Saturday, December 26, 2009

FAQ NAQ and Fermat's last theorem

!!!! Milestones!!! Coincidence!!! Moments I missed!!!

Last saturday was 19th December. Completed two years after enrolling as MS student!!! What did I learn from this great Institution? I can not clearly number them and sort in any priority. One thing is certain. I learned!!! Learned to observe the nature!!! As my friends used to say; "you are in forest; your home". Yeah; it is true. home away from home. And what did I do? I tried to capture the moments for my friends; current and the future; to enjoy a few of the moments of mine with the newly added hobby "photography".
Hey Gireesh
"
how did you get in to IIT?
It is a place of GEEKS na?
How much salary people earn after IIT?
Is it like 5.Some1?
You people don't sleep; eh? Oh ya you always sleep n lab na?
Is the current research happen to be bird watching?

..........

So; what next?
PhD in US? Starting new company? Marriage?
"
One simple answer to all these is "I do not know"
What I know is GATE score is a way to enter IIT for doing masters. I do not know if that is the sole thing someone need to get into IIT; especially for MS-Research program. I do not see any "GEEK" here. If someone call me so; they can come and visit IIT to meet more of that species. Salary; current upper limit from campus has gone up to 28Lakhs per annum. Sorry; I did not do research in salaries to give a statistics and give a "powerpoint" on it. 5.Someone? Yeah; if we take an average it will be 5.someone percentage of "women" category. "girls may come in the some1 category" . Of course we do not sleep when we are awake; watching endless movies from LAN; playing; chatting; blogging!!! and if you ever happen to see the rush in mess at 830-930 time in morning; you know well that we do not sleep. My hobbies include "bird watching".
Indian Pitta
But there are not enough birds in IIT, to do a research on it. :(
What next? Hmm!! same old question. Same old answer. Rather it is a coincidence that I got the offer from Robert BOSCH on 19th; which turned out to be a dramatic one. This post is not big enough to contain that story.
Instead of all these; I have one "not so frequently asked or never asked question"
Is IITians passionate about what they do? I could see a few people who fall in that category. But I am bit lazy; still confused on doing publication business versus experiments which may work in reality. I wished I could do better.

I wonder how different is current system; which forced us to learn things without even excited about them. Especially I felt I missed so much of mathematical fun when I completed reading "Fermat's last theorem" by Simon Singh.

It can be rather called as a history of mathematics from Pythagorian schools to modern mathematics. I was wondering; why we do not have history of mathematics or science as the way they invented. I do not know if things were there in curriculum; it might have been a better way. At least it could ignite some young minds who may become another Fermat or Andrew Wiles or a Feynman who could observe things as a passion than mere way to get degrees.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mobile payments: Some thoughts

I am wondering if this topic fits in to this blog or my techie one. Since it can be of public interest than a technical report, I decided to put it here.
A few months back I was attending a talk by my colleague about this topic. The talk explained the need of mobile payments, the vision and the implementation strategies. The study says that there is a good amount of mobile phone penetration to rural India. An exclamatory mark here is that it is much greater than the bank accounts. In villages it is difficult to walk to a bank miles away and do the transactions, thus they are away from all these systems. Why not use mobile phone as a payment system. This is indeed a great thought and I was very much excited to know how it works. The assumptions (as I understand it from the slides) are
  1. People are comfortable using mobile phones, using numbers; but not english
  2. The service providers are not allowed to handle cash transactions as they are "private" and RBI rules prevent them from this.
  3. It can turn a mobile phone in to a remote banking system for rural India.
With this, companies like NGPAY and MCheck opened service in India connecting banks and mobile phone subscribers. These companies offer banking services by creating a connection to a customer's bank account through mobile phone. People need to enter only pin which is a number apart from the beneficiary's mobile number to pay the amount.
A slight confusion here in my mind is that " how come Bharati and Reliance which are private can not handle money but these mcheck and ngpay can? Are these companies excluded from definition of private companies for banking?
I queried whether it uses SMS and other service messages for handling the payments or some other technology. Because sensitive information is involved and mobile service providers can actually see all these transactions if they use these things. Interesting answer was "GPRS". I was stunned by that answer.
If the assumption include GPRS, is it "affordable" for rural india and those villagers who use normal handset supporting basic facilities?

