On "We, the Tweeple", Barkha Dutt.. On what she did, what she didn’t and #barkhagate

Ok, here goes in a bit more detail than I did in this POST , and forgive the venom (if you find any, I’ve tried hard not to show the bile & vitriol within). I’ve snipped out the unnecessary witticism and the overtly self-aggrandizing tone that I’d in mind when I started writing this post, because since then several things have happened :

  1. Twitter, the most crash prone site in the world has altered its trending  algorithm to no further track a trend beyond 7 days
  2. The entire Indian Twitterati & I’m sure the world at large is outrage at this , because this comes at a particularly unfortunate time for an evolving national Issue here in India and Twitter chooses to do this rather than invest money in improving their site without inconveniencing current users and the way they use twitter
  3. #Barkhagate which was, the top trend in India, the longest continuous running trend worldwide(?) and linked to an evolving national issue coinciding with a really shameful mainstream media blackout and covered only on Twitter, sudeenly vanished off the charts and the entire movement lost some steam.
  4. Quickly though, the twitterati regrouped to ensure that a new hashtag #mediamafia  was used, started trending and is currently quickly and  in no time back to being the top trend in India
  5. Twitter  especially @ev & @biz – Evan Williams  & Biz Stone owe  us Indian Twitterati an explanation for this outrageously unacceptable turn of events
  6. I’m no conspiracy theorist , but I’m like this wonly.. if a smell a rat I’m sure as hell not satisfied by  the perfume sprayed by  my friend who didn’t find the rat and clean the room !!! [ In this case the algorithm argument, which doesn’t satisfy me much mind you & I’m a reasonable guy!!]
  7. Twend.it the trend spotting site was  also under my scanner this morning when I woke up to find #barkhagate off the trend lists , here in Ouagadougou (GMT India – 5:30 ) but I’ve received direct clarifications from their founders @nickdfillipo & @tim_kelleher, and am satisfied that they are only reflecting  Twitters reality.

First :

If you’ve been living under a rock( that’s most people in India who’re following the mainstream media or MSM) take a look first up at #barkhagate on Twitter. For good measure be sure to look up also #mediamafia ; #MSMSux ; #haramipatrakar & #Barkharadia, any or all of these will be the next top trending hashttag on Twitter if anything goes wrong, also I’m sure the twitterati is in no mood to relent until our Mainstream Media picks up this story in good faith and carries stories that have substance. So far, the count is poor on this. Have a look at the endless links, articles, twisecracks, twarcasms, twebates and twitterness generally thats unfolding on Twitter.

Second:

Take a moment and forget everything you just read

  • Now visualize for yourself what you expect of a responsible journalist.
  • Think of the names of journalists who fit that mould
  • Also think of newspapers, online journals, TV channels that you respect and feature these names
  • Park the result of that thought process somewhere, we’ll come back here in a bit…
  • Whatever your parameters ,the stage is set for me to put my views forth, feel free as  I mention in my header to comment.. You have as much access to a keyboard / touch-pad / whatever u use to post on the net as  I do , and equal rights to use it.

Now, here goes:

Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Rajdeep Sardesai, Prabhu Chawla were involved in conversations with one Radio Nadir (Or Niira Radia ) who happens to be corporate PR lobbyists number one!! (or pick a large negative number to indicate  that she talks at least with everybody who is anybody and their relatives )

No hassles so far, She’s a  PR person (Ms Radio Nadir), they’re journos, if they didn’t talk it wud be silly to expect either of ’em to get on with their jobs, what’s the fuss all about anyway??

To follow the drama, lets  introduce the cast (and acronyms):

  • We, the allegers (ppl who are raising brouhaha and calling for resignations en masse, or the WTA for short)
  • We the Tweeple (ppl who are generally tweeting non stop about #barkhagate and making it the top tweet trend in India for 5 days non-stop, or the WTT for short)
  • We the Feeble (ppl who are aware and unconcerned, ppl who are unaware and unconcerned, or the WTF for short) – Silent members of the Cast
  • We the Top Honcho Journos ( journos whose journalisitc abilities have shrunk just as much as their fame & bank balances  & hubris have grown — again I allege nothing here , mind it! The WTTHJ for short)
  • We the Napunsak ( this is how we can refer to the mainstream media (MSM) in general , or the WTN for short) – Silent Members of the Cast ( And this what gets my goat!!)

