Exams… (again)

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It’s something I’ve written about a lot in the past, and am sure to write a lot in the future, as well! 😉 Well, this time the occasion is the end of the first Interim tests of the fifth semester. This semester is better, in that we have only five core courses, the sixth being Environmental Studies.

Last semester I got into the habit of doing something I’d never before done in my life- cramming junk into my head just before the exams. The level of my motivation was so low, and those of my ignorance and indifference to the subjects were so high that whatever grades I got that sem were due to this last minute mugging up. (I should mention that I had got through the previous three semesters without disaster, mainly because of the fundamentals acquired while at school, rather than any effort on my part.) But it was sheer mental torture.

I’ve decided that I’d do nothing of the sort this time round. That I’d let myself explore the topics at my pace and discretion. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee good grades-the converse, quite possibly. But I think that’s the only way ahead for me. Learning everything taken in class exhaustively is out of the question. This is not school. That would probably drive me mad. Learning something for an examination is mental torture. And it’s against the purpose of exams.

At least now, I love all subjects and feel a real thirst for knowledge. That’s a big improvement from last sem. As for grades, I couldn’t care less so long as I pass.

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In Search of Solitude

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Yet another week at college passes by… It’s already the first test starting from Monday. Days are flying by.

During life in the hostel, you hardly ever get any solitude, to reflect on life. So I’ve made a habit of going out frequently for long walks in the countryside. Over the last couple of years, I’ve grown extremely fond of the region around here. The lush green hilly countryside, nestled in the foothills of the Ghats, never ceases to be appealing to me. And during those walks, it’s quite easy for the mind to escape from the concerns at college, if only for a while. You can even find it hard to think that such a campus exists just a few kilometres away. It’s such a calm and peaceful place.

I don’t think there’s any single activity that benefits one as much as going for a long walk does. Of course, advocates of hard core exercise would say that walking wouldn’t help you burn calories, but I think it does enough to keep you in good shape. Besides, you get to breathe a lot of fresh air. That definitely helps both the mind and the body. And of course, you can unleash your mind, from the shackles of everyday life.

On Monsoon (or the lack of it)

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Just a few years ago, it used to… but I’m not sure any longer…

It’s the second half of August, and I can’t seem to banish a particular question from my mind- where has the rain gone? Just a few years ago, when I was in the early years of school, no matter what, it would be raining on the first day of school, in the first week of June. But what on earth has happened to the climate? Last year there was more rain than usual, and for the first time I can remember, we in Kerala received heavy rainfall in April, destroying many crops. And it seems that this year, we are not going to get any. It’s all so unpredictable.

The amazing thing is that the climate is changing so fast that you can feel it. So much has changed in less than five years. Who knows what it’ll be like, five years hence? Is there any hope left for saving our home and ourselves?

On a different note, I’m missing the rain badly. I simply love rain. I love going for a walk under an umbrella, when it’s pouring down heavily. I miss all that.

Us vs Them

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The last couple of years has witnessed an alarming increase in the amount of violence rising from the take over of rural land and resources for industry. From Singur and Nandigram, to the proposed POSCO iron ore mine and steel plant in Orissa and a dozen hydroelectric power projects… the list is long. Have we made an effort to understand the root of the conflicts? As Sunita Narain writes in her editorial in the current issue of Down to Earth, it’s not about “poltically motivated people stirred up by outsiders and competitors to obstruct development.”

“These were poor villagers who knew they did not have the skills to survive in the modern world. They had seen their neighbours displaced, promised jobs and money that never came. They knew they were poor. But they also knew that modern development would make them poorer… They did not want to drive the trucks of the miners. They wanted to till their lands… This is the environment movement of the very poor. Here, there are no quick-fix techno solutions in which the real problems can be fobbed off for later… there is only one answer: changing the way we do business, with them and with their environment…”

Do we, city dwellers who have grown up “seeing how man has conquered and reshaped nature to fit his petty needs”, understand the real needs of the villagers who live in close association with Nature?

“The Last Lecture”

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“Time is all you have… and you may find one day that you have less than you think…”

At Carnegie Mellon University, there is a tradition of inviting Professors, towards the end of their careers, to give a Last Lecture. Supposing that it was their last lecture, what do they have, to convey to the world? For Randy Pausch, who died of terminal cancer a couple of weeks ago, it was literally his Last Lecture.

His talk, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” is a source of inspiration for living your life to the fullest. A must see.

Liberation of Environment Knowledge Repository

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The Centre for Science and Environment, in association with the National Knowledge Commission, has set up a National Portal on Environment. Read more here

I became a keen reader of CSE’s Down to Earth magazine, while I was at IUAC. It’s very informative and covers stories of development and environment from a rural perspective- many things which never appear in the mainstream media. It is great to know that the Environment Portal will make the whole Down to Earth archive freely available.

First Meeting

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Fifteen of us, including Deepak sir and Murali sir met today for what was the first meeting of the FOSS cell. It was notable that there were six S3 guys, from Electronics, Computer Science, Electrical and Civil, all of them motivated from last year’s FOSSMeet. We got to know each other, and decided on the things to be done immediately for setting up a group. It’s a new beginning and I’m looking forward to it. The S3 guys seem to be an enthusiastic bunch and there is enough reason to be optimistic about this new venture.

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