Friday, February 27, 2009

Industrial Visit to CETTM - MTNL; Hiranandani, Mumbai

Date : 27 feb 2009

Well at long last we had a trip organized for our EXTC batch of 2009 by the college. The venue was CETTM (Centre for Excellence in Telecom Technology and Management) - MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.) - India's most reputed telecom company - and it was located at Hiranandani, Powai, Mumbai.

We were scheduled to assemble at the venue by 9:30am; so (as expected) everyone turned up by 10:30am (and some even later). The unfortunate ones who came early were given the opportunity to wait in the cafeteria. The cafe was huge, but the lack of options in the food we could order was shocking. The four professors who take up our subjects for this semester, namely Prof. Deshmukh, Prof. Savarkar, Prof Boyer and Prof Patil were present. We were made to sit in a state-of-the-art conference room which was quite impressive.

Finally at 10:30, Mr. Prashant Reddy started proceeding by giving us an overview on what we would be briefed on during the day. He also gave a brief talk on transmission network, CDR (call data record) and switching and the imprortance of IT in telecom. We were then shown a video on the training facility that we were in. The video seemed to be made for the sole purpose of selling the place to the viewer. With some really fancy background music and quotes like 'the facility is set in an oasis of calm' offering 'training and tranquility' had everyone chuckling. Mr. Samir then gave us a lecture on transmission in telecom. Everything from losses in different transmission media (copper, air and fibre) to network topologies, PDH and SDH, ITU-T standards and TRAI. Mr. Pradeep tookover from him and brief us on network switching. He emphasised on how we need to know the history of telecom in India before jumping into wireless. He spoke about the different generations of telecom technology and then went on to talk about how switching takes place at the telephone exchange. Also basics like PCM and durations of timeslots while scanning subscribers was covered by him.

We were then divided into 3 groups and given a tour of the labs at CETTM. I first visited the 'Model Exchange Lab' (switching) where Mr. Pradeep first gave a presentation explaining the working of OCB-283. He then showed us the racks and the various cards they contained explaining the function of each (or atleast the more important ones). He rounded it off by saying "all cards look the same". The second lab my group visited was the 'SDH-OFS lab' where Mr. Samir showed and explained PDH and then SDH schemes and how they are connected. Both the labs had equipment that we had never heard of in our textbooks but we did kinda understood their working and how they were important in the big scheme of things (whatever that means).

That was followed by a half an hour lunch break in the cafe.

2:15 pm...Ms Shivkamini, the manager of CETTM gave us refreshing talk on her work and why the traing facility was built. Prof Savarkar thanked her for her hospitality and after the obligations were over we visited the 'OFC,MPLS lab' where we were shown optical fibre cutting and splicing. Same lab we were shown MPLS routers and switching.

A brief tea break followed in where else but the cafe. Some people excused themselves and managed to escape the facility.

The rest of us were audience to a lecture first by Mr. Reddy who asked us some simple questions (which no one could answer) and later by Mr. Naathan. The latter gave us quite an animated lecture on GSM and wireless communications with a few jokes along the way, which really helped. In the end, on the repeated insistence of Prof Patil we had a group photograph taken at the gate.

Overall a welcome change from our regular dry lectures. Personally I think in the future every college will need to have these centres for practical training or will need to have affiliations with places like CETTM. Trips like these should happen on a regular basis in engineering colleges. Only then will we realise that what we are studying in our books is something that is actually quite necessary to know.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Train to Pakistan - Khushwant Singh

"India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of religious code, has been carefully removed... Proof? we do not go into such pedestrian pastime as proof! That is Western. We are of the mysterious East. No proof, just faith. No reason; just faith."

Khushwant Singh has provided with a brilliant account of India during the partition of the country aswellas the life and nature of Indians in general. As an Indian and a Punjabi I found this book very close to home. My father has told me stories of my past relatives who had to migrate from Pakistan area to India during this time...but only after reading this book do i genuinely admire their venture.

Khushwant Singh has written this book as a neutral, which is a truly awesome thing. I mean, being a sikh himself, he has openly ridiculed some of the traits of sikhs (which is something he is famous for actually) and has also declared that it wasnt just the Muslims that did all the killing, but it was the whole nation in a state of chaos. He also does not refrain from taking jabs at Gandhi and Nehru.