Second query " if gprs is available; why can not RBI ask banks to create a secure java client which can use voice biometrics and /or number based user interface with vernacular support. An agreement between mobile service providers and banks to share the information of mobile clients can do the same functionality like mcheck or ngpay. Any customer can download this from his bank site/ from local bank directly and use it. It avoids all these third party business and security issues since it is like normal payment portal with a more user friendly application for mobiles.

When IIT Madras is involved in this program and is the certifying and standard setting agency for mobile payments, what benefit will it make to Rural India ?
Or is it just another exercise which ultimately aims the urban people?

Friday, September 4, 2009

How to apply for Tatkal Passport

Thanks to the responses for the previous post on how not to apply for tatkal passport. This time it is the other way. As you know, I found it is not good to struggle at Chennai for passport because filing RTI and meeting RPO appeared a difficult task. So I filled another online form to Trivandrum passport office. All the documents I hold contain same address, my home address. I expected similar behavior of standing in the queue from morning, though my time was written 2PM. But the security told me, online application processing is done only in afternoon. In between I came to know that there is a yellow file which we have to buy and the shops opposite to passport office will arrange everything in the yellow file so that I can submit the application directly. For my case, even they were confused. I am staying at Chennai and applying at Trivandrum. I filled two extra forms for Police verification, one set for native and one set for Chennai.
At 2 I went upstairs of passport office. It was not long queue as that of Chennai. But apparently when I reached in front of the queue, it was 4.15. The madam who verified the documents told me, "the certificate from an institute is more valid than even a declaration in front of notary or other proofs for identity, and you are holding institute identity card, so we will issue the passport. Please get signature from Senior Passport Officer (SPO).

Lol . Another queue and I met SPO at 4.45. He simply said "you are hiding the details that you are staying at Chennai". I said "of course not. I have submitted the letter from warden that I am residing at so and so hostel and so and so number for past 1.5 years". He said "then you apply through Chennai passport office". I felt "oh god, the same old story of Shankar" ( For non mallus, we use the term "shankar again on coconut tree" to express that after so many struggle to change situation it remains same or went back to its old state). I said "sir, it is not possible; I am native of Trivandrum, I do not have magical 3 address proof at Chennai". Then he says "then you are not eligible for tatkal passport. You come with signature of Rural SP of Trivandrum and Chennai SP, I will issue a passport". I said in mind, "oh If I could get one signature from Chennai, Chennai passport office will give passport. Now it is two". He wrote "normal " on the application file, means accept the application as normal.
I came out, then spoke to the madam who verified the document and I was bit confused. I do not know if I have to get prior appointment for meeting RPO or so. Then She told, "no need son, anyway you came up to here, you just get in to his room and tell the problem. We will see". That was a great relief to me. Kind of an angel from nowhere. When I met RPO it was 5PM. Straight away I said "Sir, I am a student of IITM. I could not apply for Tatkal passport from Chennai because I do not have three address proofs. I have gone through entire passport act and the web site. It says I can apply from my native also. But that gentleman is telling that I am not eligible. Please tell me why I am not eligible, sir". He looked at me, then took the application and gone through all the documents and said "who told you that you are not eligible; you are eligible. But you need a notary declaration from Trivandrum; not from chennai." I said "Sir, the documents says notary certificate in your region. So I thought it was at the jurisdiction I am staying." He said, "no it is the jurisdiction of this passport office. You can come any time tomorrow, meet me, I will approve the application, by producing the new notary form". I said "Sir, please write it over the file, currently it is written normal". He did that. I left the office with joy.
The next day I found a notary. At Chennai, I spent 250 Rs. for it for a declaration on non judicial stamp paper of 20 Rs. and notary stamp of 10Rs. In Trivandrum the rule is to have paper of 50Rs, with notary stamp of 50RS., notary fees of 150 and typing charge 50. Total 300Rs. I was not in surprise this time. If ID proof can change to address proof, this is a minor change. More funny part was the way in which the notary made me sign the bill. He wrote everything except the bill amount, and asked me to sign. We both know in mind that it is just formality. Then he wrote something in the bill and kept it and asked me 150Rs. I was laughing in mind. The standard rate for a notary is only 15Rs.( If you want to verify please visit http://lawmin.nic.in/la/notaryrules.doc and search for affidavit) which I know. But why my face was pleasant, that fool will never understand.
Anyway I got the passport application approved and in two days I received the passport.
If you think the story is over, I should say no. Two weeks back police verification came at home. Policeman asked to see me with all the documents I have submitted. I never understood why. My current address is at Chennai. They are supposed to verify only that my permanent address is correct. When I was going, my seniors and other people told, give him money. I said "let me see". I went and met the police officer. He verified all the documents, and address proof. Then asked "what should I write for the question is this person staying at this address for past one year". I said, "write that I am at IIT Chennai, staying at so and so address and under so and so police station". He said ok and I left.

