Archive for August 2007

Alma Mater – ITBHU

August 17, 2007

Alma Mater

 

 

 

ITBHU  

 

Institute of Technology

 

Banaras Hindu University

 

Varanasi

 

India

       

On what basis do you judge an educational institution – an Engineering College or a B-School? In today’s world there is just one criterion – market value – the starting salaries and campus placement the students get – the more outrageously astronomical the pay packets, and the greater the percentage of lucrative campus placements – the better the institution. And with the increasing commercialization of education, many institutes blatantly compete, advertise, and focus on these materialistic aspects to attract students – it’s a rat race.

     

I feel the cardinal yardstick for appraising the true merit of an educational institution is the value-addition it instills in its alumni – and I’m not talking of utility and materialistic values alone; but more importantly the inculcation and enhancement of intrinsic and intangible higher values. The student should feel he or she has changed for the better, professionally and personally; and so should other stakeholders observing the student from the outside be able to discern the value enhancement.

     

I studied for my B.Tech. in Electronics Engineering at ITBHU from 1972 to 1977 (first batch IIT JEE) and I experienced the well-rounded value addition I have mentioned above. Later in life, being academically inclined, I continued studying, completed many courses, a Post Graduate Diploma in Management, an Engineering and Technology Post Graduation [M.Tech.] at a premier IIT and even taught for many years at prestigious academic institutions of higher learning, but I shall always cherish my days at ITBHU the most. I knew I was a better man, in my entirety, having passed through the portals of ITBHU, and I’m sure those scrutinizing me from the outside felt the same way.

 

 

 

ITBHU was amalgamated by integrating three of the country’s oldest and best engineering colleges: BENCO ( Banaras Engineering College ) – the first in the Orient, and certainly in India , to introduce the disciplines of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, MINMET – the pioneer in Mining and Metallurgy in India , and College of Technology – the first to start Chemical and Ceramic Engineering. Indeed these three institutions were the harbingers of industrialization in our country.

     

In my time ITBHU was indeed a center of excellence, an apt institution to study in, and a lovely place to live in. The vast verdant lush green semi-circular campus at the southern end of Varanasi , the largest university campus I have ever seen, with its pleasant and relaxed atmosphere was ideal for student life. And being a part of a premier university afforded one a consummate multidisciplinary experience.

     

It was a delightful and fulfilling experience I will always cherish – learning from erudite and totally dedicated Professors, who were authorities in their fields of specialization, amidst excellent academic facilities and ambience, elaborate labs and workshops, lush green campus, well-designed comfortable hostels, delicious food, expansive sports fields and facilities for all types of sports, the beautiful swimming pool, the unique well-stocked and intellectually inspiring Gaekwad library, and the exquisite temple that added a spiritual dimension to the scholarly ambiance. One could learn heritage and foreign languages, fine arts, music, indology, philosophy, yoga, pursue hobbies like numismatics – the avenues for learning were mind-boggling. The idyllic environs of BHU helped one develop a philosophical attitude to life.

     

Like all premier institutes ITBHU was fully residential, which fostered camaraderie and facilitated lifelong friendships amongst the alumni. I can never forget those delightful moments in Dhanrajgiri, Morvi, Vishwakarma, Vishveswarayya and CV Raman hostels, mouthwatering memories of the Lavang Lata and Lassi at Pehelwan’s in Lanka, the Lal Peda opposite Sankat Mochan, and the delicious wholesome cuisine of the city, and the cycle trips all over Varanasi, Sarnath, and even across the holy and sacred Ganga on the pontoon bridge to watch the Ram Lila at Ramnagar.

     

Way back then, in the nineteen seventies, ITBHU was a wonderful place to study engineering and live one’s formative years in. I wonder what my dear alma mater is like now!

         

VIKRAM KARVE

     

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

     

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

     

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve

     

vikramkarve@sify.com

   

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

                   

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Lin Yutang – The Importance of Living

August 10, 2007

THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING

 

 

 

Book Review of THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING by LIN YUTANG

 

[A book that shaped my life and taught me the art of living]

 

by

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is one book you will never find in my bookcase – you will always find it by my bedside near my pillow. At night, just before I sleep, I open the book to any random page, and read till I drift off to blissful idyllic sleep.