WTA are alleging she used her influence/ PR skills/ maybe the bank accounts of  her  Corporate Honcho backers/ and even apparently on occasion intervention of god-like  real people to influence:

  • Large decisions at  Govt. level
  • Stories abt  topics important to her clients

If  this group (WTA) are right and there has been quid pro quo, it’s illegality (?) , unethicality and a whole host of similar things that WTTHJ are responsible for and an example has to be made..oh yeah!!!

If not, then they (WTTHJ ) can have free reign and continue to go back to life as usual doing what they’ve always done, and they WTA, especially WTT,  stand to be ridiculed shamed and pounced upon for having raised inane and trivial doubts  without first:

a) verifying facts

b) waiting for a proper judicial enquiry and  court verdict

c) generally being mean, unresponsive to logic and boorish

d) not considering the larger ramifications of spouting venom/enthusiasm/cleverness-and-a-half without restraint

e) engaging in a trial by  media/twitter as you prefer

Right??!!

I think it doesn’t quite work that way , my points first  off are:

  • That WTT  (go back a bit, and see  sub-points a, b, c,d & e ) have at worst acted like WTTHJ
  • At best we’ve been very very  much better than you
  • In fact, I’d go so far  as to congratulate  WTT for work akin to what WTTHJ used to do before they became , well WTTHJs

If you’re convinced of this, and nothing  I say  can add value, please feel free to stop reading this blog right now, and  Goodbye & Goodnight to you!

[Incidentally , this is Barkha Didi’s favourite way of debating, not mine, so show/reserve you vitriol for her. Or did you already  do so on Twitter ?? LOL ]

An example, like it or leave it, to prove the above is naturally one of the aforementioned WTTHJ , viz. Barkha Dutt. – by her own admission on her twitter account she hates being made the face of this( Poor Lady!).Personally, I would have rather made  Prabhu Chawla the face of this (despite not having heard his conversations / completely read his transcripts ) because if there is even a merest molecule of impropriety in his handling of this sordid affair then shakes my confidence in one of Indian Journalisms finer gems (my confidence in MSM was next to zero since the year 2000 anyways, and those who follow this blog will know I refer to our media’s shoddy and incompetent turn out during the IC 814 hijacking) but then let’s be honest, he’s not as well known as BD is.

And in either case, when the story broke , late as it did, and on twitter , why was he silent if he was so above board???

Since, I proceed with what could be construed as a personal attack against someone, let me clarify (I am not afraid of anyone suing me , may they feel free to send me legal notices till doomsday, and am confident of my chances in any court, even Indian ones, never mind how slow or arbitrary their processes may be !!) that  I shall proceed with extreme caution henceforth to ensure I don’t in this post violated any  of points (a), (c) & (d) above, EVEN if I have in recent past on twitter (And I have not!). As of now, point (b) doesn’t concern me , not for the point I’m trying to make; and as for (e), well there is such a thing as karma in this world and what goes around comes around especially for our friend Barkha Dutt (BD) , so again not unduly bothered about violating point (e).

1) Prima facie the tapes , especially those involving BD don’t seem to indicate  much too much wrong doing by  either Vir Sanghvi or BD. But they are definitely not sounding like neutral Journalists , With Barkha Dutt sounding exactly like the pro-congress stooge that many of us (And i don’t mean Hindutva agenda pushers when I say we, because I am not one) think she is, NOR despite disclaimers , has Vir Sanghvi’s actions/ writings in real life  off the tapes matched up to his stated explanation.

2) The larger point that  I believe most sane voices on Twitter are repeatedly stressing is that this not about the tapes at all , and certainly nothing personal against that incompetent, irresponsible and  highly biased journalist whom we all commonly know by name of Barkha Dutt  (my opinion , which I am willing to defend in court backed with facts !!)

She remains till date the face of Indian Journalism. And while it was awe inspring  when she  was sitting next  the LATE Vikram Batra and he said ” Yeh Dil Maange More !”

