Atanu Dey On India's Development

The Institute for Indian Technology in Bombay

Over the last weekend I spent a little time at the IIT Bombay, the alma mater of many a successful and celebrated Indian, resident as well as non-resident. IIT — the Indian Institutes of Technology. Sometimes called the Institutes of Indian Technology.

I had gone there to sit on a panel which was deliberating such weighty matters as policy for encouraging open source in education. I had little to add to it but still I was given a nice desk weather station (has a hygrometer and thermometer in addition to the clock). Neat little gizmo, made in China, of course.

The event was held at the Kanwal Rekhi School for Information Technology. The school is housed in a building which looks pretty modern. It has a faint resemblance to the painting by Eicher called Up and Down. There is something impossible about that place. If you go there, it is impossible for you to find out who is in which room. There is a fairly large display board with the names of the prominent professors of information technology. It lists names but not the room numbers. Which room does a particular worthy occupies is a closely guarded secret. Remember, it is the school for information technology and we all know that means PCs and wireless and all sorts of stuff that is high-tech and expensive. Information on a low-tech sign board? No way, Jose.

To be fair, perhaps they don’t list room numbers because even if you were to list the room numbers, you cannot find the room because the rooms are not numbered. And even if they are numbered, the numbers are not very prominent. So in the end, you have to ask someone where Dr. Such-and-such may be found. In any event, there you have it: the school of information technology gurus have yet to figure out that the information comes first and technology next.

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While we are on the topic of IIT Bombay, here is something that is a crying shame. Soumen Chakrabarti, of the computer science faculty, has a pictorial essay titled Destruction is our second nature. He documents the algorithm used for the wholesale destruction of trees on campus. What he describes with illustrations resembles slash-and-burn (or swidden) agriculture.

Panthers form another great excuse for decimating trees and shrubs. Here is an excerpt from a notice from our security chief: “Clearing of bushes: Wild bushes in and around departments, residential areas and roadsides are being cleared on priority basis.”

What remains at the end of a burning orgy? Vast expanses of charred moon-like surface, trees devastated worse than the Godhra victims, tracts of wasteland, dramatic loss in ground cover and increase in airborne suspended particulate matter.

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Today is my last day in Mumbai. I am leaving for New Delhi by the spanking new Rajdhani Express train. Lately I have been too busy doing stuff that I have neglected this blog. It may get worse since I will be on the road. But who knows, maybe I will write about my travels around the country. Until we meet again and the case is sol-ved, as Inspector Clouseau says, good-bye.

  • http://uspeed.blogspot.com uspeed

    shhhhh…

    Kanwal Rekhi might get upset and take away all his money :-D

    actually, I am not aware of how KRESIT has set up their office, but many (most ?) other depts have noticeboards that actually have useful information on them.

  • http://www.naveenbachwani.com Naveen Bachwani

    I don’t believe this !

    Trust you to come up with such absurdities in the IIT of all places… What will they think of next?

  • Harish

    It is always a pleasure to read Atanu’s views. I still recall with extreme fondness when I first ran into his posts on s.c.i – they were a rare beacon of insight, intelligence and profoundness;
    yet at the same time having that one quality most Indians seem to lack: the willingness to call our country as it is, without bothering to sugar coat things to any degree.

    I am only sorry I didn’t get to bump into Atanu when I was in India last month (I was mostly in Chennai, though). As far as I am concerned, the recent tsunami back home, if anything, was a minor blessing. But having seen our nation for what it is, I fear it will take far more than a tsunami – it will take a nuclear war for the mess to be cleaned up before we can rebuild once again.

    Better death than dishonor; likewise, better people don’t exist than continue to exist in such squalor and pitiful conditions.

    Harish.

  • http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~soumen/ Soumen Chakrabarti

    The URL changed to http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~soumen/media/images/pix-mayhem/. Check out some of the new pictures!