Life Of Navin

Random Musings, Random Bullshit.

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Stereotypes are like rules....

Stereotypes exist. There's no point in denying their existence. Yes, people do stereotype those around them based on appearances. In many ways, we're pretty shallow creatures. We teach our kids things like "Looks don't matter, it's what's underneath that does", and then we go out in public and stereotype to our heart's content. What do you think the kids are going to do when they start seeing new people then?

Most stereotypes exists for a reason though. I've had the pleasure of knowing people in the field of anthropology, who have shed light on the origin of everyday stereotypes. And I must admit, some of them are extremely fascinating. The most common reasons for stereotypes is either a lack of understanding of another culture's traditions (or sometimes Ethnocentrism) or a fear/distrust of people who are perceived to be "different" from oneself. As Russell Peters says "I don't make the stereotypes, I just see them". The media (knowingly or unknowingly) does its bit to ensure that stereotypes are known to a wider audience. Propaganda spread by the government and media during WWII has led to Germans being stereotyped as Nazis to this day. Whatever may be the reason, at the end of the day, we have innumerable sterotypes floating all around.

So everytime you see a Saudi sheikh, you wonder which terrorist organisation he's part of, everytime you see an Italian, you stereotype him as a Pizza lover (or worse, a Pizza maker! :P), everytime you see a Chinese guy, you wonder how many research papers he's authored, and everytime you see a black guy, well, you feel a bit of a complex. :P

Personally, I'm a fan of stereotypes, just because I love breaking them. Yes, I'm from Goa, but I don't drink (seriously!). I look like I'm a full-on doper (especially in my current state of uncut hair + shabby beard + lack of sleep et al), but needless to say, I don't do drugs (Except caffeine!). I'm from South India, but leave aside the filter kaapi addiction, and you'd be hard pressed to find anything South Indian about me! I may wear more geeky tees than you can count, but I don't remember the last time I spent a day JUST coding.

I also respect people more when they break the stereotypes that form around them on first impressions. Some of my best friends started off as weird stereotypes (kanjoos gujju bhai, flirt delhi gal, 'muh-tod' haryanvi, booksmart nerd girl, maniac biker etc.), and only when I got to know them better did I realise they're the exact opposite of the stereotype everyone sees them as (except flirt delhi gal... you know who you are! :P).


Stereotypes are pretty neat as long as they don't degenerate into racism. When that happens, then we have start having problems, and stereotypes begin to generate divides between groups of people. So it's important to know where to draw the line. But as long as you stay within limits, and are open to having your initial stereotype shattered, I don't really mind stereotyping (or being stereotyped)!

So yes, stereotypes are like rules.... everyone implicitly follows them, but people who break them are always more fun! ;)

PS. Have big plans for the next 20 odd days. Going to be meeting lots of amazing people in the process of doing something I've looked forward to for a long time. This post dedicated to their awesomeness! :)

Why This Mediocrity Di?

*Rant Mode: Activated *

Abey kya yaar? What's up with everyone being mediocre, all day, every day? It's like the word achievement is suffering a degeneration of definition the same way the word photographer is. (If you own a camera, you own a camera. No, you are NOT a  photographer). I've been thinking a lot about this since reading this article.

Take a simple example: College placements. A majority of college graduates would be more-than-happy getting "placed" at an MNC like Infy/Cogni/TCS, and being part of the herd (or in worse cases, the bench). Barely any think about joining any other company/industry.... or even starting something on their own. Even the startups I see around seem to be either
  • Developing websites (yes, your graduate degree comes in handy there! :| ) or
  • Desi implementations of applications that have done well in the West. 
Boss, what happened to innovation? What happened to dreaming big? What happened to all that buzz that everyone had just 3 months ago when we were in college? Noone even aspires to work at (say) a Microsoft, or a Google. And please don't even get me started on the "engineers" who're now pursuing an MBA and are going to end up with a "stable" job in a bank in another 2 years time. If you're one of those MBA people reading this, I know you're shaking your head right now, and I hope you prove me wrong, but let's just wait for another 2 years, shall we? Arey, as engineers, it is OUR responsibility to help mould the world, make the world a better place. Don't be sellouts, and even if you are 'temporarily selling your soul' (an actual phrase used by a close friend which may be instrumental in a decision I have to make soon), atleast ensure that you won't lose sight of the goal in the process!