It has’nt remained all that awe inspiring as the years unfolded. The wrinkles have appeared , the scowl is revealed , and now the  sham it’s based on stands exposed as well !

Oh Yes Barkha Didi …

We The Tweeple (WTT) remember Kargill

(Though there are those amongst us who would find cause to fault you on your conduct there as well , I let that ball drop for the moment)

WTT also remember  IC 814

And the Mumbai Bombings of 2006

And the Mumbai attacks of 26/11

And We’ve seen and been disgusted by the way you conduct “We, The People”

And We’ve seen you defending yourself these past few days  on twitter

And We’re not impressed

And We’re not happy

And We’ve seen you attacking and coercing blogs off air in the past

And We’re not scared of you, or  NDTV, or your lawyers

And We’re Disappointed, with the media in general

And YOU in particular

And We’re disgusted at all these scams

And We’ll get to tweeting on them as well

And We’re going to speak out

And We’ll do it on twitter

And We’ll do it on our blogs

And We’ll trend #barkhagate

And when it fails We’ll trend #mediamafia

If that fails We’ll trend #MSMsux or #haramipatrakr or #BarkhaRadia but We’ll not let it go this time

And We hate A Raja too , and like you (say publicly) We’d like to see him in court.

But We’d like to see you in court as well if you’ve done something wrong.

And We’ll certainly respect you no more even if you haven’t done anything illegal in this Radio Nadir (Niira Radia) tapes scandal, because your actions haven’t been all that conscionable

And you dont reserve Our respect and never have for , well, it’s been years now

We’re sick and ashamed of the Indian mainstream media

And We shall concern ourselves no more with egotistical, insufferables EGOs like yours, unless it is to bring them down a peg or two.

This post is finished.

Feel free to let the comments pour, and i will respond to each if  required, at my own leisure

(Because frankly, I’m nauseous and  I must leave now and throw up all I’ve eaten since morning )



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Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

On Mainstream Media (MSM) Credibility, Big Shot Journos, #barkhagate and #vircrasher

The evolving 2G Scam and #barkhagate (for those following on Twitter) raises serious questions on the credibilty of our Mainstream Media (MSM) and our revered journos. 

Even if there is no illegality involved, at the very least it underlines two things: 

1) There is an unacceptable nexus between media , corporate lobbyists and Politicos 
2) The credbility and independence of opinion that one expects from famous journos doesn’t exist 

To me, point # 2 is even more important, as journos like Barkha Dutt are revered in our country. Not by everyone mind, as someone who has been pissed off no small number of times at the inane fashion in which BD conducts her ” We, the people” debate – shouting down, attacking views by experts that don’t match her views and giving inordinately high air time to that spectrum of views which she clearly comes with an agenda to promote. The absolutely cursory level of preparation with which she comes armed for such programs , etc 

#barkhagate if nothing should harm her credibility, and thats good , in an India where she is one of many false gods. 

#vircrasher too, knowing twitter, will soon catch steam , but Vir Sanghvi largely got off lightly here i feel on account of the fact the Barkha Dutt is so blatantly the face of irresponsible journalism in India, that mauling her on twitter was a long awaited event 😀

Our revered journos used to be hard hitting, independent opinion giving , genuinely making a difference breed when they started out. 

Today, all they do is respout lobbyists’ and government spiel, create a ruckus where unnecessary, “break” stories that they really shoudn’t report without considerable restraint (26/11 being point in case) and like to plug their showcased programs at all possible opportunities in pursuit of more visibility and mucho big bucks (LOL at Rajdeeps Sardesai’s mauling on twitter by @jhunjhunwala ) 

The worst part is media’s (except Twitter) silence on this story, insider solidarity ??
Posted in #barkhagate, #vircrasher, corruption, Current Events, Grouses, Journalism, media, MSM, Personal Favourite Blogs, politics, scams, Twitter, updates | 5 Comments