 

 

 

The name of this book, which has had a profound effect on me, maybe even subconsciously shaped my philosophy of life, is called: The Importance of Living written in 1937 by the Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang.

 

 

 

But first, let me tell you a story, maybe apocryphal, about a scholar who had thoroughly studied the Bhagavad Gita for many years, considered himself an expert, traveled far and wide delivering discourses on the teachings of the Gita and was widely acknowledged as an authority on the subject. His ultimate desire was to deliver a discourse on the Bhagavad Gita at Benares, which was the sanctum sanctorum of learning. So he went to Benares, and impressed by the scholar’s erudition and fame the king invited him to deliver a discourse on the Gita in his court. All the wise men of Benares assembled to hear the Scholar, but just as he began to speak the king interrupted him and told him to read the Bhagavad Gita one more time in the evening and deliver his discourse the next day. The Scholar was furious but he had no choice but to comply with the king’s wishes.

 

 

 

As he read the Gita in the evening, he realized some new meanings and updated his speech accordingly. Next day the same thing happened – the moment the scholar began to speak the king interrupted him and told him to read the Gita once more and then come and give his lecture. And again as the Scholar read the Gita he comprehended some new wisdom – something he hadn’t perceived before. So he incorporated his new findings and proceeded to deliver his talk.

 

 

 

Again the same thing happened – the king interrupted him and told him to read the Gita once more before he gave his discourse. And again the scholar discovered some new wisdom in the Gita. This cycle went on for days till the scholar realized how ignorant he was and how much more there was to learn form the Gita that he gave up the idea of delivering the discourse and decided to devote himself completely to the study of the Bhagavad Gita.

 

 

 

And the one morning, when the scholar was deeply immersed in his study, the king went to the scholar’s house, sat before him with folded hands and requested the scholar to enlighten him about the teachings of the Gita.

 

 

 

It’s the same with any great book. Every time you read it, something new emerges, and you realize you have so much more to learn from it. I have read The Importance of Living innumerable times, again and again, with renewed pleasure, and every time I read it I imbibe a different flavor, and grasp new wisdom, which delves on all aspects of the art of living, and I have realized that there is more significance and value in Lin Yutang’s magnum opus than I am capable of appreciating. So let me not be as presumptuous as to attempt to evaluate this classic treatise – I’ll just try to gently pilot you along in random vignettes to give you a flavor of this delightful philosophical gem.

 

 

 

Let’s open this delightful book to a few random pages, read some lines to give you glimpse into the wisdom on the art of living contained in this masterpiece. In the section on Leisure and Friendship are these words: “Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely”. Reflect on this, let these words perambulate in your mind for some time. There is nothing that man enjoys more than leisure. The highest value of time is when you are doing what you love and want to do. During leisure you are free to choose what you want to do and enjoy doing. So leisure enables you realize the highest value of your time!

 

 

 

Tell me, why do you work? Is it for job satisfaction? Or is it to earn money so that you can enjoy satisfaction off the job? In fact, most of us work for our leisure, because there is nothing we enjoy more than leisure. Elaborating on a theory of leisure the book says: “Time is useful because it is not being used. Leisure is like unoccupied floor space in a room…it is that unoccupied space which makes a room habitable, as it is our leisure hours which make life endurable”. Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.

 

 

 

Enunciating the distinction between Buddhism and Taoism: “The goal of the Buddhist is that he shall not want anything, while the goal of the Taoist is that he shall not be wanted at all”, the author describes the tremendous advantages of obscurity, deduces that only he who is not wanted by the public can be a carefree individual, and only he who is a carefree individual can be a happy human being and concludes with a philosophy: “Nothing matter to a man who says nothing matters”.