 People have really begun to think that the smallest of occurrences, things that most people wouldn't even have noticed if you hadn't told them about it, count as achievements! Sorry bro, but learning to make Maggi doesn't count as an achievement, neither does buying a computer/phone. And neither does watching the latest Chris Nolan movie, nor that attempt at pseudo-philosophy you just made. Arey, these are not even minutely achievements. When did achievement become equivalent to spending Rs. 200 or using your brain (which, BTW, has undergone a billion years of evolution before it landed in your head... well, kinda) to come up with a one-liner?

In some ways, I blame social media for this. Facebook has made it way too easy to share every single detail of your life as an "achievement" to add on your "timeline". I actually know people who have 5+ post on Facebook made in the last < 5 hours! Wow, you must be having the time of your life! Consider this: Zuckerberg himself has just 4 public updates in the last 3 months, and that includes getting married AND taking a company public. Why on earth do you want to share every single link you find (and perhaps relate to). Like-whoring (if you'll excuse the term) it seems like. And the saddest bit is that the rest of us seem to appreciate this. The same people I spoke of before have achieved the status of micro-celebrities, just for sharing stuff over a social networking site. Damn, tussi great ho!

I have a friend who has achieved the nickname "blogger" because he has 6 blogs. Pretty cool, eh? Well, but 2 of those blogs have no posts, one of them is just a pageful of links and the other 2 have 1 article each! And all 6 are lying dormant since 2010. And no, I'm not making any of this up.

On Twitter, people are celebrities just because they're on the friggin' site. And no, I'm not talking about the actual actors/sportsmen who're atleast the leaders in their field. I'm talking about people like you (and me) here. Fanclubs have started emerging and flooding timelines. Damn, when will people understand that Twitter is NOT a chat application! It's sad that Twitter, which is one of the most innovative technologies available to us is being trivialized to such extent. :|

We are on the same planet where people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, Ratan Tata, RMS, Jimmy Wales and Linus Torvalds are doing amazing things on a daily basis. Instead of being inspired by these living legends, why is everyone hellbent on joining the herd and applauding mediocrity?

I absolutely hate being called a role model, especially since my achievements (if they may be considered) are barely above mediocre. And I'm sure my role models will say the same about themselves too. I do not want people to make the same choices that I have made (mainly because luck has played an important role in ensuring that I'm still here), or make choices as I have. I do not believe that I have done anything worth having people look up to me..... Yet. Yes, there have been a few awards, and a few memorable events, but honestly, it's only as big a deal as you want to make it. 

I'm all for using praise as a motivator, but what everyone needs to recognize is the necessity of constructive criticism. I dream of a society where mediocrity is shunned and people make an effort to avoid mediocrity. Where people who dare to think outside the box are allowed to do so, or better yet, encouraged. Where people are building awesome things, meeting awesome people, travelling to awesome places and yes, making the world a better place in the process. I dream of a place where genius is rare, and achievement is even rarer. And I hope some years down the line, people will say "Boss, this guy has achieved something in life". (and that'll make a truly kickass Facebook status update! :P). Here's to the crazy ones...


TL;DR
Say no to mediocrity, and encourage actual achievement. Dream big, because as Walt Disney said:
 "If you can dream it, you can do it"

Happenings 2012 : The Failure We Needed!

I've felt the need to write on this topic for a long time, especially since this topic, like many other things related to college, plays close to my heart. And finally since I have the time (and a clear mind) to write, I'll go ahead and spill out my thoughts. This post, in case you missed the title, is about Happenings 2012.