On the Passing away of another Stalwart…R.I.P Professor P.Lal

Professor P Lal passes away

4 November 2010

statesman news service 
KOLKATA, 4 NOV: Teacher, poet, translator and publisher ~ P Lal (in picture) died at a city nursing home late yesterday. He was 81.
Born in 1929, he joined St Xavier’s College as Lecturer in the Department of English, immediately after passing M. A. in English Literature from Calcutta University in 1953. He is the recipient of the Padma Shri in 1970. 
Lal was an honorary Professor of English in St Xavier’s College after he retired. A short prayer service was held at St Xavier’s College today to pay last respects to the departed teacher. 
He was also special Professor of Indian Studies at Hofstra University, New York (1962-63), and lectured widely on Indian Literature in English, American and Australian Universities. He was a delegate from India to the P.E.N. International Writers’ Conference in New York in June 1966 and visiting Professor in the University of Illinois for the spring semester of 1968.
He transcreated the Brhadarankaya and Mahanarayana Upanishads on a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship Award in 1969-70. He was a distinguished visiting Professor and Consultant, Albion College, (April to May 1972); Prentiss M. Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor, Albion College (January to May 1973); Robert Norton Visiting Professor, Ohio University (September 1973 to June 1974); visiting Professor of Indian Culture, Hartwick College, (September-October 1975), Eli Lilly Visiting Professor, Berea College (February -May 1977); Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Western Maryland College, 1977.
Lal wrote many books of poetry, over a dozen volumes of literary criticism, a memoir, books of stories for children and possesses several works of transcreation from other languages, mainly from Sanskrit into English. He also edited a number of literary anthologies. He is best known as the transcreator of the English version of the epic  Mahabharata which he did in the 1970s.
He founded a publishing house ~ Writers Workshop in 1958. The conceptual genesis of Writers Workshop was in 1955. Among his students in the 1st year BA at St Xavier’s were Kewlian Sio and Deb Kumar Das, both writing poems and stories. Lal decided to form a writers’ group. The plan materialised in 1958 when Pradip Sen, Jai Ratan, Amita Desai and William Hull joined, and a formal ‘constitution’ was drafted by Deb Kumar Das. A next-door Lake Gardens neighbour, PK Aditya, installed a hand-operated treadle printing machine.
Author Ms Nita Vidyarthi, who was also Lal’s colleague in St Xavier’s College, said that his death was a great loss. He has always been a very dignified person and open to all forms of discussion. “We used to reach college early and often I would ask him to read my article once before I send it for publication. He used to do that most willingly. He would encourage people to write for Writers Workshop,” she said. His body was brought to St Xavier’s College at 9.30 a.m. today where a large number of his students gathered to pay him last respects.

Posted in Current Events, Heroes, Iconoclasts, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Translation, Tributes | Leave a comment

On The Awesome Land Of Tor’BleDnaM..

Benoit Mandelbrot




A Tribute:

Benoit Mandelbrot

Developer of fractal geometry dies at 85 in Mass.

The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Benoit Mandelbrot (ben-WAH’ MAN’-dul-braht), a well-known mathematician who was largely responsible for developing the field of fractal geometry, has died. He was 85.

His wife, Aliette, says he died Thursday of pancreatic cancer. He had lived in Cambridge, Mass.

The Polish-born French mathematician founded the field of fractal geometry, the first broad attempt to quantitatively investigate the notion of roughness. He was interested in both the development and application of fractals, which he also showed could be used elsewhere in nature.

For years, he worked for IBM in New York. Later he became Sterling Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University.

Mandelbrot also received honorary doctorates and served on boards of scientific journals.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and three grandchildren.

>>>  Courtesy Associated Press

Benoit Mandelbrot..he of fractal curves and chaos theory, roughness and fat tailed distribution passed recently away of pancreatic cancer in Cambridge, Massachussets. One of my personal heroes, what suives is my personal fewliners on this giant brain and his impact on our lives.