The story is told with a small village, Mano Majra, near the Indo-Pak border, as a reference which has somehow survived the killings and has so far remained as peaceful as it always has been. This village is next to a railway station and also near the Sutlej river. Juggut Singh, a budmash (or a known dacoit) can be considered to be the protagonist. The peace in this village is one day disturbed when a dacoity takes place and the blame is automatically placed on Juggu. But Juggu was innocent as he having a good time with his love Nooran (who is muslim) just outside the village. At the same time an educated social worker Iqbal has come to the village and is also arrested under suspicion. Juggu reveals the names of the dacoits but the police even after capturing them let them go and keep Juggu and Iqbal under custody. Meanwhile things start happening thick and fast in the village. First a train full of corpses of sikhs turns up at Mano Majra. The burning of these bodies leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the villagers (consisting of half sikhs and rest muslims and only one hindu family living in peace for generations). Then comes the rain and the Sutlej starts rising. But its not just water that is flooding the river. The river is found carrying countless corpses clearly murdered. Then another train shows up from Pakistan similar to the earlier 'ghost train'. This time the bodies are buried. The magistrate and the sub-inspector of the village arrange for the evacuation of the muslims from the village avoid any ugliness. The villagers comply but only after they hold an emotional meeting. Also sikh refugees have come to the village from Pakistan. Then the magistrate hears of a armed young boy accompanied with some men. He agitates the villagers against the muslims and plots his own massacre when a train full of muslims including the ones from Mano Majra is headed to Pakistan. The magistrate decides to free Juggu and Iqbal in hope that they can change the boy's scheme. This is where we get to see the greatest irony. Iqbal the social worker drinks his whiskey, gets philosophical and falls asleep, convinced that he cannot alter destiny and he is just one man. Juggu, the budmash, meanwhile gets on top of the rope meant to kill hundreds of muslims and in the nick of time cuts it, at the price of his life. The train heads of to Pakistan with no casualties and the muslims owe their lives to a sikh and a budmash.

This is where the book suddenly ends. The climax of the book is hardly one and a half pages and the reader is left asking for more. But there isnt anymore. No nonsense about Juggu passing into legend or the reaction of the boy who claimed to be a revolutionary. I must say that i enjoyed even the lack of the typical epilogue. very Alistair Maclean.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

This very highly upheld book by many many people around the world is probably Ayn Rand's best and is an extreme portrayal of a man's egoist nature and how it changes the world for the better. One man recognizes his suffocation in the world that functions around him and decides to do something about it. He realizes that the people at the highest powers are not only without the ability to think or take the world forward but they are actually controlling and forcing the doers to comply to their wishes thus destroying them. He then goes about recognizing and winning over or simply convincing the doers of the world to join him and quit the world as they know it, quit everything they ever lived for until the time when the world simply stops functioning. Once the non-doers are out of the way these men come out of their hiding and begin rebuilding the world as it should be. This man's name is John Galt.

The book mostly revolves around Dagny Taggart who is John's 'constant' and is the Vice-chairman of Taggart Transcontinental Railway. Other chief characters are Hank Rearden (who invents a new form of an alloy that is stronger, lighter and cheaper than steel) and Francisco D'Aconia (inheriter of the great D'Aconia copper mines and a genius by birth). The book revolves around how Dagny and Francisco grew up together and were destined to inherit their great buisness's. Francisco however a friend of John's joined his quest and molded his reputation and ultmately destrying his own company taking with him the many bigshots of the nation that had invested in his mines. Dagny dosnt know anything about Francisco's objectives as yet. Hank Rearden was brought down by the non-doers because of their fear of a monopoly of Rearden steel. Dagny however believed in him and bought his steel for her railroad. As John, Francisco and a certain pirate Ragnar Danneskjold went around destroying the world, Dagny and Rearden did everything they could to resist. Then Dagny discovers Atlantis; the place where all the brains that had dissappeared were hiding. There she meets John Galt and beholds the motor he has comeup with that generates electric current from static electricity around us. But she decides she is not yet ready for being one of them. Rearden meanwhile slowly succumbs to the pressures by the non-doers and gives up and joins Galt. In the end Galt gives a 3-hr long speech to the people of the nation on his philosophy about how one is supposed to live on this planet. How the mind is the greatest thing and selfishness the greatest virtue. The non-doers capture him through Dagny and try to torture him into working for them. An encounter follows. John is rescued and the world that has halted is revived and brought to its senses.

The concept of the book is that why on earth does Atlas (the man in the figure) continue to painfully carry the world when it is hell bent on destroying him and itself. Let him simply shrug, and let the world crumble. Then when all the non-doers are eliminated; he can set the world right for himself and his kind.