The Phoenix rises... Just like the Dark Knight, or maybe not!
Quick facts, incase you aren't an Engico (what GEC-ites call ourselves):
  • Happenings was the oldest college festival in Goa. It's history spans over decades.
  • Until 4 years back, it was THE biggest college festival in Goa
  • The event has been a launch pad for some of the big names in Indian music. Parikrama, Pentagram, Indus Creed, Bhayanak Maut, Reverse Polarity are all names that performed at Happenings at a nascent stage, and are today big names in Indian rock. Jal is another notable band that performed at Happenings.
  •  Needless to say, Happenings is an event every Engico held close to heart. Infact, the very first day I visited college, a just-out-of-college senior told me that Happenings was the crowning glory of his college life.
Due to a multitude of reasons, ranging from internal politics to faculty misguidance to lack of student coordination to the rapid degeneration of what was once our greatest strength, the 'Engico Spirit', Happenings went from it's peak to ashes overnight, with Happenings 2009 being pretty much a disaster, and Happenings 2010 and 2011 not given permission by college administration. Being part of the CURSOR council, and having many of my friends in the main College Council, I was privy to many details of how much politics went behind getting permission for Happenings, literally to the stage where people put their college degrees on the line to get permission, so I give full credit to the 2 councils (2010 and 2011) for trying. Both councils got ostracized for not having Happenings, but I know for a fact, that (atleast the 2011 council) they tried their level best. And as I've said before (incase you're one of 2 people who actually follow my ramblings :P), being part of a council always means that your victories are forgotten, but failures are carved in stone.

This year's story was something completely different. The 2012 council pulled a miracle, and got permission for Happenings, but with conditions, most importantly that Happenings would not be held on campus (it was held in Panaji, a full 30 Kms away from college). Instantly, college was split into 2 factions:
  1. Those who insisted Happenings was bound to fail because of mismanagement/haphazard organization by the council. This included many seniors, who, whether they admit it or not, were kind of pissed that the juniors had secured permission for Happenings, a birthright (in way of saying) that we had been denied.
  2. Those who went on a rampage of Engico-ness and shouted from the top of the roof saying Happenings had returned, bigger and better than before! This mainly included juniors, and for most of them, was their first taste of Happenings. 
Now, my viewpoints on Happenings 2012 were mixed. I expected Happenings 2012 to flop, but did everything I could (in my limited capability as a senior) to help out the council. Many juniors from the council were friends, and helping them out was only natural. Yes, on a level, it was painful that we hadn't had a chance to organize Happenings, but our juniors were, but what everyone needed to understand was that Happenings was about more than just a single batch. It was the college's pride at stake. Plus, every single college festival this year was meh., be it the behemoth Waves (organised by BITS-Goa) or the popular Vistara (Goa College of Architecture) or Genesis (Goa Medical College. I'm not even sure this event was held this year!). So really, what damage could happen?

But on the other hand, the pros were enormous. As I mentioned before, this would be the first Happenings for most of my juniors (since the last Happenings was held in MY first year of college). Happenings is an essential component of Engicos and in my opinion, the only way one can truly experience it, is by being a part of it, and not through hearsay from seniors. Trust me, the Happenings of 09 might've been bad, but it forged bonds of friendship and brotherhood that last strong till date. And I wanted my juniors to feel the same. The theme of Happenings 2012, "Rise from the ashes", was a perfect statement for what GEC needs to do. For far too long have people spoken about past glory, it is time to create new legends, and that is something that every single Engico needed to understand, especially in this stage where administrative reforms are crushing the ambitions of the finest minds in the state, and in many ways going against common sense. Tandav had already shown us that many were tired of the branchism and council-faculty politics in college, and we needed another catalyst to bring people together. And Happenings was our best shot! It was not about us seniors, it was about the juniors, the people who had to stay in the system for much longer, and who needed to be united to survive in the system, or just give in and become drones commanded by administration who put Orwellian regimes to shame.

