Thursday, June 28, 2012

A stroll in DU ..... Part 3 - The Interview

Previous parts here [1] [2]

On the D-Day, I went for the interview. As I reached the college, I got slightly nervous watching students there with thick books in their hands preparing ferociously for their respective interview. I, on the other hand reached there just with a folder in one hand with some certificates I had won in school for extracurricular activities and a bottle of water in another hand. I was even dumb enough to not reach there before time to even ask students coming out of the interview for the questions they were asked. The few minutes I had before the interview, I just walked through the corridors, looking keenly around to see what exactly makes this college stand out from the rest. All I could see was an old building with old furniture and notice boards. Who cares, is all I said to myself, shrugging my shoulders. Finally, I was called in for the interview.

As I entered the room, I noticed it to be relatively huge with windows on one side with a netted grill. The room had old but sturdy wooden furniture. I was politely asked to sit. While getting into the seat, I saw three people sitting on my left in a row. They were the Head of Departments of Physics, Chemistry, and Math. Right across the huge table from me was the then Principal of St. Stephen’s himself, Dr. Wilson (more about him later).  Formal greetings were exchanged and the interview procedure was explained to me. First the 3 HODs would ask me technical questions and then at the end, a round with Dr. Wilson himself.

So, the grilling started. To be frank, I answered most of the questions. I can’t say I was 10 on 10 but I was surprisingly satisfied by my performance. Then started one of the most interesting and pleasant conversations I ever had, with the Principal. He had in the meantime gone through my folder with certificates and then asked me some details about them. He made me very comfortable with his casual approach and shared a couple of laughs. There are people who straightaway impress you with the first few words they say. He was one of them. I can still clearly remember his face and the scene of the interview in his room. At the end of the interview I was so charged up after the conversation I had him that I could not believe myself. I was pumped up with more energy and self-confidence after leaving that room than that with which I entered it. I think these are the common aftereffects of meeting great men. I still have the highest regard for that man in my heart even till this day.

After the interview, I went back home quite happy and satisfied totally regardless of the outcome of the interview. In the evening, I thanked my dad for forcing me to just go and attend the interview, just for the sake of experience. And boy, I was not disappointed. The final result was supposed to come after a week or so and I had completely forgot about it in a couple of days. I was busy finding people around my place and from my school batch with whom I could go to DU (Khalsa College), in the future.

A couple of weeks passed by and I did not even bothered to go and check the results. I was being lethargic to go so far in the heat to just see a list where the probability of my name appearing on it was the same as Baba Ramdev quitting yoga. Honestly speaking, even my father did not asked me about the results seeing my lack of interest.

After those two weeks had passed, my Chacha (Uncle) was supposed to return from a trip to Jammu. It was Sunday that day and I was supposed to go with my Chacha’s driver to Old Delhi Railway Station to pick him up. My intention to go was strictly for personal reasons. Being a foodie that I am, I was interested in hogging upon the road food at Chandni Chowk early in the morning for breakfast. I had already asked my Chacha’s driver that we would leave a bit early for me to accomplish my plan. As, planned after having a solid satisfying breakfast at Paranthe Waali Gali, we went to the Railway Station which is very near to Chandni Chowk only to find that Jammu Tawi was running late. We were a bit disappointed to know that we would now have to wait at the station doing nothing. I hate to wait and get bored soon. So after getting restless, waiting at the station, I thought why not go to DU just to kill time. Since it is not too far from Kashmere Gate, it would be a good chance to go and also have a look at the result at Stephen’s. It would be interesting to see whether the few people I met there made it through. It would be definitely better than waiting at the station.

So we went to North Campus, took a round and finally reached St. Stephens. It was quite early in the morning around 7, I think. The college looked quite deserted but one could imagine that on a Sunday morning. I didn’t even knew where could I find the results list. I walked through the front corridor and finally saw a notice board with a lot of information. Eventually, I located the list I was looking for and scrolled down through the names. I couldn’t find any familiar names. I started feeling sorry for the people I met and couldn’t make it. Then, just at the end of the list before the last name, I saw something familiar.

My heart skipped a beat. I rubbed my eyes and pinched myself before I went blank for a minute like a formatted USB drive. Boom Shakalaka, it was my name. I was selected for admission :|

More in the next concluding part !

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A stroll in DU ..... Part 2 - The Dilemma

Previous part [1]

As fate would have it, I got through the cutoff list of all colleges comfortably, even at Stephens. I made it there as well but it was too close. It was quite a surprise for me to get through so easily. I had heard of horror stories from students and parents about how tough it is to make it to the North Campus. Of course, I had applied for a B.Sc. degree but still people told me it was tough to get through. Anyways, amongst Hindu, Khalsa, Ramjas and Karori Mal, I decided for Khalsa college. People suggested me that Hindu would be a better choice but I personally wanted to go to Khalsa college.