So, that was the story of my tatkal passport. Your comments are welcome

Footnotes:
There was a point raised by my friend. She told "warden's letter is not a valid address proof for tatkal". I should say that "address proof for a passport application is same irrespective of tatkal or normal and for students, that is the best thing available".
Another valuable information is that "I can get an address proof by paying Rs. 250 to our post office". Thanks to the person who suggested it.

"Both cat and mouse know what is happening in the game. Cat think he is strong and he is better. Mouse knows that cat thinks so. Mouse also knows that cat is afraid of dogs. So does cat in front of dogs......"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How (not) to apply for Tatkal Passport- Part1

By this time I am confident enough to write many how(not) tos'. As I have written about how not to complain when AC is not working, this is second one in that series.
Here is the story.
I wanted to take a tatkal passport. I went to passport-gov-india website. Nice work. They have given information on everything you need to apply. Also an online application submission, which gives me time and date at which I have to be present in passport office for document verification. WowWWWWWWWWWWWWW !!!! That was my first impression.
The tatkal scheme page says "The applicant also has the option to obtain a passport under Tatkal Scheme on submission of three documents from the Fourteen documents as mentioned below" . I have 4
  1. Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC)
  2. Income Tax Identity (PAN) Cards
  3. Student Identity Cards issued by Recognized Educational Institutions
  4. Driving Licenses
So I filled the online form. Got the appointment with date and time. Went to notary to get a notary-affidavit.
Then in the passport faq , question 13 "I am a student staying away from my parents. Where do I apply for passport and what proof of residence shall I have to furnish?" answer is "In case you are studying and staying in Bangalore , you can either apply to the Passport Office Bangalore or in the Passport Office in whose jurisdiction your parents’ address (permanent address) "
Documents in support of student are bonafide certificate from institute and warden's letter as proof of residence.
My seniors told me, please go early at around 8 at passport office, there is tatkal line and stand there. I went and stood there. By that time there were at least 40 people in front of me.
One girl tried to directly enter in to line's front, we protested. She was smart, the sweeper there managed to get her to the front of the row in the C,D,E,F counters there. (Oh my god, even the sweeper there is wonderful)
It took3 hours of standing to reach in front of the line. By the time I learned that there is an order in which the documents to be arranged which was not there in F**Q. And I submitted the application.
The passport officer saw my degree certificate "Kerala University", then he looked for identity proof, he simply said "get signature from some one who is in rank of under secratary". I asked "why not the option B?" . "Oh option B requires LOCAL address proof, 1 year LOCAL bank account statements, water bill, phone bill, electricity bill... long list of bills. I had print out of the F*Q and all, but he left his chair and so many waiting.
I am using core banking. So how will it give local address proof?
I have PAN card, where did it mention an address?
I have Voter ID which is taken at my native place.
I have driving licence, which is from Kerala.
and
Why should I have phone
I left the office at 11.15 with mission that can I get "UNDER"secratary signature.. As per my knowledge, there is no one I can directly call. I tried my friends. But why their bosses should sign a statement that (s)he knows me and there is no problem in issuing the passport.
No one including the professors could help me ( If it is project implementation or some VIP visit at department, I have seen the enthusiasm in their faces. Same I did not see in any of the professors for finding a VIP for me. Great!!!!)
Got no from my friends also. I am of my own!!!
The passport act clearly differentiate LOCAL with normal.
Where does PAN card says address?
I mailed Regional Passport Officer chennai, after going through entire passport act, for clarification of the magic behind "Identity proof to LOCAL address proof". As expected, no reply.
"Indian online appointment is still a myth" and "rules can change beyond the understanding and expectations of common man"

So, I decided to try it in native, because rules "says" I can get it from native.
To be continued in next post, part 2.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Assets