A Brief History of the Man:

Benoît B. Mandelbrot (he added the middle initial himself, though it does not stand for a middle name) was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France, where he tended horses and fixed tools.
After the war he enrolled in the École Polytechnique in Paris, where his sharp eye compensated for a lack of conventional education. His career soon spanned the Atlantic. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, returned to Paris for his doctorate in mathematics in 1952, then went on to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for a postdoctoral degree under the mathematician John von Neumann.
After several years spent largely at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Dr. Mandelbrot was hired by I.B.M. in 1958 to work at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Although he worked frequently with academic researchers and served as a visiting professor at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was not until 1987 that he began to teach at Yale, where he earned tenure in 1999.
Dr. Mandelbrot received more than 15 honorary doctorates and served on the board of many scientific journals, as well as the Mandelbrot Foundation for Fractals. Instead of rigorously proving his insights in each field, he said he preferred to “stimulate the field by making bold and crazy conjectures” — and then move on before his claims had been verified. This habit earned him some skepticism in mathematical circles.
>>>  Courtesy : http://www.nytimes.com

A brief history of his work & legacy :


Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.
“Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University. “He was one of the primary people who realized these were legitimate objects of study.”
In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,”published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Using fractal geometry, he argued, the complex outlines of clouds and coastlines, once considered unmeasurable, could now “be approached in rigorous and vigorous quantitative fashion.”
For most of his career, Dr. Mandelbrot had a reputation as an outsider to the mathematical establishment. From his perch as a researcher for I.B.M. in New York, where he worked for decades before accepting a position at Yale University, he noticed patterns that other researchers may have overlooked in their own data, then often swooped in to collaborate.
“He knew everybody, with interests going off in every possible direction,” Professor Mumford said. “Every time he gave a talk, it was about something different.”
Dr. Mandelbrot traced his work on fractals to a question he first encountered as a young researcher: how long is the coast of Britain? The answer, he was surprised to discover, depends on how closely one looks. On a map an island may appear smooth, but zooming in will reveal jagged edges that add up to a longer coast. Zooming in further will reveal even more coastline.
“Here is a question, a staple of grade-school geometry that, if you think about it, is impossible,” Dr. Mandelbrot told The New York Times earlier this year in an interview. “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”
In the 1950s, Dr. Mandelbrot proposed a simple but radical way to quantify the crookedness of such an object by assigning it a “fractal dimension,” an insight that has proved useful well beyond the field of cartography.
Over nearly seven decades, working with dozens of scientists, Dr. Mandelbrot contributed to the fields of geology, medicine, cosmology and engineering. He used the geometry of fractals to explain how galaxies cluster, how wheat prices change over time and how mammalian brains fold as they grow, among other phenomena.
His influence has also been felt within the field of geometry, where he was one of the first to use computer graphics to study mathematical objects like the Mandelbrot set, which was named in his honor.
“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot said. “I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.”
>>>  Courtesy : http://www.nytimes.com

My respects to the man and his genius..RIP Benoit Madelbrot !!


The Awesome Land Of Tor’BleDnaM :


Plots and zooms essentially of the graph known as the Mandelbrot plot (And referred to  often as the land of ..you guessed it..)




























Posted in Heroes, Mathematics, Musings, R.I.P, Tributes | 1 Comment

The Genesis of Chakravyuh

Reproduced with (I hope 😀 ) the blessings of my quizzing seniors at the BCQC is the story of how one of India’s finest  open general quizzes started off.
I was lucky to be studying in COEP the years 1999-2003 and being part of the Boat Club Quiz Club, one of the finest quizzing legacies / club anywhere in the world…I still very much remain a part of this fraternity , though I be domiciled in distant lands nowadays…

Here then (links to BCQCs own website  on the title to this blog post) reproduced  is the blog (LINK TO POST HERE) by my immediate quizzing senior (Gaurav Sabnis who passed out of COEP in 2002 ) :

The Genesis of Chakravyuh

This is a mail i had sent on the Inquizitive list a couple of years back, describing the birth of COEP’s own quiz, Chakravyuh. The mail was written at a time when it looked as if Pune quizzing was dead, and the rejuvenation from VIT and Fergusson had not taken place.

I must be one of the luckiest quizzers in Pune, timewise. Boat Club (BC) quizzing was in a state of rapid evolution from the time I was in first year until the time I was in the final year. Those must definitely be the best 4 years (if not among the best) of quality quizzing in COEP and in Pune. There were great quizzes and quizzers in colleges like AIT, Fergusson, AFMC (grudgingly, I admit, they make the cut), COEP and of course PICT and a really good Verve quiz (very ephimeral, driven by just one exceptional individual – Hirak Parikh). Of late, the zenith has been reached with a Mastermind from our midst. But all other indicators suggest of a stagnation, if not a decline. I must wait to see the questions from BCJ and Chakravyuh 2003 before I can pass a final judgement on what is happening to Pune quizzing.