I asked my father for the admission fee to register myself for the same. Again, my father asked me that why don’t I go first for the Stephen’s interview? I told him that it would take a long time for their process to finish and I don’t want to risk my place at Khalsa. Moreover, I always thought that Stephen’s was just over-hyped. If a student is really interested in studies and has talent then it does not matter much where he graduated from. But he insisted again to go for the interview first.

More than anything else, I was trying to save myself from the Delhi heat and the next numerous rounds I would have to do if I decided to go for the interview. One to go block my seat at Khalsa, then for the interview, then to go and check the result, if I made through (0.0001% chance) then cancelling Khalsa’s seat and registering again for Stephen’s. Since my place was quite far from North Campus, I hardly had any will to get into that ordeal. But parents being parents, I had to do what they said.

So, I blocked my seat at Khalsa and checked out the date for the interview at Stephen’s. It was not immediate so I was quite relaxed. So much so, that I almost forgot about it. Just 2 days before the interview my father asked me how were the preparations going for the interview. I told him all is good though I had hardly even opened up any books. Actually, the interview was supposed to be both Technical and non-Technical. I didn’t even knew anyone who had been for such an interview before so there was no one to consult. I was not much Internet-savvy back then since it used to cost (I think) Rs. 25 per hour for a dial-up connection. Yes, I was so cheap back then. So, I did not even cared to check for interview questions online. I think it was the only interview I remember for which I had been so casual about. Maybe the reason was that I has no hope or interest for it. I was pretty satisfied with my seat at Khalsa college. Still I decided to go for the interview just to see what actually goes around at the pride of North Campus.

More about the interview in the next post.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Latest on the Playlist

Being a big Qawalli fan and also of Amir Khurso's poetry, I could not stop myself from posting this latest rendition of Rang presented by Coke Studio. Some verses of the poetry have such deep meaning that they just blow you off. The ending is just amazing. Revival of classical Qawalli, quite well done !

Monday, June 18, 2012

A stroll in DU ..... Part 1 - The Application

Before I loose the 2-3 readers of this blog, I thought of finally posting something :)

Since the “Delhi University (DU) Admission” was the hot news in the past days when I was in India, so I thought of sharing my short experience with it. I completed my schooling in the fateful year of 1999. Since I had taken the science stream at school, my next target was to study engineering like most of my peers.

Now, I must remind you that 1999 was not a year with many engineering colleges. We only had a few bunch of colleges with really tough entrance tests. It was hard to get an engineering admission back then. We did not had an engineering college in every locality back then like I see today in India. Maybe this was another reason why an engineering degree was a treasured possession and the quality of engineers were also high in those days.

So, like many of my fellow engineering aspirants, I also could not get through the tough entrance tests. But I was not disheartened and decided to drop a year and prepare for the tests for the next year. My father did not liked this idea but made a deal with me that I should at least get admission in DU for graduation and to be more clear, he wanted me to go to North Campus.

Now, I was an ignorant and an arrogant fool back then. I was quite narrow minded back then. I considered DU only for people who can’t get anywhere and this entire North Campus thing a bit overhyped. I also thought that only kids of the rich and famous end up getting admissions in colleges like SGTB Khalsa, Hindu, St. Stephens etc. The only other way was to be a super intelligent freak. I was none of them and maybe this was the reason for the complex. Moreover, the idea of going out in 45 degrees of Delhi heat to fill up forms for the colleges where I had no interest was holding me back. But due to the constant push by my father, I finally went and filled up all the forms. The only good thing about filling up the forms was to have Chole Bhature and Lemon Banta in North Campus. I selected only a handful of colleges to apply for. Hindu, Khalsa, Ramjas and Karori Mal. I did precisely what I had planned and came back home.

The first thing my father asked me in the evening after coming back from work was that why did I not filled up St. Stephens. I clearly told him that neither I am a 99% holder nor the son of any famous personality. Moreover, I told him that this college is so arrogant that it does not even accept normal DU forms. You have to specially buy their individual prospectus at a special price. It was no point discussing with him. He made me go again the next day to specifically fill the form for St. Stephens. With absolutely no interest, I still did it. Then, I got to know about their new level of arrogance. They do not just have a cutoff list but also an interview after that. I was quite furious learning that since I considered it very unfair that even being a part of DU, they have different admission procedures. But, I tried to keep my cool and told myself that since I won’t even get through the cut-off list so there is no point getting angry. I even forgot about it in a couple of days.

The only thing I was happy about was to really feel the DU experience. Seeing students of all shapes, sizes, colors and of course from different walks of life. More than that, the foodie that I was back then, places like Chache-di-Hatti at Kamla Nagar for Chole Bature, Bhelpuri at Patel Chest and the Lemon from the local street vendor are still stamped pretty well in my memories even after all these years.