Lately I am thinking of blogging about assets. When I was in school, I used to hear a lot about stage artists especially when it is youth festival of schools. The rates they charge, for me was very high. Same stories about troups which comes for festivals. So it was natural to believe that people who are masters in their field, whether it is in singing or instrumental are well paid. I used to imagine them living in big bungalows, travelling in Contessa (that was the best I knew at that time: BMW was far from dream even). Later when I was doing my engineering or so, I read a news about Padmashree K J Yesudas.
Malayalis call him as "gaana gandharvan" or angel of songs. The news was, he demanded royalty for songs he sings. I was wondering, someone who is earning this much, is still after money than music.
When I joined IIT, I was thinking to understand this music and art culture of madras, the land who nurtured and made most of the legends in Carnatic music. To start with, I have attended a concert by Shrimati Bombay Jayashree and T N Krishna. The ticket costed me 200 Rs and hall was full. Another one attended was a stage show "heart beats" by Shankar Mahadevan, Usthad, U Sreenivas, Shivamani and Selva Ganesh. The show was awsome.
I am not an expert in Carnatic music, I just appreciate it, when I understand its rhythm. I used to hear instrumental music by Padmashree Kunnukudi. I just like the way he do the improvisations in violin. At this time, I happened to get acquaintance with Nadabrahman Shree V V Subramaniyam. I had heard of him because he did a concert in Saarang , IIT Cultural fest. But did not know how much talented he is. When I visited his house, it was not some kind of "showcase". It was simple. When I saw the way he use violin, I was dazzled. Here is another master, who live in violin.
Now as a reader, you might think, "what the heck? Where is it going?". Yep I am going after the money these people make. Apart from the top people like Usthad, others are simple. Just live as an ordinary person. Even in this internet age, hardly 3-4 web sites talks about these people. A natural question came to me. How much IIT paid for the programs in Saarang?. I do not know. But without going in to that, let us ask a few questions. "Any idea about the rate of band Opeth to play in a stage?" To compare it, just check saarang ticket rate "Rs 1000" per person whereas violin concert by Shrimati Kanyakumari A accompanied with 50 people, was ".............." ... you know f** "free".

Though I did not follow up these things, I happened to hear a few more stories. One was an incident in Kerala where Shree Harigovindan Njeralathuwas in news for trying to auction the Idaykka (a percussion instrument) of late Shree Njeralathu Raama Pothuvaal. His intention was genuine, to put an effort to make such instruments, and to promote an extincting musical form "sopana sangeetham".
Things of Michael Jackson, even his undergarments can be auctioned, and the people who bids for it will contain a few Indians at least. Unlike Michael Jackson who changed his color and was arrested for "playing" with kids; people who lived in music are in struggle.
We should appreciate efforts of people in premium institutions of India such as IIT to help Opeth to get a few $$$s and respect artists like Shree Kunnnukudi with a Padmashree and not even enquiring about how they live.
(Please note that "images are not mine, I just linked it for a flow)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The kind of integrity

There is this saying "where there is a will, there is a way". Of course there are n number of ways. Question is, when to choose what. When I was a kid, I used to listen to one of my uncle (who is the youngest in his generation in my family). He asked me, "if we walk in dark, what is the first thing you will observe?" I said, "I do not know, may be the sound of metal, or that of the chappals". He said, "you hear it, but the one you observe is the light. Now suppose you are walking in light, what will you observe?". I said "may be bright light, or darkness" He said, "different colours of light" .What difference it makes in choosing the way is the one which keeps your integrity. I do remember many murmuring in my back about my decision to be a teacher "oh he is crazy. Why not a job in S/W company?" Neither those who asked nor those who got s/w jobs knew what is going on in s/w company". At that moment why I choose it, was not just because I got only that job. In fact I never felt I was up to anything or what I wanted to be. When I chose that profession, I found I am enjoying it. May be my students have a difference in opinion that I am too boring, lol.
What made me to come up to IIT was just my way of taking things as such. When I hear positive comments that "oh you are doing good , great to c you in iit, oh geek, computer guru" what I feel is a kind of pity. I am not a geek or genius. I just do what I feel like doing, trying to make sure that it does not create trouble to someone else.
Many a times I have seen very talented people who gave up things for their family, or because they are confused of what to do, who should have come to IIT to serve our country better, to make themselves better. At times we find ourselves in a dilemma, to go in a path which is very clear or ignore the catcalls and go ahead in our own way.