 

 

 

“How are we to live? How shall we enjoy life, and who can best enjoy life?” The feast of life is before us; the only question is what appetite we have for it. The appetite is the thing, and not the feast. The book has fourteen chapters on various facets of the importance and enjoyment of living and once you start reading it is unputdownable. The Importance of Loafing, The Enjoyment of the Home, Nature, Travel, Culture, The Art of Thinking, Eating, Reading, Writing – the range and variety of topics covered indeed make fascinating reading.

 

 

 

The best way to read this book is to browse whatever appeals to you, randomly, in an unstructured and haphazard manner. Think of yourself as a traveler in the philosophical or spiritual domain. The essence of travel is to have no destination. A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to; a perfect traveler does not know where he came from!

 

 

 

Are you the ambitious competitive go-getter obsessed with an overpowering desire for achieving quick success – craving for power, wealth, fame, and the status and money-oriented aspects of life? Do you value material possessions more than peace of mind? Is external achievement more important than inner tranquility? Then don’t read this book now, as you may be too “busy” in the competitive rat race and don’t have any time to “waste” on anything that doesn’t give you something tangible in return. Read The Importance of Living after you’ve burned out, had a heart attack or nervous breakdown – when you’ll have plenty of time and, perhaps, the inclination to reflect, contemplate and delve upon the more intangible philosophical aspects of life.

 

 

 

But if you are happy where you are and content with what you have, place living above thinking, and are interested in savoring the feast of life and its joys, then this witty philosophical treatise on the art of living in its entirety is the book for you. The Importance of Living presents an uncomplicated approach to living life to its fullest in today’s rapidly changing, fast paced, competitive, ambition dominated, money and status oriented, commercialized world, enabling each one of us to enjoy inner peace and happiness.

 

   

 

Sometimes, it is a great pity to read a good book too early in life. The first impression is the one that counts. Young people should be careful in their reading, as old people in eating their food. They should not eat too much. They should chew it well. Like you should eat gourmet food only when you are ready for it, you should read a good book only when you are ready for it. Mature wisdom cannot be appreciated until one becomes mature.

 

 

 

But The Importance of Living is a book for all ages. Of 1937 vintage, an ancestor and precursor of modern “self-help” books, it is a delightful philosophical treatise, which advocates a humorous and vagabond attitude towards life and deals with a variety of topics encompassing the art of living. Is such a philosophy of life relevant today? Read the book, try out and practice whatever appeals to you in your daily life, experiment, enjoy yourself, elevate your plane of living, and maybe your entire way of life may change forever.

 

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com   

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve

 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

   

Potao Ice Cream

August 10, 2007

POTATO ICE CREAM

Boil a litre of milk on a gentle fire till it thickens and becomes half of the original quantity.

Boil a kilo of potatoes and after peeling them, mash them nicely and add a little water and pass the pulp through a sieve to make it even. Add this even pulp to the thickened milk and cook it for a few minutes. Add a little pista and chironji chopped fine, and then add 300 grams of sugar (a bit more if you like your ice cream sweeter).

Cool it. Add a few drops of fine essence of your choice. Put it into a freezer and allow it to set.

Then, dear fellow foodie, please make it, eat it and let me know how it tastes, for I don’t have the courage (and stomach) to try out this exotic recipe and sample this wacky potato ice cream myself!

This recipe is from a cute little book I discovered in my bookcase called POTATO DISHES compiled by the Pusa Institute Ladies’ Association and published by Popular Prakashan Mumbai in 1965 priced for a “princely” sum of Rs. 2.00 ( yes, you read right, the book costs, or costed, Rupees Two only!). [I wonder how this delightful cookbook entered my bookcase – probably my mother may have bought it back then!]

Whenever I feel low, I leaf through my book shelves and pick out a cookbook. I browse through the appetizing recipes, and in my mind’s eye I “eat” and relish the yummy lip-smacking cuisine, my mouth waters, my troubles seem to go away, my spirits are lifted and I feel good. [Earlier, when I was in Mumbai, I used to rush out and actually eat the dish, or something similar in lieu, which further raised my spirits to a new high; but now that I am languishing in the back of beyond, I just savor the scrumptious food in my imagination which is probably good for my weight!]. It’s true – just the thought of good food can elevate you to a happy plane of living.