This is the story behind the birth of Chakravyuh. It was an age where men were men, women were women, children were children, and so on, but basically quizzers were quizzers. Every batch in COEP had at least 2 or 3 “dedicated” quizzers. Most of them were top class quizzers too, but most importantly, they were dedicated. Wherever we went, we always had the biggest contingent of quizzers (In fact, I suggest that BCJ registration be at a subsidised rate for us, since we have always come with at least 6 or 7 teams, even in the leanest year =-)). I still remember quizzing in my first and second year( 1999 and 2000). The teams of George and Kunal, Jitendra and Salil (whatever happened to those two??) and Sujay and Ramanand used to be there in almost every final of a quiz in Pune. We would either win or come second, since the only competition came in form of “Bhatta plus 1” from AFMC or the “big four” of AIT (Kapil, Samrat, Navneet and Shrikanth, for the uninitiated) in different permutations (I did my bit winning the Mood-I Conundrums in my Second Year). With such domination of the quizzing (which was to keep growing), we often wondered why COEP did not have its own quiz. Domkundwar was the Principal and George told a harrowing story of what happened when he had made an attempt to start one. When he had gone to Dommy with the idea for such a quiz, he was met with a barrage of hostile questions like “What is your attendance?” , “Show me your class notes”, and “I shall speak to your project guide about how you work”. Needless to say that the idea had been vetoed as emphatically as possible.

There was a general sense of resignation amongst us COEP-ians with everyone believing in the “It’s a government college, nothing can change” adage. This was of course in my first and second year. What made us shake off this inertia when I reached Third Year (2000-2001) was a noticeable change in the quizzing culture of the BC that no one has quite spoken about at length. During this phase, there was a slow but steady paradigm shift in our quizzing, with the culture moving from a more “quiz oriented” to a “question oriented” direction. This means that while earlier, emphasis was laid on the fact that there was a quiz, with the minimal level of competency, now we laid more emphasis on the quality of questions. Making great questions was considered as much of an achievement as winning a quiz. While earlier getting questions from quiznet or the KCircle sites was acceptable, it now became a sacrilege. So the days of “two people getting 60 questions every saturday” to the Boat Club were gone, simply because the level had improved, and emphasis was placed on originality.

Since quizmastering became as reverred as quizzing, there was a renewed thrust towards efforts for a COEP quiz. Domkundwar was slated to retire and that helped too. So in my third year, when he finally made way for an interim Princi, Mrs. Jog, we tried again. This of course was the “Year of the Grandslam”. It started with me and Neeraj winning the Fergusson Inquizzitions, and later, Sujay and Ramanand sweeping each and every major quiz in sight (Verve, BCJ, Mensa, Shyam Bhatt, and some more). The list of COEP quizzing achievements was nothing to be scoffed at. With this impressive list, I drafted a proposal in February for a quiz to be held in March, during the college gathering and went to meet Jog.

As is usual in COEP, students are given the last priority for meeting the Princi. I waited alone outside the office for hours together on many afternoons before I finally got to meet the grand dame. She took one look at the letter and shot it down saying “I am just a temporary principal, and there is already Fervour going on. I can not spare staff”. I tried the arguments “It hardly needs any money, we don’t need any staff, we need only the audi and nothing else”, but to no avail. She was firm. She could not sanction an event at this stage. My frustration reached its peak and it showed on my face. This probably led to her saying “There is a Gathering Committee meeting next week, give me this proposal then, and we will think about it. But don’t get your hopes too high”.

As I reported this to the then quizzers, i.e, Sujay, Ramanand, Harish and Neeraj, there was again this general sense of resignation, like “Is college ka kuch nahi ho sakta”. No one had any hopes from the Gathering Meeting since the committee was not really very sympathetic to our demands, interested more in spending 20,000 on a crummy music show than 3,000 (yes, that was our measly demand) on a quiz.