How would we know whether the path is right? Well, I do not know. If you have choosen the path from your heart, it is your responsibility that you make yourself right. For me, I do not judge anything like that. When recession came, people says "what I did is right" which was wrong sometimes back. It is an exercise for their tongue to tell, and it is for us to decide what they have to tell. If you find colours in the way, enjoy it; else make colours so that you and the next one follows you will also enjoy.
Last but not least, I would like to quote the last paragraph from Surely you are joking "i have just one wish for you, the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity, where you do not feel forced by need to maintain your position in organisation or financial support or so on to loose your integrity......"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why did not you complain?

After a gap, welcome back with a new topic!!!

Every incident is interesting. Instead of thinking of a situation if we think why such a situation; the reasons will be strange!!!! Those who already thought and asked such things often hear "that is the way it is / world is like that........"
So, here is such a situation. In our lab, we have an Air Conditioner. In chennai's "COOL" weather, especially in march time, it stops. Do not think that is the only time it stops, It stops like microsoft windows . You never know what was the reason and at times it comes back of its own. Last week it stopped cooling the air. I opened the doors and windows. Our lab has a partition, section 1 where I work and section 2 where AC is still running. They closed their door to our section, because our AC is off. (But if it was the other way, I hardly see them closing that door).

My friend and senior, Padmanabhan asked me "Gireesh, tell .........sir, he is taking care of this". I said " why shoud I? It hardly runs for a month. Every time we have to "inform" and the cycle repeats. Instead I am happy to work with open doors and windows. If someone else wants to complaint; they can go ahead. AFter a day, the information reached the layer above us. It is not by a complaint, but by seeing that doors of lab are open. AC people came after a day. They saw the AC, went back. We continued with doors open and in fans, for a day more. AC people came, worked for an hour. Then they closed the doors and said it is working. They left immediately.

After 15 minutes, I felt the real effect of AC with heavy sweating. The next level person came. I told him "there is no change". He said, "you should have asked them to wait for some time to see it is working". I said, "oh, but why? Why can not the system has an option to recover such situations where a service provider does not work properly; can not be punished. He said "that is the way it is. I am doing what ever possible". I said "ok, sir please write down how many times AC people has been called, how many phone calls and man- hours spent to repair and how many days it worked. In an year we will get nice statistics". Lol. Now a question to the reader " will you ask me, why do not you complain" when next time AC goes off.
In malayalam there is a saying "kannadach iruttakkuka"; means " you close your eyes and say everything is black". Every one knows that this is the way AC reparing works. Every one knows that AC will go off in weeks. So this is a routine. I just tried to change routines. You may find similar things. The system will make fun of you. If you ask a question reply will be " what I can do". You can either laugh at the system or complain. I always like the first one. What a bout you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

God, who will pay the taxes for me now?

How many times you heard/found things others say about you which you DARE to dream even!!!!
I had so many such funny incidents, including usual talk such as "my marriage is fixed......... I am already engaged............ " But this time it is more than even imagination.
One of the colleges which I worked is famous for "strictness" and the principal is known to be "legally straight". One "urvasi's curse" happened at that college was training on RHCE ( RedHat certification) which was 5 day course. I was (un)fortunate enough to be a part of that. It's quite common in private colleges to force faculties for such things. But here there was an agreement that if we stay in college for an year, we do not have to pay; else I have to pay something around 12K.(One of memorable moments in teaching. It was taken without my knowledge...curtsy : Chandrakanth)
I have undergone 5day intensive sleeping course and asked to teach the same to poor final year students.
After an year I was FORCED to pay that money back which was against the "line on water" agreement. A notice came to department on which it was written something similar to "Since you have trained a batch, you may pay ONLY 6000Rs. which can be paid in one time or as installments of 3"
I have to say that it was almost one month salary of mine they offered me when I joined.
The same management now pays 15ooo+ to me for free ( I mean 2 years after resigning from that college, the salary reports from that college has my name). Surprised?
Me too!!!
In fact I am confused that I have to submit income tax returns for this financial year, that too without even hearing or imagining about such a sum paid in my name).
(Disclaimer: This is purely based on a file I received recently which contained salary statement of the entire staffs in that college. I trust the source. You may trust it or not, it's your wish)