Wednesday, 31 July 2013


I think current events are becoming  a great source of entertainment. It's just like a farce or a cartoon.
I commit fraud, I investigate it myself, I clear myself of all charges and reinstate myself. Like being the king of an uninhabited island........we are just watching mouths agape!!

Telangana is not entertainment, is worrisome wondering if they will make a mess of it,  or will the smaller states  indeed, be better governed.

Friday, 26 July 2013

A repeat post

I have already mentioned this before in this blog, but when the government introduces new institutions, there must be no disconnect. An example is this--
The criterion for employing faculty in  state universities and affiliated colleges is that the person must have an MSc in the subject that they are going to teach. They should  have scored at least 55% in the MSc. This is the basic criterion on which selection is made.
If a person has a PhD/MPhil, they get additional points or if they have cleared the NET/SLET exam, they get a few points. Teaching experience gives some more points.
If a person has an MSc in Botany, but a PhD with work done on a Microbiology topic, he/she can be employed only in the Botany department NOT the Microbiology department. (This  happened to a colleague who was told she could never be made a permanent employee in the Microbiology department). The university will not ratify the appointment even if the college makes it, and she is not entitled to the pay-scales approved by UGC.
Now, if the  government sets up institutions that give an integrated MS/MSc without a specialisation, then these graduates are not eligible for a post in state university or its affiliated colleges. They have to have  MSc Biochemistry or MSc Botany etc ...
While it may be true that none of  the graduates who pass from elite institutes will teach in a college affiliated to a state university, should the government itself  make it impossible for those few idealists who do wish to do so? If the government itself feels the state universities don't count, how will they improve?
Either introduce specialisation in all institutions or better still, remove this silly rule that MSc has to be in the same subject.  Surely the recruitment committee can determine if the person is knowledgeable in the subject she is going to teach !
This particular friend I mentioned, though with an MSc Botany, was definitely a Microbiologist and the requirement was for faculty in Microbiology.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A trip long ago.

During my school days, I used to live in this hill station where I had the good fortune to study at an excellent school.
One of my friends had heard that there was a vaccine production institute nearby........about 10 -15 km away. We were all keen to see this and decided to go and see how vaccines are made. One holiday, we packed some picnic lunch and walked down. It was all downhill, so we had a good walk down to the institute. There we saw how they produced anti rabies retrospect, cruel and with no bio-hazard containment.....absolutely none, as far as I can remember. The infected sheep from whose spinal fluid the vaccine is made, were just kept in a pen in the garden.
We ate our picnic lunches and started walking back. Now this was all uphill obviously, and we were really tired. One of us pretended to be ill and lay on the grass beside the road while the rest tried to flag down a passing vehicle. After a lot of disappointments, we got a ride back in a tempo.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Unconventional schools

Long back, when my son was 3 years old, I saw this ad painted on a wall "Centre for Learning". It turned out to be school that was different........they taught in an unconventional manner. I  seriously contemplated  enrolling my son in that school, but decided not to since I felt that after school, he may not be able to fit into the conventional methods in college.
The school is still running. But they do not send the children for any board exam. The children have to write it as  private candidates if they wish to. Now, with the RTE, they are no longer permitted to run it as a proper school. So they teach in the afternoons only.
At the age of 3, we the parents, decide that the child is not going to be in the mainstream. While it maybe very good for actual learning, if the child wishes to study some conventional college course, it will be very difficult to get admission in a good college.
I think we do not have the right to close doors for our children. If the child gets a conventional education, he /she can drop out later and do something unconventional , or go on  to a conventional college education. . He/she has the choice.  But without accepted schooling, the choices are limited. For example, one cannot be a doctor without going to an established medical college.
With all its faults, we cannot deprive our children the right to a conventional education.

However, it can be argued that by enrolling our children in such schools, we are educating them better and they are learning better. Thus placing them in conventional schools when these choices are available is depriving the child of its right to good education.