But the morning before the meeting as I was about to leave for college, I had a brainwave. I decided to redraft the covering letter for the proposal and rely on emotion to get us through. Earlier it was waxing eloquent on our achievements, like the long list of wins that year (about 10 or so, including smalltime quizzes). Now I decided to go for the lady’s jugular. I filled it with a lot of emotion. I don’t have the letter right now, it must be on my computer at home, but this is basically the gist of it –

“We have been dedicatedly practising our quizzing every Saturday. We work hard to maintain our standards. And this hard work has been rewarded with great results. We have won each and every quiz in sight, even done well in quizzes in Mumbai despite no financial assistance from the college. There is NO OTHER sport or field, be it debate, rowing, football, drama, in which the domination of COEP is so complete. Because of us, COEP’s name is synonymous with success in the quizzing scene. Our list of victories speaks for itself. We do this despite having no annual budget allotted to us. Whatever is sanctioned is usurped by the Debate Club for their travels. Inspite of zero assistance from the college, we are doing so well.

And now we just wish to have our own quiz. We don’t ask for any vast amount, just 3000 rupees. Is that too much to ask? When 20,000 are spent on an internal music show, 3000 is less than peanuts. We don’t ask for any staff to help us. We will manage on our own with the small number of volunteers. All we want is the auditorium for some hours. And we are utterly dejected that such meagre demands are summarily rejected.

It is as if the college does not care whether we do well or not. There is no appreciation of our wins, and we get a step motherly treatment. We are very disappointed and the whole zest for quizzing may die out…….”

blah blah blah, I whined on and on, hoping it would have an effect on the lady.

What happened in the meeting (I was not there) was that after all matters were discussed, Sujay, who was present there being the Football Secretary, said “Ma’am there is the matter of the quiz…” and she interrupted him. Then she spoke, under the effect of the letter, apparently, telling the committee about the “poor quizzers” who do se well despite the lack of any support and how they deserved to have the quiz since they were asking for just 3000 rupees and all. The committee of course agreed. In fact Jog talked of drawing up a resolution so that funds from the money that the college makes for transcripts be allotted to the quiz so that it will not be dependent on the Gathering. Wonder what happened to that.

So anyway, a friend of mine, who was the HAM Club secretary called me up from the college and conveyed the good news that the quiz had been sanctioned. After this we started working on war footing. Questions were never a problem, but we had little experience of how to publicise it properly. We decided that all five of us senior quizzers would make questions, i.e, Ramu, Sujay, Harish, Neeraj and moi so that we could not participate, and COEP winning would be unlikely (like AIT and unlike AFMC, we were wary about even the smallest hint of the R-word). It was decided to have an intra-COEP Mastermind like contest ( indicator of the future glory?) during the time when elims were checked so that COEP-ians did not feel excluded from the participants scene. We did all the running around, like getting an LCD projector allotted (no easy job, though the college had 3), getting the auditorium set up, the sound system working, and all.

It was decided to make it a seamless quiz, with nothing like a separate “audio” or “visual” round. That would be our USP, everything mixed. Each of us five made 30 questions and finally integrated it one midnight in the august company of mosquitoes on the Boat Club, where the Punt Formation practice was taking place. Getting a computer assigned from the college would have been a full day job and we were so sick and tired of all the bureaucractic hassles we had endured till then that we decided to use my comp. Neeraj got his car all the way from Vimannagar early morning and we lugged the PC to the college. The publicity could have been better, but really did not get much help from the FE and SE kids(indicators of the future non-glory?) except for the ever sincere Bimal and Nupur . Credit must however be given to Manish mahajan for coming up with the name – Chakravyuh. Just the five of us handling the questions, red tape and the publicity was too much. Still, about 40 teams turned up. This is where the difference made by the freshers helping out at BCJ shows. Anyway, March 16 dawned, and the quiz happened on time.

The quiz went pretty fine and a detailed report of the finals can be found on the inquizitive archives. The compering was shared by Sujay, Ramanand and Harish, and Neeraj and I handled the computer and other off-stage things. I don’t exactly remember the entire line-up for the finals, but here’s a shot at it. There was the Infy team of Shrirang and Amalesh, there was an ex-AIT team of Samrat and Navneet, we had Niranjan and Swapnil teaming up, and there was a COEP team of Amrish and..someone. The Infy team won it with a vast margin, and the ex-AITians came second, with Niranjan and Swapnil (named “Suvarnagram”, a combo of the names of us 5 organisers, a great gesture) came third. Rahul Srinivas won “Abhimanyu”,the intra-college Mastermind contest with the topic “Harry Potter Books”.