What happened next will come up in the next post ...  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rituals vs. Modern Day Energy

Disclaimer: Highly orthodox people might find this post offensive. A good idea would be to quit this post right now if you are one.

On my last day at work, just before leaving for India on vacations this time, I had a rather interesting conversation with a colleague over coffee at work. We were discussing the pros and cons of the Church tax being imposed on salaries for Christians in Germany. Suddenly, my colleague asked me about the process of performing the last rites of a person in India. I tried to explain him the different rituals we have in India based on the different religions. Like the Zoroastrians give away to body to sun and vultures in the Tower of Silence, the Christians and Muslims bury their dead ones, the Hindus and Sikhs perform the cremation either in automatic crematoriums or on wooden pyres in open-air.

Just like me, this colleague of mine takes a keen interest in world history. We also share a common interest of knowing and learning different cultures of the world. So, when my colleague heard about my above explanation, he was particularly intrigued by the Hindu and Sikh open-air cremation process. After thinking for a while, he came back to me and said he had a great idea. He is well aware of the energy problems in India and knows about all the power cuts we have on a regular basis. He also knows that the majority population in India follows Hinduism. He therefore suggested very casually, that why people in India don’t perform this open-air cremation in a more controlled fashion. He said that given the number of people dead everyday in a country of more than a billion people, there might be a lot of wood being burned for these funeral pyres. Moreover, since the human body also releases energy on being burned, all this energy can be used to generate energy or power like in a power plant.

Hearing such out of the box suggestions, I was a bit taken back and frankly speaking a little flabbergasted. My immediate reaction was to ask him if he had lost his mind. He replied very formally that he was serious. I said to him that any mention of this idea in India might be faced by a big backlash by the orthodox community. I further said that this might not be possible in India. He asked authoritatively, why not? What is the problem? I had to explain him that the last rituals for a dead person are considered very sacred by many people and the loved ones of such people might not like to hear or see such a cremation being used to commercially produce power or electricity. He looked confused and asked back, is it not a virtue of major religions in India of helping other fellow human beings. What could be more rewarding than serving humanity even when you are gone? I could not really answer all his questions. I was myself confused between morality, religion, rituals and the modernization for the sake of energy. I was not able to take any side with complete conviction. He still insisted that it is a great idea and wondered why it had not been already implemented in India.

Two days after the discussion, I was supposed to leave for vacations to India. My Air India flight got canceled due to the strike and I was stuck at Frankfurt airport for a long time. That discussion I had with my colleague had still not left me and was still there at the back of my mind. So, just to kill time at the airport, I decided to dig in further on the topic.

I googled whether this idea is already implemented somewhere in India or any place else in the world. As expected, I could not find any information for such methods in India but I found a similar thing being proposed in a county of UK. It stated: Dead bodies to be burned to heat UK Swimming Pool. Frankly speaking, I was pretty amazed to read the article on the same since I had never expected it to happen in my wildest dreams. My curiosity took me to various online debates on the same topic and for this implementation in the UK. Clearly, there were two parties both in favor and against. I encountered some really challenging and thought provoking ideas and questions in those debates.

After being convinced about the feasibility of such an implementation somewhere in the world made me dig deeper. I got more curious if such an idea for India really made any sense from practical point of view. So, I decided to run upon some numbers. I made some quick calculations from data collected from Wikipedia and the internet. I cannot say for sure how correct are my calculations since I am not a mathematics guy or a power plant expert. If anyone could cross check these calculations, I would be glad to hear from you even if they don’t make any sense. So, here are some quick and dirty calculations:

Number of deaths per minute in India: 10
Number of cremations per day: 8 * 60 * 24 = 11,520 [Assuming 8 out of 10 people are cremated on an average, 60 mins in an hours and 24 hours in a day]

Average amount of wood needed for 1 cremation: 300 kg
1 kg of wood produces: 3-4 kwh [1 kwh = 3.6 * 106 Joules of energy]

Energy generated from 1 cremation: 300 * 3 kwh = 900 kwh
Energy generated from the total number of cremations per day: 900 * 11,520 kwh = 10,368,000 kwh = 107 kwh [rounding off for easy calculations]

1 MW power plant produces per month: 106 kwh

There are some power plants (diesel based) with approximately similar capacities as mentioned above [Source]

All the above mentioned calculations are very rough. I have not even included any energy generated by the dead bodies themselves. So, that might even increase the total amount of energy generated. This means that the feasibility of such an idea is possible. Of course, I have left several other issues like logistics, investment etc but my main target was to see if the idea even makes sense. And the biggest issue is of morality, ethics and sentiments. Would I be okay to see a private company making profits by selling energy to the people of my country by using the funeral pyre of my loved one at the end of the day ? I am still looking for an answer to that !