point is not that there aren’t religious people in those countries – there are many such people, and very radical and vocal factions too. The difference lies that over there they value something called ‘freedom of speech and expression‘. That doesn’t seem to exist in Indian society. For every little thing, there are people or organizations who get their knickers in a twist and start demanding apologies. Why can’t we learn to let other people exercise their right to free speech? Why must we get offended at each silly little thing? MF Hussain has protesters issuing death threats, forcing him to apologize for drawing paintings of nude goddesses. Elsewhere in the world they act like sane human beings and call paintings a work of art. I don’t think mainstream print media got the wind of this case where a Danish newspaper run an ad campaign Life is easier, if you don’t speak up. Among others, it shows Gandhi drinking beer and having a barbecue. Here’s what the newspaper had to say about this incident: First of all let us say that we am deeply sorry if we have offended you and some people of your country. In fact the quite opposite was our meaning. Jylland-Posten took three of our biggest heroes and made a campaign about them. I think it is very important for you to read (and think about) the copy “Life is easier, if you don’t speak up”. We wanted to honour the men that stood up and changed the world instead of just being like the rest of us…surfing, skiing, barbecuing and so on. A perfectly sensible explanation. May I dare say that the ad idea was pretty unique and interesting? Because it is. It’s a brilliant ad campaign. Yet I’m sure that if this story hit Indian press circles there would have been approximately 23,789 organizations demanding apologies, writing angry letters, filing PILs in Mumbai High Court (despite knowing the fact that Indian courts have no jurisdiction over this matter) and in general acting like pricks. So you are one of those people who still isn’t convinced about this fancy-schmancy thingymajig called ‘freedom of expression’. You’re on phone with your local craftsman placing an order for a Burger King effigy while simultaneously making a placard for that protest day after tomorrow against Jyllands-Posten. After all, these heathen foreigners have no regards for religious feelings, right? Before you go for those protests, just think for a second about the country where mass murderers aren’t brought to justice, tourists get raped or molested, Christian missionaries get burnt alive and ministers say OK to religious...

Why doing away with class 10th Board exams makes no sense at all

By on Jul 2, 2009 in Food For Thought, Stop The Press | 40 comments

Originally posted at Youthpad. Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal recently stated that the government is thinking of doing away with the class 10th Board exams and making them ‘optional’, with just one Board exam in class 12th. In fact, Kapil Sibal also wants to do away with class 12th exams. Makes me wonder whether he’s doing all this just for publicity, now that people bother listening to him as the HRD minister instead of minister for science and technology. Frankly, I don’t think that’s a really good idea. I’m sorry if you’re someone studying in class 10th and below but listen kid, you really need that exam. Sure, the Board exams do generate a bit of tension among students. That’s just how life is. Life throws challenges at you and you are supposed to learn to surmount those challenges. There isn’t a magic wand to wish away and make some challenge in life ‘optional’. A nationwide standardized exam helps everyone find out where they stand vis a vis a student in some other corner of the country or your classmate standing right next to you. Let’s assume for a moment that this hare-brained scheme goes ahead and the class Xth Board exams are actually abolished. What exactly is that going to achieve in ‘reducing tension’? Absolutely nothing at all! In class 12th, students are thinking of what career they want to take up, what college they want to join, preparing for entrance exams for engineering / medical / law / others…and in that mix you want to say that giving the Board exams for the first time in your life is going to reduce tension?! I don’t think so. Doing away with in class 10th is simply postponing fate. As a student who’s passed out of school, I myself know that yes Board exams can make you nervous, but I was less jittery about it in class 12th because I’d already attempted a similar exam two years earlier. Having to sit for Board exams for the first time in your life in class XIIth is going to put an incredible amount of pressure on students when they have other things on their minds. Many students currently studying in class 10th have said to me that they don’t get why they’re supposed to study this or that topic for their Board exams when it has nothing to do with what they want to do later in life. Look, the Board exams are not here to teach you skills that you need in your career – that’s what you go to college for. School (and the Board exams) are there to teach about things like getting your point across to someone you don’t know precisely and concisely, learning to analyse things and assigning importance to them (you’re gravely mistaken if you assign equal importance to all topics), learning to make study notes, learning to manage a schedule, et al. This is what education up to class 10th is about. Class Xth Board exams also help you to choose streams to take up in the +2 leg of your schooling. During that year you realize “OK, so I’m interested [and / or] good at X subject but subject Y doesn’t interest me, so this is what I can consider taking as my stream.” Without a standard exam, it becomes difficult for students to find that out too. Each and every school’s exams and standards are pretty arbitrary and unique up to class 8 when they have a free reign. Without a standard syllabus even students won’t be able to find out whether they’re actually interested in a subject. Yes, I know about national curriculum guidelines for lower classes to but that’s just pure bollocks; no school really bothers following the national curriculum until the ‘spectre’ of Board exams comes up. Am I trying to say that the current system is perfect and there’s nothing we need to do to make life even that tiny bit easier for those about to give Board exams? Of course not. There are a lot of educationists in this country who are genuinely working on making things better so let’s not be cynical about everything. CBSE is not out to ‘get you’. They are genuinely trying to change things but are often restricted by what can be practically implemented across every school under them. Look, I’ve been through that phase myself and I know how it feels. The major worry, at the end of the day, is along the lines of “I hope I get the marks I’m expecting”. Every year when the Board results are declared there’s lots of anguish about ‘top’ students getting lower marks than expected in some subject or the other (usual ‘culprit’ being English). Here are some ideas that I have: CBSE releases the marking scheme used to check papers a few months after Board results are declared to give students attempting the exam next year an idea of what they’re expected to write in the paper. How about releasing the marking scheme immediately after the Board exams? Students will be evaluate their own performance better and set realistic expectations about what marks they’ll be getting. Believe me, this goes a long way in reducing post-exam stress – when you really know how well you have done. As of now, only re-tallying of scores is allowed. Allow re-checking of papers but put...

No more bomb threats

By on Jun 13, 2009 in Stop The Press | 5 comments

India saw some tough times in 2008 with bombs blasts / terrorist attacks in Mumbai, New Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmadabad… All of them bring on a flurry of travel advisories from foreign countries, which gives a nice excuse for the SAT-wallahs to charge an extra security surcharge in India and Pakistan. Apparently we live in some kind of a war-zone according to them. Man do I live recklessly without a bullet-proof jacket. Now I know what my birthday gift should be. We all know, of course, that the root of the whole problem is dustbins. Those things just kinda with absolutely no regard to whether a terrorist is hiding a bomb in them. Shame on such dustbins. I fully support Dilli Pulis in the steps it took earlier in overturning all dustbins. People don’t get it, but it was a two-pronged strategy to save the city and make citizens healthier by making them walk all the way to garbage dumps to throw away waste. Intelligence sources have now confirmed that the bomb threat has passed. This is proved by the fact that dustbins across the city aren’t kept overturned any more. Rejoice people! We can finally crawl out of our bomb shelters, then call up long lost relatives to inform that we are OK. That leaves just one question to be answered: आप को कैसा लग रहा...