By this time, though the interim Princi Jog had left, and the new Principal, Ghatol had just taken charge a day ago. We sent someone to invite him, and he actually turned up, stayed for the whole quiz, and was apparently loving it. When we invited him on stage to give away the prizes, he gushed a lot about what a great event the quiz was and how he was thinking hard for every question. He complimented us on having the best event of the gathering (he said this some days later at the closing ceremony of the gathering too).

Chakravyuh 2001 ended with the new Princi in the saddle being an admirer of the quiz (a fact that helped things the following year). Everyone appreciated the questions, the punctuality, and the organisation. Finally, COEP’s own quiz had happened, and it was a smashing success.

It was great coming back to Chakravyuh in 2004 as a participant, and win it teamed up with Neeraj. Looking forward to Chakravyuh 2005

My usual quizzing pardner Maniche & Self  had a couple of cracks at Chakravyuh & Abhimanyu with some not so major achievements . We did qualify on stage for the 2002 edition if my memory serves me correctly. I also qualified for the finals of Abhimanyu( COEP’s intra- Mastermind style solo quiz) in the very first edition 2001, but that year the solo crown belonged to my other occasional Quizzing-pardner-in-crime Rahul Srinivas, my quizzing exploits with whom formed part of another blog post  (LINK HERE)

Chakravyuh is very , very special to me and I hope that I can team up (ideally with Maniche) with someone to take the Chakravyuh (open quiz) crown. Till that day arrives, I shall always remain a quizzer with a point to prove…

Comments Invited …

Posted in BCQC, COEP, Engineering College, Maaz, Musings, Quizzing, Wish Lists | 3 Comments

The Top 3 things on my mind this 9th October

Numero Un:

1st October was Nigeria’s 50th Independance anniversary

Deux:

2nd October was Gandhiji’s 142nd Birth Anniversary

Trois:

3-4th October: I was bitten by a mosquito, I think in Burkina (but I cannot be sure of this), subsequently travelled to Niamey in Niger and felt not so good , saw a doctor on the 6th of October and was diagnosed with the Paludisme ( Pa- Lew-Ee) as it is known here and flew back home immediately for 3 days R&R.

I stand much improved healthwise as i type this post another doctors visit is in the offing tomorrow.
Headed off with Manali now to the Garba Fest organised by the local Indian Association.

Adieu.  A demain !

Posted in Africa, Burkina, Ceremonies, Gandhiji, Niger, Nigeria, updates | Leave a comment

On My Niger Trip…Al Qaeda..Military Coups..and Charming Diplomats

I was in Niger these last couple of days. Stayed at the Hotel Gaweye in Niamey.
Staying with us at the Gaweye, was a largish contingent of French Military Troops and a sizable number of foreign correspondents tracing the unfolding hostage scenario there.

Suspected to be behind the abduction of Seven hostages including five French nationals is the Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghrim (AQIM) headed by Abu Zaid. France of course has a rathe large contingent of Expats staying and working with Niger which has large uranium reserves currenty being exploited by Areva  Inc. some of the hostages are indeed working for  this French Nuclear Energy Firm.

Not too far back in the past there was a bloodless (IIRC) military coup that unseated the former President  and placed him under house arrest, leaving the governemnt to be run by top bureaucrats and Military Junta, from my reading of the ground there, it seems a quite peaceful and seamless transition to democracy will happen by sometime  next June (2011).

Met one such top bureaucrat  along with a business partner over Dinner at the rather fancy “Le Pilier” (even though the restaurant was choc full and we had to make do with sitting outside in the open air section on a rather sultry evening). The man was a real charmer and explained over a rather excellent Italian dinner, how despite the Miltary coup, Niger was amongst the most democratised and peaceful societies in Africa with a track record of policy continuity despite government shifts.

Here’s hoping he’s right, coz IMHO Niger seems to be a really excitng place to do business.

Posted in Africa, Current Events, Niger, Travels, updates, Work | Leave a comment