This 80 page book has a collection of 120 recipes arranged in 8 sections, all featuring the ubiquitous potato as the main ingredient, which were compiled during a cookery exhibition of potato dishes organized by the Pusa Institute Ladies’ Association in New Delhi.

Whatever potato delicacies you could imagine like the curries, koftas, dums, sukhas, rasedars, samosas, bondas, kachories, puris, parathas, snacks, pakoras, chips, chaats, cutlets, rolls and other run of the mill stuff is there. It’s the exotic, out of the ordinary, at times seemingly outlandish, dishes that make interesting reading.

Let’s have a look at section 7 – the Cakes section. [The recipe for Potato Ice-Cream, described above, features in this section – I didn’t know Ice Cream was a cake!]. The Potato Chocolate Cake, Potato Soufflé and Potato Doughnut sound interesting.

In section 8, they’ve incorporated and integrated potatoes into all the known Indian sweets – Rosogullas, Chum Chums, Gulab Jamuns, Jalebis, Kheers, Halwas, Pedas and Burfis. I wonder how they will taste and am tempted to try a few.

I tried a recipe called Alpama, a nice spicy and healthy savory, comprising cashewnuts, dals, suji, and of course the ubiquitous potato, served piping hot – it was delicious and invigorating!

And while you try out the Potato Ice Cream, I’ll try something substantial like Potato Paneer or the Nargis Potato Kabab.

Till Next Time – Happy Eating!

VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Lin Yutang

August 10, 2007

A RELAXING BOOK

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

   

[ Book Review of THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING by LIN YUTANG ]

     

Whenever I want to unwind and relax, I pick out one of my favorite books from my bookcase, settle down in my easy-chair, put my feet up, and open the book to any random page, or thumb through the pages, and dip into whatever arrests my attention, and as I begin reading I experience a soothing feeling and a calm tranquil sensation of absolute and perfect relaxation. From time to time, I let myself drift off into sweet slumber, and when I come around I begin my relaxed reading again. So the cycle continues till my mind recaptures the harmony it has lost during the hustle and bustle of daily life, and my inner self feels soothingly nourished.

 

The book is called  THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING and is compiled by Lin Yutang, the is more famous for his magnum opus THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING, the classic seminal philosophical masterpiece on The Art of Living [ do read my book review on the links below:

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/01/the-art-of-living.htm

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2007/01/05/the-art-of-living/  

 

or somewhere on this blog of mine].

   

I’ve got a hardcover copy of the book, published by Heinemann London in 1961, which I obtained, by a stroke of luck, from a raddiwala a few years ago. The book comprises translations from the Chinese. There are essays, reflections, poems, ancient wit and wisdom, literature, writings on The Art of Living, Enjoyment of Life and Zen, parables, epigrams and proverbs. The writings focus on the simple joys of living and distinction between the practical and the poetic vision of life.

 

There is wit and subtle humor throughout the book. Here is a story titled “Prohibition” from the chapter on Ancient Wit and Wisdom.

 

In the time of the ruler of Shu, Shienchu (third century AD) there was prohibition on wine on account of a drought…There were people who were arrested for having vats and distillery apparatus in their houses, punishable in the same terms as those actually caught making illegal liquor. Chien Yung was driving in the country with the ruler when they saw a young man.

“Have that man arrested,’ cried Chien Yung.

“What has he done?” asked the ruler in puzzlement.

“He is going to commit adultery.”

“How do you know?”

“He has the organs of adultery, just as those people have their vats.”

The ruler broke out into a loud laugh and ordered that the people arrested for mere possession of vats released.

 

The meat of the book is the section on “Home and Daily Living” which encompasses a wide range of facets of the art of living and enjoyment of daily life.

 

I’ll end with an epigram of Yuan Chunglang – Beware of the man who has no hobbies. If he is not sincere in loving what he loves, he is also probably not sincere in hating what he professes to hate.

 

Dear Reader. First read The Importance of Living and then read The Importance of Understanding. And I’m sure you will see your life from a different perspective.

     

VIKRAM KARVE

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com