Friday, December 29, 2006

PanIIT Chronicles - Presidential problems

It was my first brush with VVIP security - and quite frankly, I hope it is my last. VVIPs are not worth the trouble they put me through.

On 23rd Dec, the PanIIT 2006 was to be inaugurated by the President, Dr. Abdul Kalam at 1pm. We were asked not to bring mobiles and be in the auditorium some 1 hour before. It was tough to be missing my mobile, I was organizing something, and being out of communication meant I was without information for over 10 hours. Anyway, as soon as I landed at the venue, I found that the security people were not allowing bags to be carried inside (though they permitted women to carry their purses ... strange). I did some quick thinking and I kept my bag in someone else's car - I took his business card, but only later did I realize that I didn't have a phone and hence couldn't recover it. There were no arrangements made to store the bags somewhere. Then, I went in and found I had to rush in and grab a seat - and that meant I had to miss lunch. Then, on top of it, the President came nearly 75 minutes late - ostensibly because of the Delhi fog.

So, there I was, sitting in the auditorium, having (technically) lost my bag, without my mobile on an empty stomach, so it wouldn't be out of place to say that I expected something special from the President for all that I had to go through. It didn't happen - in fact, his presentation for a big let-down. Within 10 minutes, I mentally switched off - like I do in almost all my classes in IIT. He was blabbering about nanotechnology and some world knowledge platform, and in the middle, shamelessly advocating his website. The slides had terrible design, that would have probably made me puke, had my stomach not been empty and my mind inert.

This wasn't my first encounter with his speech. While I was interning at IBM ExtremeBlue at ISL Pune, Kalam had attended IBM's big seminar at Bangalore, that was being telecast live to all IBM centres, including Pune. Anyway, there too he talked some crap about World Knowledge Platform and spent some ten minutes on the Brahmos cruise missile and India's nuclear and missile programmes. It was grossly inappropriate then, and it was grossly inappropriate now - though thankfully, he spent only a couple of minutes on Brahmos, and skipped the nuclear and missile topics entirely.

There was only one thought that he left behind - that IITs don't have any value add. You take the smartest people of the country, and whatever you do, they'd still be smart and then you claim IITs as great institutions. Quite interesting idea. Apart from that, Kalam's speech was pointless, redundant and waste of time. I think that he has a few canned slides about these, and where he goes, he just connects the topic to these favourites of his. He is not a good speaker, and when even the content is bad, things get inevitably screwed. This was in rather sharp contrast with Shashi Tharoor's out-of-the-world speech.

Thankfully, the security more or less melted away after he left. When I reached my hostel room late that night, I found that I had some 23 missed calls on my mobile... I still haven't gotten my bag back yet - though, I got in touch with that person, and he gave it to one of my juniors in SOM and I haven't been able to collect it back.

Talk about white elephants ...

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