So, the only thing to do is to improve conventional schools.

old bungalows

Whatever the British may have done or not done, they left behind beautiful bungalows. The Secunderabad cantonment has many. There is one in which Winston Churchill lived as a captain.
Most cantonments have these wonderful old houses with huge gardens, high ceilings. They all have ventilators high up near the roof which really keeps the house cool in summer.They are maintained fairly well by the army. Consequently, what an army officer calls home can range from a single room in a converted barrack, housing the officer, his wife and two kids, to a 10 roomed bungalow with outhouses, stables and  a garden big enough to grow wheat and rice. But one adapts. One enjoys both-- though I must say the one-room barrack comes when there are dozens of nappies to be dried  and the 10 roomed house comes when the children are away and the officer and his wife are the only occupants.

The hill stations have different kinds of bungalows. These are not high ceilinged. They look like large cottages and usually have an attic on the roof. They usually have climber rose or nasturtiums growing up the front. I love these bungalows. I lived in one in my childhood. Inspite of the scorpion that fell from the roof on to my mother's bed, and the loose floorboards,  I loved it. One monsoon, a spring sprang up behind my bedroom and every night, I would listen to its gurgle before dropping off to sleep. The spring dried up after that year.

Tamil isai

 My mother has started a blog on Tamil music.
For anyone who is interested in music and reads Tamil, my mother's blog about Tamil music is at-

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

to share or not to share

Our college has a few short courses in addition to the regular courses of the university. One of these we did was an introduction to bioinformatics. The person teaching this had to take a few days off and requested me to teach mass spectrometry of proteins and other such large molecules.
I had to read up a lot to teach this, since I did not remember anything beyond Aston's mass spectrograph and vaguely remembered  the term McLafferty rearrangement.
I learnt that the ion trap used in some mass spectrometers was based on the quadropole mass filter co-invented by a physicist Wolfgang Paul, who won the Nobel for this. The more famous Wolfgang Pauli referred to him as "my real part" !!
I thought of sharing this bit of humour with my students, but did not. Sadly, none of them would have understood the joke. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Study in the midst of saree shops

In case some people do not believe me when I talk of  colleges in Hyderabad, here's a college called simply "Vijay"- where they conduct an MSc course in Biochemistry.

The area, Dilsukhnagar, has more colleges than one can count... all housed in apartment buildings along the main road where the ground floors are occupied by saree shops and eating joints. 
A plus point is that you don't need a college canteen!
There is the  bus terminus, and a little ahead  one of the three largest fruit markets of Hyderabad.
This area is the main shopping area for places surrounding it.
If you study here, you can do your shopping easily.........just pop out when the lecturer starts taking  attendance and you are back before your roll number comes up.


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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Clothes again

After the stint at the college, I went to an IIT. There were boys who wore what I think were the same pair of jeans for 4 years out of the 5 they spent there  (those days it was 5yrs for BTech). The day they joined, they stopped shaving (where's the time if you get up at 7 45 for the 8 am class).  So someone would say "This is  Vikram" and a bearded face would nod and say "Hello" ...or "This is Alok" and a slightly, imperceptibly different bearded face would nod. Both wore identical jeans of indeterminate color which was allegedly blue when it was in the shop.
Come  placement beards, no dirty jeans. Bright young men with clean shaven faces, wearing nice shirts and well tailored would need to be re-introduced to figure out which of them was Vikram and which was Alok.

Monday, 1 July 2013


"But the image of women in science is that of someone whose hair is disheveled and who does not care about beauty".

Our college had Honours courses in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and English. We, who studied Chemistry had practicals four days a week. On these four days, we wore clothes that were just about passable-- decent in terms of modesty, but not too decent in terms of quality-usually, they had holes and burns in them. So that left us with two days in a week to wear the kind of clothes college girls love to wear. But I soon found that I rarely used the opportunity to wear nice clothes even on those two days. I have formed a lifelong mindset where for a workday, clothes get very low priority. We envied the English Hons girls who were always well dressed .....they were the fashion queens of the college!

I watch this TV show called Blue Bloods. It is about a family of New York Police Department officers. The show is fictional and makes all ...