Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Idiot

3 Idiots is probably one of the better films of the year. Or even the past few years. And it’s very rare to have engineers as protagonists. You usually have cops, robber, lawyers and businessmen. Doctors, sometimes. When you do have the odd engineer as a character, he’s usually building a bridge. Or, playing solitaire on his computer. Not seen a she yet.

But somehow the film didn’t quite click for me. 2 primary reasons for that were
  1. Stale jokes. Lots of lifts from e-mail forwards and so on.
  2. A keyhole view of life in an engineering college, that leaves out more than it reveals. This is a flaw it carries from Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five Point Someone’, which, despite all protestations to the contrary by the Hirani & Co, the movie is a not-so-loose adaptation of.
  3. Okay there’s no #3. At least not a big #3. Logical flaws in a comedy are chalta hai for me. Exam results are usually published in order of roll-no, making it easier to find your result. And why use Michael Jackson instead of Lata Mangeshkar in the subtitles? And if they were so eager to get hold of him, so as to get a plane to turn around, or rush out without pants; why didn’t the 2 idiots go to Simla to look for Rancho in the 10 years after graduation?? 4 years of sharing a room, and they didn’t know his hometown? No, because they were IDIOTS! Flaw cleared. And… ok, stopped.
Anyway, coming back to the other 2 gripes. The gags were funny, and had the audience in splits. But quite a lot of them were recycled jokes that have been floating around on the internet for over a decade. Some even more. And when you know the punch-line in advance, the laughs just don’t flow. To cite a few (Warning – Links do not contain spoilers, but do point to the source of some of the jokes. So maybe watch the movie 1st, if you were planning to? You’ll laugh more that way) - The NASA Space Pen which you can order for $25 or thereabouts, the tourist photographer, the student in the exam hall, and the old as an engine yarn on how to start an induction motor.  
Spoiler Alert. Whole story on the next link. Watch the movie (if you were planning to) before clicking this. This guy describes it way better than I have.
The other problem is something I also had with the novel. Engineering college is not just about cramming, boring lectures and exams (though all those do happen). They are probably less than 10% of what the 4 years were. Reading Five Point, I felt a bit sorry that the writer’s strongest memories were about exams and grades. There’s also arts fests, sports & games (They did show a ping-pong table in the movie. Admitted.), elections, bunking classes, movies – lots of them, hanging out, parties, treats, birthdays, labs, lab vivas (always a font for new & original jokes), projects, RGing….. As the 10 year old T-shirt that I continue to wear often, says on its back “The Best Daze of our Lives.”
One difference between the movie and the book (besides the obvious extension of story into Ladakh and chutney), is that Five Point was more about how, until then, bright overachieving students suddenly found themselves completely out of depth, and struggled to stay afloat. And then tried crazy things to survive. I could relate to that. Having stopped achieved anything of significance after KG, I did not have any adjustment problems. Was happy to just pass. But a lot of friends did manage to reach college, before realizing that they cannot be class topper forever. Or that even IITians flunk papers.
‘Idiots’ however went into preachy territory about flawed education systems. And suicides. And parental pressure. Without really giving any solutions to all this – other than a utopia close to the Chinese border. Heck, if we had tried ‘senti’ with our parents to let us follow our dreams, we would have got back a dosage 10 x stronger.
Overall, more than the second-hand jokes, I think I was more turned off by the misrepresentation of college life. Ali Haider said it better in 3 minutes than the movie in 3 hours. To me, 3 Idiots are to engineering colleges, what Slumdog Millionaire was to India. A glimpse of the worst 5% paraded as the whole of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shift Happens

In 2006, Karl Fisch created a presentation for the teachers of Arapahoe High Schools titled 'Did You Know' on the theme of change. This has spread virally, and spawned a few follow-up versions as well.

The Latest Ver 4.0- The Economist Media Convergence Remix
Globalization, Information Age Ver 3.0
Ver 2.0 XPLANE   Ver 1 Redux
Human Capital Edition

The Original

Links to all videos of different versions

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looooooong holiday or abandoned?

Dubai reg vehicles at Muscat Airport. Two of them are from the central parking lot (not meant for long durations). There were some Oman reg vehicles as well.

Friday, December 04, 2009

March-Pasts in schools

Why do schools have a march-past as part of their sports-day? It's certainly not a sport. Not certain what athletic abilities are being tested in this. If anything, it's only torture to those forced to take part.

Maybe this is a case of sour grapes. Maybe some kids do enjoy being part of this. Though personally never saw any fun in spending hours in the sun trying to synchronize steps and staring into vacant space. Was fortunate to never make it to the final squad. Always got thrown out after the 1st couple of practice sessions, for being out of step, and sometimes messing up others' routine as well. To this day, I do not know whether to lift my left foot, or stomp it down, or do something else, when 'left' is called out. The only time I participated was as house captain. Walking on my own up-front it didn't matter that I wasn't in sync with the rest.

Equally baffling is the awarding of a prize for best march-past squad. And usually the judges don't have a clue of the nuances involved. They just go, "Team x gets 1st because I didn't see them make any mistakes." Sort of sticks out from the rest of the events of the day, where performances are clearly measured in terms of time or distance.

Time to do away with this mock-war drill.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Why is anyone surprised about the news on Dubai?

For many years now, many conversations about the transformation of Dubai would usually end with someone sighing "Don't know when it'll all come crashing down." Even the layperson on the street, who'd never heard of terms such as 'Economic Bubbles' knew that Dubai was one. So why is anyone surprised about the news on debt defaults?

The only unknown was the timing. That holds true for all market corrections. Otherwise there were signs, for all to see, since 2008. Besides the low occupancy rates and rentals falling, the decision by Dubai Metro to not extend up to Jebel Ali as originally planned was ominous.

However there's no reason to believe all is lost in Dubai, a la Lehman A lot of investment has been in infrastructure - the metro, wider roads, lots of housing.. So it's well poised for the next round of boom, whenever that happens.

Though right now, there seems to be a lot of schadenfreude around.