In the run up to the day, it was pretty cool to see people with absolutely no idea of even using MS Paint, used Photoshop to create posters for Happenings (most of them puke-inducing, but it's the sentiment that counts). The Facebookiyas were on overdrive sharing statuses about the event, and offline too, the topic of dicsussion was the same.  There was a very noticeable rise in the mood of many juniors. While some were super excited, others were super tense, and still others were super emotional.

One of the aforementioned "fan-made" posters

When the day, 24th of March, dawned upon us, I was not completely surprised to see an almost complete boycott by the seniors. Of course, the reasons varied. My own class decided that it was the best time for a  beach picnic, and most people chose to join in. But it was nice to see so many juniors together, running around in 'Happenings' tees, talking about Happenings, talking about regaining lost glory, talking about GEC as only a true Engico can.

A junior's status update, on the eve of Happenings


Happenings 2012, as an event, was a major disaster. Barely any colleges showed up for the events, and the crowd, if I may call it that, consisted mainly of Engicos themselves. The reasons for failure were, depending on who you ask, the wrong choice of date for the event (too late in the semester), the lack of coordination among the main council (barely 3-4 people in the council actually worked towards organising the event. The remaining 10-12 members just showed up on event day to share the credit of success (Thankfully, they got none!)), the wrong choice of location (but I don't know what the alternative was) or the invited colleges conspiring against us (afterall, the rise of Happenings automatically increases competition in the College festival arena). But whatever remains the reason, fact is fact. Happenings 2012 was a DISASTER. Now there are 2 possible alternatives to what happens next:
  • The juniors remember the feeling they felt in the run up to Happenings 2012, they curse the council that organised the event, they decide to correct their errors that were made this year, and work towards ensuring Happenings 2013 is a success. Most importantly, they have experienced their first Happenings, and now they realise what is at stake, not time, or money, but pride.
  • The juniors feel disheartened by the failure that Happenings was, and how it wasn't all that it promised to be. Happenings gets shelved again, and the status of Happenings on the official GEC site goes back to "Under revamp" aka "This event is dead". Happenings dies, "Engico spirit" becomes just another phrase, and everyone goes back to their "normal" college lives.
I sincerely hope that the former scenario happens. Yes, mistakes have been made by the current council , and they definitely need to be corrected, but the "Engico spirit" deserves to burn bright. Having Happenings this year despite all the problems the administration placed, was not an option, it was a necessity. If it hadn't happened, we, the batch of 2012, would be the last batch that has witnessed what Happenings is, and with us passing out, there would be noone left in college who knows what it stands for. It would be reduced to just a college event, while in reality, and I'm sure quite a few juniors have realised it now, it stands for so much more! Happenings was like the Schrodinger's cat. Noone knew if the cat, or in this case, the phoenix, is alive or dead unless the box was opened. And I'm happy the box was opened because another year down the line, the phoenix would definitely be dead, if nothing else, then out of lack of oxygen! The box was opened, and I'm happy to say that the phoenix has indeed risen from the ashes, and with the push of another year or two, it will soar.... Atleast that's what the hope is.

Celestial Portal.... Concussion inducing headbanging! \m/


Footnotes:
  • The only part of Happenings that was truly rocking was the rockshow. It featured 3 rock bands. Started off with Vesuvius (a college band that I personally found pretty meh.), followed by Embers of a Perfect World (which was really good, except for their obnoxiously long sound check), and finally Celestial Portal (who made it worth the wait. A brilliant band, with extremely different music. Check out Satyameva Jayate. NOW).
  • As it turned out, in the end, the only 2 people from my class who showed up for Happenings 2012 were me and Subodh Barve. As Subodh wasn't part of college during the 1st year, technically speaking, I'm the only person from my class who has witnessed 2 Happenings! :P

    Twitterverse

    Prologue

    Finally after all these years, here's to the beginning of what was there, what is there and hopefully what will remain!! So here are my thoughts & words -Online!!